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Keith Turton's History of Warwickshire's Industrial Railways, Sidings and Private Owner Wagons

An article by Keith Turton in HMRS Journal, Volume 17 No 11

The Warwickshire spa town of Leamington Spa was, in the nineteenth century, a smaller version in elegance, style and architectural grace of Bath or Cheltenham. Its less attractive aspect was, like so many other towns around it exposed to the Grand Union Canal, where the town's industry congregated in the earlier days, long before the Great Western Railway' made an appearance.

Included in the less savoury industries on the canal bank was die gasworks of the Leamington Priors Gas Company, located similarly to those of the entire Black Country and beyond from Coventry to Wolverhampton. Transport of coal by canal from the time that the gasworks were built in the 1830s is unproven but the lack of collieries producing gas coal dial were connected to the canal network suggests a situation similar to that of Birmingham, where all coal deliveries were made by rail as early as 1 862 and long before railway sidings were laid into the gasworks themselves. The canals still saw extensive traffic in the form of coke and by-products until at least the Second World War and possibly after. In the case of Leamington all coal was delivered to the Great Western Goods Station regardless of its origin and transported the quarter-mile to the gasworks by road, first by horse-drawn cans, then behind traction engines and finally lorries. No siding was ever extended into the gasworks itself.

The Company purchased five 8 ton railway wagons from Thomas Hunter of Rugby in the early 1890s, followed by six unusual vehicles from the Gloucester RC&WGo in 1897. These were 10 ton capacity seven-plank wagons with cup- board style full height doors which may have been unique and would have been greatly appreciated by those who had to unload them by hand, as the present author, who can still remember how hard it was to shovel coal out of a standard seven- plank wagon either through the side door or over the wagon top, will testify.

At the time these wagons were delivered the gasworks was consuming, by annual contract, 16,000 tons of coal a year, in round figures over 2,000 wagon loads or between 40 and 50 wagon loads a week. Table 1 gives some indication of where the coal originated through contracts awarded in 1897.

Contractor Tonnage Colliery of Origin
Wilson, Carter & Pearson, Birmingham 1,000 Hoyland, Silkstone (Bamsley)
Evesons Ltd, Birmingham 2,000 Aldwarke Main, (Rothcrham
Ruabon Coal Co 1,000 Ruabon (North Wales)
J & G Wells, Chesterfield 4,000 Eckington, (Chesterfield)
E Foster & Co, London 1,000 Apedale (North Staffordshire)
Broughton & Plas Power Collieries 2,000 Broughton (North wales)
J Hackett & Co, Warwick 1,000 Wombwell Main (Barnsley)
Grassmore Colliery Co, Chesterfield 2,000 Grassmore (Chesterfield)
Hucknall Colliery Co, Nottingham 2,000 Hucknall (Nottingham)

Of these sources, Ruabon and Broughton were on the Great Western Railway and would be transported by that company all die way from colliery to gasworks. Possible routes for the remainder are: Apedale via the London and North Western Railway to Coventry and then via the LNWR branch to Leamington via Kenilworth Junction; all the rest were on the Midland Railway which in all probability would have trans- ported the coal lo Birmingham and handed it over to the GWR at Bordesley Street. However with the opening of the Great Central Railway's London Extension it is obvious that some coal from the Yorkshire and Derbyshire collieries which were also served by the GCR was being; forwarded by that company to Woodford and then via Banbury to Leamington. Regular payments to the GCR for cartage have been noted as early as August 1904 and these were consistent.

The meagre fleet of the gasworks would have carried only a small proportion of its requirements, at least 80 more wagons would be required to carry it all. therefore the shortfall would have been made up with wagons owned by the collieries, railway companies and coal factors. At any one time there would have been up to ten wagons unloading, in addition to all of the coal required at Leamington, for all other purposes. Other wagons loaded for the gasworks which would have been seen in Leamington carrying coal purchased on the spot market were from Brynkinalt Colliery, Chirk; New Hemsworth, Glasshoughton and Aldwarke Main in York- shire; Stanton in Nottinghamshire, Staveley from Derbyshire; ancl from North Staffordshire, Talk o' the Hill, Madeley and Birchenwood.

Moving on now to the 1930s, the Gas Company had purchased a further fleet of 20 standard eight-plank wagons with a much bolder livery, a drawing copied from A G Thomas's Modellers' Sketchbook Private Owner Wagons shows the body colour of red to have been retained with 'Royal Leamington Spa' diagonally across the wagon body between two broad bands and the words 'Leamington Priors' on the top plank left hand side and 'Gas Company' on the bottom right hand plank.

By 1933 coal contracts had reduced to 15,000 tons annually as shown in Table 2. The GWR no longer carried coal exclu- sively from pit to gasworks and die LMS had the lions' share of the traffic, although Birley, Waleswood and Old Silkstone were all on the LNER and it is presumed that this traffic was still worked through Banbury. During this period the Gas Company's wagons would have been seen on the GVVR only between Leamington and Banbury, travelling to the collieries listed in Table 2, and the tonnage contracted called for at least another 60 wagons which would have been obtained as described earlier.

Of other coal merchants in Leamington, one major supplier to the town was J and N Nadin who owned their own colliery near Swadlincote, Derbyshire. However, that Company sold much of its retail coal business to Sheppard and Co in the 1930s, including its Leamington operation.

Leamington Priors Gas Co wagon No 10 which was one of six wagons purchased from  the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co in 1897
Ref: gwrls3976
Gloucester RC&WCo
Leamington Priors Gas Co wagon No 10, one of six purchased from the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1897
Wagon No 13 built by the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1901 and lettered for the then Industrial Co-operative Society
Ref: gwrls3975
AG Thomas
Schematic of Leamington Priors Gas Company's Wagon No 24, one of 20 standard eight-plank wagons
Leamington Priors Gas Company wagon No 22, from the same batch of twelve wagons, purchased second-hand from one F Harding
Ref: gwrls3974
Leamington Priors Gas Co wagon No 22, from the same batch of twelve wagons, purchased second-hand

Additional Information

Keith's letter in HMRS Journal, Volume 18 No 4

Further to my previous article about coal traffic to the Leamington Spa gasworks, in which I included a reproduction of a drawing by AG Thomas of the gasworks wagon No 24. I have since located a photograph of another wagon which appears to be from the same batch of twelve' wagons, purchased second-hand in 1916 from one F Harding.

These were built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company of Smethwick. Based on the existing wagons owned by the gasworks, they would have been numbered 17 to 28.

The photograph was taken at Toton in 1939 and was computer enhanced from a very small image to highlight the white lettering. However, the wagon number was left untouched, so assuming that the wagon body was painted red as were the earlier wagons, the words 'Royal Leamington Spa' diagonally across the wagon body appear to have been painted a different colour, possibly yellow.

Unless newer wagons bought in the 1930s were given recycled numbers, it appears that the original information taken from Thomas's published drawings was incorrect, that is unless the number borne is from a previous wagon.

Update December 2019

Additional to my letter reproduced in the HMRS Journal, Volume 18 No 4, since this was written in 2002 further information has surfaced to warrant an update. as does my caption to the Leamington Priors Gas Company wagon in my notes (see under Misc) some details warranted updating as below.

The first wagons operated by the company were five built by the small Rugby maker Thomas Hunter. It is assumed that they were numbered 1 to 5. There is no evidence of numbers 6 to 9. A further six wagons numbered 10 to 15 (as illustrated) were supplied by the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1897 and registered with the Great Western Railway (no's 30459-30464) These wagons were painted red with white letters shaded black. Most unusually they were of seven plank construction with full height folding side doors. Normally a seven plank wagon has a four or five plank drop side door and the upper planks are the full length of the wagon. The stability of this unique design is questionable.

In 1907 the maintenance of the then sixteen strong wagon fleet was transferred from the Gloucester company to the Rugby wagon works of Thomas Hunter. At that time only fifteen wagons were known, where did the other one come from?

In 1916 a batch of twelve wagons built by the Birmingham RC&WCo was purchased second hand from one F. Harding.(I have been unable to trace who Harding was) It has to be assumed that they were numbered 17 to 28. A photograph exists of no. 22 which exhibits a totally different and very pleasing livery with 'Leamington Priors- on the top plank to the left and 'Gas Company' to the right of a broad contrasting diagonal band lettered 'Royal Leamington Spa' The body colour of these wagons is suggested as red also with white lettering. The lettering in the diagonal panel and the stripes which border it appears to be yellow. A drawing "off the wagon side" published by the late A. G. Thomas records that wagon no 21 bore a similar lettering style but all of the lettering was white and the diagonal band was the same colour red as the wagon body.

Incidentally it should not be taken for granted that gaps in a number sequence relate to unrecorded railway wagons. When identifying the fleet of one Yorkshire wagon owner, I found that the missing numbers had been allocated to other wheeled vehicles, horse-drawn carts, traction engines and steam lorries!

Contracts for the supply of coal were spread over four different mining districts. In 1897 the following were recorded:

Wilson Carter & Pearson (B'ham) 1,000 tons Hoyland Silkstone (Yorkshire)
Evesons Ltd, Birmingham 2,000 tons Aldwarke Main, (Yorkshire)
Ruabon Coal Co. 1,000 tons Ruabon (North Wales)
J.& G. Wells, Chesterfield 4,000 tons Eckington (Derbyshire)
E. Foster & Co, London 1,000 tons Apedale (North Staffordshire)
Hackett and Co. Birmingham 1,000 tons Wombwell Main (Yorkshire)
Grassmoor Colliery 2,000 tons Grassmoor (Derbyshire)
Hucknall Colliery 2,000 tons Hucknall (cannel coal) (Notts)

In the 1920's coal consumption averaged 27,000 tons per annum with regular spot purchases additionally, mostly from Staffordshire and North Wales collieries but also from more distance sources such as the Shaw Cross Colliery near Dewsbury in Yorkshire. Coal consumption in the 1930's rose as high as 27,263 tons in 1938.

The records of the Warwickshire quarrymasters and cement manufacturers Charles Nelson show that coke from the Leamington gasworks was supplied regularly and delivered by canal.

Keith Turton

Birmingham Co-operative Society

Within the vast and often eloquent lexicon devoted to the Midland Railway, little appears to have been recorded that its employees in Birmingham founded the Co-operative movement in that city.

Not that the Midland would have asked for or expected any credit, but for almost half a century the antagonistic attitude of the railway company towards a group of its employees at the Lawley Street Goods Depot could only be described as despicable. In 1877, under the title of The Birmingham Industrial Co-operative Society, they bought wagon loads of coal at ex-pit prices.

The railway company, which would have benefited from the traffic generated and therefore backed the enterprise, flatly refused to co-operate and for four years coal was purchased from local coal merchants until the London and North Western agreed to transport coal in wagon loads to any of six stations on its network from Cannock Chase collieries. Never during the Midland's existence did the Co-op deliver coal from any of its sidings, even though in 1916 it was selling two hundred wagon loads a week. Until the 1923 grouping all of its rail depots were on the rival L&NWR and Great Western.

The Co-operative movement is generally accepted to have been founded in Rochdale in 1863, although there are some references which suggest isolated instances up to thirty years earlier. Almost unanimously they were founded in factories, mills, ironwork and other places of employment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, initially for common foodstuffs or household goods. Coal was an essential item, replacing wood as a basic household fuel as soon as it became available and appliances were adapted to burn it where necessary.

The Birmingham society purchased six wagons from the Metropolitan Railway Carriage and Wagon Co, ironically situated on the Midland Railway near Washwood Heath in `1898 and a further six from the Gloucester company in 1901. These were lettered for the Birmingham Industrial Co-operative Society. A further ten came from Metropolitan in 1905. By 1924 the fleet had been expanded to 155 wagons through second-hand purchases followed by another 28 in 1927, partially replacing many of the older wagons that were retired. Eventually the fleet totalled 214 wagons Various liveries are known, some wagons featured a large lozenge emblem and others a five-pointed star. The 'Industrial' was dropped sometime during the First World War, and reflected in the very bold lettering of the later wagons. Standard livery was black with white lettering.

Apart from the railway wagon fleet, the Co-op also maintained stables for over a hundred horses that served 104 delivery rounds and employed 147 men.

Coal supplies were also obtained from the Cannock Chase coalfield by canal, and a large canalside stacking area was laid out at Acocks Green on the Grand Union Canal in 1912. Supplies for the railway coal depots originated mainly from the Cannock Chase, Cannock and Rugeley and West Cannock Collieries via the L&NWR. Post 1923 Leicestershire collieries in Minorca , Ellistown(sixty wagon loads a month in 1936) and Measham and several Warwickshire collieries were also patronised. Finally the ghosts of the Midland Railway were pardoned!!

Shortly after the 1923 grouping depots operated from rail sidings at (ex-LN&WR) Adderley Park, Erdington, Handsworth, Monument Lane, Soho Pool, Stechford, Witton, Aldbury, Smethwick and Marston Green, (ex-GWR) Hall Green, Langley Green, Shirley, Solihull, West Bromwich, and Tysley. In 1925 the Midland was belatedly forgiven with a depot at Camp Hill. The merger with the Soho Co-op Society in 1931 expanded distribution to over twenty depots.

The marketing of coal by a local Co-op may have commenced in 1864 with the hire of a single wagon by the Cheltenham Co-op from the Midland RC&WCo. of Birmingham, but this is an isolated instance. It was the introduction of the compulsory registration of Private Owner wagons from January 1888 that a concerted trade in coal by Co-op societies can be confirmed, the availability of the Wagon Registers of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway providing the necessary proof, although this may also be coincidental.

The first Co-op to register was that of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, and by the end of 1889 a further eleven Co-op societies were running wagon fleets. Ten (Todmorden, Brighouse, Holmfirth, Rochdale, Colne, Mytholmroyd, Holmfield, Crag Vale and Bradford Bowling Old Lane) were in either Lancashire or Yorkshire and the eleventh was the Stroud Co-op in Gloucestershire.

Although not recognised as such, the Co-operative movement was one of the largest coal merchants in the country and the most widespread. The wagon fleet overall may have been in the thousands. Like the City of Birmingham Gas Department and the founders of Wagon Repairs Ltd, frustration in having wagons repaired and returned to service during the First World War was boiling over Accordingly it was decided to create a wagon repair facility to overhaul all of the company's wagons.

Considering that the collieries of the Midlands were at the time the most heavily patronised, the choice of Peterborough was a surprise one. It was located on the former L&NWR branch from Northampton and commenced working in 1914. Ten years later the production of new wagons, which had not been originally envisaged, commenced, coincidentally with the introduction of the 1923 Railway Clearing House standard design, which was followed from the beginning. Between 1924 and 1935, wagons were also obtained from other builders but this trade declined to almost nothing by the mid-1930's

Lack of official records has prevented the recording of the total number of wagons built at Peterborough, a figure of between 750 and 1,000 is suggested. Over 500 were registered with the LM&SR alone. Assuming that the LMS records are correct, this includes three batches totalling 57 wagons for three colliery companies.

For accounting purposes, the C.W.S. based their paperwork on London, Manchester and Bristol, and usually billing from collieries was to one of these centres, the coal being delivered to whichever branch required it direct from the colliery. There were several other C.W.S. branches within the Birmingham/Black Country area which also operated their own wagons, those known were Lockhurst Lane (Coventry), Coventry, Walsall, Stirchley, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and Sutton Coldfield.

Wagon No 13 built by the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1901 and lettered for the then Industrial Co-operative Society
Ref: misc_kt393
Gloucester RC&WCo
Wagon No 13 built by the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1901 and lettered for the then Industrial Co-operative Society
Wagon No 167 purchased from the Lincoln Wagon and Engine Company and lettered as Birmingham Co-operative Society
Ref: misc_kt394
L Bagshaw
Wagon No 167 purchased from the Lincoln Wagon and Engine Company and lettered as Birmingham Co-operative Society

Bromford Tube Works

Heavy Industry on the site dates back to 1790, when the Bromford Ironworks was formed by John William Davies and Sons. The partnership of William and John Davies, apparently the sons of the founder, was dissolved in 1850, with William Davies continuing. He in turn died in 1878, leaving the estate to his widow Elizabeth. In 1887 she was declared bankrupt and the company collapsed, to be revived and traded until 1920, when Tubes Ltd. took an interest.

Tubes Ltd. floated from the remains of Bromford Ironworks a separate company to manufacture metal tubes which became known as Bromford Tubes Ltd. In 1930 Stewarts and Lloyds took a 50% interest in Bromford Tubes Ltd, and in 1945 assumed full control.

Stewarts and Lloyds were a vast Anglo-Scottish iron and steel giant formed by a 1903 merger between the two companies that formed its ultimate corporate title and which introduced the Scottish company of A.J. Stewart and Menzies to England where its eventually main manufacturing centre was the Coombs Mill tube works of Lloyds and Lloyds at Halesowen. In 1920 it acquired the Spring Vale Iron and Steel works of Sir Alfred Hickman at Bilston. In 1935 the decision was made to build the iron and steel manufacturing colossus at Corby , where a substantial private railway network connected the blast furnaces and ovens with several ironstone mines, conveniently located nearby and one influencing factor in the decision to build the vast works. The other was the proximity of the LMS railway from Manton Junction to Kettering which gave access to the coalfields of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire and the limestone quarries of all three counties. which literally changed the face of Northamptonshire for decades to come.

The company also owned coal mines. My 'Private Owner Wagons, a Seventh Collection,' (Lightmoor Press 2008) gave a substantial coverage to its English activities, and for good measure also included the Kilnhurst and Tinsley Park collieries, which Stewarts and Lloyds were associated with either by ownership or as the end destination of much of their output.

This narration is intended to concentrate on its coal mining activities, its vast fleet of Private Owner wagons and its few surviving records of coal consumption and coal traffic. The record of coal traffic to the Bromford Tube Works is very skimpy, although considerable details of coal contracts relating to other works can be found in the Northamptonshire Archives.


The first venture into colliery ownership was in 1908, when the collieries of the Scottish iron and steel makers Robert Addie & Son were acquired. There is little information of the progress of these three pits during Stewarts and Lloyds ownership, except that they were once producing 700,000 ton of coal a year and that they were all shown in the Colliery Year Book as producing no coal in 1923. under the ownership of Robert Addie & Sons,, which in that year had just re-acquired them. to continue production until nationalisation. The 1920 acquisition of the Spring Vale Furnaces brought with it the collieries at Haunchwood (near Nuneaton) and Holly Bank (near Wolverhampton) and also a share in the ownership of Tarmac Limited.

In 1923 the Kilnhurst Colliery near Rotherham was acquired from J. & J. Charlesworth Ltd and was the primary source of coking coal . It was sold in 1936 to the Tinsley Park Colliery Company. with the proviso that Stewarts and Lloyds has first call of its coking coal output and usually took all of it.

WAGONS With all of its acquisitions, Stewarts and Lloyds must have accumulated a varied collection of wagons of different types and designs with one common denominator, they all ran of tracks of 4' 8-1/2" gauge. These would include those of the previously described Haunchwood Colliery.

Here I served my "apprenticeship" at a very tender age which diverted my future ambitions from astronomy to coal, smoke pouring out of chimneys, clanking buffers and railway wagons emblazoned with what could be described as an introduction to the industrial might and geography of England. After many years absence, in 1972 I revisited the former mining village, the old family fish and chip shop and the miners watering hole, the "Forest Folk" The lane which led from the village centre was never known by anything else than 'Pit Lane' but by then all it led to was an industrial estate but in was still, in the minds of those who had lived there for many decades 'Pit Lane'.

For in the memories of those who had worked at the pit for most of their working lives and could still recall the owners of the 200 wagons which were filled with coal every day, familiar names such as Stephenson Clarke, Cory, Charringtons and Foster in the retail trade and Newstead, Sheepbridge , Stanton and Staveley were the most familiar but no mention was made of Stewarts and LLoyds, who drew up to 120 wagon loads a week.

In the late 1920s Stewarts and Lloyds had issued a decree to all contractors and suppliers that only wagons owned by the company be used to transport its raw materials This was surprising when I discovered that the principal source of coal for the Corby works was the Blidworth colliery in Nottinghamshire.

For in the memories of those who had worked at the pit for most of their working lives and could still recall the owners of the 200 wagons which were filled with coal every day, familiar names such as Stephenson Clarke, Cory, Charringtons and Foster in the retail trade and Newstead, Sheepbridge , Stanton and Staveley were the most familiar but no mention was made of Stewarts and LLoyds, who drew up to 120 wagon loads a week.

Wagon Fleet

A wholesale clear out of non-standard and obsolete wagons made way for a total of 2,100 new wagons of three distinct types, 12-ton wooden bodied, 14-ton all steel and 20-ton all steel as detailed below:

12 Ton Wooden Bodied, Side, End and Bottom Doors
Builder Year Quantity Paint Number
Charles Roberts, Wakefield 1937 325 6151-6475
Hurst Nelson Motherwell 1937 75 6576-6650
Metropolitan, Birmingham 1937 75 6501-6575
Derbyshire RC&WCo, Chesterfield 1937 25 6476-6500
S.J Claye, Long Eaton 1936 500 2501-3000
14 Ton All Steel (Slope Sided)
Builder Year Quantity Paint Number
Charles Roberts, Wakefield 1939 700 9301-10000
20 Ton All Steel
Builder Year Quantity Paint Number
Charles Roberts, Wakefield 1939 25 5726-5750
Hurst Nelson, Motherwell 1939 25 5701-5725
  1940 25 5751-5775
Metropolitan, Birmingham 1936 100 1901-2000
Birmingham RC&WCo, Smethwick 1939 100 5601-5700
  1940 75 5776-5850
Cambrian Wagon Co. Cardiff 1936 50 1851-1900

Total 2,100 wagons, all of which were registered by the LMS Railway. Of the above, only the 12-ton wagons were taken into the 1939 wartime wagon pool. From what evidence can be found the others were initially classified as "Special Purpose" non-pool. Additionally Metropolitan built 95 15-ton iron ore wagons of an unknown design in 1940 which were apparently not registered with a main line railway company and were probably for internal use to ironstone mines served by the company's internal railway system at Corby.

Although all of the above were theoretically based at Corby, the company policy of not using contractor or colliery owned wagons strongly suggests that they were used throughout the company's works.

Additionally 150 20-ton coke wagons with removable coke rails were built by the Midland Railway Carriage and Wagon Co, that had been ordered by Sir Alfred Hickman and not delivered until after the Stewarts and Lloyds takeover. There were lettered "Stewarts and Lloyds" on the diagonal and numbered 3501-3650 They were based at Bilston and worked to both Yorkshire and South Wales coking plants, and later to Corby when coke was produced there. It is possible that there were other wagons not listed here , there are known to be further 12-ton wagons built by Charles Roberts between 1934 and 1939 and numbered in the 1600 series for which no builders or registration records can be found but photographic evidence exists.

Wagons of the Kilnhurst Colliery, while under the ownership of Stewarts and Lloyds were lettered accordingly. From very skimpy available evidence, they were repaints of earlier wagons and may have been further repainted when the colliery was revitalised by the Tinsley Park company.

Coal Supplies

Surviving records are incomplete and sometimes vague, but the Corby, Spring Vale and Coombs Wood works were usually shown individually. It is clear that not all contracts were reported, and it appears that neither were the supplies drawn from the company's own collieries. Only one reference to Bromford could be found, relating to 1932, showing a total of 8,400 tons delivered by rail from the Mid-Cannock, Holly Bank, Birch Coppice, Aldridge and Kingsbury collieries and 2,000 tons by canal from the Hamstead Colliery It is inconceivable that a works this size would only use 500 tons a week.

The Midland Railway Distance Diagrams of 1916 show not a single siding between Washwood Heath and Water Orton. This was obviously issued before the Fort Dunlop works were connected in that year and the Bromford group of sidings were laid. This shows the extent of subsequent industrial development on the outskirts of Birmingham beside the tracks of the Midland Railway.

SHUNTING AND TRIP WORKING Once again the 1955-6 records of the Saltley motive power depot are invaluable They distinguish between the Bromford Sidings, the Bromford Tubeworks, and include the Bromford Cripple Sidings. Included are all rosters that include Bromford in all of its forms. No indication is given of what traffic is offering, or if there are any further siding holders.

Saltley Motive Power Depot Shunting Turns:

Target 15a (4F locomotive). Off shed 12.45pm shunt Bromford, Bromford Cripple Sidings, finish 8pm.
Target 21 (4F locomotive) Off shed 12.01am shunt Bromford Bridge then Kingsbury Colliery branch finish Kings Norton 4.03am then as required until 10am.
Target 29 (3F locomotive) Off shed 9.50pm Duddington Sidings, Lawley Street, Water Orton, Metropolitan Sidings, Bromford Bridge, Kingsbury Branch, Lawley Street 12.10pm to 6am.
Target 34 (3F locomotive) Off shed 6.40am Bromford Bridge, Bromford Tube works, Castle Bromwich Water Orton Dunlop Sidings, finish 2.50am.
Target 37 (2F locomotive) Off shed 8.40am Bromford Bridge, Water Orton, Lawley Street, finish 4.33am.
Target 56 (3F locomotive) Off shed 6.05am Bromford Bridge, Water Orton, Hams Hall, Kingsbury Branch, Whitacre, Coleshill, Water Orton, Washwood Heath Up Sidings, Dunlop, Castle Bromwich, finish 1 10am.
Target 59 (3F locomotive) Off shed 9.45am Bromford Bridge, Kingsbury Colliery, Hall End (Birch Coppice) Colliery, finish 4.25pm.
Target 63 (4F locomotive) Off shed 8.15am Bromford Bridge, Dunlop, Aldridge, Washwood Heath finish 3.15pm.

These rota suggest that at the time the various industries and sidings above received their coal supplies from the Kingsbury and Birch Coppice collieries on the Kingsbury Colliery branch Trains of finished goods would have been assembled by locomotives owned by the various siding holders and cleared by main line power.

Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation Gas Works

It was in 1834, before the coming of the railway, that the first privately owned gasworks in Stratford-on-Avon commenced production. As was the case of many gasworks built prior to the coming of the railway, it was located alongside the Stratford-on-Avon and Birmingham Canal, and coal would almost certainly have originated in the Potteries region of Staffordshire, the earliest and most convenient coalfield which produced gas coal and which could be transported by the existing canal network.

An early record of 1854 reveals that the town's coal supplies also came from Staffordshire, coals for other purposes would have been sourced from the nearer Cannock Chase collieries. A town map of the 1840's shows several coal wharves alongside the canal in the heart of the town and a wharf serving the pioneer tramway to Moreton-in-Marsh.

The supply of coal by rail can date back to the 1850's, when local coal merchant M. C. Ashwin hired wagons from the Midland Waggon Company, and when in 1854 local coal merchant Benjamin Pearson , who was operating wagons in 1854 and possibly earlier, formed a partnership with his equally pioneering counterpart in Birmingham, Wilson Carter. The company prospered and in the 1930's was one of the largest provincial coal factors in the country.

In 1879 the gasworks were acquired by the Town Council and controlled by a Gas Committee. The earliest record of coal supplies was for the year 1898 with the Birmingham firms of Evesons, T. Boston and Sons and Wilson Carter and Pearson sharing the business with the local coal factor Hutchings & Co. Creditably, Hutchings not only shared and dominated the supply of coal to the gasworks for a further 32 years in competition with mainly Birmingham merchants of substantial status, a situation which was rarely found in the field of large scale contracting to public utilities. Although the gasworks were connected to the Great Western Railway and the malodorous odour it excreted mingled with the discharges from the nearby Flowers Brewery, Hutchings depot was on the Stratford-on-Avon and Midland Junction Railway, for whom Hutchings was also agent, dating from the days of the construction of that railway, and who delivered around the town on its behalf, an agreement which continued right into the days of the LM&SR and beyondthat to nationalistion.

Five thousand tons were purchased in 1905, a surprising source was a thousand tons from the Mirfield Colliery in Yorkshire, whose trade rarely ventured this far south. and a further local contractor in Joseph Idiens of Evesham, who also traded in hay and corn as well as coal and was one of the beneficiaries.


In 1905 tenders were called for the supply of seventeen railway wagons. The contract was won by the Gloucester RC&WCo, who were the sole supplier of new wagons to the Corporation. These were taken out under deferred payment over seven years at £9/17/6 per wagon per annum. Three further wagons were purchased in 1923, for which the Corporation specified the newly introduced (1923) standard specifications. They were delivered in January 1924.

In 1930 a further three were purchased, they were of an unusual and possibly unique variation on the 1923 standard design, reverting to an old practice of additional height at each end by a D-shaped extension. A search of the minutes of the company, held at the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-on-Avon, confirms the order but makes no mention of this deviation from a standard design, a throwback to the late 1890's and early years of the twentieth century, more common in 5-plank wagons with a body depth of 35-37 inches, the purpose of which has never been explained but apparently was to prevent spillage over each end when loading. Two additional wagons, costing £125/5/- each were ordered in 1931. One common feature of all of these wagons was that they has side doors only, indicating manual unloading.

The third of three 1929 'landscape' aerial views of the sidings and the numerous Private Owner Wagons stabled at Three Spires Junction
Ref: misc_kt387
Gloucester RC&W Company
Stratford-upon-Avon Gas Works Wagon No 21 built by Gloucester Railway C & W Company in November 1930

Warwick Gas Light Company

Coal Contracts

This company came into being in 1822, on the western outskirts of the town and conveniently close to the Saltisford Basin of the Warwick and Birmingham Canal, the then solitary mode of transportation of gas coal, unlikely to have its origins in the Birmingham or for that matter the nearby Warwickshire coalfield. Because of its nature, coal suitable for gas making was mined only in certain coalfields, and for geographic and transportation convenience, the collieries of the Potteries District of Staffordshire would have, despite their remoteness, been the most likely source of supply, via the Trent and Mersey, Coventry and the then Warwick and Birmingham Canal.

The latter, was to become part of the northern sector of the Oxford Canal. The Saltisford wharf was a short branch of this canal, once an indirect and wandering contour canal, much of which was rendered superfluous and abandoned throughout by 1877¹. At enormous cost in the 1820's the Oxford Canal was re-routed and shortened by 14 miles between Braunston and the southern approaches to Coventry. Whatever it cost, the investment was repaid many times over by the heavy traffic, it generated, particularly coal, that it attracted from the Warwickshire coalfield and further afield via the Coventry Canal and its connections. Even as late as 1940, coal contracts of the Kerseley Colliery were being written for destinations as far away as Reading via the canal network.

The Great Western Railway between Leamington and Birmingham was opened in 1852 . Sidings were laid into the gasworks This may be interpreted as the date when coal deliveries by rail commenced, predominately sourced from north Wales collieries, particularly Wynnstay, Ruabon and Broughton which were advantageous for the Great Western as that railway could handle this traffic from pit to gasworks on its own rails.

By the 1920's Yorkshire collieries dominated the 12,000-14,000 tons that the gasworks consumed., contractors from far and wide, unusually, securing the business.

Coal Contracts 1939

Contractor Tonnage Colliery of Origin
J.C.Abbott & Co, Birmingham 2,000 Waleswood (Yorkshire)
J.Beswick Manchester 500 Maltby (Yorkshire)
E Foster & Co, London 1,200 Clay Cross (Derbyshire)
S. Scrivener Birmingham 500 Norton & Biddulph (Staffs)
Wilson Carter and Pearson, B'ham 1,800 Pinxton (Notts/Derby)
T. Cash & Sons Birmingham 500 Staveley (Derbyshire)
Stephenson Clarke, London 750 Chatterley Whitfield (Staffs)
Renwick Wilton & Dobson, Torquay 1,000 Nunnery (Yorkshire)
J & G Wells, Chesterfield 1,000 Eckington (Derbyshire)

The company operated a very small wagon fleet in its own livery. But here we find a situation similar to that at the Kingsbury Colliery where the company Secretary, James Henry Harper was identified as the owner (or front man) for a fleet of wagons bearing his initials (see under Kingsbury Collery).

The works manager between 1871 (and possibly before) and 1911 was Walter Thomas Tew, born in Warwick in 1847, resident at 31 Saltisford Street, Warwick (sounds conveniently close to the gasworks) whose daughter, Winifred, became a de facto wagon owner as it was under her name that two wagons were ordered from the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1913. Tew under his own name had purchased four wagons for cash from Gloucester as early as 1878 and two more in 1879 and 1893. It is likely that these were second hand, as there is no record of registration by the Great Western Railway. His son Robert, born 1881 was in 1911 Assistant Manager and later became the Secretary of the company. To highlight the nepotism, Tew's second son, Percival, born 1889, was described as a student as the gasworks.

One of the 1913 wagons is illustrated, It was painted in the Gas Company's own livery in "dark lead" with white shaded letters and black ironwork where shown. Empty return instructions were to the Ruabon Colliery in north Wales.

Despite the search of surviving wagon registers, there appear to have been very few further coal wagons registered in Warwick. Between 1888 and 1901, the Great Western registered only sixteen wagons to ten different owners.

Note ¹ Reference, Nicholsons Ordnance Survey Guide to the Waterways, Volume 2.

The third of three 1929 'landscape' aerial views of the sidings and the numerous Private Owner Wagons stabled at Three Spires Junction
Ref: misc_kt382
Gloucester RC&W Company
Warwick Gas Light Company Wagon No 6 built in July 1913 by the Gloucester Railway
C & W Company

Birmingham Gas Works

Indisputably the biggest consumer of coal within the entire Birmingham conurbation were the gasworks of the City of Birmingham. Four of the five works were rail connected, those at Windsor Street, Saltley and Nechells in Warwickshire and Swan Village, on the Great Western at West Bromwich in Staffordshire. Windsor Street was connected to the ex- L&NWR at Aston, Saltley was between Washwood Heath Marshalling Yard and the Saltley motive power depot, Nechells was on the opposite side of the Midland Railway to Saltley. The fourth gasworks, and the smallest was Adderley Street, not rail connected but close to the Bordesley Street sidings of the Great Western and the Lawley Street sidings of the Midland Railway, and also served by the adjacent Grand Union Canal.

Much has been written about the Department by Bob Essery and myself in Midland Record and in the first volume of my Private Owner Wagons collection series (Lightmoor Press 2002, but now out of print). This was inspired by my accidental discovery of extensive trading records of the New Hucknall and Blackwell colliery companies held in Nottinghamshire Archives. However, no study has ever been made of the volume of coal transported into Birmingham every day by mainly the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Frankly, such a detailed study is no longer possible as there are no surviving records which could be used as a starting point.

Therefore an educated guess for 1939 is 1.2 million tons for the gasworks, taken from published contracts, a million tons for the electricity generating stations( estimated) and a quarter of a million tons to cover written contracts of the City's Coal Buying Committee. Taking a round figure of two-and-a half million tons for the City of Birmingham alone, this equates to 50,000 tons a week, 5,000 wagon loads and a hundred-and-ten trainloads of forty to fifty wagons each a week. eighteen trains a day over six days. This is JUST for the City of Birmingham.

To this must be added all of that used by the various gasworks and utilities of Birmingham's environs, Smethwick, Dudley, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Sutton Coldfield , Coventry etc. From sample figures taken from Minute Books this adds another 350-400,000 tons annually for gas alone. As I wrote in one of my Private Owner Wagon books, this was all done in the days of steam traction, manual signalling, shunters poles, unbraked wagons, three link couplings, the ubiquitous shovel and thankfully, professional experienced railwaymen at all levels. Yet the Midland Railway and its successor, the LMSR handled it competently, as did the lesser players the L&NWR. and the Great Western.

In this series I have already covered Hams Hall Power Station so, having partly set the scene I will concentrate on the three gasworks served by rail within Warwickshire.

One surprising feature is that from records of all of the LMS engine sheds in Birmingham, there is very little evidence of shunting rosters at any of the gasworks. The Saltley works were serviced by a regular shuttle service from the nearby Washwood Heath This is highly suggestive of trains running direct from marshalling yards such as Toton direct into the Nechells and Windsor Street sidings, the shunting being carried out by ant of the seventeen Gas Department locomotives. After ploughing through over eighty years of Minute Books in the Birmingham Archives, I found no evidence which would support this supposition., except that recorded turn-around time for wagon journeys, if accurate in the 1890s was surprisingly short.

The Saltley shed rostered a single locomotive to work transfers between Washwood Heath and the nearby Saltley gas works. This was Target no. 8, worked by a 3F tender locomotive which worked continuously from 5.55a.m. on Monday mornings to 9.30p.m. on the following Sunday, with a note on the roster which read "liberated for stores as convenient" If this could operate at two hour intervals with 30 wagons per trip, this would move 360 wagons a day , which sounds feasible. There were four other trip workings which included the Duddeston Sidings as part of an extensive journey around the outskirts of Birmingham. but no reference to the Nechells gasworks. The Saltley records do not include trip workings except to the nearby collieries, so it has not been possible to confirm what is blindingly obvious - that trains originated and terminated at the Nechells Sidings.

A similar system may have worked at the Windsor Street gasworks. The main rail connection was to the former L&NWR station of Aston, and shared approach traffic with the extensive Windsor Street public goods sidings. Shunting and short-distance trip working was in the hands of the former L&NWR shed at Aston, with locomotives based at Bescot also appearing.

The 1917 timetable shows Target 130, a 3F tank locomotive working Windsor Street Sidings from 6a.m. to 6.05p.m. daily and target 154, a 2F tender engine, working the gasworks sidings as part of a route which took in Stechford, Bescot and Metropolitan sidings. Target 313, a 6F freight engine, worked from Bescot to Perry Barr, Curzon Street and the gasworks sidings and Target 351 was a 3F tank engine working an 18-hour shunting turn at the Windsor Street sidings.

As most of the supplying collieries were in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and the northern part of Nottinghamshire, loaded traffic would have been concentrated at the former Midland Railway Toton Marshalling Yard and was of sufficient volume to warrant through trains direct to the sidings of each gasworks , one known route was to the Duddeston Sidings for the Nechells works and supplies for Windsor Street could have been worked via Wichnor Junction and the South Staffordshire line via Sutton Coldfield or Bescot. Some coal was obtained from Staffordshire and would have been worked via Stafford to either Washwood Heath or Bescot. It is highly likely that coal for the Swan Village Works, in Staffordshire, served by the former Great Western Railway, would have been supplied mainly from the North Staffordshire coalfield via the LMS and transferred to the Great Western at the Bushbury marshalling yards near Wolverhampton.

Contracts with such collieries as New Hucknall (Notts), Alfreton (Derbyshire) and Frickley( Yorkshire) which called for between 2000 and 2,500 tons a week, would have been ideal for dedicated through trains to run regularly to keep the supply up. There is some evidence that coking coal for the Stewarts and LLoyds steelworks at Corby was transported by scheduled trainload twice daily from the Tinsley Park Colliery in Yorkshire in wartime and four empty coal wagon trains direct on the return journey to different collieries.

If one wants a more convincing scenario, in the depression year of 1934, a tally was made of how many wagons were in service for Gas Department coal traffic alone. 1,697 owned by the Department, 1,100 on hire by the Department, and 1,400 colliery or contractor owned, a staggering total of 4,197 wagons!! And add to this, several hundred more were required for coke traffic outwards, distributed as far away as Glasgow, tank wagons for by-products of the coking plant,, tar, pitch, creosote, sulphuric acid, etc, for which the Brotherton company had installed a plant at the Nechells gasworks. Bricks, lime, gas oil, iron oxide and gas pipes were regular items of inwards goods in wagon loads.

Coal Contracts in 1939

A total of 24 contracts were let for a little over a million tons of gas coal for 1939 as follows:

James Edge 24,000 Chatterley Whitfield (Staffs)
Wilson Carter and Pearson 17,500 Bolsover (Derbyshire)
Alexander Comley 10,000 Riddings (Notts)
Cawood Wharton 18,000 Furnace Hill (Derbyshire)
Newton Chambers 52,000 Thorncliffe (Yorkshire)
Carlton Collieries Association 145,000 Frickley, (Yorkshire) (A)
Stephenson Clarke 45,000 Glapwell (Derbyshire)
Wilson Carter and Pearson 145,000 Alfreton (Derbyshire)
Wilson Carter and Pearson 48,000 Hickleton, Brodworth (Yorks)or Firbeck (Notts)
Denaby Amalgamated Collieries 32,000 Denaby (Yorkshire)
Renwick, Wilton and Dobson ` 28,000 Clay Cross (Derbyshire)
Sheffield Coal Company 16,500 Birley (Yorkshire)
SA Scrivener 28,750 Norton and Biddulph (Staffs)
New Hucknall Collieries 120,000 New Hucknall, Bentinck (Notts)
H Downing 20,000 Sneyd (Staffs)
Alexander Comley 24,000 Swanwick (Derbyshire)
Wilson Carter and Pearson 40,000 Sutton (Notts)
J & G Wells 12,500 Holbrook (Derbyshire)
Staveley Coal and Iron Company 30,000 Markham Main (Derbyshire)
Wharncliffe Silkstone Colliery 20,000 Wharncliffe Silkstone (Yorkshire)
JC Abbott & Company 20,000 Tibshelf (Notts)
Wilson Carter and Pearson 50,000 Pinxton (Derbyshire)
JC Abbott & Company 30,000 Glapwell (Derbyshire )
JC Abbott & Company 40,000 Waleswood (Yorks)

Note (A): optional colliery was Grimesthorpe.

Additionally, a further 60,000 tons were required for the Mond Gas plant and 10,000 tons for locomotives and steam raising equipment. The latter may have been covered by the contract with the above-mentioned Bolsover collieries. One spot purchase from the Haunchwood Colliery for the Mond Gas plant was for 24,000 tons. Of the above, Wilson Carter and Pearson and JC Abbott were long established large-scale Birmingham coal factors, Alexander Comley, H Downing and SA Scrivener were also Birmingham-based. Remarkably the third of the major Birmingham factors, Evesons (Coals) Ltd. are not to be found.


The City of Birmingham was the largest municipal operator of Private Owner wagons in the country. When wagon pooling was effected in 1939, 2,074 wagons were handed over.

It was in 1862 that the first deliveries of coal by rail were effected. Originating from Staveley in Derbyshire, the wagons must have been owned by the supplier or a contractor as it was not until 1880 that the idea of a wagon fleet began to take shape. After trials with various types of wagon then available an order was placed with the Birmingham builder Brown and Marshalls in that year. They were wooden bodied, dumb buffered and of eight tons capacity. In 1895 (when 300 wagons of assorted makes and designs were owned) the same builder supplied fifty steel-bodied hoppers of a design which eventually numbered over 500 wagons.

A continuous numbering system was introduced in 1895 starting at one and continued until 1930 when no. 2706 was placed in service. Almost all of the intermediate numbers have been accounted for. Additional wagons were hired from the British Wagon Co to cover supplies from the Markham Main Colliery near Chesterfield, This set a precedent for hiring wagons, as many as 1,500, when needed which continued until wagon pooling in 1939.

By 1905 over a thousand wagons were owned, at least 150 of which were nearly-new wagons purchased second hand. It was also in 1905 that a hundred 20-ton steel hopper wagons were ordered from the Brush Company of Loughborough. These were a total failure and only thirteen were delivered, to be banned by the Midland Railway from its rails.

Between 1910 and 1911 a hundred second hand wagons were purchased from the London coal merchant FB Cameron & Company (Nos 1101-1200), fifty from the New Monckton Colliery of Yorkshire (Nos 1051-1100) and a hundred new each from Thomas Moy of Peterborough (Nos 1201-1300) and the Metropolitan Wagon Co. of Birmingham (Nos 1301-1400). 1913 brought another 150 new, 75 each from the Midland Wagon Company just down the road from the Saltley gasworks (Nos 1401 -1475) and the Doncaster builder Thomas Burnett. (Nos 1476-1550.)

A further 300 followed in 1915-6 from Scottish builders Hurst Nelson and RY Pickering (Nos 1601-1900).

With all of this enlargement of the wagon fleet, there was still a chronic wagon shortage, This affected all collieries and consumers due to the war effort. Thousands of wagons were lying in wagon works awaiting repair, and the City of Birmingham calculated that 20% was lying idle. 187 wagons, or 16% of the available fleet, stood motionless at one repairer alone. Part solution of the situation came in 1918 in the formation of Wagon Repairs Ltd. in an office within sight of two Birmingham gasworks. This was an overall scheme in which wagons of any owner and any builder could be sent to the nearest of the company's outstations for repairs. It was not accepted immediately, but by 1926 most of the country was covered and the formation of the wagon repair company had noticeably reduced, but not entirely solved, the perennial wagon shortage.

Independently, the Gas Department had been thinking on the same lines, and in 1920 a wagon repair facility was set up at the Saltley gasworks. Experienced wagon builders and repairers were recruited from the various Birmingham wagon works and within a few weeks repaired wagons were being released to traffic. So successful was this enterprise that it was considered that new wagons could also be built there.

Accordingly early in 1924 six sets of ironwork and running gear were purchased from an existing builder, timber yards were scoured for 16-foot lengths of white spruce deals seven inches wide by three inches thick This may not have been difficult, as there were three other companies in Birmingham using identical timber. In no time wagons numbered 2101 to 2106 were completed. So successful was the experiment that in the next seven years a further six hundred, numbered from 2107 to 2706 were built at the gasworks, at least one was turned out every week.

(In my Private Owner Wagons, a First Collection, wagons numbered 2357-2606 were not positively identified and wrongly assumed, from missing entries in the LMS Wagon Registers, to have been built for the Electricity Department or not built at all. This was subsequently corrected when their existence was found, out of sequence, with unused registration numbers of the Midland Railway)

Year Wagon Nos Type Builder Notes
Pre-1894 Various Various Various  
1894 1-50 Iron Hopper Brown and Marshalls (A)
1894 51-200 Iron Hopper Brown and Marshalls (A)
1902 476-500 10 ton Wooden Metropolitan  
1895 501-700 Iron Hopper Metropolitan (A)
1899 701-800 Steel Hopper Midland (A)
1901 951-1000 Wooden Open GR Turner (B)
1905 1001-1013 20t Hopper Brush (C)
1905 1014-1050 10 ton unknown (D)
1905 1051-1100 10 ton Wooden SJ Claye (E)
1910 1101-1200 10 ton Wooden GR Turner (F)
1911 1201-1300 12 ton Wooden Metropolitan Hoppered Interior
1911 1301-1400 12 ton Wooden Thomas Moy  
1913 1401-1475 12 ton Wooden Midland  
1913 1476-1550 12 ton Wooden Thomas Burnett  
  1551-1600 Unknown Unknown  
1915 1601-1800 12 ton Wooden Hurst Nelson  
1917 1801-1900 12 ton Wooden Pickering  
  1901-1950 10 ton Wooden Gittus (G)
  1951-2000 12 ton Wooden Hurst Nelson (G)
  2001-2100 12 ton Unknown (G)
1924 2101-2106 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
  2107-2156 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1925 2157-2256 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1926 2257-2306 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1927 2307-2356 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1927 2357-2406 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1928 2407-2456 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1929 2457-2606 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1930 2607-2706 12 ton Wooden Own Workshops  
1934 2907-3006 12 ton Wooden Metropolitan  
1935 4501-4750 12 ton Wooden Metropolitan  


(A) These wagons were all fitted with bottom doors operated by a handwheel, an invention of Mr. Hunt of the Gas Department and Mr Shackleford of the wagon builder.
(B) Second-hand ex JK Harrison of London. Registered by the Great Central Railway.
(C) This was an order for 100 20-ton wagons placed with the Brush Company of Loughborough. Only thirteen wagons no's 1001-1013 were delivered but transit over the rails of the Midland Railway was refused , the registration plates recalled and the balance of the order was cancelled. After lying idle for several years, they were sent to the wagon builder SJ Claye of Long Eaton, where their steel bodies were removed and timber bodies were substituted.
(D) Purchased second hand from the North Central Wagon Company and their builders are unknown.
(E) Purchased secondhand from the New Monckton Colliery Company of Yorkshire, their numbers 1065 to 1114. Built by SJ Claye of Long Eaton.
(F) Purchase secondhand from London coal merchant FB Cameron & Company, their numbers 927 to 1026. Built originally by SJ Claye of Long Eaton.
(G) The 200 wagons numbered 1901 to 2100 were purchased at very close intervals and the running numbers were not individually recorded, although their origins were. Fifty of the wagons were new from Hurst Nelson of Motherwell, fifty were second hand from Buxton Lime Firms Ltd of Buxton and built by W Gittus of Penistone, Yorkshire. The latter were part of a hundred-wagon purchase, the other fifty went to the City of Birmingham Electricity Department as foundation for their wagon fleet. The final hundred wagons were purchased from the Birmingham coal factor JC Abbott & Company. The maker or makers are unknown. Fifty one of these wagons bore coke rails for coke traffic and may have been built by the small Mansfield builder Clough & Company.

At this point its prudent to examine the effectiveness of the Birmingham wagon fleet in terms of utilisation, in other words how long it took for an empty wagon to leave Birmingham and return fully laden at the sidings of one of the gasworks. In 1900 the gasworks management recorded that the trip time was eight days. Eight days in the operating conditions of the Midland (and other) railway companies?. This is almost exactly half of the time that the Bolsover Colliery Company, one of the largest in the Midlands, the Griff Colliery at Nuneaton, and the City of Birmingham Gas Department were each recording in 1938 and 1939!! The only possible explanations are that their 1900 paperwork was askew, or that complete trains were run from gasworks to colliery and return by-passing marshalling yards and stopping only for operational requirements. There is no evidence to support this theory in the form of timetables or special train notices, and unless some confirmation material is forthcoming the Gas Department's version has to be accepted with caution.

Finding the Department's wagons outside of Birmingham itself was relatively easy. On main lines of the Midland and the L&NWR and their successor, the LM&SR radiating into Birmingham from the coalfields of Derbyshire, north Nottinghamshire and all of Yorkshire, plus North Staffordshire and occasionally North Wales. But also the company's coke wagons were regularly seen on the former L&NWR main line into London, particularly around Berkhamstead.

Wartime and Nationalisation

Like every other wagon that was privately owned (with exceptions for those designated Special Purpose) upon nationalisation of the railways, the Birmingham fleet, now part of the wagon pool, no longer technically existed, joining those ranging from vast colliery companies, coal merchants, giants of industry and quarrymen, paper millers, woolen magnates and electricity generating stations to one-man-and-a-horse coal merchants and village grocers, over 600,000 in all, never to return as nationalisation of the coal industry and the railways assumed their ownership, battered and bruised but still working.

Unsung, barely recorded, the transportation means of industry, they were vital cogs in the Industrial Revolution and the dark days of the second world war. to be remembered and chronicled only by a dedicated handful, working surreptitiously and under cover whose ranks are thinning and who still remember them in their profusion and glory.

A typical of the style of wagon used by the Department in the last years of the nineteenth century
Ref: misc_kt383
Midrail Photographs
A typical of the style of wagon used by the Department in the last years of the nineteenth century
One of 75 wagons built by Thomas Burnett of Doncaster in 1913 in an early attempt to standardise the wagon fleet
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Cusworth Hall Museum
One of 75 wagons built by Thomas Burnett of Doncaster in 1913 in an early attempt to standardise the wagon fleet

The L&NWR Between Coventry and Nuneaton

The London and North Western Railway between Nuneaton and Coventry served the remainder of that part of the Warwickshire coalfield. Only the isolated colliery at Binley, between Coventry and Rugby. was outside of this concentration. Detail is taken from the 1930 LM&SR Control strip map and it is again emphasised that this shows only what tracks and sidings existed at this date.

The registration of all private owner wagons with a main line railway company following a 'roadworthy' inspection became compulsory in 1888, was the outcome of a serious accident on the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway near Penistone in the previous year, caused by a defective wagon owned by the Shireoaks Colliery. Each railway company was required to record full details of all wagons on its registry, and supply numbered metal plates to be attached to the solebar of each wagon. Usually wagon owners registered with the railway company that served it directly. It is unfortunate that the L&NWR registers of Private Owner Wagons, which lists all wagons registered with that railway, appears to have been lost, therefore it has been impossible to compile a more comprehensive survey of wagons owned by the various collieries between Nuneaton and Coventry.

Fortunately both the Warwickshire Coal Company and Griff Collieries registered some, but not all, of wagons with the Midland Railway and other information has been gleaned from manufacturers records and from minute books of colliery companies which have survived.

Coventry Ordnance Works

The history of this strategic munitions works is well covered in Wikepedia and my Private Owner Wagons, an Eleventh Collection, so a brief resume will suffice before concentrating on the small wagon fleet attached to the factory.

It came into being through the joint efforts of the shipbuilders Cammell Laird, John Brown, Yarrow and Fairfield, strongly supported by The Admiralty, for an alternate source of heavy guns for Britain's Naval Fleet, then monopolised by the two shipbúilders, Vickers and Armstrong Whitworth. The origins of ordnance manufacture in Coventry were previously bestowed on a carriage-building firm, Mulliners. This business was purchased by Cammell Laird in 1903 to be joined by John Brown in the following year. The works were situated on the Foleshill Light Railway, which was anything but light when confronted by the enormous gun barrels which were shipped out by rail to a subsidiary site at Scotstoun, Scotland, where the mountings were made. Howitzers were also made for both The Army and The Navy. The works were shut down in 1925 and restored in 1936 to play their part in the second world war.

Specialised rolling stock owned by the railway companies was used to transport these lengthy and heavy items The only wagons owned by the company were low-sided open wagons built in 1907 by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company. It is uncertain whether two or four wagons were built, the wagon builders records show two ordered in February 1907 and two more in the following month (was this a duplication?)

The wagons measured 14'6" x 6'11" x 1'9" with two planks and drop sides with pin and chaín fastenings. Body colour was dark red with white letters shaded black. Wagon ends were slightly raised and one doorstop each side was shortened to accommodate the brake lever. They were describd by te builder as 'ordnance wagons'.

The exact purpose of these wagons is unknown, they were certainly not for internal use as they were registered with a main line railway company, the registration plate can be seen on the solebar. Most likely they were used as barrier wagons on the main line, protecting the overhang of the main load, and probably also loaded with detachable smaller parts.

The third of three 1929 'landscape' aerial views of the sidings and the numerous Private Owner Wagons stabled at Three Spires Junction
Ref: misc_kt382
Gloucester RC&W Company
Coventry Ordnance Survey Works Wagon No 2 built in March 1907 by the Gloucester Railway C & W Company

Binley Colliery

Isolated from the rest of the Warwickshire coalfield on the former L&NWR main line between Coventry and Rugby, the Binley Colliery was sunk by a firm of Scottish Iron and Coalmasters, Merry and Cuninghame Ltd, of the Glenarnock Iron Works. This company also owed several collieries in Scotland.

Sinking commenced in 1907, and coal winding was achieved four years later. The rail connection to the L&NWR was initially worked by gravity and with typical Scottish thriftiness a locomotive was deemed unnecessary until the output had increased sufficiently to warrant such extravagance. The junction with the main line was on the up side, a short distance beyond the Humber Road Junction where the Coventry Loop Line joined the main line.

Initially, 474 men were employed. In 1923 the payroll remained almost static at 450 Ten years later, Binley was the only colliery owned by Merry and Cuninghame, all of their Scottish mining operations had either closed down, been worked out or disposed of. The Binley operation was still working under liquidation, with a Robert Brown as General Manager and Director and 545 employees.

In 1936 Merry and Cuninghame's interest in the Binley Colliery had been relinquished, and a new company Binley Colliery Ltd (1936) was formed In 1940 the board of directors included a Cuninghame, Mrs A Cuninghame of 25 Hill Street London and a Captain , NC Livingstone-Learmonth, thus continuing both family and military interest. Some 670 men were employed during this year. The colliery closed in 1961.

Merry and Cuninghame Ltd

The company was founded in 1843, and was well known for the possession of a 215-ton steam hammer, the largest in Scotland, installed in 1884. A number of collieries were worked in Scotland., many of them of small output and probably also running at a loss. There is no reasonable explanation of their interest in a very minor colliery project in a small village three miles east of Coventry, where no attempt had been made to mine coal previously.

Initially the company was highly profitable. In 1871 there were 4,535 employees, and technical advances in ironfounding were constantly adopted. In 1885 steel production was commenced, and tinplate bar was manufactured and sold to south Wales tinplate makers.

During the final years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, the fortunes of the company were in serious decline and despite diversification into brickworks and closing all but three collieries in Scotland, the end of a great and progressive company almost a century old was drawing near. This sounds farcical, but the wave of industrial disputes in the coal and iron trade in the 1920s may have been of some influence.

Looking at the titled, landed, wealthy and influential heavyweights in the board room in 1923, which included Colonel Sir Ralph W Anstruther, Lord Invernairn of Strathnairn and Sir Herbert Maxwell, Bart, one is convinced that the mighty fell as heavily as the small one-man-and-horse coal merchant that went down in pitiful numbers in the 1920s and 1930s.


Initially the wagon fleet was naturally sourced from Scottish builders, the earliest being delivered in 1910 by RY Pickering of Wishaw, but subsequently all matters relating to wagons were in the hands of the nearby Rugby builder Thomas Hunter. As at the end of 1934 311 wagons, numbers 325-350, 401-485 and 501-700 were on simple hire to be shortly joined by no's 701-775. An interesting point is that the LM&SR recorded only wagons numbered 401-500, delivered in 1930, the remainder appear to be second hand wagons refurbished by Hunter, For some reason wagons numbered 486 to 500 were not recorded in the 1934 inventory. For many years the London coal merchant and factor T Wilson Brewis was the company's agent, and largest customer in London.

Courtaulds Limited

The company was founded in 1794 by George Courtauld, son of a French immigrant with textile mills first at Pebmarsh in Essex and then at Braintree where his son Samuel owned a silk mill. It was Samuel Courtauld who masterminded the successful progress of the company, which by the year 1850 employed 2,000

In 1905 the world's first factory to produce artificial fibres was built in Coventry. Known as rayon, it was made from cotton waste and wood pulp. The factory was served by a private siding which was in effect an extension of the siding at Foleshill which served Websters Brickworks, to eventually become the Foleshill Light Railway The extension to Courtaulds was opened in November 1904, and was most likely used for construction materials before production started. Courtaulds eventually became the worlds largest manufacturer of artificial fibres, but latterly also diversified into carbon fibres and specialised plastics.


A small number of green-painted open mineral wagons were operated, but these were attached to their north Wales plant at Flint, from the only known illustration, an 'off-the-wagon-side drawing It is therefore possible that wagons lettered for the Coventry operation may have existed.

The main connection with Private Owner wagons is through the Trafford Park chemical company WH Cowburn and Cowpar Ltd.. William Henry Cowburn started in business in 1877 manufacturing muriatic acid. He expanded his business through a connection with Samuel Courtauld by supplying the raw material for the manufacture of viscose rayon. The Trafford Park Chemical Works were established in 1914 and two years later the firm amalgamated with the Cowpar Chemical Company. By far the largest customer was Courtaulds at their plants at Flint and Coventry.

Cowburn and Cowpar operated a large fleet of tank wagons from their Trafford Park headquarters, some in service with Courtaulds Coventry factory.

Most were built by Charles Roberts of Wakefield. Some were sent direct from the wagon builder to Courtaulds plants, those recorded are: No 9, delivered in 1910 and described as an acid jar wagons, no's 6 and 8, delivered in 1911 and 1912 respectively, all three being consigned to Courtaulds at Webster's Sidings, Coventry. In 1917 no. 33 was despatched similarly. At least a further forty wagons were operated, their regular traffic unknown.

The colour of their tank wagons was specified in the order book as "in bold colours", usually red. The later wagons bore the lettering 'Sulphuric Acid Only' on the tank barrels, the owning company name appearing on a wooden board attached horizontally to the tank side. Their rail wagons were very plain affairs.

Cowburn and Cowpar also operated a fleet of narrow boats, very well known to canal enthusiasts, the fleet updated in 1934 by the arrival of eight new craft, all named after birds starting with the letter 'S', Skylark, Swan, Swallow, Swift, Stork, Seagull, Snipe and Starling. They were particularly noted by the late LTC Rolt during his pioneer voyage through the canal network in 1939-40. The regular route to Courtauld would have been along the Trent and Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction, near Lichfield, to join the Coventry Canal to their destination. They were equipped with containers for a speedy turn-around at either end. More than one has been faithfully restored in its original maroon, black and green livery and are highly admired as they sails the inland waterways. Thus a reminder of the chemical company so closely interlinked with Courtaulds still exists, but do those who admire the canal boats understand or contemplate the connection?

Exhall Colliery

Like most of the Warwickshire collieries, coal mined at Exhall was first distributed to the outside world via the canal network, long before a railway was completed and despatched via the Coventry, Grand Union and Oxford canals to London and to the paper mills of Croppers at Burghfield, Colthrop at Thatcham,( both near Reading), and Dickinsons at Croxley Green, The famous Ovaltine plant at Berkhamstead was one of the last, if not the last, in the country to receive its coal supplies by canal and some of this came from Exhall.. To wharves and trans-shipment points in the Limehouse docks and on the River Thames Exhall coal was also despatched. When the railway came, the substantial East Anglian coal factor and merchant, Thomas Coote and later Coote and Warren, became a major distributor of Exhall coals throughout the region and in London.

It was in 1850 that the Exhall Colliery Co. Ltd was formed to take over an existing pit on a site where a cottage industry of backyard mining had been carried on for decades with little control of the recording of shafts, pits, tunnels and other impediments to successful commercial operations through inrushes of uncharted water One record states that a million gallons had to be pumped out of the colliery before coal winning could commence. In the 1890s 500 men were employed and by 1909 this figure had doubled. The recorded output in 1892 was 450 tons per shift.

By 1872 it had become the Exhall Colliery and Brick Works Company and in 1872 a Private Siding Agreement with the L&NWR was finalised, with a junction near the Hawkesbury Lane station on the down side of the Nuneaton to Coventry line The 1921 Midland Railway Distance Diagram, which includes that section of the L&NWR between Nuneaton and Coventry shows two separate sites for the Exhall Colliery, one on the down side with a connection to the Coventry Canal which ran under the main line, that actually served the colliery, the other alongside Bedworth station on the up side. While the latter was described as Exhall Colliery Siding, it was in fact to serve the Exhall Colliery Brickworks at Bedworth The 1930 LMS strip map shows Daimler Co, whose Coventry car plant is recorded as using the clayhole as a rubbish dump after the brickworks had closed. It also records the connection on the down side near Hawkesbury Lane station with a capacity for 218 wagons.

Almost directly opposite on the up side were the extensive Hawkesbury Lane sorting sidings and the mineral line which served the Wyken Colliery.

In 1913, the Exhall Colliery Company, on the insistence (and foresight) of its Chairman, Captain Chas. Daniel Miller, took over the ailing neighbouring colliery, Newdigate, which had succumbed to financial difficulties and voluntary liquidation. This proved to be a master-stroke of foresight as the Exhall Colliery was to last for only another 25 years while Newdigate worked into the late 1980s.

Following an inrush of water from uncharted old workings the Exhall colliery was abandoned in 1938, employing 940 men at that time of which only 150 were "kept on" to re-open in 1939 as the Hawkesbury and Exhall Colliery Co., working on a smaller scale until 1943 and closed again after an underground fire. A further revival in 1947 under the National Coal Board saw the sinking of a new shaft but this lasted for only a year and 1948 saw Exhall closed for good, probably the unluckiest of the large collieries whose towering chimneys and headgear dominated the skyline between Nuneaton and Coventry.


Apart from a handful of illustrations, there are no known records of Exhall's wagon fleet, reflecting on the apparent loss of the L&NWR Wagon Registers. It is suggested that when the Exhall management assumed control of the Newdigate Colliery, the two wagon fleets were operated in tandem.

Three Spires Junction

See caption for information on the wagons seen in this photograph.

The third of three 1929 'landscape' aerial views of the sidings and the numerous Private Owner Wagons stabled at Three Spires Junction
Ref: lnwrcll4175
Britain from Above
The third of three 1929 aerial views of Three Spires Junction sidings and the numerous Private Owner Wagons

The site is now an industrial estate.

Newdigate Colliery

One of the more entrepreneurial landowners in Warwickshire was Sir John Newdigate, who acquired Arbury Hall near Nuneaton in the seventeenth century. His only son, Charles Newdigate Newdigate (1816-1887) inherited his fathers extensive landholdings at the age of 17, inheriting further real estate on the death of his uncle Sir Roger Newdigate. This included most of the worked part of the Warwickshire coalfields between Nuneaton and Coventry. Sir Charles Newdigate, in the grand manner of many of the early coal barons, represented North Warwickshire in Parliament, leading to the almost inevitable seat in the House of Lords.

Newdigate Colliery was sunk in the last few years of the nineteenth century and was listed in the 1896 List of Mines as 'sinking, the owner being FN Newdigate, MP.' Newdigate Colliery Limited was formed in 1904 with a board of directors which included J. N. Nadin, a coal merchant on a substantial scale covering Warwickshire and Worcestershire, operator of a fleet of railway wagons trumpeting his name in letters that covered almost the entire wagon side and also the owner of the Stanton Colliery on the outskirts of Swadlincote in Derbyshire.

Other directors were Maurice Deacon of Chase Cliffe, Whatstandwell, who was also on the board of the Exhall Colliery. He was also a director of the Newstead Colliery Company, of Mansfield, Notts, and ten other colliery companies, some of them substantial, ranging from Yorkshire to South Wales. Deacon was a graduate of the old school of colliery management. Born in Derby in 1851, he passed his Managers exams in 1872, for several years he was attached to the Blackwell Colliery in Derbyshire .In 1891 he was living at the Colliery Manager's house with wife Adelaide and three daughters.. Also resident (or visiting on the day of the census)) were Deacon's parents: his father, Augustus, a retired Artist. He later practiced also as a Consultant Mining Engineer. . He subsequently appears as a director of the new Newdigate colliery in 1914, serving till at least 1933.

The main line junction serving the colliery was on the down side of the line between Hawkesbury Lane and Bedworth stations. This also passed close to a wharf on an arm of the Coventry Canal, were a much photographed, almost celebrated, runaway ended up in the canal with wagons and coal scattered , some on land, but mostly in the canal itself.

Like the Exhall Colliery, Newdigate suffered from the constant intrusion of underground water, mainly from abandoned workings which had never been charted. In 1902 932 men were employed, Declining production and suspected indifferent management saw a decision by its shareholders in 1912 to enter into voluntary liquidation. Some 951 men were employed at the time the legal documents being signed by J. N. Nadin.

In 1914 a new company, Newdigate Colliery Ltd (1914) was formed, with the then Chairman and Managing Director of Exhall Colliery, Captain Charles Daniel Miller , taking the same position and Maurice Deacon as a director. Included in the 1923 directorship were also the obligatory military representatives in Major Fleetwood Ernest Varney and Lieutenant -Colonel George Alfred Lewis Holmside. Captain Miller retained his position until at least 1940.

A thousand men were employed at Newdigate almost immediately. In 1933 output was recorded at 342,619 tons rising to half-a-million tons in 1940 with 1,210 men The two collieries worked in some sort of harmony until 1939 when Exhall, similarly awash and disabled by underground flooding, was temporarily closed, to be re-opened more than once and finally abandoned in 1948.

Little is known of the railway wagon fleet but illustrations of wagons numbered 3421, 3512, 784 and 738 exist. At least 106 wagons were built by Thomas Hunter of Rugby and an unknown quantity were delivered by the Lancashire builder Ince Iron and Wagon Company in 1915. Thirty more wagons were built by Hunter in 1942 and allocated to the colliery under the emergency wartime scheme introduced by the then Railway Executive. It also appears that pre-1939 Exhall and Newdigate wagons were intermingled before compulsory acquisition.

Hawkesbury Lane Colliery

The mineral line which served Wyken Colliery joined the main line on the up side a short distance from Hawkesbury Lane station, and over the years an important group of sorting sidings was developed. By 1930 this consisted of 12 sidings with a capacity of 756 wagons, wagon repair and cripple roads, and the Wyken branch emerging from within the siding complex. These sidings were used for sorting wagons from the Griff, Exhall and Newdigate collieries and possibly some from the Nuneaton sidings for onward destinations. Opposite on the down side was the junction for the Exhall Colliery, and a small group of Traffic Sidings with accommodation for 108 wagons.

Exhall Colliery

Like most of the Warwickshire collieries, coal mined at Exhall was first distributed to the outside world via the canal network, long before a railway was completed and despatched via the Coventry, Grand Union and Oxford canals to London and to the paper mills of Croppers at Burghfield, Colthrop at Thatcham,( both near Reading), and Dickinsons at Croxley Green, The famous Ovaltine plant at Berkhamstead was one of the last, if not the last, in the country to receive its coal supplies by canal and some of this came from Exhall.. To wharves and trans-shipment points in the Limehouse docks and on the River Thames Exhall coal was also despatched. When the railway came, the substantial East Anglian coal factor and merchant, Thomas Coote and later Coote and Warren, became a major distributor of Exhall coals throughout the region and in London.

It was in 1850 that the Exhall Colliery Co. Ltd was formed to take over an existing pit on a site where a cottage industry of backyard mining had been carried on for decades with little control of the recording of shafts, pits, tunnels and other impediments to successful commercial operations through inrushes of uncharted water One record states that a million gallons had to be pumped out of the colliery before coal winning could commence. In the 1890s 500 men were employed and by 1909 this figure had doubled. The recorded output in 1892 was 450 tons per shift.

By 1872 it had become the Exhall Colliery and Brick Works Company and in 1872 a Private Siding Agreement with the L&NWR was finalised, with a junction near the Hawkesbury Lane station on the down side of the Nuneaton to Coventry line The 1921 Midland Railway Distance Diagram, which includes that section of the L&NWR between Nuneaton and Coventry (a reminder of the days when the Midland had running rights, relinquished by then) shows two separate sites for the Exhall Colliery, one on the down side with a connection to the Coventry Canal which ran under the main line, that actually served the colliery, the other alongside Bedworth station on the up side. While the latter was described as Exhall Colliery Siding, it was in fact to serve the Exhall Colliery brickworks at Bedworth The 1930 LMS strip map shows Daimler Co. which it is recorded was used by that company to deposit rubbish in the disused claypit. It also records the connection on the down side near Hawkesbury Lane station with a capacity for 218 wagons.

Almost directly opposite on the up side were the extensive Hawkesbury Lane sorting sidings and the mineral line which served the Wyken Colliery.

In 1913, the Exhall Colliery Company, on the insistence (and foresight) of its Chairman, Captain Chas. Daniel Miller, took over the ailing neighbouring colliery, Newdigate, which had succumbed to financial difficulties and voluntary liquidation. This proved to be a master-stroke of foresight as the Exhall Colliery was to last for only another 25 years while Newdigate worked into the late 1980s.

Following an inrush of water from uncharted old workings the Exhall colliery was abandoned in 1938, employing 940 men at that time of which only 150 were "kept on" to re-open in 1939 as the Hawkesbury and Exhall Colliery Co., working on a smaller scale until 1943 and closed again after an underground fire. A further revival in 1947 under the National Coal Board saw the sinking of a new shaft but this lasted for only a year and 1948 saw Exhall closed for good, probably the unluckiest of the large collieries whose towering chimneys and headgear dominated the skyline between Nuneaton and Coventry. The accompanying brickworks ceased production in 1930.

Apart from a handful of illustrations, there are no known records of Exhall's wagon fleet. It is suggested that when the Exhall management assumed control of the Newdigate Colliery, the two wagon fleets were operated in tandem. The site is now an industrial estate. Early wagon use is recorded by the Midland Waggon Company, who hired fifteen wagons to the colliery in 1873.

Captain George Daniel Miller

Despite his standing as Managing Director of the Exhall Colliery and mastermind of the virtual merger with neighbour Newdigate, learning anything about the man has been almost impossible. He does not appear in any census, understandable as his whereabouts and career were unknown up until the time of the last published census in 1911. He may just have squeezed into the latter as it was about that time that he purchase Coundon Court, a mansion on the outskirts of Coventry, built for and resided in by George Singer, a former bicycle manufacturer who founded in 1901 the Singer Motor Car Company and who died in 1909. Miller in turn lived in Coundon Court until his death in 1944. He was still serving as Chairman and Managing Director of the Newdigate Colliery Co (1914) in 1940.

Another contract by the Warwickshire Coal Company to the coal factors Lamont and Warne, this time for 1,300 tons of beans
Ref: misc_kt379
K Turton
Another contract by the Warwickshire Coal Company to the coal factors Lamont and Warne
An unidentified ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F is seen at the head of an empty wagon train bound for Kingsbury Colliery
Ref: misc_kt380
K Turton
A typical contract of sale in the 1930s coal trade, showing 13,520 to 14,560 tons of beans (small graded coal)

Wyken Colliery

First evidence of wagon ownership was in September 1864, when fifty wagons were hired from the Midland Waggon Company of Birmingham. A year later an order was placed with the same builder for fifty new wagons. The colliery is recorded as a regular supplier of slack coal to the Leyton Urban District Council via a contract through Coote and Warren Ltd.

The only surviving photograph of a Wyken and Craven Colliery wagon seen at an unknown location
Ref: misc_kt377
K Turton
The only surviving photograph of a Wyken and Craven Colliery wagon seen at an unknown location
View of Wyken Colliery wagons seen in the goods station at Reading early in the twentieth century
Ref: misc_kt378
Great Western Railway
View of Wyken Colliery wagons seen in the goods station at Reading early in the twentieth century

Griff Colliery

Coal mining on the site of the Griff collieries on a cottage industry scale dates back to medieval times. The Newdigate family, generation after generation, took considerable interest in the on-going development of the coalfield and were strong and active supporters of the concurrent development of the canal system, which preceded the railways by several decades in the form of the Coventry Canal, which wound its way between the several mines between Coventry and Leamington, and providing, through individual branches, wharves and basins, a priceless facility for coal-owners to ship their output , albeit via not-so-direct routes, to London in one direction, and Birmingham in the opposite, with connections that were far flung. For example, coal from the Kersley colliery was, until at least the 1940's, regularly sent by canal to a paper mill on the outskirts of Reading.

The Griff Colliery Co. Ltd was formed in 1882. Previously mining on the site was under the control of the Newdigate family. It is possible that some shallow mining took place early in the seventeenth century. The connection to the L&NWR was opened on June 22nd, 1881, although the colliery was reported as having rail connection as early as 1847, this is considered to have been an internal system which ran between the collieries and the canal basin. The Midland Railway initially appears to have had running powers into the colliery sidings at the main line junction, no longer shown in the 1916 Diagram.

By the time the Griff colliery branch had been completed, it also served two brick and tile works of the Stanley Brick and Tile Co., two similar works of the Haunchwood Brick and Tile Co, and a branch line which reached out to the Griff company's Clara pit.

Griff was for many years a pit with a strong production record considering the medieval working methods in force at the time.. In 1845 29,000 tons of coal was produced, rising to 32,000 in 1855. By 1874 260 men were employed, and in 1892,with the Clara pit in full production, tonnage reached 150,000. In 1902 620,000 tons were produced, that is around 12,000 tons per week or 1,500 wagon loads, 250 wagons a day. By 1896 three shafts were working, no. 4, no.5 and the Clara pit. 1,193 men were employed. In 1923 with an additional shaft, the payroll had risen to 2,271. By 1940, only the Clara pit was working with 1,580 men. The colliery finally closed in 1960. Griff was a regular supplier to the Guildford Corporation of slack coal. The London County Council in the 1920s was buying 10,000 tons of Newdigate and Charity coal through F. Warren and Sons of London annually.

This account of an order placed with the wagon builder Charles Roberts of Wakefield is an indication of the detail to be found in those records of the company which have survived and are now in the archives of the National Railway Museum at York. Fourteen wagons were ordered in 1903 by the flour mill of the Co-operative Wholesale Society at Silvertown, within London's docklands. Rather than deliver them empty to the customer, they were first sent to the Hoyland Silkstone Colliery near Barnsley to load gas coal for the Saltley Gasworks of the City of Birmingham. At Saltley they were unloaded and sent empty to the Griff colliery, who soon re-loaded them and sent them on their was to the new owner.

The wagon No 1431 is one of a batch of forty built by Hurst Nelson of Motherwell and registered with the Midland Railway. This wagon is not typical of the standard livery of the company's wagons and may have been a 'one-off' example for photographic purposes, a common trait with this wagon builder. Most Griff wagons were painted with the main word over the second and third planks down, and five examples can be seen in the images of the Camp Hill goods station at Birmingham. Several Griff wagons were recorded during the construction of the Great Central London Extension, supplying coal to the contractors An earlier livery shows the colliery name in a shallow arc over the top three planks of the wagon.

The wagon fleet in the twentieth century averaged 1,400. Up to 400 wagons at a time were recorded as being stationary in sidings, loaded with coal awaiting customers orders. After the end of the first world war, a large number of surplus open wagons operated by the Ministry of Munitions were resold to private operators after minor alterations by various wagon builders, and Griff acquire seventy-seven, numbered 1801 to 1877.

Before nationalisation in 1947, there were several long-serving directors of the company, in 1923 the Chairman was R. Knowles, the Directors were F. Povey Harper of Nuneaton; Edward. F. Melly of Ashbourne, Derbyshire; R. Rathbone and, a grandee if ever there was one, Brigadier-General Sir Edward Thomas Le Marchant, Baronet,(1871-1953) of Colston Bassett Hall, Notts.

Sir Edward Le Marchant was born at Kingston-on-Soar, Notts and was also a director of the Desford Colliery Co, the Bolsover Colliery Co. and Andrew Knowles Ltd, a Lancashire colliery owner that became part of Manchester Collieries Ltd. He was the son of Merchant Banker Sir Henry Denis Le Marchant of Chobham, Chertsey and at the age of nineteen years was already a lieutenant in The Royal Fusiliers.

Edward Melly, J.P. who was Chairman and Managing Director in 1933, and still a director in 1940 was born in 1857 at Liverpool . He served his time at the Nunnery Colliery in Yorkshire from 1876 to 1881 before becoming mine manager at Griff by 1896, and a director of the company by 1923. He was also a director of Manchester Collieries Ltd, Chairman of Nuneaton Magistrates and Chairman of the Warwickshire Coal Owners Association.

Frederick Povey-Harper was born in Derby in 1878 and in 1911 he was a mining engineer living at 'Hilltop', Chilvers Colton. From 1933 to nationalisation he was a director and latterly Managing Director of Measham Collieries Ltd. of Leicestershire, and a director of the Griff colliery, his then address being Higham Hall in Leicestershire. He died at Astley in Warwickshire in 1954.

I was unable to trace through census records Messrs Rathbone or Knowles, but the appearance of Sir Edward Le Marchant as a director was a sign that several distinguished and highly ranked retired naval and military officers could be found among the directorates of colliery companies. One has already been featured in this series, and there are others to come. They are likely to be found also in many other trades as well, although their presence was no guarantee of success at the pithead or the contents of the cash register.

Perhaps the most outstanding example was that of Admiral of the Fleet Lord John Rushworth Jellicoe, who in the late 1920's was one of several former navy commanders who embellished the board of Associated Coal Consumers Ltd, a coal buying co-operative aimed at retired officers of similar rank, business tycoons and aging dowagers of Mayfair social status which dealt in wagon loads at reduced prices, financially far from successful and making a noticeable dent in the profits of four railway companies, two wagon hire firms and several collieries.

Wagon No 1431 is one of a batch of  forty delivered in 1905 by Hurst, Nelson of Motherwell
Ref: kt376
J Alsop
Wagon No 1431 is one of a batch of forty delivered in 1905 by Hurst, Nelson of Motherwell

Ansley Hall colliery

The colliery, opened in 1878, was situated at the end of the steeply-graded mineral branch of the Midland Railway diverging from the Nuneaton to Water Orton line at Stockingford station. The company title was The Ansley Hall Coal ad Iron Co. Ltd. What the 'Iron' represents appears to be the amount of ironstone that was mined alongside the coal and not a finished product.

The rail approach to the colliery was unusual in that the railway ran past the colliery and continued for a further twenty chains, for access to the colliery trains had to continue to the end of the line and reverse into the colliery sidings. Accordingly, loaded coal trains had to reverse out of the colliery before proceeding forward to the main line. Due to the grades encountered, locomotives ran tender first to the colliery and funnel first on return. Due to the short length of what was in reality a headshunt, trains would have been restricted to 20 wagons and a guards van. Locomotives used were ex-Midland Railway 0-6-0's, which were augmented by ex-Lancashire and Yorkshire engines of the same wheel arrangement which,it has been reported were preferred by the engine crews.

It has been suggested that the final railway relationship to the colliery may have been the intention of the Midland Railway to extend the branch to the Baddesley Colliery only two miles away mindful that for several years the rail-bound output of that colliery favoured the rival London and North Western via the colliery's own mineral line to a coal wharf near Atherstone on the L&NWR Trent Valley main line. However the terrain was not inviting and Baddesley was served from the Midland's own Kingsbury Colliery branch, winning it the lions share of the outbound traffic.

Ansley Hall was never a big colliery on the scale of Baddesley or Birch Coppice, payroll in 1896 was 297 men and in 1923 670 men. Some of its coal reserves were inaccessible due to a geological barrier and these were worked from the Stockingford Colliery.

For most of its existence it was under the control of the Phillips family, resident of Ansley Hall. The company was founded by William Garside Phillips, great-grandfather of Captain Mark Phillips, first husband of Princess Anne, Notable in its directorate in later years were chairman J.H.S. MacArthur, of 1 Bevoir Terrace, Cambridge, who also served as a director from 1923 until nationalisation in 1947., and several members of the Barlow family, headed by the eminent surgeon Sir Thomas Barlow, of the exalted address of 10 Wimpole Street, London and who was Chairman at the time of nationalisation . One director in later years was family member C.W. Phillips, also a director of the substantial colliery owners Barber Walker and Co, with several pits in Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire and two others and a coking plant near Doncaster in Yorkshire.

The colliery closed in 1959. It had produced mainly house coal which was distributed mainly in the Birmingham area and London, therefore its wagons would have been seen mainly on the lines of the former Midland and L&NW railways.

The wagon illustrated, of unknown origin, has five planks and side doors. Empty returns are to Stockingford, Midland Railway But the interesting feature is "Nuneaton Colliery" on the wagon side. This was a different colliery almost alongside Stockingford station. Little is known of the remainder of the wagon fleet.

Ansley Hall Colliery, Stockingford in Nuneaton Wagon No 260
Ref: kt350
K Turton
Ansley Hall Colliery, Stockingford in Nuneaton Wagon No 260 builder unknown

Stockingford Colliery

This short-lived colliery was unique in the Warwickshire coalfields in that it was a drift mine. There were no towering winding houses to pinpoint its location, access to the coal seams was via downward-inclined drifts, and coal hauled to the surface in tubs by a steam-powered winding house, Therefore at least one chimney was there to pinpoint its location. The drifts also provided man access, which must have been a scary experience as the miners would have had to duck down inside the tubs to avoid injury from the low ceiling. Drift mines were far more common in south Wales, where they were ideally suited by the steep hillsides and deep valleys. Two of the mines preserved for posterity and now mining museums, Caphouse in Yorkshire and Blaenavon in Wales, were drift mines, although both featured shafts for man access.

This also made them ideal for modellers, the surface buildings being far more simple, screens served by a trestle leading to an adit in an imaginary hillside. I included a plan of Stockingford in my 'Private Owner Wagons, a Second Collection', as an example of how to practically reproduce a working colliery in model form with little engineering skill and little space.

The years before the colliery was finally sunk in 1868 are dominated by George Skey, who has already appeared in this series through his connection with the terra cotta and brickworks at Wilnecote. Skey was attracted to this region and made more than one unsuccessful attempt to purchase land know to include coal reserves. It is possible that Stockingford coal may have been part of the reserves of the futures Ansley Hall Colliery, which is explained later.

From the time that it commenced production in 1872 Stockingford was widely known as a 'dry bread pit', a miners jargon for a workplace of poor or unsafe conditions, low pay and low morale.. The ownership of the Stockingford Colliery and Brick Company at the time is in doubt, the 1880 Mining Register gives its owners as Smallman and Company, which may relate to one Reuben Smallman, a former mine agent and surveyor born in Walsall in 1835. Smallman had been nosing around Nuneaton and the mining activity which surrounded it for some time and by the 1871 census, he was recorded as a colliery owner employing 70 men and 7 boys, although the precise colliery could not be identified, but the date could be Stockingford in its formative years. He also wore a second hat as a landowner and manager, living in Waddington Terrace, Hinckley. By 1881 he had moved to Nuneaton taking the profession of Mining Engineer.

Smallman achieved some recognition when he was called out in the middle of the night to help with the rescue of miners trapped by an underground fire on March 2nd, 1882 at the Baddesley Colliery. Although he was unfamiliar with the colliery layout, he swiftly organised the rescue effort and entered the burning colliery more than once to save the lives of more than one collier. For this he was awarded the Albert Medal First Class. He was seriously injured during the rescue, and presumably died before the 1891 census.

In 1894 the colliery ceased working, and the entire plant and machinery, including the adjacent brickworks, was sold by auction. (one source states that it went bankrupt twice) It is noted that in my Private Owner Wagons, a First Collection, a reference was made to the then known ownership of Stockingford Colliery. This was based on available information at the time and has since proved to be inaccurate)

Another source credits the principals of the owning company to include one David Bromilow, who lived in a rural mansion with no less than nineteen servants and served as High Sheriff of the County of Leicestershire. (however, it is considered that it would have been unlikely for Bromilow, or his associates, to have been involved in an unproven Warwickshire colliery when there was so much happening in Lancashire with expansion and development of new collieries).

Bromilow was born near St. Helens, Lancashire in 1810, and is recorded in the 1841 census as aged 31 and a colliery proprietor. The transcription to be found on the internet incorrectly describes his occupation as a coal miner, whereas the original hand-written document is clear that he was most definitely not. Such errors in transcription are not uncommon and an object lesson for researchers is to view also the original document.

Bromilow was one of a family of Lancastrians who were major players in the development of the St. Helens coalfield to become one of the wealthiest families in the county, the company developing into Bromilow Foster and Co. Ltd, which became one of the foundation stones from which Manchester Collieries Ltd emerged. Serving as a Magistrate in both Lancashire and Bedfordshire appears to have been a sideline to his colliery interests.

In 1851 he was a Magistrate based in Lancashire and living with wife Harriet and daughter Julia. Here a penchant for a phalanx of servants emerges as five were employed.

Moving on to 1861 Bromilow was described as a colliery owner and living at Harefinch House, Wimble, Lancashire with one less servant. Ten years later he was again a Magistrate, this time at Woburn in Bedfordshire with daughter Laura, son-in-law and fellow magistrate Herbert, together with a visiting Captain in the Royal Navy and fourteen servants. The same census reveals an otherwise undisclosed son, also David, away at boarding school. Here one starts to wonder why he left Lancashire and the family trade that he was born into and the wealth that it generated.

In 1881 he had moved to Leicestershire and lived in Bitteswell Hall, Lutterworth where he was described as a farmer of 280 acres and employing on the farm sixteen boys and two woman(sic) plus the usual retinue of servants. Ten years later he was living the life of a country gentleman, alone with 19 servants to cater for his needs.

Two other names have been mentioned in connection with the ownership of Stockingford Colliery. One was John Haddock, also a St. Helens colliery owner and a colleague of Bromilow the other a Mr. Dalglish, also possibly from Lancashire who could not be traced through census records.

Following the 1894 sale of the colliery, the major shareholder in the new company was the Ansley Hall Colliery. This came about by a seam of coal which was included in Ansley Hall's coal reserves that was inaccessible from that colliery due to a geological barrier, but could be, and was, worked from Stockingford. This might have been its salvation. Payroll in 1902 was 400 men, increased to 500 ten years later. The colliery closed in 1928.

The colliery appears never to have owned a shunting locomotive, horses being used. The trackwork was simple and consisted of probably two sidings, leading to tracks under the loading screens connected to the branch railway which went on to serve Ansley Hall Colliery.

It was not until 1898 that new Private Owner wagons were recorded for the company, fifty, numbered 1 to 50 were built by S.J. Claye of Long Eaton and registered with the Midland Railway. No explanation can be found as to why another thirty wagons were supplied by the Gloucester RC&WCo and numbered 1 to 30 in 1902 and also registered by the Midland Railway. They are recorded as being financed by the Baker and Hill families of Birmingham. The possibilities are that the first fifty were bought on a long term hire or lease and repossessed when the payments fell behind, or that it was a simple error on the part of the purchaser in duplicating the wagon numbers. That the colliery address is shown on the wagon side as Atherstone must have caused some unnecessary delays in returning empties despite the small print at bottom left giving less visible directions.

LMS railway photo
Ref: mrs1081
A 1902 Stockingford Colliery 7-plank open wagon built by Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company Ltd

The 1921 issue of the Midland Railway Distance Diagrams shows a fan of sidings on the up side of Stockingford station, connected direct to the mineral branch which served both Stockingford and Ansley Hall collieries. Running from these sidings were also, according to the diagram, loaded and empty sidings for Stanley's Nuneaton Colliery This should not be confused with Stanley's Siding which was connected to the sidings for the Griff Colliery and the former L&NWR line from Nuneaton to Coventry. The diagram had not caught up with the changes of ownership of neither Haunchwood or Nuneaton Collieries.

Nuneaton Old Colliery

Mining on the site dates back to the eighteenth century, when it is recorded that a Boulton and Watt steam engine was in use in 1797 and possibly before. Its ownership changed several times in the nineteenth century before it was taken over by Stanley Brothers in 1877 and developed into a profitable working colliery until the lease (and the coal) ran out in 1899. Stanley Brothers took an interest in the colliery, which was part of a much larger site occupied by brickworks and apart from a coal supply at the front door, here was also a large clayhole of almost unlimited expansion. Attention then was diverted to a new colliery site, which became known as Nuneaton New Colliery, which worked until 1922., its demise explained as due to excess mining. From the Midland Railway Distance Diagrams, one of the Stanley Brothers brickworks were also connected to the former L&NWR as part of the Griff Colliery Sidings. Also owned from 1894 was the Charity Colliery at Bedworth.(q.v.).

There is an enormous amount of material available on the internet about the history of Stanley Brothers ,their colliery and brickmaking interests and the individuals that were associated with the company, therefore in this instance it is not my intention to include a detailed account of the company, except that for many years it dominated the brick, tile and terra cotta industries of the Nuneaton landscape and diversified into engineering and other non-extractive industries.

Readers are referred to the following sites:

  • www.reginaldstanley.com
  • www.nuneatonhistory.com (follow the link to extractive industries.)

Peter Lee in his excellent reference book to the extractive industries of Warwickshire records (undated) the Private Owner wagon fleet of the Nuneaton Colliery and therefore may include others which were operated by Stanley Brothers and registered otherwise. as totalling 260 wagons, 70 from Yorkshire Wagon Co. (which would have been hired) 40 from the Midland RC&WCo, 50 from 'L.& N.' which could be the Lancashire and Yorkshire Wagon Co. and 100 from North-Eastern Wagon Co. which included 30 acquired from the Hawkesbury Colliery when it closed down in 1888. (as this was also a wagon hire company, these would have also been hired). Also recorded is that those allocated to the Nuneaton Colliery were lettered as such, and those allocated to the Charity colliery were lettered 'Bedworth'.Additional to the above, new wagons recorded were a hundred, numbered 1001 to 1100, were delivered by the Long Eaton wagon builder S.J.Claye in 1905. These were noted as having empty returns to Stanley's Sidings, Stockingford, Midland Railway.

Additional to the above, new wagons recorded were a hundred, numbered 1001 to 1100, were delivered by the Long Eaton wagon builder S.J.Claye in 1905. These were noted as having empty returns to Stanley's Sidings, Stockingford, Midland Railway.

Coal from the Nuneaton Colliery was well known for its steam raising qualities, The City of Birmingham Gas Department had a long standing contract with local coal factor J.C. Abbott for its locomotives, boilers and other steam raising plant. (but not gas production) There is a report that it was mined in large lumps which had to be hand-loaded into railway wagons.

LMS railway photo
Ref: misc_kt375
J Alsop
An undated photograph of a Nuneaton Colliery wagon taken on the GCR at Woodford and Hinton station

Chapel End Sidings

A short distance beyond the Stockingford Colliery was a group of short sidings which served quarrying and brickmaking industries. There appears to be no record of the original siding holders, but in 1916 one siding was occupied by Irelands and Knights, a quarrying firm who abandoned this interest to concentrate on the far more profitable and long lasting Mancetter Quarry on the L&NWR main line between Nuneaton and Atherstone. The company was also known to have owned narrow boats which worked from a wharf on the Coventry Canal. Co-incidentally, a neighbouring quarry and brickworks was established by Jee's who were also well represented on the Trent Valley line, and who also owned a brickworks for a short time at the Chapel End Sidings.

The other occupant listed in 1916 was the Premier Artificial Stone Co. Ltd., who carried on business at a site which saw several changes of occupancy since the early years of the 19th century. This company was one of many that manufactured building components such as pillars, porticoes, slabs and even statues from concrete. A similar works was located at the Dost Hill Sidings on the Midland Railway near Tamworth.

The siding was lifted in the 1930s.

CP Perry

In size this company was on the third rung from the top of the ladder of Birmingham coal factors and merchants.: The top level was held by the three giants of the trade, Evesons, J.C. Abbott & Co. and Wilson Carter and Pearson. Next came three others, substantial by any means, in Spencer Abbott, Alexander Comley and Lunt Bros. On the third rung down was a cluster of several who, not to be compared in size as those already listed, ran substantial trading operations from numerous depots scattered around the coal sidings of both of the constituents of the LM&S railway and to a lesser extent the Great Western. Firms like C.P.Perry, Leonard Leigh, Thomas Mottishead, Frank Knight and Lawrence Miller, although names not too familiar, could also be found in the records of the Coal Buying Committee of the Corporation of the City of Birmingham, participating in the lucrative trade that was offering through competitive tendering. Continuity in trade is confirmed by entries covering six years from 1934 to 1939.

Charles P. Perry & Son whose only known new wagon to be recorded is illustrated here, obviously operated a reasonable sized fleet. Three further wagons were built by the Birmingham RC&WCo. in 1924 and numbered 212-214 (others may have been either hired or acquired second hand. Perry traded mainly with Cannock Chase collieries, particularly Brereton, but also sourced anthracite from the Pontyberem Colliery in south Wales, which would most likely have been delivered in the colliery's own wagons. Although trading was mainly with Cannock Chase collieries with access mainly to formerly L&NWR lines, Perry's depots were mainly on the lines of the former Midland Railway.

The company remained in family hands and traded until at least 1938, and after the war until it was voluntarily wound up in 1979 The 1934 contracts awarded to Perry follow:

Department Tonnage Origin
Public Assistance Committee 35 Netherseal
Erdington House 3,850 Brereton
Maryhill Colony 950 Brereton
Schools 1,500 Griff
Fire stations 260 Brereton
Chief Constable's 490 Brereton
Mental Hospitals 2,000 Brownhills
  2,000 Pooley Hall
Tramways 200 Brereton

This totals 11,285 tons, 220 tons a week or 22-25 wagon loads.

Netherseal was in south Derbyshire and Brereton near Rugeley in Staffordshire. Pooley Hall and Griff were both Warwickshire collieries, Brownhills was in Cannock Chase Assuming Perry's own wagons were used, a fleet of at least fifty would be needed. And this is for one contract. Merchants of similar size usually included a selection of consumers from the known 3,000 industrial plants estimated to have been based in Birmingham.

Just as an aside some of the conditions of contract have to be read to be believed. Thomas Mottesheads contract with Westerly house for Brownhills coal carried the following directive. "delivered by canal boats and unloaded immediately. Coal (has) been thrown alongside the canal and allowed to remain for a time, then loaded into lorries and carted to the boiler house or stack. Very hard on weighbridge. Contractor paid when weighed." Imagine this in the 21st century!

Jees Harts Hill Granite and Brick Company Ltd

This company was founded in 1822 by Richard Gee, a descendent of a long list of landowners dating back to the sixteenth century. It, and several other quarries were located in the low range of hills which rose from above the Trent Valley main line of the London and North Western Railway between Nuneaton and Polesworth. It was granite that was mainly blasted and excavated, beneath that granite were coal beds worked on the far side of the hills, served by the line of the former Midland Railway between Nuneaton and Water Orton. Where the hills levelled off towards Polesworth and beyond as far as Tamworth coal was worked by several collieries extending southwards almost to the outskirts of Birmingham.

A siding was provided for Jee's quarries on the down side of the main line near the 100-milepost (from Euston) and its remains can still be seen from a passing train. The sidings may have also served other quarries is the immediate vicinity. The Jee's also owned a brickworks at Chapeltown on the Midland Railway line on the outskirts of Nuneaton. This venture was shortlived, working for only 13 years after its opening in 1890, This may even co-incide with Jee's first order for their own wagons which may have also worked from Chapeltown as well as the main quarry.

The body colour and lettering style of Jee's wagons can be authentically determined from an order book of wagon builders Charles Roberts of Wakefield. In what appears to be a unique occurrence, the written order from the purchaser, Jee's Harts Hill Granite and Brick Co. Ltd, on the company's lime green notepaper, was attached to the order book. The main lettering was from bottom left diagonally to top right, 'Harts Hill' at top left and 'nr. Atherstone' bottom right. Two orders totalling 24 wagons (no's 1 to 24) were placed in 1899. The wagons were built with five planks and side doors and painted lime green with black letters and ironwork. Previously Jee's had hired wagons from the Midland RC&WCo of Birmingham.

The internal narrow-gauge railway system was first used to a wharf on the nearby Coventry Canal, and may have originally used horse haulage. Rail traffic ceased in 1954, when road transport was preferred.

Pooley Hall Colliery

The colliery was located on the down side of the former L&NWR main line and was connected to the down slow line. It was sunk initially in 1847 as the first deep coal mine in Warwickshire, , but appears to have been closed for a period before a new opening date of 1877. It's location is easily pin-pointed from the M42 motorway, which bisects the site, the waste heap is prominent adjacent to the northbound lanes of the dual carriageway.

The Pooley Hall Colliery Co. Ltd. as recorded in 1923, its directors two members of the Burrell family of Alton, Hampshire and Colonel J. C. Chaytor, resident of Pooley Hall, a manor house adjoining the colliery itself. The Chaytor family, eventually in the form of Chairman/Managing Director Colonel D'arcy Chaytor, C.M.G., C.B.E. and Mrs A. G. Chaytor, were in control of the colliery company until it was placed in liquidation, upon nationalisation. By 1940, the control of the Tamworth Colliery had been acquired by the Chaytors.

The colliery was also situated on the Coventry Canal, where a rapid loader had eventually been installed, claimed to have been capable of loading a canal boat in ten minutes (this would mean two-and-a-half tons a minute!) Canal traffic would have been at one time very busy, in the 1930's the colliery was supplying the Birmingham electricity generating stations with 300 tons, or twelve canal boats, a week and was a regular source of supply to the Coventry power station at Longford. Coal traffic via the canal network ceased in the 1950's.

The company had its own wagon fleet but little information , or photographs, appear to have survived. During nationalisation Pooley Hall Colliery continued to work until its closure in 1965, but not before it wound coal from the Tamworth and Amington, collieries, transferred via drift which connected all three.. Accordingly, it was renamed North Warwickshire Colliery.

Kingsbury Colliery Branch

The main line junction at mileage 124m 77ch is still extant, as are some of the sidings adjacent to the main line Today, trains of petroleum products reverse from the main line into the Kingsbury Distribution Terminal, a feat of juggling which takes place several times a week when other traffic allows. Originally the branch was laid to serve the newly opened Kingsbury Colliery but subsequently extended to serve the Baddesley Colliery with a short branch to serve the collieries of Birch Coppice. Both Baddesley and Birch Coppice also had connections to the Coventry Canal , and Baddesley to the L&NWR Trent Valley main line.

Kingsbury Colliery

The Kingsbury Colliery could be called a modernised extension to the Hockley Hall Colliery and was sunk in 1893-4 and coal winning followed shortly afterwards By 1923 half a million tons were being lifted annually, a figure still achieved ten years later with an unusually high payroll of 1,739 men. The directors of the company as at 1923, were all based outside of the Warwickshire coalfield. Chairman was Edward Dexter, of Ironmonger Lane, London, Directors were HJ Gardiner, of Basinghall Street, London; CA Jones, of Coleman Street, London; TT Moyes, of Bexley-on-Sea and Sir Geo. Touche, of Basildon House, London.

Secretary was former Colliery Clerk and son of a railway signalman James Henry Harper, of Dost Hill, who remained Secretary until 1940 and possibly beyond, to have risen to Director status at the time of Nationalisation, rising in residential stature to 'High Wynyard', Nether Whitacre, and along the way giving his initials to a rake of Private Owner Wagons connected with the colliery.

Kingsbury Colliery was one of the handful in the country that painted its own wagons green, the correct colour is Deep Meadow Green. Of the several model reproductions, the most accurate is the Peco Wonderful Wagon released in the 1950s. The foundation of the wagon fleet were those take over from the Hockley Hall Colliery, which operated three hundred wagons of reasonable vintage, most of which were rebranded in the Kingsbury colours. Two hundred new wagons were purchased in 1908-9 from the Peterborough works of Thomas Moy Ltd.

In 1932 work commenced on the sinking of a satellite colliery to be named Dexter, after the company Chairman. An internal mineral railway connected the two collieries.. It was this seam of coal which encouraged the National Coal Board to exploit it further, which resulted in the brand new Daw Mill Colliery being sunk. In the late 1930s the Kingsbury Colliery Company made an investment in Coote and Warren Limited, one of the largest rural coal merchants in the country covering the whole of East Anglia and parts of London. This was not unusual, the very substantial Derbyshire colliery companies Butterley and Bolsover both had financial interests in Coote and Warren, whose coal sales in the late 1930s were over 800,000 tons a year.

Birch Coppice Colliery

The site of the colliery was well known to travellers on the A5 Watling Street near the interchange with the M42 motorway. And for some time after its closure in 1986, for the towering spoil heaps could be seen for some distance and remained partly after the site was cleared and is now an industrial estate. The Birch Coppice pit was under the ownership of Messrs Morris and Shaw Limited, who worked it up until nationalisation. The only Morris that can be identified from census records is Charles Hopkins Morris, born in Polesworth in 1866, of Hall End, Warwickshire, described as a colliery proprietor and magistrate. . in 1923 here were two members of the Morris family on the Board of directors, C.A. and F.A., together with C. Haywood-Farmer and Mrs E.M.E. Ransom of Thoroton Hall, Aslockton, Notts. By 1933 "and Brickworks" was added to the title of the company, marking an expansion into a traditional sideline of the Warwickshire colliery. In that year the directorship had been strengthened by the addition of Captain (R.N.) J.A.A. Morris from the next generation.

There were a number of small mining operations, all short-lived, around where Birch Coppice was sunk. One predecessor, Birchmoor, was sunk in 1850 and closed in 1887. This is known to have operated a "tramway" to the Coventry Canal a short distance to the east of the village of Polesworth. A further pit was sunk nearby and was deepened in 1915 to 1918 to be closed in 1921 and retained for pumping. The final pit, universally known as Hall End, was sunk in 1875 and coal winding commenced three years later. The complex consisted of two independent pits almost side by side which became known as Hall End no's 1 and 2. A third pit, known as Wood End, is shown on the 1916 Midland Railway Distance Diagram as being connected by internal railway to the two main pits. This was sunk in 1911 and worked from 1914 to 1921, to be retained for pumping.

The rail connection was to the Kingsbury Branch of the Midland Railway by means of a short spur from the colliery branch at mileage 127m 23ch. The 1916 Distance Diagram also shows a tramway from the Hall End pits to the Coventry Canal. This may have been the same tramway that served the Birchmoor pit.

The earliest known wagons operated by the company were built by Thomas Hunter of Rugby. Fifty were supplied by the Midland RC&WCo, of Birmingham and a further 20 by Thomas Moy of Peterborough in 1908, and Midland supplied a further forty in 1922. In 1937 alarge order was placed with Thomas Hunter, a comparatively small builder, for 150. These were unusual for wagons operated by a colliery in that they had side doors only, no end or bottom doors and numbered 901 to 1050. During the second world war while wagon pooling was in effect, Hunter built a further hundred wagons under a Government scheme to build a limited number of new wagons which, \although they may have been technically owned by Morris and Shaw, went straight into the wagon pool as soon as they left the builder. Known photographs of the company's wagons fearture the name of the colliery owners prominently.

Birch Coppice coal was highly regarded for domestic use and an unconfirmed report claims that it was favoured by Windsor Castle. In 1896 1,090 men were employed, rising to 1,492 in 1923 and 1,650 in 1933.

Baddesley Colliery

A full description of the colliery was given in conjunction with its connection with the L&NWR Trent Valley main line and a wharf on the Coventry Canal, with the star of the show the Beyer Garratt locomotive "Henry Francis" which worked traffic on it for many years from its introduction in 1937. Since that was written, further information has come to light The colliery was sunk in 1851 ,combining the workings of three small collieries, one of which is said to have been working in 1817 with a narrow-gauge tramway to the canal wharf. When the LNWR Trent Valley main line was opened, the tramway was rebuilt to standard gauge to both the LNWR and the canal wharf. The oldest surviving agreement with the LNWR is dated 1871 Traffic to the canal was discontinued in 1965, and the railway to the main line sidings closed in 1974. The colliery closed in 1989.

At times colliery-owned wagons were surplus, particularly during the slack summer months. In 1910 the Baddesley Colliery hired to Thomas Coote Limited a hundred wagons from May 25th for three months There is little evidence from surviving records to show if they were also used to deliver coal rather than travelling empty, at the time Exhall was the only Warwickshire colliery patronised by this coal merchant. It is now emphasised that the main outlet for Baddesley coal was the extension of the Kingsbury Colliery branch to the colliery, bringing the total length of the branch to 4m 66ch. and how this was achieved can be found in the rostered shunting and trip turns detailed below:

Working the Kingsbury Colliery Branch

No less than eight trip workings were rostered in 1955/6 from the Saltley Locomotive Depot. Some also included shunting turns at goods yards and other industries on the way from Washwood Heath sidings, most likely to collect empty coal wagons required by the collieries. All trips are Monday to Saturday unless otherwise stated.

  • Target 21 (4F tender loco) Start 12.01a.m. shunt Bromford Bridge, Kingsbury Branch, change over with trip 57 loco, finish Kings Norton 4.20a.m.
  • Target 29 (3F tender loco) Start 9.50a.m. shunt Duddeston, Lawley Street, Water Orton, Metro Cammell, Bromford Bridge, Kingsbury Branch, Lawley Street 12.40pm. then as required till 6p.m.
  • Target 50 (3F tender loco) Start 6.18a. m. Lawley Street, Kingsbury Branch, , Kingsbury Colliery, Hall End(a.k.a Birch Coppice) Colliery, Whitacre Junction, Washwood Heath front fan, finish 5.15p.m. Sundays only: two trips to Kingsbury Colliery and Whitacre
  • Target 55 (4F tender loco) Start 1.40p.m. Kingsbury Branch Sidings, change over engine from trip 57, Kingsbury Colliery, Kings Norton, finish Saltley 8.40a.m.
  • Target 56 (3F tender loco) Start 6.45a.m. Bromford Bridge, Water Orton, Hams Hall, Kingsbury Branch, Whitacre,, Water Orton, Dunlop, Castle Bromwich, finish 1.10a.m.
  • Target 57 (4F tender loco) Start 5.30a..m. Monday to Sunday.. Kingsbury, Hall End and Baddesley colliery sidings. Seven trips to Hall End, two trips to Baddesley and four trips to Kingsbury collieries; to Whitacre and Hams Hall as required, change over with engines from trip 55 and trip 21, Water Orton 4a.m. couple to engine off trip 21 finish 5a.m.
  • Target 58 (4F tender loco) Start 5.40a.m. Kingsbury Branch Sidings. Two trips to Hall End, and one trip to Baddesley collieries, three trips to Hams Hall assisted by engine off trip 50,. `12 37p.m. to 2.40p.m. assist Kingsbury Branch sidings by trip 57 finish 10.25p.m.
  • Target 59 (3F tender loco) start 9.45a.m. Bromford, Kingsbury and Hall End collieries finish 4.25p.m.

It is apparent that some of the longer shifts would have required relief engine crews and it is assumed that these men travelled by scheduled train to and from Kingsbury station. There was one trip working from Burton-on-Trent shed that made a scheduled call at the colliery sidings. Hams Hall was the City of Birmingham's electricity generating station a short distance from Whitacre Junction on the line to Nuneaton, and Bromford was the home of the Stewarts and Lloyds pipeworks. With a track diagram and a clock, try juggling all of these movements and pinpoint on the map where each engine should be at any given time!!.

Views along the Kingsbury Branch

A Private Owner Wagon marked J.H.H, the initials of James Henry Harper, one time colliery clerk who became Secretary of the Kingsbury Colliery
Ref: misc_indust361
A PO Wagon marked J.H.H, the initials of James Henry Harper, who became Secretary of the Kingsbury Colliery
An unidentified ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F is seen at the head of an empty wagon train bound for Kingsbury Colliery
Ref: misc_indust362
A Pratt
An unidentified ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F is seen at the head of an empty wagon train bound for Kingsbury Colliery
An unidentified ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F locomotive is seen coupled to a brakevan as it approaches the bank past Kingsbury Colliery
Ref: misc_indust365
A Pratt
An ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F locomotive is seen coupled to a brakevan as it approaches the bank past the Colliery
An unidentified ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F locomotive is seen coupled to a brakevan as it ascends the bank past Kingsbury Colliery
Ref: misc_indust363
A Pratt
An ex-LMS 2-8-0 8F locomotive is seen coupled to a brakevan as it ascends the bank past Kingsbury Colliery
Ex-LMS 4-6-0 5MT No 44828 is seen entering the spur to Hall End & Birch Coppice Colliery from the Kingsbury Branch
Ref: misc_indust364
A Pratt
Ex-LMS 4-6-0 5MT No 44828 is seen entering the spur to Hall End & Birch Coppice Colliery from the Branch

Ex LMS 4-6-0 'Stanier Black Five' No 44828 is seen propelling a rake of wagons towards Baddesley Colliery
Ref: misc_indust366
A Pratt
Ex LMS 4-6-0 'Stanier Black Five' No 44828 is seen propelling a rake of wagons towards Baddesley Colliery
Ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 No 48646 is seen at the head of train of empty wagons bound for Baddesley Colliery
Ref: misc_indust367
A Pratt
Ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 No 48646 is seen at the head of train of empty wagons bound for Baddesley Colliery
View of Kingsbury Branch Sidings Signal Box seen on 9th August 1969 shortly before its closure
Ref: misc_indust368
A Pratt
Ex-LMS 4-6-0 5MT No 44828 is seen entering Hall End Colliery with a train of empty steel bodied mineral wagons
A general view of Kingsbury Colliery's two shafts and buildings with mainly Midland Railway wagons in evidence
Ref: misc_indust369
View of Kingsbury Colliery's two shafts and buildings with mainly Midland Railway wagons in evidence
View of Kingsbury Branch Sidings Signal Box seen on 9th August 1969 shortly before its closure
Ref: mrk1118
W Wright
View of Kingsbury Branch Sidings Signal Box seen on 9th August 1969 shortly before its closure

Looking to Birmingham with the yet to be commissioned Shunting Frame seen on the right on 9th August 1969
Ref: mrk1121
W Wright
Looking to Birmingham with the yet to be commissioned Shunting Frame seen on the right on 9th August 1969

Wilnecote Colliery to Kingsbury Junction

On the down side of the line was a series of sidings serving collieries, quarries and brickworks. What is presented here is taken from the only available references, the Midland Railway Distance diagrams of 1916 and 1921, and may not be complete. Private sidings are always difficult to record unless a year by year account of a given track section can be found. They were often of a short duration, and confusion as to the identity of the siding holder is often accounted as the occupiers trading names were changed, went out of business, new industries located or that they were left unoccupied for a given length of time.

Wilnecote Colliery

From the 1916 Midland Railway Distant Diagrams, there were two sidings on the down side less than half a mile before the Wilnecote station and its adjoining bridge carrying Watling Street. At mileage 128m 8ch was the signal box controlling Perrins and Harrisons Siding, and at mileage 128m 0ch was the junction and signal box for Skey's 'Brick & Works & Colliery'.

The original Wilnecote Colliery was sunk in the 1840s by Messrs Wood and Greenwood. The same partnership sank the nearby Tame Valley pit in 1858. Between 1864 and 1869 the colliery ownership was recorded as by R & J Knock. There are also references to a second Wilnecote Colliery, which may have been known as New Wilnecote, being sunk by Messrs Perrins and Harrison in 1855 This was abandoned in 1879.

Enter now some long-remembered names in the brick, tile and terra cotta field. In 1880 one of the collieries is recorded in a mining register as owned by Gibbs and Canning, whose earlier ownership of collieries and terra-cotta works has been described already under Tamworth. This may have been a revival of the New Wilnecote Colliery. Another reference states that George Skey, equally noted in the same industry, took over the original Wilnecote Colliery from the Knocks.

George Skey

Skey commenced making earthenware pots, containers, jars, glazed pottery and terra-cotta ware in 1860. The factory was generally known as the Wilnecote works and is shown as such in an 1880 Ordnance Survey. Map. In 1864 his colliery was raising 300 tons of coal a week.. By 1871 he was producing gas stoves, kitchenware, glazed stoneware, pipes, gullies and sinks. The company continued to prosper and carried on until 1936, when it was purchased by Doulton Insulators. The whole site, with its towering chimneys, was well known to travellers along the adjoining Watling Street. It was closed and demolished in 1981. The site is now a Morrison's supermarket.

George Skey was born near Bewdley, Worcestershire in 1819. The first reference through census records appears in 1851 at the age of 32, trading as a common carrier from 2 Lansdown Terrace, Wolverhampton Twenty years later he appears as a coal master and iron merchant with wife Caroline at Bonehill, Fazeley and, despite no children still found it necessary to employ five servants to warrant (or boast about) his status. In 1881 he had moved up to be a colliery proprietor (see Tame Valley Colliery, q.v.) with no mention at any time of his quarrying, brick making or glazed stoneware interests. He had now become a Justice of the Peace and later became a Stipendiary Magistrate,. In 1891 the last entry shows that he had moved to Upton-on-Severn still with his colliery interests.

The main line junction was at mileage 128m 0ch. The 1916 Diagram records the adjoining signal box as "Perrin and Harrison's Siding S.B." and the siding as "Skeys Wilnecote Brick & Works & Colliery Siding". Wilnecote station at mileage 127m 59ch appears next.

Tame Valley Colliery

The siding was on the down side of the double-tracked main line at mileage 127h 25ch. and was sunk in 1858 by Messrs Wood and Greenwood, who were declared bankrupt in 1863. From 1869 it was recorded as owned by George Skey. From 1923 to 1940, it was listed in Colliery Directories as George Skey and Co and in 1923 employed 560 men at two individual collieries, Tame Valley and Beachamp. reduced to 117 ten years later. The colliery was still working in 1928.

Hockley Hall Colliery and Brickworks

Located at mileage 126m 62ch (Hockley Hall) and the associated Whateley Colliery at 126m 38ch, these two pits were the southernmost on the down side on the Midland Railways line between Tamworth and Kingsbury Junction. The journey of a little under five miles would have presented to the traveller an almost endless procession of railway sidings, a moonscape of clay pits, an assortment of smoke-ridden colliery surface buildings and a forest of brickworks chimneys. The Hockley Hall Colliery was sunk circa 1850 the railway sidings date back to at least 1862, to be expanded in 1881.

The Hockley Hall Colliery Co. was formed in 1872. the 1880 Mining Register lists its owner as one J. Spencer Balfour, who, recorded history reveals, was the perpetrator of one of the greatest financial scandals of the end of the nineteenth century.

Born in 1844 with a silver spoon in his mouth, Balfour was the son of James Balfour, self-styled Manager of the House of Commons but in reality a Parliamentary Messenger and author Clara Balfour. At the age of seventeen, he was working as an "agents clerk" and living with the family at Holmsdale Road, Reigate, Surrey. Ten years later he had advanced to a Parliamentary Agent and living with wife Eileen at 55 Thornton Heath, Croydon. In 1880 he was elected Member of Parliament for the seat of Tamworth, coincidental with being recorded as the owner of Hockley Hall Colliery. He held the seat until 1885, when he moved to a more distant electorate in Burnley from 1889 to 1893 The 1881 census records him living in Wellesley Place, Croydon and describing him as a Member of Parliament and a director of public companies.

In 1891 he was no longer an M.P. but retained the description of director of public companies. He lived at 4 Marlborough Gate, Paddington with a son and daughter and five servants. A year later a great fraud scandal hit the heart of the City of London involving first the London General Bank, several others, and finally the Liberator Building Co-op, the largest such institution in the country, both Balfour's companies which brought about his downfall. Thousands of small investors lost their entire savings One step ahead of the law, he fled the country, but was traced to Argentina by a diligent Scotland Yard detective who arrested him, and as there no extradition arrangements, bundled him onto a cargo ship with a huge flock of sheep for company.

He was tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to fourteen years gaol, and released in 1906. Balfour died in 1916, ironically in a train on the way to South Wales at the age of 72. There is no record of his whereabouts in the census of 1911.

A large fleet of new wagons were purchased by the company. No's 401 to 700 were delivered by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. in February 1894, Many of these were absorbed into the initial fleet of the Kingsbury Colliery.

The colliery was abandoned in 1902 and the assets of the Hockley Hall and Whateley Collieries and Brickworks, were taken over as a going concern by the newly formed Kingsbury Colliery Company.

The Whateley Colliery was in production by 1872, when railway sidings were provided. In `1880 it was under the control of the Hockley Hall Colliery Co. It was finally closed and abandoned in 1914.

Kingsbury Junction to Wilnecote

In the up direction, there were two groups of sidings, Cliff Brick Company at mileage 125m 65ch and the Dost Hill Granite Company's siding at mileage 126m 40ch.

Cliff Brick Company

The Cliff Brick Company was a subsidiary of the Hathern Brick Company, located between Loughborough and Trent Junction on the Midland Railway main line and best known for its Hathernware brand of earthenware products. The Hathern Station Brick and Terra Cotta Co. was established by George and James Hodson in 1874. In 1902 a Limited Company was registered with a capital of £40,000 in £10 shares. The Cliff Brick Company commenced brickmaking in 1870 and was closed in 1969. It was best known for its blue and red bricks but also produced tiles and earthenware.

Dost Hill Granite Company

The sidings of the company were on the opposite side of the Midland (later LMS) Railway to those of the Whateley Colliery. An excellent 1934 aerial photo (EPW 044462) shows the expansive nature of the brick works, with a huge clay pit, three towering chimneys and a batch of circular ovens, the railway separating the site from the colliery sidings, both upon which wagons can be seen.

The origin of industry on the site, as shown in the company's trading name, was a granite quarry which was renowned for the quality of its stone and worked, possibly throughout the nineteenth century, until 1934, when quarrying 155 feet below the surface level released a torrent of underground water which flooded the quarry and operations came to a sudden halt, leaving the brickworks still working, taken over in that year by Stoneware Ltd.

In more recent years the Dost Hill site has achieved some recognition of a totally different way, the former quarry, now filled with water, was acquired by the British Sub-aqua Club for use as a training centre for Scuba diving in dangerous locations, such as caves and drilling platforms in the open sea.

‘The Dost Hill Colliery, owned by a J. Pearson, was established in the 1860s and worked until 1880.

A small fleet of six Private Owner wagons numbered 51 to 56 was used by the company, these were built by the Midland RC&WCo. of Birmingham and registered with the Midland Railway whose records note that "fitted with 2' 9" bodies".

Wilnecote and Kettlebrook Public Goods Sidings

From Wilnecote Station on the up side were two groups of sidings, the first being the public goods sidings for the station on the opposite side of the bridge carrying Watling Street, the present A5, over the railway and also opposite the Wilnecote Signal Box.

The Kettlebrook Sidings at mileage 128m 70ch were opposite the Glascote Curve North Junction and apparently controlled from that signal box. These sidings were in existence in 1921 and possibly some time before, and appear to have been public goods sidings with three roads and a goods shed road. It is likely that they were used as an alterative to the Midland Railway's goods yard at Tamworth itself, with its difficult access and cramped conditions. The dominant industrial feature was the Kettlebrook Mill, a large industry described in 1928 as a paper mill, but in 1947 as an asbestos and cement factory. A 1928 aerial photograph shows a siding leading into the mill premises. The image also shows that the chord at Glascote South Junction, leading to the down main line of the Midland Railway, was still in existence in that year, with wagons standing on it.

This mill existed as early as 1900 when eight new wagons, numbered 012 to 019 were delivered by the Long Eaton builder S.J.Claye.

In the early part of the nineteenth century there was also a colliery at Kettlebrook owned in 1850 by a Thomas Dumolo. Following his death (ca. 1857) it was worked and administered by the executors of his estate It was recorded as working in 1875 and 1880, and closed permanently in 1895, after a few years of ownership by local Member of Parliament William Hanbury. There is no evidence of a private siding, but a narrow gauge tramway, possibly horse-drawn, ran from the colliery to the Glascote canal wharf. To confuse matters there are contemporary references to two collieries, one known as Kettlebrook, and the other known as Dumolo's. The only reference that can be found for Dumolo is that he was born in Measham, Leicestershire in 1833 and a Land Surveyor. If this is correct Dumulo must have been a colliery owned at the age of 17 and only 24 when he died.

Kettlebrook was possibly unique in that it was the only colliery in the region without a brickworks.

Tamworth, Glascote and Amington Collieries and Gibbs & Canning

Gibbs & Canning

The terracotta and brickworks of Gibbs and Canning on the outskirts of Tamworth are one of many which were served by the Midland Railway between Tamworth and Water Orton, together with a number of collieries which were under common ownership in this unusually concentrated length of track which desecrated what was once a serene rural part of Warwickshire and disfigured it with holes, quarries, brickworks, collieries and railway sidings.

The architectural products and statues turned out by the company were of exceptional quality and in great demand in London, Manchester and nationwide. The Manchester Town Hall and the National History Museum and Albert Hall in London were built from Gibbs and Canning terra-cotta, as were several important structures in Birmingham.

Subsequently there was a pattern of ownership of both collieries and brickworks by several entrepreneurs all along both sides of the Midland Railway line between the present day stations of Wilnecote and Water Orton.

Gibbs and Canning commenced brickmaking in 1847, the same year as the London and North Western Railway's Trent Valley line between Rugby and Stafford reached Tamworth From the skimpy and sometimes conflicting records that survive, it appears that concurrently they were also involved in the sinking of the nearby Glascote and Amington collieries, on either side of the claypits, and a further pit named Third Park, closed 1856. That Glascote was in operation in 1850 under their ownership is confirmed by a newspaper advertisement.

Three years later, Gibbs and Canning's collieries were in production and, it can be confirmed on strong evidence that they were among the first, if not THE first, colliery owners to consider Private Owner wagons to transport their products, in this case dominated by the brickworks output . When the Midland Waggon (sic) Company opened its doors for business selling and hiring wagons in May 1853. Page One of the first minute book recorded that "fifty wagons were offered to Gibbs and Canning".

John Gibbs was born in Worcestershire in 1806, and in 1841 can be found living in Tardebigge where he spent at least twenty further years. After 1861 the trail goes cold. Similarly there is only one census entry for the Cannings. Charles Canning, obviously a son of the founder was aged 36 in 1881, born in Birmingham in 1845 and living in Tamworth.

Thompson & Southwick

Leading from the Midland Railways main line between Tamworth and Wilnecote on the down side was the once-triangular connection to the private railway of the Amington and Glascote collieries, from which ran a short siding near the Glascote canal basin. This served the engineering works of Thompson and Southwick, which specialised in the manufacture of the giant pulleys so familiar atop the headgear of the traditional colliery, up to fourteen feet in diameter.

Glascote Colliery

The Glascote colliery was originally connected to the former L&NWR Trent Valley main line a short distance to the east of Tamworth station. This connection also served the Amington Colliery and finally the Alvecote Colliery of the Tamworth Colliery Co. There were two pits, Glascote and Amington, both also connected by a mineral railway to a basin on the Coventry Canal and later to the Midland Railway between Tamworth and Wilnecote stations. The ownership of the company was assumed in 1858 by the Firestone (sic) family (Thomas Anney, "The death of the Warwickshire Coalfield" from the Internet).

In 1890 the Glascote and Amington collieries employed 457 men. By 1923 there was obviously a shake-up in the company's management which revealed that during the period 1890 to 1903 members of the Firmstone family to the board room. Directors were Messrs F..J.S.B Firmstone, H.L.Firmstone, P.L.Firmstone and G.A. Grayston . Right up until nationalisation the Firmstone's and George Arthur Grayston remained as directors of the company. Since 1923 the payroll had remained steady but Amington was closed during the war years, subsequently Glascote and the nearby Tamworth Colliery were joined to Pooley Hall Colliery for coal winding via an unusually spacious underground adit to become the North Warwick Colliery.

The company owned a small fleet of wagons of which very little information has survived. Twenty were delivered in 1924, ten each from S.J. Claye of Long Eaton and the Birmingham RC&W Company.

A surviving British Railways Working Timetable of 1955 (kindly loaned by Bob Essery) lists all yard pilot, trip working and shunting rosters from the former Midland Railway sheds in the Birmingham area Those that cover the Tamworth area are listed below. That they include several industrial sidings is confirmation that these sidings were still generating traffic at that time.

From Saltley shed, target 61 worked by a 4F locomotive was given the following tasks: Off shed 10.40a.m., shunt Lawley Street, Water Orton, Kingsbury branch Whateley, Kettlebrook, Tamworth and Coleshill, finish at 6.48p.m. From the Burton-on-Tent shed, target 129 shunted all sidings between Tamworth and Kingsbury including the former L&NWR yard at Tamworth.

Tamworth Colliery

The colliery, known from the beginning as Alvecote was sunk in 1875, conveniently alongside the Coventry Canal a short distance to the east of Tamworth. Nearby was the Trent Valley line of the London ad North Western Railway, to which is was connected by the existing private mineral line of the Glascote and Amington collieries. The original owner was a Charles Marshall, who was declared bankrupt in 1884. In 1880 a new management team headed by a Londoner in Richard Chamberlain, who immediately appointed Langford Ridsdale as Manager.

In 1923 it was producing 200,000 tons of mainly household coal with 868 men, a figure that saw little change until the onset of the second world war. Despite this, there was a move during the war to close it down, its output considered of insufficient importance to profitably maintain its operation. This was even debated in Parliament, and strongly opposed by Birmingham industry engaged in wartime production as this was where much of the colliery's output was consumed. Common sense prevailed, and the colliery was saved, to work until 1951 when all of its production was transported via a drift adit to the Pooley Hall Colliery and raised there.

This raise a point about the colliery railway. It connected with the former Midland Railway south of Tamworth at Glascote Junction, it would have been appropriate for the Alvecote coal destined for Birmingham to be transported accordingly, rather than via the former L&NWR route, being connected only to that company's slow line and possibly a roundabout route which is difficult to determine. But a conundrum is raised, outside of a wartime emergency was it used as such regularly? The conundrum is partly resolved by Thomas Anney (q.v.) who records that the Glascote colliery was connected by its own mineral line to the Glascote canal basin and the L&NWR sidings at the Amington colliery in the 1840s and the Tamworth Colliery was in fact sunk subsequently, but it does not resolve the question: was it used also for the Tamworth Colliery's coal for the Birmingham area to be despatched via the Glascote company's railway to the Midland interchange sidings. and eventually the Midland Railway AND ALSO to the L&NWR sidings near Tamworth?

The 1923 board of management was: Chairman Walford Green of Bishops Teignton, Devon, born 1870 at Ealing, Middlesex, a barrister-at-law and the son of the Reverend Walford Green and Mary Green. He was also a Member of Parliament for Wednesbury between 1895 and 1906. He died in 1941.

Managing Director Langford Ridsdale was born John Langford Wearwood Ridsdale in 1854 at Cradley Heath, living at Kelfield Lodge, Streetley. In 1871 his C.V. is more interesting. He was a boarder at the Wolverhampton home of George Holt, a schoolmaster and Professor of Music. At 15 years old, he was already an articled pupil to a mining engineer. After graduating from Kings College, Cambridge, by 1881 he was living with his widowed ( and now annuitant) mother at 12 Bernard Street, Walsall.

Three years later he became manager of the Tamworth Colliery Company. and by 1891 he had moved to The Cedars, Tamworth as a colliery manager and mining engineer with wife Mary, children Harold, John, Marion and Elizabeth and five servants. Son Harold was later to become colliery manager at the Alvecote colliery.

Mention of these three collieries would not be complete without highlighting a very famous canal carrier who cut his teeth on the output of the local collieries, transporting coal to London vie the Grand Union Coventry and Oxford canals. This was Samuel Barlow(1847-1890) who started up business from a Glascote wharf in 1870 with two boats and amassed a fleet that was famous throughout the company's career and in still remembered today in the several boats which have been restored and carry his colours. The firm carried on under his` descendents until 1962. During winter months when the canals were frozen, he hired a fleet of railway wagons bearing his name to maintain the service while the boats were docked and inactive. Deservedly, a canalside inn now bears his name.

In the photograph 'lnwr_tam1244' four Tamworth Colliery wagons can be seen on the up slow line, possibly taken from the end of the down platform at Tamworth station. A down fast express train is approaching, hauled by an L&NWR "Precedent" class locomotive. The ugly structure dominating the background is the pumping house for the nearby River Anker The points in the foreground are the crossover from down fast to down slow lines and what could be the connection to the colliery itself. here is little to add to describe the wagons, the nearest has dumb buffers, four planks and two heavy wooden doorstops, Body colour appears to be light grey with white shaded lettering.

Private Owner Wagons in Warwickshire

WH Thane of Leamington Private Owner Wagon No 21
Ref: kt618
Gloucester RC&WCo
WH Thane of Leamington Private Owner Wagon No 21 built by GRC&W
WR Robinson & Co Coal Merchants Kenilworth & Leamington No 2
Ref: kt619
Gloucester RC&WCo
WR Robinson & Co Coal Merchants Kenilworth & Leamington No 2
JH Rainbow Coal & Wood Merchant Leamington PO Wagon No 5
Ref: kt620
Gloucester RC&WCo
JH Rainbow Coal & Wood Merchant Leamington PO Wagon No 5
MC Ashwin & Son Coal Merchants Stratford-on-Avon PO Wagon No 24
Ref: kt621
Gloucester RC&WCo
MC Ashwin & Son Coal Merchants Stratford-on-Avon PO Wagon No 24
Lockhurst Lane Co-operative Society Ltd, Foleshill, Private Owner Wagon No 15
Ref: kt622
Gloucester RC&WCo
Lockhurst Lane Co-operative Society Ltd, Foleshill, PO Wagon No 15

WH Thane of Leamington Private Owner Wagon No 21
Ref: kt633
Gloucester RC&WCo
Leamington Priors Gas Company No 10 Leamington built by GRC&W
Richard White & Sons Coal Wagon No 109 built by the Gloucester RC&WCo in 1924 and painted Azure Blue with Whilte lettering
Ref: mre2027
Gloucester RC&WCo
Richard White & Sons coal wagon No 109 built in 1924 by the GRC&WCo
Edgar Shrimpton Coal Merchant, Redditch No 1 Wagon built by GRC&W Co
Ref: kt344
Gloucester RC&WCo
Edgar Shrimpton Coal Merchant, Redditch No 1 Wagon built by GRC&W Co
Coventry Corporation Gas Department Wagon No 161
Ref: kt345
Cusworth Hall Collection
Coventry Corporation Gas Department Wagon No 161 built by BRCW Co
View of the one hundred wagons for Warwickshire Coal Co built by MRC&WCo
Ref: kt346
Midland RC&WCo
View of the one hundred wagons for Warwickshire Coal Co built by MRC&WCo

WH Thane of Leamington Private Owner Wagon No 21
Ref: kt347
Gloucester RC&WCo
Alfred Jukes of Camp Hill Wharf Wahon No 29 built by Gloucester RC&WCo
Lifford Coal Company Wagon No 1 built by Gloucester RC&W Company
Ref: kt348
Gloucester RC&WCo
Lifford Coal Company Wagon No 1 built by Gloucester RC&W Company
WJ Busby & Son of Camp Hill Wagon No 7 built by Gloucester RC&W Company
Ref: kt349
Gloucester RC&WCo
WJ Busby & Son of Camp Hill Wagon No 7 built by Gloucester RC&W Company
LMS railway photo
Ref: mrs1081
A 1902 Stockingford Colliery 7-plank open wagon built by Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company Ltd
  Ansley Hall Colliery, Stockingford in Nuneaton Wagon No 260
Ref: kt350
K Turton
Ansley Hall Colliery, Stockingford in Nuneaton Wagon No 260 builder unknown

Keith Turton