The Molyneux Colliery.

The article below on the Molyneux Colliery was sent to me.

No story of Teversal would be complete without an account of the happenings which took place on 20th April, 1869 in connection with the Molyneux Pit, and for this I am indebted to Dr. A. R. Griffin B.A. Ph.D. author of "Mining in the East Midlands 1550 1947", and other well-known works. 

The Molyneuxs had been concerned with coal mining in the area since the 17th century, and in 1703 there is a record of them beginning to drive an adit or "sough", which is a drainage ditch cut just below the level of the coal seam. The water flowed along the sough into the Great Lake at Hardwick. The Molyneux sough was extended gradually over many years, the Duke of Newcastle and Devonshire helping to finance the project at one stage. By 1761 the sough had reached Huthwaite and was completed about 1774. 

One of the Top Hard pits was deepened in 1780 to find out what lay beneath and a new seam of good quality coal was struck - called the Dunsil Seam because this shaft was near the Dunsil houses. 

By 1814, water had become a problem and a steam driven pump was installed at a point a little to the left of the road up to Wild Hill from Fackley Toll Bar. Without this pump the seam would have been drowned out. 

In 1820 the workings were abandoned and not until 1856 were operations resumed. 

In 1855 the Countess of Carnarvon leased the colliery to two Sutton men, John and German Buxton, who personally supervised the workings. Later a disagreement arose between these two and German Buxton left, his place being taken by James Eastwood, an ironfounder, of Derby. Eastwood provided most of the capital, and in 1865, after he and John Buxton quarrelled, his firm, Eastwood and Swingler became sole leaseholder. 

James Millership, the underviewer or undermanager, supervised the day to day running of the mine assisted by a deputy-underviewer, George Churchill. 

A plan of the workings was prepared by the firm of John Boot and Son of Huthwaite, who were employed not by Eastwood, but by the royalty owner, Lady Carnarvon. Ultimately these plans were found to be defective. 

At 8.30 p.m. on the night of April 20th, 1869, just as the night shift men were beginning work they struck an old water level. The water soon filled the Top Hard and Dunsil workings, drowning four men, Joseph Cooksey, William Wood, Samuel White and George Godson. Two other men, William Godson and James Dennis managed to reach the pit bottom where the water was rising steadily. 

At Molyneux Colliery there was neither winding engineman or watchman on duty once the night shift men were wound down and the day shift bought up. Godson and Dennis therefore attempted to climb up the rope with no success. 

They shouted continuously, and rang the hammer-bell which was used for signalling in the hope that a passer-by may hear. 

After about two hours they were heard by Henry Spittlehouse of Tibshelf, a pump man working a drainage shaft engine some distance away, who had strolled over to the Molyneux shaft. 

He was unable to work the winding gear himself, but fetched help and the two men were saved. After this, William Godson was always known as "Squealer Godson". and his nickname became a byword in the district. 

An inquest was held at the Carnarvon Arms. the coroner being a local solicitor. Mr. D. W. Heath. 

From this the fact emerged that Molyneux Colliery was severely undercapitalised. The mine still relied upon natural ventilation and the air was so foul that another shaft had to be sunk before the bodies of the four men could be recovered. It also appears that the pit was using a primitive winding system, whereby the men had to ride on the rope. not in a cage. Neither was there a second way out. 

Surveyor, John Boot, was greatly criticised for the inaccuracy of his plans. A barrier of twenty-four yards should have been left between the Molyneux works and some old Top Hard works of considerable extent, which were bounded by a water level. According to Boot's plans the Molyneux works were some seventy yards from the old level, but they were in fact right on top of it. 

It was also found out that John Boot had not been down the pit for some five years or more, and his son, J. T. Boot had not been down for a considerable time either. They said they "did not like the mode of descent." Swinging at the end of a rope could not have been exactly comfortable! 

Actual surveying work had been delegated by Boots to W. G. Treadwell of Alfreton (John Boot's son-in-law), who had been down the pit several days prior to the accident, but was unable to complete his survey owing to the foul air of the mine. 

The underviewer, Millership, was deemed to be at fault as he knew of the waterlogged workings in the area, but had failed to bore for water. John Buxton, the late partner of Eastwood said at the inquest that he had warned Millership "to be careful, and that if they did not all the men would be drowned." 

He also claimed to have notified John Boot and a previous mines inspector, Mr. Hedley, about the position of an old water-logged pit, which he could have drained had he not left the concern when he did. 

A workman, Mansfield Macduff, said he had warned those responsible of the grave risks they were running and had threatened to report the inadequate ventilation and drainage to the mines inspector. Another workman, Robert Moakes, testified that Millership had not, so far as he knew, bored for water since July, 1868. 

The flooding pumps were set working 24 hours a day, and a portable engine was lent by the Stanton Iron Company, but even so, it took some weeks to lower the level of water enough for anyone to go down the mine. 

The mines Inspector, Mr. Evans, instructed his solicitor, Mr. Heath (who was also the coroner), to take out a summons against Millership and the case was to be heard at Mansfield on July, 7th. However, Millership disappeared, and the summons was never served. 

It was thought by some, that the company. Eastwood and Swingler. should be prosecuted, hut the mines inspector did not subscribe to this view. 

He considered that as they had entrusted the running of the colliery to Millership. they were entitled to regard him as solely responsible. 

That the pit was grossly under-capitalised, had only one means of egress, and antiquated winding system, inadequate drainage and ventilation plus inaccurate plans and no winder on the night shift it seems did not apparently reflect upon the owners!! 

After the disaster the owners appointed a Mr. Gillatt. "A gentleman of great experience" to manage the mine, though he did not become a full time manager, he was employed on a "consultation'' basis and probably served several collieries. 

Not being in a position to compete with the new local collieries of Teversal and Silver Hill opened by the Stanton Iron Company in 1868 and 1873. the Molyneux Pit finally closed in 1877. 

A Derbyshire banker and ironmaster, George Crompton, became interested in the possibilities of mining in the area, and his company, Stanton, sank pits at Teversal and Silverhill. In 1870, they built 99 houses at Meden bank to house employees, and also a Mission Hall. 

These were demolished about 1963 to make room for Council Houses. 

In 1880, the Company also purchased seven aces of land from the Lord of the Manor of Skegby, Robert Marsh Eckersley Wilkinson Dodsley, for 788 pounds. 

The village of Stanton Hill is in part, built upon this land.