Home Industry and Commerce Mining Good News for Wombwell District – Increased Tonnage

Good News for Wombwell District – Increased Tonnage

January 1934

South Yorkshire Times, January 5th, 1934

Good News for Wombwell District

Increased Tonnage for Mitchell Main Collieries

Separate Quota for Silkstone Seam

Re-Employment of Many Miners

A Splendid New Year’s Gift

On the threshold of the New Year the “South Yorkshire Times” has good news for Wombwell. We are able to state exclusively that under an award of the arbitrator important concessions have been made to Mitchel Main Colliery in respect of their standard tonnage.

The award is dated Dec 29th 1933 and its benefits will be felt immediately. The Silkstone seam, which has been closed since the underground fire in the early part of last year, is to be re-opened at once, and it is expected that in the course of three weeks or a month the full complement of men formerly employed in the mine will have been taken on again.

Separate Quota for Silkstone Seam

Briefly, the most important feature of the award is that, in respect of the operation of the standard tonnage system, the Silkstone seam at Mitchell Main is to be regarded as a separate mine.  In addition, adjustments of the standard tonnage basis very favourable to the colliery company – and therefore to the advantage of Wombwell – have been made in respect of the general working of Mitchell Main and Darfield Main.  The effect is that these two mines will now work better time and Wombwell will have a greatly augmented spending capacity. There should be better times for the traders in the district when the full benefits of the award are realised and a good deal of anxiety will be removed in regard to Wombwell’s prospects as a municipality. There is a very close relation between Mitchell Main colliery and the welfare of Wombwell because it is probably the largest individual ratepayer in the township, employs more men than any other undertaking within the urban district and supplies all the gas used in Wombwell, Darfield and surrounding townships for industrial and domestic purposes.  This last factor was one of the strongest points put forward by the Wombwell Urban District Council in support of an application for an increased quota for these collieries, and it is not unlikely that it weighed with the arbitrator.

The application was heard on Dec. 7th and 8th by Sir Lynden L. Macassey. K.C.  Officials of the colliery attended to give the necessary details, and returned with considerable hope of a favourable result.  We understand that under the terms of this decision there is no limit to the extent to which the company may continue in the development of this new and promising phase of their mining operations.

The Silkstone Seam

The Silkstone seam at Mitchell Main lies some 93 yards below the Parkgate seam from which it is reached by two drifts.  It was tapped in 1929 and from the first showed good promise of profitable and successful working.  The seam is three feet thick and is considered by mining experts to yield the next best coal in the Barnsley seam for gas production and domestic purposes.  Mitchell Main yields some of the best Silkstone coal procurable. “Our Silkstone coal cannot be beaten anywhere in Yorkshire” was the confident declaration of an official with whom a “South Yorkshire Times” reporter chatted on this subject.  The working of the seam at Mitchell Main is a hundred per cent mechanical and the methods employed are the latest. A small number of ponies were used before the seam was closed down; the whole of the haulage will in future be mechanical.

We understand that the award may lead to important developments at Darfield Main including a deepening of the shaft which is in the centre of the Silkstone lease.  The Silkstone coal available at Mitchell Main covers the whole of the area from which the Barnsley coal has been taken, extending as far as Billingley (some three miles away) in one direction and Low Laithes on the Barnsley boundary on the north.  This fact alone gives the award a vital bearing on Wombwell’s prospects as a coal mining township, It would appear full satisfaction had been given to the company in their repeated submission that the Silkstone seam at Mitchell Main is a distinct and entirely separate mining unit.

12 Per Cent. More Work

Scarcely less important is the fact that the company have obtained increased standard tonnage for the whole of their pits.  The increase, we understand, represents 75,000 tons per annum, or something like a 12 per cent increase on the old basis.  This will mean, roughly, that Mitchell Main and Darfield will be able to work one-eighth better time. even if it is not necessary to engage additional men.  The increase will of course, be subject to the usual slight quota fluctuations, The output per man in South Yorkshire, including all grades of workers, is approximately 25 cwts. a day, so that as increased output of 75,000 tons represents something like 60,000 extra shifts per annum, apart from the additional work to be provided in the Silkstone seam. Up to a fortnight ago, when the usual Christmas rush was experienced, the collieries had been working only four days a week.

Before the fire the seam employed about 250 men, working on three shifts, and when the stoppage took place, the company lost the services of some of their best workmen, a number of whom had been introduced onto the Silkstone from the Parkgate seam.  After the fire a small number were taken on again in the Parkgate seam, but the majority have since been out of work,  The men required for the reconditioning of the workings are being taken out of other parts of the mine.

A Crisis Overcome

The efforts of the Mitchell Main Colliery Company to obtain increased standard tonnage for their collieries have extended over a long period. They contended from the outset that the relatively low standard tonnage allowed them made the continued working of the colliery quite impracticable and when increased tonnage was first refused them, the colliery was actually closed down for a fortnight.  There were fears at that time that the mine would be shut down permanently and the circumstances aroused much anxiety in the district.  Actually, all the ponies were withdrawn and turned to grass.

After further consideration, and in view of the acute distress which the stoppage was likey to occasion in the neighbourhood, the company decided to resume operations and they have since been working on a more or less provisional basis.  An application for increased tonnage was definitely rejected by the Arbitrator on 22nd March 1933, and the company found it necessary under the conditions to intimate their intentions to terminate the agreement under which they supplied crude gas to the local authority.

After lengthy deliberations the Wombwell Urban District Council decided to make a separate application and, availing themselves of a provision of the Coal Mines Act, under which local authorities may make representations on grounds of public interest they framed an appeal which was heard by the District Committee of Investigation at Sheffield.  The Council presented what was considered a very strong case, and there was almost as much surprise as disappointment when it was learned that the appeal had failed.

But satisfied with the justice of their claim, the colliery company lodged a new appeal with the happy result indicated.  A statement made to our representative at the colliery was “We hope to have all the men back in a matter of five or six weeks and it is not unlikely that we shall require a larger number of men later.  There are no restrictions to the extent to which we are now permitted to develop the seam.  It will take only a few days to clear up.”

Splendid New Year’s Gift

The number of men normally employed at Mitchell Main colliery is about 1200 while something like 1000 are working at Darfield Main.  In addition, the by-product works run in conjunction with these undertakings employ about 250. As a New Year’s Gift nothing more satisfactory could have been wished for the district than the effect of this latest development.  Wombwell is to be congratulated on its good luck and the company on their persistence.  In difficult circumstances the management have left no stone unturned in their effort to continue working.  Had the colliery closed down, the result for Wombwell would have been tragic.

Apart from this important new development the mines in the Wombwell area are experiencing the first-fruits of the industrial revival.