History of Astley Green

first-sod
Lady Pilkington cutting the first sod 1908

The colliery at Astley Green was begun in 1908 by the Pilkington Colliery Company, a subsidiary of the Clifton & Kersley Coal Company.The first sod was cut by Lady Pilkington and the mine opened for extraction of coal in 1912. In 1928 the colliery was amalgamated with a number of local pits to form part of the consortium called Manchester Collieries. In 1947 the coal industry was nationalised and this led to considerable modernisation of the mine. After 23 years of operation under the National Coal Board the mine was closed in 1970. It is now a museum.

The monument includes the pit headgear for the number 1 shaft, the concrete thrust pillar for the ‘tubbing’ which supports the headgear and the steam winding engine in its original engine house for the number 1 shaft. The first shaft on the site (the number 1 shaft) was sunk in 1908. Because the ground was unstable and wet the shaft was sunk using a pioneering method known as a ‘drop shaft’ in which the hole is dropped using forged iron rings with a cutting shoe at the bottom of each ring. These ‘tubbing’ rings were forced into the underlying soils by the use of hydraulic jacks braced under a concrete thrust pillar. This pillar now supports the headgear.

The headgear is a steel lattice construction, rivetted together, and stands 24.4 metres high. It was built by Head Wrightson of Stockton on Tees and completed in 1912. The winding engine which served this shaft is one of the largest steam winding engines in Britain. It was made by Yates andThom of Blackburn. It has four cylinders in twin tandem compound arrangement developing 3300 horsepower at 58 rpm. The engine was installed in 1912 and took two years to complete. It is connected to a bicylindro-conical drum which in turn was connected to the headgear pulleys to wind up the coal and wind down the miners and maintenance supplies.

Most of the remainder of the colliery buildings and a second shaft with its gear have been destroyed and the winding gear is the last surviving example in the Lancashire coalfield. It wound its last coal on the 3rd April 1970 so in just 3 years time, it will have been closed for exactly 50 years. The aim must be to get the head gear fully restored for this anniversary.

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