Fame, Facts & Your stories

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On this page the CCMHS intend to publish articles by members or anyone else who has memories or stories of the Cannock coalfield. If you have any interesting stories or information concerning the Cannock Chase Coalfield please let us have it we may be able to include it.


NEW - We have added a List of miners who worked the Cannock Chase Coalfield to this site. If you would like anyone included, whether living or passed on, surface or underground worker, please send in their name, pit and dates they worked in the mines (if possible) to enquiries@ccmhs.co.uk. note: - you may if you wish include the village or town they lived in.  

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People, events & things that shaped the  Cannock Chase Coalfield

The CADMAN Family                                        1877 - 1941 ?  by Ken Edwards

The FOGGO Family                                          1876 - 1954      by Ken Edwards          

The HANBURY Family                                      1792 - 1931      by Dennis Jackson

Hednesford Rescue Station                             1913 - 1991      by Mick Drury

JOHN ROBINSON McCLEAN                            1813(?) - 1873  by Peter Barker

The WILLIAMSON Family                                 1859 - 1933      by Ken Edwards


If you have a biography of a man you considered to have shaped the Cannock Chase Coalfield or one of its pits or simply your own memories of a colliery let us publish it here, contact enquiries@ccmhs.co.uk put great men in the subject line please.

                                       Your Stories             

The stories contained here were submitted by ordinary people who would like there ancestors stories recorded with the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society.

We would like to encourage more people to submit their story, their memories, their family story to these pages. The object of the CCMHS is to record these memories for the generations that follow us.

Please contact us on enquiries@ccmhs.c.uk and we will if the material is suitable publish your article here.


Were you a  "BEVIN BOY".

On the 9th July the Secretary of the Bevin Boys Association Mr Ken Thomas paid a visit to the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society headquarters. He came to offer his expertise for our book project, his knowledge of Bevin boys who worked in the Cannock Chase coal mines. Ken has a data base of Bevin boys from all over the world. The CCMHS gladly accepted his kind offer, Ken also asked if we would spread the word that he would like to hear from any former Bevin Boy whether resident in the UK or abroad to add to his data base as the numbers get fewer ever year. If you read this and are interested email me at  enquiries@ccmhs.co.uk


COAL MINERS LEISURE ACTIVITIES                    by Ken Edwards

JAMES GATER                                                              by Ken Edwards

JESSIE CHAPMAN     1887 - 1959                                    by Sue Reeves  (new)

Edwin Leech                1889 - ?                                          by Ray Murray   (new)

ANDREW MURRAY     1893 - 1969                                 by Ray Murray    (new)

MIKE BUTCHER                                                          by Mike Butcher  (new)

SAMUEL NIXON                                                           by Joe Nixon

Farewell to LES HYDEN last of the six.

 A tunnel from the past re-opened                                             by Alan Dean





The news paper cutting below is about Samuel Nixon who worked in  coal mining for 51years and retired in 1965. A companying  the news paper article is a letter the CCMHS received from the late Samuel Nixon's son Joe Nixon who along with his own son Peter (the little boy in the picture) own & run L. Nixon & Co, Engineers and Toolmakers of Willenhall, he has kindly given us permission to feature the letter and the article on these pages.

A HAPPY 51 YEARS IN MINING (report from 1965)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "Coal mining is a good life" commented 65 year old Samuel Nixon of Wood-avenue Wednesfield and he should know at the end of 51 years in the coal mining industry. At 14 he started work at the Holly Bank colliery, Essington, in the days of picks, shovels and oil lamps. In the 1920's he spent eight years roaming between South Wales, the Midlands and Yorkshire when he worked with men whose job it was to sink pits. While engaged on sinking a pit on Tees-side, Mr Nixon met his future wife Dorothy. After I was married I thought I had better settle down. So I came back to Hilton Main colliery near Featherstone. This was one of the collieries I helped to sink he added. Mr Nixon First became a deputy then an overman at the colliery. On his retirement last week he had been an overman for 35 years. There was no comparison between working conditions today and those when he started work, "Much of the really hard work is mechanised. Coal is moved by conveyor belts, instead of ponies and endless ropes to take it to the surface," he said "Also the pits are now light and airy - miners do not suffer from eye strain (Nystagmus) anymore. It is a safe job nowadays as long as there is good discipline amongst the men. I think factory workers may be better paid but the miners are a good friendly lot, so I would rather work in the coal industry" he said. At the age of 65, Mr Nixon looked a fit and healthy man "Yes I am" he said I now people say it is not good for your health being a miner, but if everyone at my age feels as well as I do, they wouldn't be able to grumble."


click to enlarge photos








click here to read : Brian Rollins Recalls



                                                                                                                                                        It's a fact

The Article that follows was unearthed by members whilst researching Mid Cannock & Leacroft Collieries for the Cannock Chase Coalfield Book being published by the Society. Have you an unusual story about a local pit let us know and share it with others (published if considered suitable).

Fact 1 (1910)

The lonely horse of Great Wyrley No 3 Plant (Mick Drury)

 Great Wyrley No. 3 plant was flooded for the second time on July 29th 1910 and the men and horses (50) were brought out of the pit but the pumps were kept going.  One pony refused to go through the water into the pit bottom so it was decided it would have to be left and take the consequences.  Food and water were left in a slightly higher level roadway with the pony and then everyone rode to the surface.  It was 5 days later that men reached the pony, who although being left with in complete darkness, was found to be in good condition and no worse for its lonely stay.  

         click to enlarge

Fact 2 (1950's)

The leaning TOWER of East Cannock Colliery. (Alan Dean)

When Mr David Barnes took over as Mechanical Engineer of East Cannock Colliery, there was found to be problems within the upcast shaft. This was that the west side shaft guides and cage slippers, would wear out very rapidly this caused wear to the guides so it was a constant task renewing them. Mr Barnes had a survey of the shaft and headgear carried out and it was found that the headgear was leaning towards the west side, that is towards Chadsmoor. The remedy was that Mr Barnes borrowed two 50 ton hydraulic jacks from the Hednesford Brickwork Company and on a weekend set his shafts men and mechanical staff on unbolting the headgear from its anchor points and jacking up the west side of the structure until it was in the correct alignment this was not a simple task due to the equipment attached to the structure. Packing plates were then inserted under the headgear legs on the west side and the whole structure was then rebolted back down this did indeed cure the problem and there were no more problems with excessive slipper or rope wear in that shaft.


Fact 3 (1890)

A most unusual Accident (Brian Rollins)

On 29th March 1890 a unique accident occurred at Walsall Wood Colliery.  It happened in an underground engine recess by the side of one of the main haulage roads.  In the recess had been placed a Priestman’s petroleum engine.  It was described at the time as “the motive power of this kind of engine is exploding petroleum vapour and their compactness, readiness of application in difficult positions and the absence of a boiler – make them a tempting mechanical appliance for mining engineers.”

The engine had been sited by the side of the main road some 500 yards (457m) from the shafts.  The engine was being tested by workmen who considered it necessary to empty the petrol from the tank; to completely drain the tank they decided to use compressed air.  A youth was sent under the engine to catch the petrol as it flowed out of the discharge plughole.  Another youth was told to loosen the plug – “but not to bring the lighted lamps near to the tank as the petrol rushed out.”  Finding the plug did not come out easily he reached for his light to see better – just as the plug flew out followed by the petrol, blown by the compressed air, in the form of a spray.  This instantly caught fire at the lamp, three men were burnt, one fatally.  The woodwork caught fire and with the petrol burnt giving off dense smoke; the mine had to be evacuated

Fact 4 (1920)

Petrol was produced from Cannock Chase Coal in the 1920's & 1930's (Mick Lucas)

The Patent Economic Fuel Company

A distillation plant operated in the vicinity of Cannock and Leacroft Colliery. It was operated independently by W.B. Midford who undertook to take their fuel requirements from the colliery. It appears that the Company was set up in the 1920 but it failed in its aims and went into liquidation. This Company was indebted to the Cannock and Leacroft Company for a large amount of coal they had supplied. As no payment was forthcoming the Colliery Company took over the concern and endeavoured to run it at a profit.

Around 1933 another Company came in and apparently made it work for a while as the following report appeared in the Cannock Advertiser in 1934. The article was accompanied by a photograph of a car being fuelled with petrol on the site.


Here's a car that runs on liquid coal - and the years 1934 The car was fuelled on the first petrol made from coal in Great Britain and it was pioneered right here on the Chase. The accompanying picture was sent in by reader Mrs. Agnes Hough of Catsbridge Lane, Four Crosses, and Hatherton. The Leacroft Plant was set up 1933 and by 1934 coal mined from the Chase was being used in producing petrol.

Mr. E. W. Brocklebenk chief designer of the plant told the 'Advertiser' on July 28th 1934 that the project had passed the experimental stage and "had enough contracts for the next few years to justify increased production in petrol and smokeless fuel". He also said that he was intending to set up other production units both in this country and abroad. Around 150 tons of coal was used to produce 30,000 gallons of petrol each day.

Mr. E. W. Brocklebenk's claims seemed very ambitious because the petrol producing plant had disappeared by the 1940s.

Fact 4 (1939 - 1945)

Was Adolph really after the illegal card players (Alan Dean)

During the second world war the Luftwaffe spent many thousands of tons of high explosives trying to destroy the munitions factories and aircraft works based in and around Birmingham and Coventry. Both these cities took a heavy pounding from German bombers (as did many other unfortunate areas) but who would have thought that Heath Hayes was on their priority list. My mother relates that during the war years she was a conductress on Harpers Buses and she did the early morning workers bus into Birmingham with munitions workers it was heart rending she recalls to see the destruction reeked from the previous night bombing (however I digress).

The people of Heath Hayes tell of how they would watch the bombers from Fiveways corner, off the picture house steps, take a bearing on Norton Pool (now Chasewater) then follow the canal system south to the heart of Birmingham and Coventry. They also knew which city was being hit as they could see the fire glowing in the night sky.

One evening a group of colliers were secretly playing cards in a field in Newlands Lane at the rear of the Fairlady (although everyone knew what they were up to except the local Bobby) gambling was at that time illegal thus the need for secrecy. The men had watched the nights raiders go over and were well into the game of cards when they heard a plane returning "on their way back now they've done the dirt I suppose said someone". The next thing the whole world erupted about them and they were covered in earth and debris. The returning plane must have been struggling with one bomb left perhaps stuck in the bomb bay and having the need to jettison it to get home they had seen the Fairlady and let fly with it. It landed some way away in another field in Newlands Lane missed the pit completely, my uncle Bailey always commented "yo'ed a thought they'd gone for the Lady pit wouldn't ya, we wor caus'in that much trouble to em was we". No one was hurt but needless to say the card games cease for a while until a new venue was found.



Joy produced a machine called a 12BU Gathering Arm Loader this machine was mainly used for loading blown coal out from heading or partial working underground. Did you know what the BU stood for well it always puzzled me until Mr Brian Worthington of Joy told us at the 3rd quarterly meeting of the CCMHS what it stood for. It was Bitumous Underground. Now what did the 12 mean?