Colliery -

Go to content


Collieries > Markham
Markham Collieries.



For centuries prior to the sinking of the Markham colliery shafts coal had been worked in this area from several small mines owned and operated by individuals and small companies. These mines worked the shallower seams which often surfaced locally due to the uplift in the strata or anticline which runs from Staveley through Brimington towards Calow, called the Brimington Anticline. Coal has been one of the areas greatest assets, we know that the Romans mined coal along with ironstone, there were Medieval miners too. The history of coal mining is a vast subject with different areas and different owners mining coal in their own particular time honoured ways. Change was always slow and painful in coming with these changes often only coming after serious mining disasters with the loss of life or limb.

Coal was not the first choice for fuel, it was wood that was readily available and ancient laws allowed the common people to collect wood for burning on the home fires. Charcoal was used to smelt iron, this was often made from animal bones and not wood. It would however seem that because the seams basset out in the area as a result of the Brimington Anticline, coal would be easier to find in larger quantities than wood. The shallow shafts and drifts employed in the middle ages to win the coal were frequently filled in and re-sunk elsewhere as it was cheaper to do this than to maintain the ventilation and the security of the underground roadways. After the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the gradual changes in technology and company laws by the latter half of the nineteenth century the disposable colliery made way for deeper, larger, permanent and more profitable mines being run by large private concerns.

Markham Colliery Comes into Being.

(The collieries at Markham were named after Charles Markham, whose family were so prominent in the history and development of the Staveley company and the Chesterfield area. Charles Paxton Markham (1865-1926) the eldest son of Charles Markham (1823-1888) and his younger brother Sir Arthur B. Markham (1866-1916) and his son Sir Charles Markham).

In 1882 the Staveley company leased 5,000 acres of coal reserves on the Sutton Estates from William Arkwright, the lease was for sixty three years and by 1885 the new Sutton estate colliery and housing or Markham number one colliery was in full production. Another colliery was sunk shortly afterwards in 1886 into the Deep Softs or Clay Cross Softs seam at a depth of 1,512 feet from the surface, this colliery was to be called Markham number two. This area of coal had for many years been sought after by the Staveley Company but it appears that William Arkwright and his predecessors were in conflict with the Duke of Devonshire about way leave over Devonshire land to the Chesterfield Canal which Barrow and the Staveley company were mining underneath and as a result Arkwright would not allow Barrow to take up a lease in favour of the Smiths at the Adelphi Ironworks.

The most productive seam in the area was the Top Hards seam which was worked at Markham, but, by 1919 the workings were out as far as Palterton and it was decided to sink another shaft at Doe Lea Bridge and call this Markham number five shaft or the Palterton Air shaft to improve ventilation and man riding, the Top Hard seam here was six foot two inches thick. (Were there ever plans to expand number five shaft pit head with a rail link and washery plant into another separate colliery?) It would appear that Ramcroft colliery took over this role, a subsidiary of the Staveley Company. The Palterton Air Shaft or 'Mackerel Main'. Was a new man riding shaft sunk around 1919 at Doe Lea Bridge as an improvement to the ventilation system in the Top Hard seam workings at Markham colliery. A small amount of coal was removed from the pit bottom area but the main use of the shaft was to speed up man riding and inspection of the workings and improve the depleted air supply to the seam.

Company Projects.

Throughout the colliery sinking era the Staveley company embarked on a colliery housing project building many colliery villages to house the workers at or near to the mines and works. Villages at Markham, Hartington, Arkwright, Warsop Vale, Staveley, Barrow Hill, Speedwell and Poolsbrook being just a few set up to house the many men in their employ. It also gave the company a share in the workers lives as the house went with the job and the Staveley Company openly encouraged non unionism as the men could and would be evicted from the houses if they went on strike or opposed the company or any of its rules. Many of these terraced dwellings are still in existence today.

The Staveley Company had by the 1920's a very extensive power grid network supplying its own collieries, works, housing, local companies and local authorities needs. The Power department of the Staveley Coal & Iron Company was able to supply annually around 54 million kilowatt hours of energy, with an average load factor of around sixty percent. It also used several steam drives to provide motive power at the collieries for winding. The electricity was generated at the Devonshire works at Staveley, producing 6.6kv at 30 cycles and 22kv at 50 cycles after transformation for the grid feeder cables. The generation was 25,500 kw alternating current and 1,500kw direct current. A 1,500kw and a 1,200kw, mixed-pressure turbo-alternator at Markham and Warsop respectively added to the network supply. The power was generated as a result of utilising waste steam, burning waste gasses from blast furnaces and the raising of steam from burning low grade fuels.

On December 13th. 1960 the government of the day sold the Staveley Iron and Chemical company and its subsidiaries for £6,000,000, the sale included the Sheepbridge company which was taken over by the Staveley company in 1955, and three smaller iron companies.

Blackhale, Site of the two explosions.
Deep Hard,
Deep Soft,
Ell Coal,
First Waterloo, drifted into from the Top Hards inset but drifts are down hill and development ceased due to severe flooding.
High Hazells, appears to have been opened up from the shaft inset but never worked.
Second Waterloo, worked from a fully mechanised shaft inset, state of the art transport and coal cutting from a multi-million pound investment from EEC. Most faces on the retreat system and the machine remotely monitored from the surface..
Top Hard. Worked extensively until around the 1930's.

Working Abandonment.

Top Hards abandoned 5th July 1937. Seam worked out and nearing an extremely steep area approaching the outcrop. No coal drawn since July 1931 but roadways were kept open and examined.
High Hazel abandoned 5th July 1937. Workings were unprofitable. No work at faces since May 1931. Roadways kept examined with a view to possibly reopening the workings.
Top Waterloo abandoned 5th July 1937. Workings were unprofitable. No coal drawn since June 1931. Roadways kept open and examined but no restart of operations.

During the 1980's a new shaft inset was set for the production of coal from the Second Waterloo seam, several units went into production from a multi-million pound project on L30's district. It was also planned to drift to the surface with a dog leg drift from the number two pit bottom to free up the shaft coaling bottleneck but this did not get past the planning stage. A planned link from Arkwright colliery to Markham colliery was to be constructed by 1988 into the workings of L401 's unit in the Second Piper seam of number two colliery to take the remaining coal from the Arkwright faces and out of the proposed new Markham surface drift, these plans were also abandoned.

The colliery closed in 1994.

Markham Colliery.

28th October 1893.

The following statement has been forwarded for publication by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company that they will reopen their Markham No.1 pit next Monday 30th October at what is understood to be a living wage as follows: stall men 7/- per day, loaders 5/- per day. No stoppages from the above rates except house rent and club. A load of coal will be allowed to each householder once a month. The Company will provide tools. Signed Joseph Humble, Cert: Manager.

7th April 1939.

Five hundred men began work on the development section on the south side of Markham No.1 pit of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company on Tuesday. The development will also require a further one hundred men for whom work can be found immediately. The Blackshale seam on the east where 79 men lost their lives in the disaster last May has been drawn off and closed.

The Price of Coal.

Derbyshire Times October 25th. 1893.

The following statement has been forwarded for publication. The Staveley Coal and Iron Company will reopen their Markham No.1 pit next Monday30th. October at what is understood to be a living wage as follows. Stallmen 7/- per day and loaders 5/- per day. No stoppages from the above rates except house rent and club. A load of coal to be allowed to each household once a month. The company will find tools. Signed Joseph Humble. Certt. Manager.

Derbyshire Times 26 March 1900. Staveley House Coal.

Coal Direct from the Colliery.

The Staveley Coal and Iron Company open their new depot at the Midland and L.D.& E.C.R. Stations for the sale of house coals of every description on June 1st. 1900.

Derbyshire Times 7th.April 1939.

Five hundred men began work on the development section on the south side of Markham No.1 pit of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company on Tuesday. The Development will also require a further one hundred men for whom work can be found immediately. The Blackshale seam on the east side where 79 men lost their lives in the disaster of last May has been drawn off and closed.

1934. 6th July, five M.P.s descend Markham colliery to witness a demonstration of the Ringrose Lamp Gas Detector, a device for detecting methane in the mine air. The Ringrose which was held at Markham was criticised because the lamps were set at 2% methane in the general body of air, the indicator lamps turning from white to red on detection. A normal flame safety lamp detects as low as 1.25 % methane in the general body of air.

1937. 21st January, an explosion in the number two unit, east district of Number One colliery Blackshale seam, resulting in the loss of nine lives. The explosion was caused by an accumulation of gas ignited by a flame which escaped from a poorly fitting lid in a flameproof enclosure on a coal cutting machine.

1938. 10th. May, Number One colliery, another explosion after a tub train accident damaged a power cable, seventy nine lives lost and thirty eight injured.

1973. 30th July, the man riding cage in number three shaft at Number Two colliery went free fall into the pit bottom. This resulted in the loss of eighteen lives and a further twelve severely injured men.

The Shonky Shaft.

At Markham Colliery and other collieries in the area one of the manriding shafts was referred to as the 'Shonky' shaft. Markham No3 shaft of No2 colliery was called the 'Shonky Shaft'. Incidentally this was the shaft which had the terrible disaster in 1973. On the 30th July, when the manriding cage in No3 shaft at No2 colliery went free fall into the pit bottom after a brake rod fractured. This resulted in the loss of eighteen lives and a further twelve severely injured men.

Three other collieries with the name were at nearby Oxcroft, Ramcroft and Glapwell. The Ramcroft colliery shaft was a small shaft and winding equipment which was used only occasionally when the main coal and manriding shaft was being repaired or examined.

At Markham the shaft was latterly used to ride men and materials but was previously a shaft used to ride men out of normal manriding times. i.e. When the main shaft was set up to load tubs of coal and the riding of men would have interrupted the coaling process because of the fitting of the safety devices on the cage. The men who rode the 'Shonky' shaft would be the men on overtime or coming on early or managers and overmen riding out of normal manriding times. Affectionately called by the miners the 'Money Grabbers'.

A 'shonky' or 'shonk', is a derogatory or offensive name for a Jew. It is an abbreviated form of the word 'shoniker', used originally by Cockneys to describe a person who was unreliable, dishonest, crooked: someone engaged in illegal business activities or a 'money grabber'.

It is possible that the number three shaft at Markham was once set aside as a spare shaft, for use in emergencies. Or it may possibly refer to a shaft, which by virtue of it not being in continual use was deemed to be unreliable or had a very poor shaky ride.

The Shonky Shaft was either the one used by the 'Money Grabbers' or an unreliableone, or possibly one that was bent or not straight.


(1). Markham 1 & 4. J. Rayner.
(2). Markham 3 & 2. J. Rayner.
(3) Colin Allsop.
(4). Markham 3. 1928. Bill Skevington.
(5). Strike in the 1920's. Bill Skevington.
(6). Markham 4 1928. Bill Skevington.

Back to content