British Colliery

Location

Coed y Go (SJ276277)                                                                                                  

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History

[from R D Thomas

There were a number of shafts sunk around Coed y Go but all were eventually brought under the ownership of the British Colliery so they will be regarded as constituent shafts rather than as separate collieries.  The shafts and the main workings themselves were called different names at various times, ie Allmands, Bryn Aber, Clays, Coed y Go, Dog, Dongey, Gate, Gwerni, New, New British, Old British, Old Dog, Partridge, Rogers. Savin’s and Speedwell.

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Map dated 1831

The original workings, subsequently known as Old British Colliery, were opened shortly after 1833 by the Croxons but they eventually abandoned them and confined their activities to Drill Colliery.  In 1860 Thomas Savin, the well-known railway contractor, leased the minerals of Coedygoe Farm from the Lloyds of Leaton Knolls. He mined the same workings that the Croxons had operated and the enterprise proving successful.  Savin thus bought the minerals outright in 1861, appointing his brother William Savin as manager.

He then sank the New British or Gate Colliery, so called because it was opposite the entrance to Chain Lane with its turnpike gate. In order to obtain the necessary funds for the new workings, he handed the deeds of the colliery to the North and South Wales Bank. Soon after in 1866, the financial crash of his railway schemes came about and the British Colliery, becoming involved in the debacle, was closed down in 1869.  The Bank later sold the deeds to the Lees family. Mrs Shaw, grand-daughter of Mr Latham, underground manager, has told how as a little girl the colliers, after receiving their last pay when the colliery was closed, threw pennies into her lap as they passed.

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Coed y Go transport systems [Joshua Ethan]

This colliery was run on more up to date methods than most others in the area but Savin was quick to realise that transport was a problem.  The map above shows the transport systems serving Coed y Go.  The Morda Tramway had been built in 1813 and used horses to pull trucks laden with coal from Coed y Go to the Montgomery Canal at Gronwen Wharf. This was not very efficient so, in 1860, Thomas Savin constructed a railway from the mine down to the main line of the Cambrian Railway at Whitehaven to carry coal and bricks. There were three locomotives in use and these were named “Plasfynnon”, “Milford” and “Little Tiny”. About twenty trucks of coal, etc per day were despatched to Whitehaven.

As there were no shops in the vicinity of the colliery, Savin opened a “Tommy Shop” and a butcher shop (where provisions and meat could be purchased) and a “Tap Room” for the supply of liquid refreshment. These were situated in a row of houses now called “Eunant” and in this connection it should be stated from the evidence of men who remember them that, unlike those of an earlier period, these institutions were managed with complete satisfaction to the workers. Savin also built a number of cottages near the colliery and named them “British Row”.  After the colliery closed down, the miners living in these cottages went to work in the North Wales pits but their wives refused to leave Coed y Go.

For some time after the financial crash, coal and bricks continued to be sent to a large firm of Staffordshire colliery owners and brick manufacturers and, when the concern was closed down, the machinery also went to them.  Old miners who worked in the British Colliery have said that there is still plenty of good coal left in the workings. 

In its day, the Brickworks at Coed y Go was an important undertaking, employing upwards of 60 men and boys.  A speciality of the works was firebricks and also a buff-coloured pressed brick. Several houses in Oswestry are built of these latter including some in Morda Road, Victoria Road and Queens Road. In addition to the above, chimney pots, drain pipes and other products were made in considerable quantities.

From the map above :-

1)   Old British Pit

2)   New British Pit

3)   Dog Pit

4)   Unknown pit

5)   Unknown pit

6)   Dongey Pit

7)   Speedwell Pit

Current remains

The building that housed the former Tommy Shop, Butcher’s Shop and Tap Room still exists (SJ271277) and is called Eunant.  There is also an old house that may have been a machine house (SJ278277).

Eunant Tommy Shop

The cottages built by Savin for his workers on British Row also still exist nearby (SJ271276).

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The old railway line started at British Colliery in Coed y Go and travelled in a curve west, then south, to the bridge at Brook House (SJ272270). The old rail bridge at this point is still a fine monument to the line, and was high arched to take the tall stacks of the light locomotive used by Savin.  It joined the main line near to Nuttree Bank Farm and most of the formation can still be traced today.

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Railway bridge built over the Nant-y-Caws stream at Brook House [Joshua Ethan]

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Cambrian main line passed over the tramway at Whitehaven [Oswestry & Borders History & Archaeology Group]

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Abutments of a rail bridge at Nuttree Farm in Whitehaven [Joshua Ethan]

North Wales Coalfield Sites