go to content

43 Pictures That Show The Dust And Sweat Of Britain’s Coal Mines

Deep coal mining in Britain has come to an end. We do our own mining of historical snaps.

Posted on

As Kellingley Colliery coal mine closes in North Yorkshire this week, marking the end of centuries of deep coal mining in Britain, we take a look at historical photos from the 20th and 21st centuries.

(above) "A pit pony pulling a tub full of coal at Brinsley Colliery, Nottinghamshire. Coal was mined in the Eastwood area for nearly 700 years. Originally, the monks of Beauvale Priory held the coal mining rights and there may have been shallow workings dating further back to Roman times. By the 1870s the good quality 'top hard' coal at Brinsley had been almost exhausted and a second shaft was sunk in 1872 to a depth of 780 feet. At its peak of production the colliery produced around 500 tons of coal a day and employed 361 men, 282 of whom worked at the coal faces. By 1930, coal reserves had been exhausted but the shafts were kept open until 1970 to access neighbouring pits. The Brinsley Colliery site has now been landscaped and turned into a picnic area. This photograph was taken by the Rev FW Cobb (1872-1938), who was Rector of Eastwood from 1907 to 1917. Many of his photographs were taken under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions and combine to make a remarkable contribution to mining history during the early part of the 20th century."

12. 1938

Fox Photos / Getty Images

These boys spent two days a week down a mine learning to be pit boys at Newton Chambers colliery at Thorncliffe near Sheffield. They are pictured returning safety lamps to the office.

13. 1943

Keystone / Getty Images

A number of boys volunteered for the coal mines following a government appeal and started their training at Markham Main Colliery, near Doncaster.

(above) Women and girls are pictured in the Lancashire coalfields, where they are employed on one of the noisiest and dirtiest jobs in mining - that of "screening" stone, shale and rubbish from the coal as it passes on a conveyor belt from the pithead to awaiting railway wagons.

18. 1958

Pa / PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Miners doff their helmets at Queen Elizabeth II at Rothes Colliery, Fifeshire, where she made her first descent of a coal mine. She spent half an hour underground.

General scenes at the Saltley Coke Depot in Birmingham, as the miners attempt to close the depot down during their strike. A speech by a Yorkshire Miner's activist, Arthur Scargill, persuaded tens of thousands of Birmingham-based workers to come out on strike in sympathy with the miners and many of them joined the picket lines at Saltley. This meant that they outnumbered the huge police presence and the gates of Saltley were shut at last.

24. 1975

Pa / PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

The Queen meets "onsetter" Stan Wood after stepping from the cage at the pit bottom, 600 yards underground during her visit with Prince Philip (background) to Silverwood Colliery, near Rotherham.

26. 1977

Pa / PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Undergoing small-scale coalface trials at the Kellingley Colliery near Castleford is a "space helmet"-style hard hat to give miners protection against bumps, flying grit, and airborne dust.

27. 1980

Pa / PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Prime minister Margaret Thatcher, clad in white overalls, a miner's helmet, and donkey jacket, inside a five-ton "kibble", a large steel bucket suspended on chains before the descent down a mine shaft at the Wistow colliery in the Selby coalfield.

28. 1983

Pa / PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

The Yorkshire mining community of Featherstone welcome back their victorious Rugby League team, who beat Hull in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

29. 1989

Pa / PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

A worker climbs out of the cage for the last time at Betteshanger Colliery near Dover. A century of coal mining comes to an end with the closure of the pit by British Coal.

31. 1993

John Giles / EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

A moment of cheer in a beleagured industry as miners at Wistow Colliery in North Yorkshire celebrate their achievement as Europe's top coal productivity pit.

34. 1998

John Giles / EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

Miner Jason Day, from Maltby mine, near Sheffield, toasts the news of the government announcement of proposals to protect the remaining working pits with a number of measures including restrictions on the construction of more gas-fired power stations and curbs on open site developments.

35. 1999

Owen Humphreys / EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

A miner at the 90-year-old Ellington Colliery in Northumberland puts his lamp back on the shelf at the end of his shift, following the news that the mine is to close in 2000, with the loss of 400 jobs.

37. 2001

Barry Batchelor / EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

The Prince of Wales with mine manager Peter Walker at Big Pit, Blaenavon. The prince started the last of three official visits to Wales with a tour of the former mining town of Blaenavon.

38. 2004

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

A miner gets changed before going home after the last shift at Riccall Colliery in Selby, England. The Riccall mine was the last pit at the Selby complex in Yorkshire to shut, ending the life of what was once the jewel in the crown of British mining.

Laura Gallant is a staff photographer at BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.

Contact Laura Gallant at Laura.Gallant@BuzzFeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.