Open Day and Working Party, Saturday 13th January 2018

The first Open Day of 2018 dawned with great anticipation. The Friends opened the gates to regular volunteers Keith, Alan, Nigel, John, Paul and Chris. Having downed tools in December 2017, everyone was keen to continued excavating the coal tub, or corve and the intriguing remains at the rear of the site.

For this discovery we can let the images speak for themselves, as we follow the day’s dig…

Site Report

Proceeding with care, and attention to detail, volunteer Nigel recorded the day’s progress and guided the archaeology. His report of the day tells the story:

Work continued on the lower north terrace excavation. We had already located the tub thrown into the dump area, so we continued to take down the ground to reach a leveled area over much of the dump.

New year, new discoveries: view of the excavated area

The fill of this area has produced, glass, ironwork, copper pieces, some lead, sandstone and bricks. It would appear that whatever items of plant that stood in this large pit was removed and the pit became a dump for anything not wanted at the Colliery.

About 10 shaft lengths of flat winding rope have been recovered. These lengths had been cut into manageable pieces probably by a gas torch. The inclusion of the tub suggests that in 1920 when the colliery closed and became a pumping station the area was used to dispose of anything no longer wanted. During 1920 the buildings and plant not wanted for the pumping station would have been scrapped or removed. This suggests the dump area came in to use at this date.

Pieces of flat winding rope

Alongside the dump is a 9 inch brick wall that appears to have been reduced in height, suggesting that the dump area was walled off to prevent accidents, and to separate the cobbled area from the equipment in the pit.

In the corner by the door an area of black soot is noted with more on the stonework nearby. This is in the same area that the lengths of flat rope were located. They had simply been piled on top of each other and spread out as the infill subsided.

Much of the fill consisted of large sandstone blocks of good quality masons work intermingled with dark red bricks and the occasional firebrick. The actual fill of the pit consisted mostly of fine coal with some small lumps. Because of the sandstone blocks in the fill a number of voids were found and cleared.

spoil, sandstone and brick from the excavation

Noted at one point in the remains of the brick wall are several large steel shims, possible used to level up some equipment placed in this area. Much still remains to study in the dump area and the fill from one end to the other will probably have to be removed.

Removing infill to extend the trench and free the coal tub base

Trowels in hand: easing the tub base out after removing the infill

Lifting the tub

After removing a lot of earth, large stone and bricks, the volunteers had a clear view of the tub base, a metal sheet, with a strong iron bar along the centre, and coupling hooks set in rings on the end of the bar.

After removing the obstructions on top of the base, and taking a number of reference photographs, the base was ready to be lifted.

Lifting the tub base plate

The tub base has been lifted and taken into storage, while the wooden sides and ironwork remain to be studied.

Recording detail of the coal tub base and decayed timbers beneath

View along the excavated area, showing depth, note and remains of wall on left, blackened stone and pipes at right-rear, and brick pillar in centre

reverse angle looking at excavated area

Detail of excavated area after tub finds removed

Not a bad day’s work – view of excavation at the end of the open day

After safely storing the day’s finds, and discussing the possible reconstruction of the tub, together with detailed recording of the features, the Friends and volunteers headed home, pleased with a very important discovery for the group, bringing all of us much closer to the working life of the pit.

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