A Brief History of Thurcroft Colliery, 1909 --1992.
In 1902 the lands of Thurcroft were owned by a Mr Thomas Marrian of Thurcroft Hall, he leased the coal under his estate to the Rothervale Coal Company. A site was chosen just to the east of New Orchard Farm and the Shaft sinking started in 1909, because of faults at the shaft bottom the coal measures were not reached until 1912.
The main seam [ Barnsley ] had to be got using drift roadways for men and materials as well as coal extraction. Mining proper started about 1913, the first manager being Mr J,B,Piggin who was manager till 1918 his under manager was Mr O Fisher, also at this time Thurcroft the village started to take shape a Brick works and coke ovens were in operation on the surface, in approx 1916 and a railway line was laid into the village so that building bricks for the houses could be transported quickly. In 1919 the colliery joined a group of company's called United Steel Companies. In the 1930s men employed at the colliery numbered in excess of 1,700. The Barnsley seam was producing all the out put until the Park Gate seam came on line in 1942 this was to increase production due mainly re the war time demand. Drifts for men and materials were driven to the Park Gate seam at the steep angle of approx 1 in 5. 1947 saw Thurcroft along with the rest of the country's coal fields came together as The National Coal Board.
The Barnsley seam stopped production due to geological conditions round 1968, this had the effect that the two coal faces in the Park Gate seam going on to a four shift working pattern, 6am, 12noon, 6pm, 12midnight, until the Haigh Moor seam was opened and H02s coal face was ready for production.The future of the mine at this point was the opening up of the Haigh Moor seam as production in the Park Gate became very difficult due to the high working temperatures the men had to endure and the difficult geology on the coal faces.
The first coal face in the new Haigh Moor seam [H02s] had a major incident in 1970 when an explosion occurred on the day shift in the supply gate [RH], this caused the District to be sealed off with hundreds of sand bags that were filled and transported from surface to outbye both supply and loader gates, during this period the colliery was closed to all but the rescue teams and men monitoring the gases coming from the affected coalface, Workmen from Thurcroft were redeployed to several local collieries , Dinnington, Maltby, Manton, ect, until the emergency was over.
Up until the mid 1970s all coal was transported by belts and loaded in to tubs at the loading points and then rope haulage to the pit bottom, a decision was made to install Skip winding and create a more efficient transport system for minerals out of the mine,this also instigated the mining of a staple bunker underground. A new Coal Preparation plant was built on the surface and other improvements. Underground the Haigh Moor seam was developed with success with both advancing and retreat coal face workings,during this period the Swallow Wood seam was opened up using in part a section of the old Barnsley Drifts, a first for Thurcroft in this seam was the use of Locos a vehicle operated by a driver mainly for materials,and a Loco garage was built near drift bottom.
After the year long strike of 1984/5 the run down of the coal fields started in earnest,workers from all departments at the mine were offered redundancies, this was taken up by many workers leading to problems at the mine and indeed all over all the country.The National Coal Board know longer existed and was to be called British Coal, collieries closed on a large scale with men being transferred from mine to mine who did not want to take redundancy.
The pit stopped production in late Nov / Dec,1991. The mining unions at Thurcroft were told at a meeting with British Coal officials that the colliery would cease production by Christmas 1991, large numbers of the workforce were made redundant up until March 1992.Lots of machinery and equipment were salvaged from the mine during this period with the few workmen still available although lots of machinery was left underground and not salvaged [Face and Heading machines, Roof supports, conveyors,Haulage engines,and many more]. The salvage underground ended at the end of 1992.
A campaign to save the mine was started with help from Rotherham and Sheffield councils plus many others. Men who joined the campaign to try a bye out of the pit pledged thousands of pounds each and meetings took place with both the men and British coal unfortunately it became clear that British coal would not pay towards the operating costs of keeping the mine open till negotiations for a take over were completed the sum of £20.000 per week was to be met by the men for a period of up to six months, the buy out bid failed and the shafts were filled [approx the top third of both shafts] and capped, over the preceding months the rest of the surface equipment was demolished, the Reservoir was emptied, and the tip was reconfigured and landscaped for a future waste tip to be used by several councils.This project appears now to have been put on hold for the time being, photo's of the area that once was Thurcroft Colliery can be viewed on the photo's page.
With thanks to Mr H Lockyer for his help with the above.
There are a couple of areas at the pit that carry unusual names, No2 [upcast shaft] is always referred to as the Shonkey, in a booklet written for the millennium, Thurcroft Then & Now written by John Cullwick. there is a paragraph that states,
(1) Initially, Irish Sinkers, were brought in each day from Worksop on the Train known as the [paddy mail]. A man called Shonkey led them,and one of the shafts was always called the Shonkey in his memory.
The only reference i can find to the term Shonkey is from various dictionaries, and say the word means Dishonest, Not Reliable, or of bad Quality, it seems to be an Australian /New Zealand term and maybe not pronounced in the same way as we say shonky.if any viewers have any other information please let us know.
(2) A second interpretation of the word Shonkey has come to light that means a Shaft with only one cage and a balance weight on the other side, from ( fionn.org.uk ) web site.
Also when the drifts were driven to the Park Gate seam
one of them was called the Carron Drift, does any one have information why this name lasted the life of the pit. The Drift name as been identified by
Mr H Lockyer and Mr J Downing, both agree that the Carron name comes from the Haulage Engine that was installed at the top of the drift.
Thanks to Sharon Byrne for the loan of the booklet.
A Brief History of Rothervale Coal Company and United Steel Companies.
The list's below have very kindly been sent in by Sean Burke, it is a detailed break down of the Strata in No 1 (Downcast Shaft). No2 Shaft (Below the fault in the shaft ), and the Park Gate No2 Drift (Paddy Drift).