Black Park Colliery, Chirk

Black Park Colliery
Black Park Colliery

Black Park Colliery was believed to be one of the oldest collieries in North Wales, thought to date back to at least 1653. It extracted coal from the following seams; Main, Two Yard, Yard and Half, Trevor, Seven Feet, Cannel, Bind & Benches and Powell seams, most of the production was House and Steam Coal from the former two. With coal being mined at Halghton, Chirk as early as 1622.

Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk Castle, who was a partner in the Ruabon furnace in 1631-32,  had set up the Pont-y-Blew Iron Forge on near Halghton coal pits in the early 1630s. It is unknown if these pits were located at Black Park Colliery. In the 1690s a legal dispute between the Myddeltons of Chirk Castle and the Trevors of Bryn Kynalt took place over the mining of coal, this identified the importance of coal in the Chirk area.

Leased from Chirk Castle estate in the early 1800s and again in 1851, Black Park Colliery was owned by Thomas Ward. And, by 1869 it had been sold to John Stott, Milne and Co from Lancashire. By 1880 it had been acquired by the Black Park Colliery Co Ltd.  under the following directors; H A Bromilow, H C Bromilow, C L Burrows, J Darlington, J C Eckersley, N Eckersley and R M Pilkington. The company had flourished under a succession of general managers (the most notable being James Darlington between 1880-1933), who had played an active role in developing Chirk by providing the community with recreation facilities along with improved living conditions for the miners.

During the early 19th century Black Park Collieries Railway was a horse-worked railway that ran eastwards from the canal dock for over a mile to the colliery. It was later to become the Glyn Valley Tramway Dock.   Today,it is sealed with brickwork where the canal branch left the main canal channel under the towing-path.

During 1947, the colliery was nationalised on what was called “Vesting Day” and an NCB flag was flown at the site. Around the same time the nearby Ifton Colliery was to see its number of employees fall to 974, Black Park had 402 employees. Black Park was close to the western outcrop of the coal seams and the main shaft was 272 yards deep. In 1949, it was to close and the remaining coal would be worked from the Ifton shaft. To acheive this a 910 yard long tunnel was driven at a 1 in 5 gradient to connect both underground workings. Black Park miners now being  transferred to Ifton.

During this time, the shafts at Black Park were filled with boiler ash and capped with cement. In 1966 one of the Black Park shafts was to re-open to act as a ventilation shaft for Ifton and this involved the installation of a new fan and winding engine.  The old pit bottom furnace (used at one time to create a draught for ventilation) and the underground stables still existed at that time and were in good condition.  As a safety measure, officials had to regularly travel the roadway between Ifton and Black Park to check on the condition, going one way underground and returning on the surface. It was necessary to be familiar with these ways out in case of emergency where the main shaft was not accessible. Once Ifton closed in 1968 the Black Park shaft was re-filled and sealed.

Billy Meredith was perhaps one of the most famous names in British football. He was the game’s first superstar and achieved 22 caps for Wales. Meredith was born in 1874 in Chirk and worked at Black Park Colliery as a pit pony driver.

On the 2nd March 1937 The locomotive “Hornet” (Peckett & Sons 0-4-0ST No.1935) was ordered by the Black Park Colliery Co Ltd and delivered by the LMSR to Chirk Station (GWR) on 8th November 1937.   Pecketts built around 1500 small saddle tanks for industrial service, mostly similar in appearance, using standard fittings and layout with outside cylinders. No 1935 was a typical example and it was also the only survivor of the Greenhithe class which has a lowered footplate and cab for working under restricted loading gauges.

Following the closure of Black Park Colliery, “Hornet” was transferred to Weston Rhyn loco shed in March 1951 and worked the National Coal Board line to Ifton Colliery. In November 1968, it was transferred again to Bersham Colliery. Eventually to be replaced by diesels it had stood neglected and out of use until 1980 when it was rescued by the Ribble Steam Railway, Preston.

Sources: Ithel Kelly, North Wales Coalfield Vol 1, 19.; CPAT; Ribble Steam Railway;

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