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Haig Pit


PhilB
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The Haig Colliery Mining Museum has the following:-

"It was between 1914 and 1918 that the Whitehaven Colliery Company sunk the 1200-foot deep Haig Pit. Its closure was brought about by the encounter of a major fault, miners' strike, and the politics of the day. Buildings were demolished with only the winding engine house and some workshops remaining. The Haig Colliery building site is now designated as a Scheduled Monument by English Heritage."

The dates strongly indicate a connection with the Field Marshal but it doesn`t actually say so. I assume the company couldn`t have used his name without his say so - or was there a family connection?

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Could be a military comnection.

In the early 1940s ,three of the four directors of the owners of the Haig Pit, The Cumberland Coal Company (Whitehaven) Ltd indicated officer rank.

Two had Scottish connections and were likely to be brothers,Lieut Colonel J F H Houldsworth of Wishaw,Lanarkshire and Brig H W Houldsworth DSO,MC of Dallas,By Forres,Morayshire.

The other director with a military connection was Colonel D J Mason of Whitehaven.

In addition,both the Chairman and M.D had home addresses in Scotland.

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Thanks, Frank.

In WW1:- J F H Houldsworth, Lt, Gordon H,

H W Houldsworth, Lt, Seaforth H,

D J Mason Maj, Cumberland Howitzer Battery RFA.

It seemed a little odd to name a pit after someone as a mark of respect but clearly it is the case. I suppose there are other examples.

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There used to be a Haig drift mine in Yorkshire and the Haig Inlet Mine still operates in Canada. There is also Rothwell Haig Victoria pit which suffered an explosion in 1840. It may be nothing to do with the Field Marshal

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Haig or Haigh is a relatively common place name in the North of England - it comes from the Old English for "surrounded by hedges" If you sink a mine in a place called Haig you might call it Haig pit!

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Not comprehensive I'm afraid - there should be ay least Haig Drift in Yorkshire (see item on the Seckar man-riding invention at Haig Drift mine, Yorkshire, which saves miners a 50 minute walk. No. 9 Mining Review May 1954 ) Haig Pit deep mine Cumbria and Rothwell Haig no 2 shaft (Victoria pit)

There is one mine definitely named after the man - General Haig Mine on the banks of the Slaughteryard Creek in Queensland (now abandoned). There is another mine at Haig Beck in the Blue Mountains. There is a mine at Haig Inlet in Canada - the inlet was not named after the man.

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Haigh Colliery,about 5 miles north west of Barnsley was a deep mine and named after the the village of its location.Owned by George Fountain and Son,it mined only household coal from the Beamshaw and Winter seams...not common seams and hence at the time, not of considerable tonnage output.

Haigh Moor was a productive coal seam which ran in certain areas of the West Riding,a number of pits worked this seam..

Water Haigh was another deep mine situated at Woodlesford,a few miles south east of Leeds on the opposite side of the A639 to Rothwell Haigh (as opposed to Haig) a village just north of Rothwell.

Cannot locate a Haig Drift mine in the Yorkshire coalfield,if there is it would be towards the Pennines where it was common for small drift mines to be found.Could be a post WW2 development at the time when licences were available for small private drift mines after nationalisation in 1948.

Similarly there were Victoria pits in the Durham and Lancashire coalfields but none recorded in the Yorkshire coalfield.

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Haigh Colliery,about 5 miles north west of Barnsley was a deep mine and named after the the village of its location.Owned by George Fountain and Son,it mined only household coal from the Beamshaw and Winter seams...not common seams and hence at the time, not of considerable tonnage output.

Haigh Moor was a productive coal seam which ran in certain areas of the West Riding,a number of pits worked this seam..

Water Haigh was another deep mine situated at Woodlesford,a few miles south east of Leeds on the opposite side of the A639 to Rothwell Haigh (as opposed to Haig) a village just north of Rothwell.

Cannot locate a Haig Drift mine in the Yorkshire coalfield,if there is it would be towards the Pennines where it was common for small drift mines to be found.Could be a post WW2 development at the time when licences were available for small private drift mines after nationalisation in 1948.

Similarly there were Victoria pits in the Durham and Lancashire coalfields but none recorded in the Yorkshire coalfield.

Rothwell Haigh is also spelled Rothwell Haig - http://www.walk4life.info/sites/default/files/walkdocs/walkdoc-62072.pdf One of the pits there was the Walter Haigh Collery.

For the Rothwell Haigh Victoria pit see this extract from The Coal Mining History Resource Centre

Rothwell Haigh Victoria Pit. Leeds, Yorkshire. 24th. January, 1840.

The pit was originally called the Garden Pit but the name was changed to

commemorate the Queen’s accession. In the explosion and seven workmen, two

men and five lads were killed. They had been provided with safety lamps but were

using candles.

Men were taking away props which supported the top end and it was thought that

gas had accumulated in the space. Near by men were getting coal. The props were

set in rows and the furthest props were taken first causing the roof to fall and fill the

space to the props that were left standing. On this occasion the roof had not fallen

for a considerable distance. When the roof did eventually fall, large volumes of dust

were raised so the men could not see each other and all the candles were

extinguished with the exception of one held by Samuel Worth. The gas ignited at

this candle.

Those who died were:-

Thomas Hopton aged 52 years.

Edward Bell aged 12 years.

George Lister aged 19 years.

Samuel Ward aged 9 years.

John Worth aged 15 years.

William Worth aged 13 years.

Samuel Worth aged about 40 years and father of William and John. He left a wife

and six children.

When the gas exploded, it set fire to the pillars of coal which supported the top

and caused a fall 120 yards long. Though it was hazardous, the men dug a burgate

to try to find Samuel Worth’s body but he was not found. It was thought it had been

‘calcined to a cinder.’

Apparently it eventually became known as Rothwell Haig no 2 shaft.

The Haig Drift Mine cannot have been that small if miners had a "50 minute walk" to the working face.

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Meanwhile returning to the Haig Pit in Whitehaven ...

There was a major explosion at the Haig Pit on 05 Sep 1922 resulting in the deaths of 39 men.

My great grandfather was the Manager at the adjacent Ladysmith Pit just to the south and was heavily involved in the subsequent rescue efforts in the Haig Pit for which he was awarded the Carnegie Medal "for Heroic Endeavour to save Human Life".

His mine was named after Ladysmith of Boer War fame. The Haig Pit itself was sunk to help improve the ventilation and general layout of the older Wellington Pit just by the harbour in Whitehaven and with which it interconnected.

I suspect the Wellington Pit was named for the Duke.

There's nothing known for certain by myself nor the family to confirm whether the Haig Pit was named after General Haig.

There's clearly a military theme in the naming of some of the pits of the area. However there are certainly other pits in Whitehaven whose names do not appear to have any military connection.

Haig is a common Scottish surname and, as has already been observed, many of the owners of the colliery were Scots. My great grandfather also was a a Scot with an Ayrshire mining pedigree stretching back to the 1750's. I understand there was a large number of Ayrshire/Lanarkshire miners at Whitehaven, as well as many miners from Durham/Tyneside.

Also I think the Haig Pit was begun early in 1914. Although Douglas Haig was certainly well known by then, he had not perhaps reached his later prominence. That might suggest another origin for the naming of the pit.

You'll need to get to the Whitehaven Museum to see if any further clues exist - local newspapers probably cover the sinking of the shafts well.

Cheers,

Mark

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In the depths of the Haig Pit Museum website, I found this ...

"Following the tradition of naming pits in the Whitehaven colliery after prominent people or events of the day (Wellington after the Duke, Ladysmith after the Boer War battle etc) the new pit was later named in honour of (Douglas?) Haig, the British Army Commander during the First World War."

However there's no source cited and there are other aspects to the 'blog' which look weak. I would respectfully suggest the case remains "not proven" till some additional corroboration is turned up.

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Rothwell Haigh is also spelled Rothwell Haig - http://www.walk4life.info/sites/default/files/walkdocs/walkdoc-62072.pdf One of the pits there was the Walter Haigh Collery.

For the Rothwell Haigh Victoria pit see this extract from The Coal Mining History Resource Centre

Rothwell Haigh Victoria Pit. Leeds, Yorkshire. 24th. January, 1840.

The pit was originally called the Garden Pit but the name was changed to

commemorate the Queen’s accession. In the explosion and seven workmen, two

men and five lads were killed. They had been provided with safety lamps but were

using candles.

Men were taking away props which supported the top end and it was thought that

gas had accumulated in the space. Near by men were getting coal. The props were

set in rows and the furthest props were taken first causing the roof to fall and fill the

space to the props that were left standing. On this occasion the roof had not fallen

for a considerable distance. When the roof did eventually fall, large volumes of dust

were raised so the men could not see each other and all the candles were

extinguished with the exception of one held by Samuel Worth. The gas ignited at

this candle.

Those who died were:-

Thomas Hopton aged 52 years.

Edward Bell aged 12 years.

George Lister aged 19 years.

Samuel Ward aged 9 years.

John Worth aged 15 years.

William Worth aged 13 years.

Samuel Worth aged about 40 years and father of William and John. He left a wife

and six children.

When the gas exploded, it set fire to the pillars of coal which supported the top

and caused a fall 120 yards long. Though it was hazardous, the men dug a burgate

to try to find Samuel Worth’s body but he was not found. It was thought it had been

‘calcined to a cinder.’

Apparently it eventually became known as Rothwell Haig no 2 shaft.

The Haig Drift Mine cannot have been that small if miners had a "50 minute walk" to the working face

We were discussing the name Haig being given to collieries after Douglas.The Victoria Pit was not being worked during the Haig era and was one of those pits that were either worked out or sealed after a disaster.(There were many and of that era,in many cases,surveying records were not kept/maintained, resulting in disasters such as Lofthouse when the workings tapped into former unchartered workings of a long sealed pit which in this case were flooded and in turn, back flooded the Lofthouse seam being worked.) There would be an extensive list of previous coal pit workings in the UK had records been kept,never seen a list apart from those pits which are remembered on account of disasters

Rothwell Haigh is a name that has been in use for many years, certainly in my lifetime.The Haig reference must relate to the Victorian era. a check on the appropriate registration district should record a change of name.

The colliery at Rothwell Haigh was the Fanny Pit (registered as such) which was source of mirth for the youth of my time.The Walter Haigh Colliery you refer to would be the Water Haigh which was situated at Woodlesford (home of the Bentleys Yorkshire Bitters,good bitter long gone and my first pint as a youth) which is a village on the east side of the A639 Wakefield/Leeds road across from the village of Rothwell Haigh...havn't been there for years but after being typical Yorkshire villages,not too urban,they are now dormitories of Leeds and as such,upmarket.

Drift mines tend to have an underground workforce of about 25 with less that 10 on the surface.So small was their output that they do not appear to be vested in the 1948 nationalisation portfolio.The best approach is to find the address of Haig Drift.

There is no village by the name of Haig in Yorkshire as I see it.

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My interest in pits is largely due to me great great grandfather having been mortally injured down a mine in 1849, 6 months before the birth of my great grandfather. I could find no trace of this pit when I visited the area.

post-2329-0-46395000-1382460278_thumb.jp

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Rothwell Haigh is also spelled Rothwell Haig - http://www.walk4life.info/sites/default/files/walkdocs/walkdoc-62072.pdf One of the pits there was the Walter Haigh Collery.

For the Rothwell Haigh Victoria pit see this extract from The Coal Mining History Resource Centre

I rather suspect "Rothwell Haig" in your cited reference is a simple typo for "Rothwell Haigh" where "Haigh" is a placename element pronounced "hay" and with no connection whatever to Earl Haig.

Even in the reference cited this spelling is only used once in the article's title.

Do you have any other evidence for this alternative spelling?

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Haig or Haigh is a relatively common place name in the North of England - it comes from the Old English for "surrounded by hedges"

I don't disagree with Haigh, but I'm really struggling to find examples of Haig used as a placename element.

Are you sure Haig is a common placename element in the North of England?

Can you give us some examples? Or cite some authority?

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My interest in pits is largely due to me great great grandfather having been mortally injured down a mine in 1849, 6 months before the birth of my great grandfather. I could find no trace of this pit when I visited the area.

You have to throw away all your notions of coal mining if you go back that far. Pits would have been relatively small operations, closer to the private mines of today than the massive complexes of British Coal days. Think in terms of fifty to a hundred men, at most, rather than hundreds or even thousands at modern mines and it's not hard to see why you wouldn't find much trace today. They'd be working shallow, easy-to-reach seams and if there were deeper seams the pits would need to be developed to cope with the increased requirements for ventilation and water management so early buildings and shafts would be obliterated. All the work would have been done by hand and ventilation would have been created by the use of furnaces at the bottom of the up-cast shaft so that the shaft effectively became a chimney. At best the pit might have had a beam engine to pump water but they were sold off for reuse as soon as a pit closed down and the engine house might have been demolished for the bricks. The famous remains in Cornwall survived because most of the pits closed in a slump, meaning the engines couldn't be sold and they were only broken up for scrap around WW2.

Keith

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I`m intrigued by the report that he pushed a load of dirt (presumably a horse and cart) onto a scaffold to hook it to a rope. How did that work?

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Coal seams can be some distance apart so you have what are known as an inset at each level worked - an access point in the wall of the shaft. In a modern deep mine with shafts, a cage is used for transport. In each shaft you will either have two cages or (one cage and a counter-balance weight) and the winder will have marks on his dials indicating when to stop the cage for any given level. Most cages will be able to take mine-cars (aka tubs) straight on board because there are rails fitted to each deck of the cage that match those used underground. At the pit top another narrow-gauge railway system would take the coal and spoil away.

In the early 19th century things were very different. Men often used a succession ladders or what was known as a man engine. The latter were used where a mine had a beam engine for pumping, At the length of each stroke would be a small platform and a matching series of platforms were on the pump rods. Going up, at the end of the downstroke you got onto the beam and at the end of the upstroke you got off, waited for the beam to descend and then mounted the next platform on the beam - and so on.

http://www.geevor.com/index.php?object=192

I suspect that they weren't using a cage at the pit where the accident took place. Most likely, each inset had a framework of some kind that could be laid across the shaft so that a tub could be run out onto it and hooked onto a single rope with a hook on the end, like a crane. Given that shafts are often wet because they pass through water-bearing strata it's not impossible that there was some deterioration in the timbers or simply that the wagons used were just heavier than the platform could stand and, eventually, it gave way.

A horse might have been used - more likely a pony - to bring the wagon to the shaft area but they wouldn't have pulled the wagon onto the platform. It was probably pushed on by the workmen although at New Langley, where my Dad and his father worked they had a pony trained to push tubs onto the cage with his backside. I wonder whether Thomas Brooks wasn't heaving with all his might to get the wagon in place when the platform collapsed. He probably wouldn't have been able to regain his balance and stop himself following the wagon.

Keith

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No picnic certainly, but imagine what it must have been like in the 1750's.

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Many Lancastrian pits from those times appear to be simple holes in the ground from which coal was hauled up by rope and bucket. Does horizontal mining from a vertical shaft have a long history?

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The earliest way coal was collected was from the beach. The stuff you got from wood was called char-coal and the other was sea-coal. The coal came, of course, from undersea outcrops. Away from the coast, they would have worked exposed seams, going in only a short distance and stopping when it wasn't safe. The forerunners of shaft mines were bell-pits and those go back millennia. The flint mines at Grimes Graves are of this type. Basically, you went down vertically until you found the seam, worked out as far as you dared in all directions and then sank a new shaft nearby.

De Re Metallica was published by Georgius Agricola in 1556. Although it deals fundamentally with hard-rock mining, many of the techniques were common in soft-rock mining so the illustrations are a God-send. It had been thought that British coal mines were more primitive than their Continental counterparts but a discovery was made at a Leicestershire opencast mine, near Ashby de la Zouch, about 30 years ago blew that theory out of the water. They found mediaeval mine-workings that looked very similar to those shown in De Re Metallica. The shaft was square and lined for longevity and the workings were bord-and-pillar (sometimes called stall-and-pillar) and quite extensive. Some of it was preserved and is on display at the Snibston Discovery Museum.

It would have been very grim underground and stayed grim until things became increasingly mechanised last century. Not only was it hard, dangerous work but you'd do most of the shift in darkness. You cannot possibly imagine what that would have been like. Turn off your cap-lamp and the darkness is like a velvet bag. It's so dark you can feel it but light a candle and you'd risk blowing up yourself and your mates. Some pits called their deputies 'firemen' because, historically, they were the poor sods who donned heavy clothing and advanced into the workings holding a long, lighted taper to try and burn off the gas. Many died in the subsequent explosions. Davy's invention of the safety lamp was a huge step forward in mine safety that cannot be overemphasised.

We've come along way. Children went down the pit as soon as they were able to. I've seen it recorded that a child under seven could get used to the dark but after that they weren't as pliable. Entire families worked underground together - men, women and children. The men tended to work the coal and load it into the transport - sometimes wheeled but sometimes sledges - and the women would haul them to the pit bottom. The children worked the ventilation doors until they were old enough to do harder work.

It would be worth your while to visit one of the mining museums, such as Caphouse in Yorkshire, Big Pit in South Wales or Lady Victoria in Midlothian, Scotland. You can go underground and get a feel for yourself.

Keith

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I`ve been underground at Big Pit and the darkness is, as you say, oppressive. So long horizontal shafts have been worked from a vertical shaft since at least medieval times in Britain?

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Returning to the Haig Pit in Whitehaven, the 1922 disaster was indeed caused by a firedamp (methane) explosion ignited by blasting. The Cumberland pits had a lot of problems with firedamp, but fewer with coal dust - the other main culprit in explosions - because they were "wet mines" which reduced the problems caused by airborne coal dust.

Coal dust explosions tend to cause the greater loss of life because the dust is found throughout the mine, whereas firedamp gas would generally only be encountered when a gas pocket was penetrated so explosions tended to be localised to the active working faces.

Coal dust explosions would often be triggered by such a localised firedamp explosion. The shock wave from the first explosion would make the coal dust airborne throughout the mine and this would then ignite catastrophically. In wet mines it was much harder for the dust to become airborne.

When I was at ICI, I remember one of our company fireman giving a demonstration of what happens if an eggcupful of flour is knocked off a shelf above a naked gas flame - the resulting explosion was surprisingly violent for such an apparently innocuous everyday material. He was making the point that finely differentiated powders airborne in enclosed spaces are extremely dangerous. An important lesson in a chemical works, but equally applicable to a mine, a ship's hold or a grain silo.

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I was in Whitehaven this week and noticed that, on the seafront, there are still large brick built chimneys for ventilation purposes. Presumably the better the ventilation the less chance of methane build up. I`m surprised to hear that flour dust could cause an explosion. There must be many types of ship`s cargo that could do likewise and probably many ships have been lost that way over the centuries. I imagine that RN coal burners would have an established procedure for avoiding dust?

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