Finding the right Mine, early - mid C20th. (General)

by Jefff @, West London, Middlesex, Monday, August 12, 2019, 16:55 (10 days ago) @ chrislane

Hi again Chris,
this forum's seen several enquiries like yours, but sadly there's no easy answers, no databases, etc etc.
Even in your Wilfred's time in the 1920s & 30s with the onset of National Insurance numbers etc (but no NHS yet), the records kept by employers were very minimal, and any that still exist are rather patchy. Even for the big "modern" pits many of these paper records haven't survived the closures, for example I recall reading about the bonfires of such paperwork when Northern United (northwest Cinderford) closed in the 1960s, in those days few people considered such information worth keeping.

Of course we're not sure where in the Forest Wilfred lived at this time, so are equally unsure where he was likely to have worked ?. On first reading this thread I saw mention of him possibly being at Soudley, which would suggest Eastern United (Ruspidge) or maybe Lightmoor or New Fancy; however I now see that's a different person.
Then again, it should be remembered it wasn't at all unusual for miners to walk as many as 5 miles thro' the woods to and from work, so.. ???

I see from your previous thread that his mother Fanny Lane was living in Bream during these times, so it's not impossible that Wilfred was there as well.

If so then this is very lucky as by far the biggest pit that side of the Forest was Princess Royal. This prior thread enquired about a miner at Princess Royal, so hopefully the contents especially some of the links will be of interest to you. By coincidence this was also being discussed during an Ashes test series, and one in which England were doing rather better ahem.

This particular case showed that the Dean Heritage Centre at Soudley still holds employment records for Princess Royal; I strongly suggest contacting them, they may even hold records for other pits.
See here


Regarding the pits Wilfred may have worked at in the 1930s, here's a synopsis of the situation which hopefully helps clarify things during these torubled times. As you can see he could have worked in a number of pits, and those named here are just the big ones !

Coal production, which was boosted during the First World War, meant that by 1922 the large collieries employed many hands: Princess Royal had 1,138 employees, New Fancy 694, and Cannop 685, and so on.. However output was interrupted by the strikes of the 1920s and fell during the economic recession of the early 1930s. In 1936 it rose to 1,439,000 tons but thereafter it declined. During that period several older deep mines closed once they had worked out accessible reserves.
In 1930 Cannop became the first in the coalfield to provide pithead baths. The 'butty' system, retained well into the 20th century, was abolished at Eastern United in 1938. Trafalgar, where flooding halted production in 1919, closed in 1925, Crumpmeadow stopped production in 1929, and Foxes Bridge was abandoned in 1930 because of flooding from disused mines. The number of jobs in the industry fell from 7,818 in 1920 to 5,276 in 1930 and the closures, besides adding to a high level of unemployment locally, left Lightmoor, with a workforce of 600 in 1934, as the main colliery in the Cinderford area. At that time several mines on the north side of the coalfield were deepened and many miners found work in a new deep mine, Northern United, which H. Crawshay & Co. began sinking north-west of Cinderford in 1933.
Mining in the south part of the coalfield was rationalized by the Princess Royal Colliery Co., which from 1937 worked Norchard colliery, adjoining its principal mine, from a new drift entered near Pillowell. Further jobs were lost by the closure of Lightmoor and New Fancy collieries in 1940 and 1944 respectively, but some new ones were created at the remaining large mines and there were many other collieries with fewer than 40 employees each. Coal mining remained the principal source of jobs in the Forest, employing 55 per cent of the adult male population, 84.5 per cent in the Cinderford area.
Following nationalization of the coal industry in 1946 the National Coal Board operated the principal mines and awarded licences for working smaller ones. Annual production, which including the output of the free miners' workings was 777,000 tons in 1948, continued to decline as rising costs usually due to drainage problems led to the closure of most mines. Of the main collieries Eastern United and Arthur and Edward(Lydbrook) shut in 1959, Cannop in 1960, Princess Royal in 1962, and Norchard Drift and Northern United in 1965, when deep mining ended in Dean.

These pits and some of the smaller ones are listed here


Colin, to get an excellent overview of the situation in these "big seven" FoD pits in the 1930s, I strongly recommend you try and find a copy of the "promotional" booklet entitled "Fine Forest of Dean Coal" which was published by the FoD Colliery Owners. The whole original booklet complete with maps and excellent period adverts was reprinted in facsimile form by our old friends Ian Pope and co at Lightmoor Press, secondhand copies are often available via the usual online outlets, some more details here;

And yes these are the same good folk responsible for this marvellous site which documents the history of the local pits in great detail;


Hoping this helps Colin, and wishing you luck if you contact the DHC about Wilfred. If you do find anything it would be great if you could please update this thread, thanks.

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