Glapwell Colliery was one of the new Top Hards collieries of the Sheepbridge Coal and iron Company in an era when the country required good coking and steam coal.
Leases were taken out by the company with the principle land owners in the Glapwell area namely the Reverend Hallowes of Glapwell Hall, a sixty year lease for 1,100 acres and with the Arkwrights of Sutton Scarsdale Hall for coal under their lands at Palterton.
The company attempted to edge its bets in the development of its coal reserves by the company being sole developers of the new pits at Glapwell and Langwith whilst it joined in with the Staveley company to develop a new coalfield at Newstead. The financial commitments had dire consequences on the company purse leading to the floatation of a new company which was a combination of both the Staveley and Sheepbridge companies. This eased the financial constraints on the company and allowed the Newstead development to complete unhindered.
The Sheepbridge company reached the Top Hard or Barnsley Bed seam in July 1883 and production commenced from a colliery which used two main shafts and the later Bramley Vale drift mine of 1954 to extract the coal. In 1916 the company leased the lower seams at Glapwell to give the colliery new life, as only the upper seams had been worked in the thirty years prior. The extent of the mining operations here can be seen by the fact that there are at least nine shafts and the two or possibly three drifts in the immediate area of the main colliery site (from Newstead Coal Office plans of the area). The colliery continued to expand throughout its life and leases for coal bearing lands locally were purchased and exploited.
The colliery had mixed fortunes through the two World Wars but was big enough and stable enough to still be in existence to be vested into the National Coal Board in 1947.
The company built several houses at Doe Lea and Bramley Vale to house the workers, managers and officials and their families. These properties were built as a planned and organised village and work commenced there as soon as the first sod of grass was removed for the colliery site. Water was laid on by the mains and local rail services were provided. The usual amenities were built to help keep the workers at the colliery, a post office, pub and Miners Welfare, school and shops. House building was done in several stages throughout the life of the colliery, expanding as the mine did. A branch of the Saint John’s Ambulance brigade was set up at the colliery and is still in existence today. The houses were eventually fed by town gas produced at the colliery.
During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s plans were drawn up and a small experimental coking bye-product plant was built on similar lines to the Coalite coking system but this was a failure and the plant was closed.
The colliery took part in the industrial disputes and the General Strike of the early 20th Century and were usually on the losing side and by having their wages cut as a result.
The colliery closed in 1974 with all the men being transferred to other local collieries.
Read Men of Iron. A History of the Sheepbridge Company. Mike Finney.
The first of the two local railways to be constructed in the Bolsover area was the Midland railway or originally a branch line construct from Bolsover colliery station to Glapwell colliery station which was completed about 1865. (It later linked up to Pleasley and other collieries via the Rowthorne Tunnel).
The Doe Lea Branch line extension was started in 1884 and completed by Autumn 1890 when in September that year the single line was open to passengers. In June 1892 five hundred miners and their wives and families left Glapwell station at 2am and travelled to Llandudno, returning at midnight.
This line also carried men into the local collieries by Paddy Mail, the train was laid on by the colliery owners and the railway company to provide transport to and from work at the collieries. The carriages were crude and worn out, they had bench seats, windows missing or were just empty coal wagons for the miners to ride in 'The Paddy Mail' was provided because it was illegal for work men, in the days before pit head baths, to frequent ordinary railway carriages in their 'dirt' (working clothes), and the men if caught were liable to be prosecuted by the railway company. The main runs for the trains were from Chesterfield to the Staveley collieries and iron works, Dronfield to the Grassmoor collieries and coke works and Staveley to Glapwell colliery. Coal from this colliery and Langwith colliery were exported worldwide by the railway companies with the coal being shipped both locally and to and then from the extensive coal handling facilities of the Humber ports.
Derbyshire Times. (Transcribed by Mr. & Mrs. Jackson).
8th October 1887.
On Tuesday morning a sad accident occurred on the Midland Railway branch line at the Glapwell Colliery belonging to the Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Co. A Midland Railway Company’s engine was engaged in shunting operations when an office boy at the colliery named Edward Turner 18 years of age attempted to cross the line just in front of the locomotive he was knocked down and ran over by the engine being fearfully mangled. He was at once removed to the Chesterfield Hospital but he died from his injuries shortly before 11.00 a.m. about three hours after the accident. Enoch Turner a miner of Doe Lea in the Parish of Ault Hucknall identified the body of that of his son.
5th May 1888.
On Thursday last week whilst two of the banks men employed at the Glapwell Colliery were engaged in greasing the winding rope by some means or other one of them named William Hollingworth residing at Rowthorne overbalanced and fell to the bottom of the pit shaft a distance of 286 yards. Deceased was 40 years of age and a widower and leaves a family of four children. Mr. Busby Coroner held an inquest at the Young Vanish Inn Glapwell on Monday when James Hollingworth brother of the deceased identified the body. Charles Snow Manager of Glapwell Colliery deposed that the pit shaft was 295 yards deep and said that there were beams at the pit top, which covered the shaft in order that the two cages could be used. When the ropewere oiled the planks were thrown across the beams for the men to stand on.
(The winding engineman, enginewright, and another banks man then gave more details.) The cause of him falling was owing to the cage catching the timbers on which he stood and so precipitating him backwards and down the pit. The jury found a verdict of accidental death.
28th December 1889.
A meeting of the miners employed at Glapwell Colliery was held last Friday evening in the Hare and Hounds Inn Palterton of the banks men at the colliery which belongs to the Sheepbridge Company. They had asked the company for an advance on their wages last week of 15%. The company in October last granted them an advance of 5% and had now offered another 10%. The banks men have decide to accept this offer and will not press for the other 5%. Mr. Robinson presided and Mr. James Haslam secretary of the Derbyshire Miners Association also addressed the meeting.
1st March 1890.
On Thursday last week a deputation of the men employed at Glapwell colliery accompanied by Mr. Harvey awaited on the agent and manager Mr. Piggford and Mr. Snow with reference to a price list and we also understand that the question of the 10% rise was also looked into but no satisfaction was arrived at. Mr. Harvey addressed a meeting of the men when he said that he had gained concessions from the price list. He read out the concessions and strongly advised the men to accept them. They accordingly did so.
22nd March 1890.
With reference to the recent railway accident at Glapwell we are informed by the Midland Railway Company that they have come to terms with the miners who were in the accident. The Company have agreed to pay all the men a days wage and substantial compensation to those that were injured.
12th July 1890.
Legal proceedings in the case of Frederick Hart v Midland Railway Company.
The plaintiff who is a miner claimed damages for injuries sustained by him in the accident of a workmen’s train at Glapwell on 14th January last. Hart was in the centre carriage, which took the worst of the collision. A large number of miners were injured more or less severely and most of the claims had been dealt with. That in which Hart figured was one of the few outstanding. The Company would pay the plaintiff £75 plus costs.
23rd March 1895.
On Saturday last Mr. C. Snow the genial manager of Glapwell Colliery was presented with a gold watch and a purse of gold valued at £14 as a token of the high esteem in which he his held by the officials and workmen employed at the colliery.
First colliery photograph is copyright Roberts and produced by the Industrial Railway Society.(IRS). 17/04/1949.
Rest of the colliery photographs from the collection of Bill Skevington.