Cannop Colliery

My wife and I were in the Forest of Dean on 30th August 2018 and visited a small garden centre that we have been to many times before – the Pigmy Pymetum. Later in the day I was reading an older copy of “The New Regard” – Number 23 from 2009. [1] The first article in that edition of the magazine was about Cannop Colliery and was written by Ian Pope. The colliery was just north of the location of the garden centre. It is the present location of a cycle-hire firm which services the cycleways of the Forest of Dean and a Council Depot. Cannop is one of the collieries represented in my collection of N-gauge wagons from the Forest of Dean.This view is one of the aerial views of the Colliery included in the magazine article [1] It shows the backs of the Cannop Villas in the lower left-hand corner. The railway sidings into the colliery are also clearly visible. They ran alongside the old Wimberry Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway. This was the original terminus of the railway when built as broad-gauge in 1868. It served the collieries and quarries in the Wimberry Slade. An interchange wharf existed off the top left of the picture where the old Wimberry Tramway was truncated and terminated. The later Severn and Wye ‘mainline’ can be seen in the bottom right of the image. It did not arrive until 1872, having been built as part of the Mineral Loop. The colliery slag heap can be seen on the left of the picture. [1]

The Cannop Coal Co. Ltd was formed in June 1906, taking over the Union & Cannop and Prince Albert deep gales from Henry Crawshay & Co. Ltd. The aim was to work the Coleford High Delf Seam in the Pennant Group (middle Upper Coal Measures) beneath the workings of the Speech House Hill Colliery. Two shafts were sunk, the 4 ft 9 in thick High Delf being reached at a depth of 612 ft in no.1 pit by November 1909, although the seam was already being worked from a drift mine a short distance up Wimberry Slade. [2]

Sidings and a connection with the Wimberry Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway were installed. Winding of coal from the deep pit began in 1912, output reaching 1000 tons/day by March 1915. Production peaked in 1937 (402,784 tons), making it the largest colliery in Dean, and the workforce was about 1040 around this time. The colliery was an extremely wet one and was flooded on several occasions. Electric pumps were used and 1140 million gallons were pumped in 1928. The high cost of pumping was a major factor leading to closure in September 1960. [2]

As already noted, the colliery buildings are now offices for a Council depot, and a cycle hire centre also uses the site. The overgrown tip and the brick-lined entrance (now gated) to the drift mine survived in April 2002. [2]

This view was taken by E. Runicles from the colliery slag-heap looking north, and is part of a collection held by Ian Pope. It shows the general setting and layout of the colliery which was heavily camouflaged by the trees of the forest. Pope points out that Cannot was known as ‘the colliery in the woods’ as trees were to be found right up to the colliery buildings and, indeed, in and amongst them. This was a stipulation of the Crown who prior to the opening of the colliery had recently constricted a new road between Lydney and Mierystock, which was intended to allow access for tourists to the centre of the forest. The last thing they wanted was an unsightly colliery immediately alongside the road. The large corrugated iron building in the centre of the picture contains the screens where coal was sorted and graded before being loaded into railway wagons. Four sidings passed through the screens which allowed four grades of coal to be loaded into wagons. To the right of the screens are two wooden head frames, one over each colliery shaft. The bridges coining out over the Wimberry Branch allowed waste material from the shafts or screens to be taken up the tip. The brick chimney stands behind a row of 10 ‘Lancashire Boilers’ which provided the colliery with steam power for the widening engines and for electricity generation. [1]In this image we can see the ‘land sales’ wharf, where local merchants or businesses could bring a cart or lorry and collect coal directly from the colliery. The coal would have passed through the screens and been loaded onto a railway wagon which then was emptied at the wharf. This was also a point where materials brought into the colliery by rail could be unloaded. This would have included things like steelwork, pipes, etc. Pit props went into an area off the empty wagon sidings and would have been unloaded there. The building in the centre is the main winding-engine house. [1]

The remaining images in this post are maps. The first shows the position of Cannot Colliery in relation to the railways of the Forest of Dawn. This is followed by three maps showing the site of the colliery in 1903, 1921 and 1968. These three images are taken from the website “old-maps.co.uk.” The last of the maps shows the site after closure.

References

1. Ian Pope; Cannop – A Troubled Colliery; in The New Regard No. 23, 2009, p4-17.

2. https://www.forestofdeanhistory.org.uk/resources/sites-in-the-forest/cannop-colliery, accessed on 31st August 2018.

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