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Greyfield Colliery

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Greyfield Colliery at Clutton, Bristol was at first was known as Clutton New Coal Works.

A document dated 11 Feb 1842 stated that “large sums (have) been from time to time expended in and about the said colliery and a new 90 h.p. Engine has been erected but the shaft …. has not been sunk to the Bottom vein and the ….. pumps and working pieces have not been completely constructed and a considerable time will elapse before such work will be completed ………. “. The large sums included £5,250 for the engine, shafts and pumps.

In 1846 the reported coal output of Greyfield was 11,900 tons.

In 1847 it was proposed to run a broad gauge railway to the colliery but these plans came to nought. Because of he lack of any road access to the pithead, a double track tramroad incline, with drum and hauling engine was built from the colliery, along the line of the Gug (which came later) to a coal depot located near where Greyfield House stands at the top of Scumbrum Lane. From here coal could be hauled onwards to Paulton Basin on the Somerset Coal Canal or transported by road to a variety of destinations.

In 1855 High Littleton Vestry complained that trucks from Greyfield Colliery, conveying coals to the canal, were damaging the roads. The lack of a direct link with the Somerset Coal Canal was a considerable handicap and Greyfield struggled financially for many years because of it. The pit was suffering a bad time in 1858, when HOLLWEY wrote that “the underground workings are very dismaying and the trade, with the exception of the Gas contract is scarcely worth mention.” In the first quarter of 1861 income was only £529, whilst expenditure (excluding wages) was less than £200.

Greyfield had four shafts, of which two were winding shafts. The original shaft, near the winding engine, was square with wooden guides, while the other was circular and 10 ft in diameter with wire rope guides. The latter was probably sunk in the 1860s, when cages were introduced. A third shaft, for ventilation, lay to the north of the winding shafts. The fourth shaft, equipped with a Cornish beam engine, was for pumping water from the workings. Records show that the engine was completely overhauled in April 1864 at a cost of £350. There was also a drift, called “The Cuckoo”, which led to the bottom of the shafts at Mooresland Colliery.

Mooresland was located about 200 hundred yards north east of Greyfield. A shaft of 5 ft diameter was sunk into the Radstock series sometime during the 1840s and reached a depth of 231 ft. Output was subsequently transferred to Greyfield by way of the drift and a narrow gauge tramway. Mooresland’s shaft was used for ventilation only thereafter.

Greyfield’s coaling shafts, the deepest of which was 900 ft., were wound by a steam engine, as were many of the underground inclines. Records show that the engines were repaired by Paulton Foundry in the 1860s and a new one supplied in September 1861 at a cost of £254. Like many pits Greyfield had a constant need for bricks and a brickworks was established close to the winding shafts, on the north side.

Greyfield's financial salvation came with the opening of the railway through Hallatrow in 1873 and for a few years coal was believed to have been taken by horse drawn wagons through Greyfield Wood to Hallatrow Station. This was not altogether satisfactory and at the Earl of WARWICK's instigation a siding was laid from Clutton Station to Greyfield Colliery, which was completed in 1876. By then the original coal lease had come to an end and the Earl took control of Greyfield, which operated thereafter as the Earl of WARWICK's Colliery before being incorporated as The Greyfield Colliery Co. Ltd in about 1900.

Initially trucks used to run down to Clutton Station by gravity and horses were used to pull the empty trucks back up the incline. In 1885 a steam locomotive called Francis (named after the Earl of Warwick and nicknamed the Coffee Pot) was introduced.

By 1889 Greyfield was producing 60,000 tons of coal a year and was one of the most important collieries in Somerset. Francis was never very reliable and, when it was being repaired, gravity working was resumed. On one such occasion in January 1894 a train of wagons ran out of control into the GWR sidings and were smashed to pieces.

On 4 Jun 1904 the Mooresland workings and the Cuckoo drift were abandoned. A couple of years later the GWR somewhat inadvisedly built a siding to serve the brickworks. This was hardly ever used and the brickworks closed in about 1909. By now it was becoming increasingly obvious that Greyfield Colliery’s days were numbered. Clutton Coal Co was formed in 1908 as a subsidiary of Greyfield to work an old shaft near Clutton station and start a new drift was started to the west of the railway.

On 14 September 1909 Greyfield suffered a disastrous flood, when water from old workings broke into the Streak Vein. Fortunately, most of the water was carried away into the lowest workings of the New Vein, where no men were working at the time. Two men were trapped for a while, before finding their way to the safety of the main shaft Otherwise there was no loss of life or injuries. Six pit ponies were drowned in the Dabchick Vein. It was the practice in most pits for ponies to be raised to the surface in slings, after first removing the cage from the shaft. This took time and therefore they were rarely brought up.

Two weeks later the water had been cleared from the pit and work was resumed. However on 31 Dec 1909 one of the districts was closed and a number of miners and labourers were made redundant. The rest of the pit did not survive long and on 28 May 1911 the whole colliery was closed and 152 men and boys were given notice.

Most of these were taken on by Burchells Colliery. Salvage work continued the employment of a few at Greyfield for a few months, as reusable machinery and equipment was brought to the surface and transferred to Burchells. On 21 November Messrs J. H. and F. W. Cook cut the cage guides at the bottom of the pit and the shaft was used for the last time. Burchells only lasted another ten years before it too was closed in August 1921. Ironically it had been flooded a year earlier from an inrush of water from the flooded Greyfield workings.

Compared with many pits Greyfield had a good safety record and only 9 people (including a 6 year old who fell down a shaft) were killed there between 1845 and 1905.

Until recently visitors to Greyfield Woods could observe stones carved like headstones in various places. These were known locally as “diallers stones”, a dialler being a colloquial name for a mining surveyor, who carried an instrument with dials on it. After carrying out an underground survey, the surveyor would repeat the exercise on the surface, marking strategic points below ground with a stone above. Unfortunately a number of these stones have now found their way into people’s gardens.

Note: A mantle clock in an antique dealers in Honiton presented to Charles Rhodes of Greyfield Colliery, Clutton, Bristol from his colleagues on his marriage. (AIT 1007)

See Also

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Sources of Information

[1] High Littleton History