Fig 1: Sunset over Markham Colliery in the early 1990’s. Photo Credit – H. Dymond collection
Markham Colliery Anniversaries July 2023
July 2023 sees two significant anniversaries for the former Markham Colliery in North Derbyshire. It is the thirtieth year of closure of the colliery which brought to an end deep coal mining at large collieries in the county of Derbyshire. It is also the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic cage disaster which occurred on 30th July 1973, resulting in the death of eighteen miners.
A fiftieth memorial event takes place at St Johns the Baptist church at Staveley on Sunday, 30th July 2023 (11am – 5pm) with a church service featuring the Ireland Colliery Band (3pm), an exhibition about the colliery and coach trips to the nearby ‘Walking Together’ mining memorial at Markham Vale Business Park.
Fig 2: The huge Markham Colliery complex in the 1980’s. Photo Credit – MuBu miner collection
Markham was the largest colliery in the NCB North Derbyshire Area, a massive mining complex, being an amalgamation of four shafts in one colliery yard. The colliery extensively worked eight coal seams. It is not to be confused with Markham Colliery in South Wales and Markham Main Colliery in South Yorkshire, although all three have a common link with Sir Arthur Markham (1866 – 1916), industrialist and politician.
Fig 3: Markham Colliery in 1935 when owned by the Staveley Coal & Iron Co. Photo Credit – H. Dymond collection
Fig 4: Staveley Coal & Iron Co. collieries in the 1935 Colliery Year Book.
Twin shafts were originally sunk between 1882 and 1886 by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company near to the village of Duckmanton, five miles north-east of Chesterfield. Later Markham No.4 was developed and the original Markham No.1 shafts were deepened to the Blackshale seam in 1926. The nearby Palterton Colliery was absorbed by Markham in 1918 and the Pit Head Baths opened in 1938.
Fig 5: Early 1950s map showing Markham Collieries in NCB East Midlands No.1 Area. Source: 1952 Guide to the Coalfields
National Coal Board / British Coal Days at Markham Colliery
At nationalisation in 1947, Markham No. 1 (Blackshale), Markham No. 2 (Ell) and Markham No. 3 (Deep Hard) collieries all went into the National Coal Board (NCB) East Midlands Division No.1 Area with the HQ being at nearly Bolsover. In the NCB reorganisation of 1967, the three separate collieries were combined into one Complex, being part of the newly formed NCB North Derbyshire Area. Coal turning was concentrated at No.1 and 2 shafts, while No. 3 and 4 shafts were used for man-riding and transporting mining equipment underground.
Fig 6: Markham Colliery stockyard in 1987 . Photo Credit – H. Dymond collection
A £10 million reorganisation in 1976/77 provided skip winding and additional coal preparation facilities. The year previous, run of mine coal from nearby Ireland Colliery was diverted to Markham by underground conveyors. In 1986 Markham Colliery went into the Central Group of the British Coal Corporation. At the same time Ireland Colliery at Staveley, was absorbed into the huge Markham Complex becoming Markham No. 5.
Fig 7: Shearer and shearer driver on 33’s coalface in the Waterloo seam at Markham Colliery in 1991. Photo Credit – SDMPG
By the early 1980’s, a workforce of 2,250 were producing 1.65 million tonnes of coal annually from the Second Waterloo, Deep Soft, Deep Hard, First Piper, Threequarter and Blackshale coal seams. Record weekly production of 62,405 tonnes was achieved in May 1991.
Fig 8: Markham miners with an underground battery loco in 1990. Photo Credit: SDMPG
Production finished on 2nd July 1993 during what is known as the ‘Coal-Crisis’ of 13th October 1992 to 31st March 1994. Privatisation of the Central Electricity Generating Board (GEGB) in the early 1990’s and the subsequent ‘Dash for Gas’ saw the market for British deep-mined coal fall significantly.
The Markham Colliery mining disaster 1938 – Source: YouTube
The Markham Colliery mining disasters of 1937, 1938 and 1973.
Generally, the East Midlands coalfield escaped the worst of major coal mining disasters in Britain. However, Markham Colliery was unfortunately the scene of three major underground disasters in 1937, 1938 and 1973. Nine miners were killed in a firedamp (methane) explosion in 1937 and in the following year seventy-nine miners were killed following an underground coal dust explosion after a runaway tub struck some pipes in a roadway causing sparks which ignited the coal-dust.
Fig 9: Markham No. 3 pit bottom following the tragic 1973 cage disaster. Photo Credit: Coal Authority
For most people in the region, and within living memory for many older people, was the tragic winding accident at Markham No. 3 shaft on 30th July 1973. Part of the braking system of the winding engine failed causing an overwind, which resulted in the cage full of miners plunging to the pit-bottom.
Rescue operation at Markham Colliery following the cage disaster on 30th July 1973. Source: YouTube
Fig 10: Inquiry into the 1973 Markham Colliery cage disaster at Chesterfield Town Hall in October 1973. Photo Credit – Coal Authority.
Thirteen miners were killed instantly, five more miners died as a result of their injuries and eleven were seriously injured. A six-day inquiry into the disaster was held at Chesterfield Town Hall in October 1973.
Fig 11: Markham Colliery mining memorial. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
A stone memorial to the 106 miners killed in the three separate major underground accidents at the former Markham Colliery site. It is situated near to the site of the No. 3 shaft, the location of the 1973 mining disaster. (Fig. 11)
The colliery site is now redeveloped as Markham Vale Business Park with a new intersection, Junction 29A, giving access to the M1 Motorway which runs at the side of the former colliery site.
Fig 12: Walking Together steel figures at Markham Vale Business Park. Photo Credit: MuBu Miner
Markham Colliery in coalmining arts and heritage project work
An art project called ‘Walking Together’, devised by artist Stephen Broadbent, took place from 2013 to 2023. One hundred and six steel figures form a route from Markham Vale Business Park to the nearby former coalmining community of Duckmanton, representing the combined number fatalities in the three Markham mining disasters of 1937, 1938 and 1973. The trail symbolises the miner’s journey to the pit and back home again. Each figure bears a motty (tag) with the name of the deceased miner, his age, occupation and year of the disaster.
Short film about Ten Years of the Walking Together coalmining art project at Markham Vale. Source: YouTube
Details of the history of Markham Colliery can be seen on ‘The Story Mine’ website at https://markhamstorymine.org/ In April 2023 a ‘Walking Together’ project booklet and short film was published as part of the project finale.
Markham Colliery was one of eight colliery case studies for the project, ‘On Behalf of the People: Work, Community and Class in the British Coal Industry 1947 – 1994’ at the University of Wolverhampton. The three-year project ran from 2017 to 2020. More details at https://www.coalandcommunity.org.uk/markham
Markham Colliery is one of the four case studies in the 2023-24 Nottingham Trent University project, ‘Mine-Craft the Prequel: The Photographic Story of East Midlands Coal’. The project aims to add information (meta-data) to mining photographs and use them as a basis for storytelling.
Blog by David Amos
Heritage Resources Officer
Posted by Mining Heritage admin
3rd July 2023