23 April 2010

D. H. Lawrence and Brinsley Headstocks, Brinsley, Nottinghamshire

This is the site of Brinsley Colliery.

When D. H. Lawrence's father was a miner here, Barber, Walker & Co were the owners. Lawrence famously used to collect his father's pay from a building in Eastwood, a mile away, which has been shown previously on this blog. Of the colliery itself, only the headstocks remain. A boiler and winding engine stood to the right of them, with railway tracks on the left. Over this was a screening plant where the coal would be put into size and quality order and then dropped through onto wagons below. Once they were full, the wagons would pass to the mineral railway line and join the main Langley Mill line, The footpath here is on the track of the old railway line.

Horses and ponies were used throughout the history of Brinsley Colliery. The animals were stabled underground and came out only briefly during the summer. In 1907 there were 47 of them in use at the colliery. In the first part of the 19th century, children, often under 10, would work for up to 14 hours in mines. Where sections of the mine were too low for horses and ponies, children would pull the wagons with a belt fastened to their waists. In 1843 a minimum age of 10 was set for underground juvenile work, this being increassed to 13 in 1877.

On 10 June 1883, two years before Lawrence's birth, there was an explosion in the colliery in which two men - William Dunn, an ostler, and Charles Wright, a laborer - lost their lives. 14 horses were also killed. The accident left an indelible impression on the community, strong enough for Lawrence to incorporate it into an early short story: 'The Odour of Chrysanthemums'.

In 1930 the colliery ceased production, but the shafts were left open until 1970 for the miners to acccess nearby colleries. The headstocks were preserved as an important feature of mining history and moved to the National Mining Museum at Lound in Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire. On the closure of the museum, they were moved back to Brinsley where they are now part of a picnic area.

By the parking lot here is Vine Cottage, former home of Lawrence's Aunt Polly, whose husband met his death in a mining accident. She features prominently in 'The Odour of Chrysanthemums'.


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- Norman

jackie said...

Had always wondered about the history of the cottage.