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GresfordThe Anatomy of a Disaster$

Stanley Williamson

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780853238928

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846313240

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The Industry

The Industry

(p.27) Chapter 4 The Industry
Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the decline of the coal mining industry and its impact on North Wales miners in the early twentieth century. The industry struggled with the world-wide industrial depression which reduced the demand for coal. Districts supplying the home market, while spared the misfortunes of the exporting districts, had to contend not only with the fall in demand for their own output but with competition from hard-hit exporters searching for buyers at home for coal they could no longer sell abroad. As stocks piled up at the pit-heads, work, even for those with a job, was so irregular that in some coalfields as many as sixteen weeks were lost during the year. For more than 300,000 miners there were no jobs at all. Since 1920, while the miner's output had increased by over 50 per cent, his wages had been reduced by over 50 per cent and he worked a longer day.

Keywords:   North Wales, coal mining, mining industry, coal miners, wages, production, demand

By the end of the war Gresford Lodge was, in terms of membership, the second largest in North Wales, but the coalfield of which the colliery was one of the major hopes was not in good shape. During the war the government had set up the ‘Pool’, an arrangement under which the proceeds of the more profitable coalfields were used to support earnings in the less profitable—as the agent of the North Wales miners later reminded his members, ‘to make it impossible for one miner in Nottingham to receive a minimum of 16s.3d. per shift while the miner in North Wales can only get 8s.8¼d.’ But the Pool failed to remove all the anomalies, as another message from the same agent to his disgruntled members in 1917 makes plain.

The reason … that South Wales and Yorkshire miners are better paid than you are is first (I am sorry to admit) that they have better pits: secondly, Yorkshire started off in the year 1898 with 1s.6d. per day more than you … If it had not been for the war, South Wales would possibly have to suffer a reduction in wages. It was the Government that came to the rescue of both Northumberland and South Wales, or they would very likely be worse off than you.

There were thus many on the trade union side of the industry who had benefited in one way or another from government control and were hoping to see it continue indefinitely. There was therefore consternation when, following a sharp but shortlived boom in the immediate post-war years, the government announced early in 1920 that it proposed to hand the mines back to the owners.1 The consequences for North Wales were starkly spelled out by the agent:

This coalfield is in a very precarious position. If this precious Government (which a large number of you have gone out of your way to create) mean what they say, viz, to decontrol the coal industry on 31st March this year, and financial control on August 31st, who knows how serious it would be. I am told there is a loss on every ton raised in this coalfield. I leave it to you to imagine whether one half of our collieries can be carried on for one week at a loss.

(p.28) To the solution proposed by the men in the pits—‘make the public pay more for their coal’—the agent had an unwelcome reply.

I admit that in time gone by coal has been too cheap, to the detriment of both colliery owners and miners, but if … you increase the price for coal how can you, with an inferior coalfield [author's italics], compete with the best coalfields in Britain in the markets of the world? I am afraid that the summer months will bring with it [sic] such a state of affairs that will surprise some of us.

With this uncompromising assessment of their position to brood on, the North Wales miners could do little more than sit by while the more powerful and militant areas fought the great battles of the 1920s and the industry slid into the decline which the slump of the 1930s converted into a major and chronic sickness. Supplying a mainly inland and predominantly local market, North Wales was in some ways less hard hit than coalfields such as South Wales which relied heavily on exports and were crippled by state-subsidised foreign competitors undercutting them to win larger shares of a contracting market. Employment in the pits in North Wales in 1929, standing at 16,000, was only a few hundred less than it had been in 1913, and production by the same year had fallen by barely 50,000 tons from the 1913 level of 3.5 million tons.

But output is by itself no index of prosperity, and North Wales, never among the more prosperous coalfields, suffered correspondingly in hard times, especially during the lock-out of 1921, and even more during the prolonged, crushing and ultimately fruitless agony of 1926. In retrospect not all of those who were called on to stop work in North Wales were convinced that the strike was wise or justified as far as their own coalfield was concerned. Early in 1926 one of their leaders informed them bluntly once again that if their wages were to be based on the ability of the district to pay, the only alternatives would be a reduction in wages and an increase in hours (in direct contradiction to A. J. Cook's slogan ‘Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day!’), or a continuation of the subsidy with which the government had hastily but temporarily bought off the threat of a strike in 1925.

The immediate consequences of the miners' capitulation towards the end of 1926 were a return to district instead of national negotiations and an increase in the length of the working day, and it would be difficult to decide which was the more bitter pill for the men to swallow. They had never expected a standard minimum (p.29) wage to apply to every miner in the industry but they expected the minimum, although it might vary from district to district, to be ‘national’ in the sense that it could not be reduced in any district without the consent of the industry as a whole; in this way the poorer districts would not be made to suffer at the hands of the more prosperous. With the return of something like a free-for-all in 1926 the districts were at the mercy of the same cut-throat competition as that which characterised dealings between individual companies.

The extension of the working day, which again meant the surrender of a hard-won and dearly-prized victory, was achieved by an Act of Parliament passed some months before the strike was called off. The original ‘8 Hour Act’,2 as it was popularly called, was passed in 1908 and allowed the eight hours below ground to be exceeded on not more than 60 days a year. In 1919, in the first flush of their post-war power, the miners succeeded in having seven substituted for eight on the same terms. The Act of 1926 achieved a return to eight hours by the roundabout method of returning to a seven-hour day which could be exceeded on any day of the year, thus allowing the miners to keep the shadow of their former victory while losing the substance.

The defeat sustained by the men was plain to see but the victory apparently gained by the owners proved hollow. The economies they had forecast from the lengthening of the working day appeared to materialise; the considerable loss of production due to the eight-month stoppage had to be made up; more men were taken on and output rose above the level of 1925. But it was a false dawn. Employment rose more rapidly than the demand for coal and had to be checked. By the spring of 1927 output was being cut back, prices were falling, short time was being worked.

The story throughout 1928 was much the same—output down, employment down, even greater irregularity of working hours, excess of production costs over proceeds twice as great as in the previous year. An exceptionally severe winter and a tendency to build up emergency stocks against a possible recurrence produced a semblance of a revival in 1929 but even this reprieve had its disadvantages. Faced, as they believed, with a return to ‘normality’ the owners lost the mild interest they had begun to show in those modest ‘schemes to secure greater cooperation’ in the industry which the Baldwin Government had half-heartedly initiated in (p.30) the aftermath of 1926. In North Wales no proposals for reorganisation were reported.

Midway through 1929 the second minority Labour Government took office with the problem of unemployment in general, and the plight of the coalfields in particular, at the top of its agenda. Within a month the President of the Board of Trade announced that the government intended to take

… powers to compel colliery owners to conform to the rules of a district organization inaugurated with the approval of owners of collieries producing the majority of the output of the district, … power … to initiate a scheme in any district which fails to constitute an organization … and power to set up a central co-ordinating authority, if one is not constituted voluntarily.

Notice was thus served on the industry: obstruction and procrastination were out; if it could not, or would not, put its house in order the government would step in and do the job.

The measures proposed were embodied in the Coal Mines Act of 1930, a composite piece of legislation which by pursuing mutually exclusive objectives did more credit to the hearts of its sponsors than to their grasp of the problems that faced them.

Part 1 of the Act dealt with the production, supply and sale of coal, and was designed to limit the overproduction and suicidally competitive price-cutting which kept profits, and hence wages, at unacceptably low levels. A Central Council was to assess from time to time what the nation's requirements were likely to be for a given period. The Council would then allocate a fixed proportion to each coal-producing district, which an Executive Board elected by all the owners in the district would divide up among the various collieries. There were provisions for penalties for exceeding the quota, and for the maintenance of certain minimum prices.

Part 2 carrying the strategy further, set up a Commission whose function was ‘to further the reorganisation of the coal-mining industry and … to promote and assist amalgamations where they appear to be in the national interest’. Owners could be required to put forward their own scheme for reorganisation; if they failed or refused, the Commission could draw one up for them, and if the scheme proposed satisfied the provisions of the earlier Acts it could be enforced.

Part 3 of the Act was inspired partly perhaps by the determination of the miners to recover ground lost in 1926, and partly as a (p.31) token attack on the problem of unemployment. The extension of the working day by one hour on any day of the year was replaced by an extension of only half an hour. The eight-hour day thus became a seven-and-a-half-hour day, and it was intended that when the 1926 Act expired in 1931 the maximum should once again become seven, as in 1919. The owners accepted the first reduction with a bad grace but stood firm against the possibility of the second unless a corresponding reduction in wages was agreed.

Part 4 of the Act was a half-hearted and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to remove the other bone of contention left over from 1926, the insistence by the owners on district rather than national negotiations on wages and conditions of work. A compromise worked out to meet their objections was simply disregarded in practice and the government plainly felt disinclined to try to enforce it.

Even if the Act had been better designed for its purpose it would have availed little in the face of the storm which had been gathering since the Wall Street crash of 1929 and which burst over Britain while the Bill was completing its passage through Parliament. The slight improvement in the coal trade which 1929 had brought was short-lived. By the middle of 1930 output in Britain had fallen back to the 1928 level and abroad the position was even worse as the world-wide industrial depression deepened and demand for coal declined.

Districts supplying the home market, although spared the misfortunes of the exporting districts, had to contend not only with the fall in demand for their own output but with competition from hard-hit exporters searching desperately for buyers at home for coal they could no longer sell abroad. As stocks piled up at the pit-heads, work, even for those with a job, was so irregular that in some coalfields as many as 16 weeks were lost during the year. For more than 300,000 miners there were no jobs at all.

The sufferings inflicted on the industry by the depression were intensified by two developments which had been gaining ground since the end of the war—the onward and irresistible march of mechanisation, which had to be paid for by improved productivity, and an irreversible trend towards a declining demand due to the more efficient use of coal in many industries, notably steel and railways, and to its replacement by oil in one of its former principal consumers, the world's shipping. It was a reluctant recognition of (p.32) these trends which had prompted both Conservative and Labour governments to introduce their modest measures aimed at the reorganisation of the industry. Responsibility for their failure rested partly on the miners, who had no choice but to fight in defence of their already abysmally low living standards, but much more on the owners who, hating each other rather more than they distrusted their labour force, resisted all attempts to persude them to collaborate and preferred instead to put their faith in a blind and self-destructive individualism. ‘I should have thought that the miners’ leaders were the stupidest men in the kingdom', Lord Birkenhead is reported to have said in 1926, ‘if I hadn't met the owners.’3 Their recipe for survival in the declining markets of the post-war decades differed little from the policy which the inspector of mines for the North Wales area had noted at the turn of the century—chasing markets by cutting prices, cutting prices by reducing costs, reducing costs by increasing output, and thereby adding to the glut of coal which could only be disposed of, if at all, by cutting prices still further.

In this descending spiral the ultimate losers were inevitably the miners. In a pamphlet entitled The Position of the Coal Miner published in 1933, the Miners' Federation quoted figures to show that, since 1920, while the miner's output had increased by over 50 per cent, his wages had been reduced by over 50 per cent and he worked a longer day. Many miners and their families were living on less than £2 per week, and some on less than 30 shillings; the allowance of cheap coal and the low rents which were held in some quarters to offset the low wages were valued, according to figures from government sources, at no more than four pence three farthings a day. The real sacrifice, it was often pointed out, was made by wives and children, who stinted themselves so that the men could be adequately fed for their long and hard day's work at the pit.

While acknowledging the effects of adverse trading conditions, the miners laid heavy blame for their plight on the chaotic internal structure of the industry, and independent investigators mostly supported their analysis.

In 1934 there were in Britain something like a thousand colliery owners operating more than 2,000 separate mines which produced 220 million tons of coal. Twenty-five of these mines were responsible for a third of the total production; only about 20 of them produced more than two million tons per annum; many were very (p.33) small, employing a handful of men in what were scarcely more than surface workings.

To transport the output of the mines, many of which were located in inaccessible parts of the country, there were 750,000 wagons of widely differing types, many of them reaching the end of their useful life, many of them too small. They belonged to more than 5,000 different concerns, made on average two round trips of 42 miles each per month and spent two-thirds of the time standing still, whether empty or full, waiting to be shunted. Transport charges in some cases added 60 per cent to the pit-head value of coal.

The retail trade was in the same state of anarchy. There were more than 27,000 retail coal merchants of whom less than eight per cent handled as much as 2,000 tons per quarter and 30 per cent handled barely five tons a week. The domestic consumer paid more than he need have done to keep in being this huge, ramifying and inefficient distribution system, which provided a precarious living for numbers of largely unnecessary middlemen. Giving evidence to the Samuel Commission in 1925 a former Chief Inspector of Mines, Sir Richard Redmayne, remarked, ‘if you endeavoured to follow a sack of Derby Brights from the colliery to a London cellar you would arrive there a shattered wreck from the number of hands you had gone through’.

The Act of 1930, renewed for a further five years in 1932, was agreed to have played a modest part in tiding the industry over the immediate crisis but its shortcomings as a solution to the underlying problems were widely recognised. It curbed the worst excesses of the earlier free-for-all but the structure of minimum prices was increasingly evaded by middlemen and by the owners who, as their president Euan Williams admitted, were still placing more coal on the market than they could sell.

The recognition that markets for much of this unwanted coal were never likely to be won back carried with it the acceptance of an even more alarming prospect—that the severe unemployment of recent years would never be wholly cured. Few of the men who had lost their jobs between 1924 and 1934 would get them back, and for a number variously estimated at between 200,000 and a quarter of a million there would never be permanent work in the industry again. Some were men who had been attracted to it during its brief spell of post-war prosperity and were not genuine coalminers; some had (p.34) drifted away to other occupations and no longer appeared on the books as unemployed miners; but the very large proportion who remained constituted a problem which, as the PEP Report on the British Coal Industry (1936) insisted, had ‘long ceased to be a purely industrial problem and … assumed the position of a national problem of the first magnitude’.

Various remedies were proposed, some of which met with a warmer response than others. One which was generally favoured was that Britain should fall into line with other nations and raise the age at which boys might enter the industry to 15 for surface workers and 16 for underground workers. At the other end of the scale there was widespread recognition that mining was not ‘an old man's industry’, and that an earlier retirement age would be in everyone's interests. But in the absence of a pension scheme a man in his fifties who lost his job at the pit and was too old to find one elsewhere, and almost certainly had no savings to fall back on, either became a burden on the younger members of his family or struggled to live on the meagre allowances of the Unemployment Assistance Board or the Public Assistance Committee until he qualified for an equally meagre old age pension at 65.

A third proposal, that hours of work should be reduced, overlooked the development which more than any other was changing the face of the industry at an accelerating rate and to the growing bewilderment, alarm and resentment of the miners. Increased efficiency, through reduction in costs and improvement in output per man shift, was linked largely to increased mechanisation, which called both for fewer workers and for harder work from those who remained.

The application of machinery to coal-getting had a long history, with the emphasis on ways of bringing the coal down from the face and conveying it to the pit bottom.4 All the early devices gave rise to problems and the growth of mechanised cutting was slow, being confined for a long time to narrow seams where the weight of coal would not so frequently put the cutter out of action. Thereafter its advance throughout the country became more rapid, as did the realisation of its implications for the colliers. In the beginning they had passed resolutions welcoming it, ‘as it might tend to diminish loss of life’,5 and also because the men who were sufficiently skilled to handle the unfamiliar machines could command high wages. Fifty years later they were changing their tune. Wages were cut to (p.35) accommodate the high capital cost of mechanising and the machine seemed to be forcing a change in the miner's pattern of life,6 in much the same way as the advent of power-looms had affected handloom weavers a century earlier. By the 1930s, with 50 per cent of coal in Lancashire and North Wales and over 80 per cent in some coalfields being cut mechanically, and around 40 per cent of it being conveyed along the face by endless belts or incredibly noisy vibrating troughs, the miner had become both the slave and the victim of the machine, as Joseph Jones, vice-president of the Miners' Federation described graphically in The Coal Scuttle (1936).

The machine cuts the coal at lightning speed and the conveyor brings it out to the wagons in an endless stream: to feed the conveyor adequately the men have to work at the highest pressure and without a moment's respite … The whirr of the coal-cutting machines, the hammering of pneumatic picks, the crash of the conveyor pans make a deafening noise.

To the complacent assurances of authorities such as Sir Richard Redmayne that ‘to the workers the mechanization has proved a veritable Deus ex machina’,7 and that ‘the avocation of a coal miner is a very healthy one—short hours spent in an even atmosphere’,8 more perceptive observers responded with a long list of the new hazards which machinery had introduced into the miner's life. The weight and vibration of the cutters placed extra strain on the strata, adding to the difficulty and danger of preventing rock falls. In the race to keep up with the machine the men were tempted to take risks, neglecting safety precautions, with a consequent rise in the accident rate. There was an enormous increase in the amount of overtime demanded. In order to squeeze the maximum use out of the machinery and step up production, managements would make the coalface so long that the ‘cut’ could not be completed or the face cleared within a normal shift. The law permitted them to require men to stay on and ‘deal with any emergency or work uncompleted through unforeseen circumstances … in order to avoid serious interference with the ordinary routine of the mine’, and this provision was regularly invoked to keep men underground long beyond the end of the statutory shift period.

When the machines were working the quantities of dust generated brought greatly increased risk of silicosis, the crippling disease of the lungs which had barely been known in pre-machine days, and nystagmus, damage to the eyes caused by straining to see in darkness barely relieved at the best of times by the inadequate (p.36) light of a safety lamp and now rendered nearly opaque: there was often so much coal dust in the air, it was said, that the miner's sense of sight was almost lost to him

No less important were the psychological implications of mechanisation. For the man at the coalface, W. D. H. Stewart pointed out in 1936, the conditions of work were so much changed as to mean almost a new trade to him.

For the first time in coal-mining the coalface miner was compelled to forego his hitherto privileged position of being the ‘superior’ man in the mine. The machine eliminated the most skilful part of his work, namely, the holing or undercutting of the coal, thus making it possible for unskilled men to enter the mine freely …

and worse still to earn better wages, for ‘although physical strength had always played a part in the making of wages in a coal mine, it had now become paramount.’ Worst of all, from the point of view of status and pride in workmanship: ‘there [was] now a greater degree of supervision than was ever known before, with the result that the miner—the skilled miner—hitherto one of the most independent workmen in the country [was] now reduced to a living tool’.

This, then, was the position of the miner as the 1930s unrolled: reduced to despair by the defeat of 1926, the prisoner of an industry in a state bordering on demoralisation, increasingly at the mercy of voracious machinery, and condemned by a cruel paradox to scrape a steadily deteriorating living, when he was lucky enough to have a job at all, by producing more and more of what appeared to be needed less and less.

During this period, from 1926 to 1934, four more of Denbighshire's old-established collieries closed: Wynnstay (1927), Vauxhall (1928), Vron (1930) and Gatewen (1932). Flintshire, with the loss of two, was reduced to only one of any consequence, at Point of Ayr in the far north of the county, where 432 men were employed in and about workings which lay mostly under the sea. Elsewhere there were five minor concerns of which the largest employed 20 men and the smallest three. Denbighshire retained 18 collieries, ranging in size from the diminutive Poolmouth Level with four workers and Glascoed with eight to Hafod with 1,457, Gresford with 2,200 and the giant Llay Main with 2,900. The last-named, which reached an output of more than a million tons in the relatively prosperous year 1929, was now owned by the Carlton Main Company and among the most progressively managed; it was, for instance, the only (p.37) colliery in North Wales at this time to possess pit-head baths, put up by the company at a cost of £35,000 with accommodation for 3,000 men. Miners at the other leading collieries in the coalfield had to wait several years, in some cases until after the Second World War, to enjoy this elementary amenity.

The detailed history of Gresford has largely gone beyond recall with the agreed destruction by the trustee of all its records when the protracted negotiations resulting from nationalisation had been concluded, but from a few balance sheets and terse statements to shareholders which survive it is clear that the early 1930s were, as might be expected, a period of some anxiety.

The nominal capital of the company, United Westminster and Wrexham Collieries Ltd, was 400,000 shares of £1 each, of which just over 300,000 were issued. The principal shareholders in 1933 were the chairman, Henry Dyke Dennis, with 86,000, or about 35 per cent, and his son, Henry M. P. Dennis, with 29,700. Five other shareholders, including J. A. Harrop, the company secretary, accounted for about 65,500 shares between them and the remaining 119,000 were distributed among a little under 200 shareholders.

The pits, its principal assets, with their buildings, machines and plant, were valued in 1929 at just under £220,000, freehold land, houses and minerals at £42,700, and railway wagons at approximately £12,000.

In view of the many devices by which a colliery was enabled at least partially to cover its tracks, it may not be wise to take published trading accounts too readily at their face value, although there is no surviving evidence to connect United Westminster and Wrexham Collieries with any activities of this kind. The bare facts as published show that in 1929, when income included sales at £258,000, there was a trading loss of £5,543. By September 1930, as a result of the slight improvement in the early months of the year, this loss had been converted into a minuscule net gain of £715, and the chairman, confessing that ‘the new Coal Mines Act is a source of anxiety to your Directors’, warned the shareholders that the outlook for the next 12 months was ‘extremely precarious’. In spite of this the accounts for 1931 showed a profit on the year's working of £4,841 with a net gain to the company of £3,551. The chairman's report, recalling an interim dividend of two per cent declared out of reserves a few months previously, and announcing a final dividend of two per cent less tax from the same source, described the result of (p.38) the year's working as ‘disappointing, particularly after the strict economy which has been exercised in every department of the Colliery’.

By 1932 the recession had begun to bite deeply and the company balance sheet, published in June, revealed the extent of the wounds. There was a net loss on the year's working of £9,489, and the directors decided to ‘pass the payment of a Dividend’. They had come to the decision with regret but felt it was the prudent course to adopt in the present state of trade. Reporting the renewal for a further five years of Part 1 of the 1930 Act the chairman announced that the owners had guaranteed to maintain the existing rates of wages, which in 1929 had cost the company just short of £200,000.

In June 1933 the year's working showed a loss of £7,116, and prudence could presumably only have suggested a further decision to ‘pass the payment of a Dividend’. But equally it seems to have been felt that something must be done for the deprived investors.

In accordance with a Special Resolution of the General Meeting held on 10th March last, £45,008.2s.0d. of the undivided profits standing in reserve was capitalised for distribution among the Shareholders … The Warrants for the first half-yearly payment of interest at 5 per cent. per annum, due on the 10th of this month are being sent.

The corner, not only for Gresford Colliery but for the British coal industry, was about to be turned. In spite of a mild spring, followed by an exceptionally warm summer which reduced domestic consumption, there were definite signs of an improvement in trade, thanks chiefly to a revival of demand in the heavy industries. The decline in employment had been arrested; working was slightly less irregular. The upward trend in demand continued in the early months of 1934, though less satisfactorily in North Wales, where the improvement in output, at around 3 per cent, was the lowest of any district, contrasting with 11 per cent in Northumberland and Durham.

The moderately brighter prospects must have been greeted with relief at Gresford, where some organisational changes had taken place. A new under-manager had been taken on, a well-qualified local man who had recently spent some years in South Wales. The agent, Mr Cockin, who had been with the company since the days, 25 years previously, when he had supervised the sinking of the shafts, retired in October 1932 and, perhaps as one of its economy measures, the company decided not to replace him but to hand over (p.39) his responsibilities to Mr Harrop, the company secretary, who had no training or experience as a mining engineer but was very sound on the commercial side. Another new face seen in and around the pit at various times was that of a junior inspector of mines, recently transferred from Scotland and residing, as did a number of his predecessors, in Chester, from which he could most easily exercise his responsibility for the North Wales coalfield and parts of Lancashire.


For accounts of the coal industry from the end of the First World War, see: The History of the British Coal Industry, Vol. 4 (1987); PEP, Report on the British Coal Industry (1936); Court (1945); Keynes (1925); Griffin (1977).

(1.) See Appendix A: Mining Industry Act 1920, 10 and 11 Geo 5 C 50 (4).

(2.) The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1908. ‘I(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act a workman shall not be below ground in a mine for the purpose of his work, or of going to and from his work, for more than eight hours during any consecutive twenty-four hours’ (author's italics). The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1872, 7.(2) stated that ‘A period of a person's employment begins at the time of his leaving the surface and ends at the time of his return to the surface.’ In Gresford a man working on one of the more distant faces could spend at least an hour of his ‘working time’ walking to and from the district.

(3.) Quoted in Young (1952) p. 90.

(4.) According to Boyd (1879), ‘the first patent for coal-cutting machinery dates from 1862 …’.

(5.) See Boyd (1879), p. 172.

(6.) For a summary of the arguments for and against mechanisation see the Royal Commission on Safety in Coal Mines (1938), p. 68: ‘Effects of Modern Methods of Work’.

(7.) Redmayne (1942), p. 150.

(8.) Report in the Colliery Guardian, 16 November 1934.


(1.) See Appendix A: Mining Industry Act 1920, 10 and 11 Geo 5 C 50 (4).

(2.) The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1908. ‘I(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act a workman shall not be below ground in a mine for the purpose of his work, or of going to and from his work, for more than eight hours during any consecutive twenty-four hours’ (author's italics). The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1872, 7.(2) stated that ‘A period of a person's employment begins at the time of his leaving the surface and ends at the time of his return to the surface.’ In Gresford a man working on one of the more distant faces could spend at least an hour of his ‘working time’ walking to and from the district.

(3.) Quoted in Young (1952) p. 90.

(4.) According to Boyd (1879), ‘the first patent for coal-cutting machinery dates from 1862 …’.

(5.) See Boyd (1879), p. 172.

(6.) For a summary of the arguments for and against mechanisation see the Royal Commission on Safety in Coal Mines (1938), p. 68: ‘Effects of Modern Methods of Work’.

(7.) Redmayne (1942), p. 150.

(8.) Report in the Colliery Guardian, 16 November 1934.