The Grassmoor colliery complex was developed in an area which had for many years been worked by small enterprises. The colliery we know as Grassmoor colliery was founded around 1846 when Alfred Barnes returned to the area from journeying abroad. He was instructed by his father to set work in progress to sink collieries on land at Grassmoor which his father had purchased. At first three shallow pits were sunk after the necessary leasing of the mineral rights from the Duke of Devonshire. The revenue raised from this small localised coal production at the three pits was used to sink the deeper and larger shafts into the profitable Blackshale seam, the cost being £40,000. The number one shaft to the Blackshale was sunk in 1861.
The Grassmoor colliery company sought limited liability in 1884 the cost of which was around £200,000, and this during the depression in the coal mining industry of the 1880's. Many men were transferred from the Barlow collieries at this time. Three hundred and fifty railway wagons were purchased and left in sidings and all but one of the company subscribers were Barnes family members with the one exception being George Leach who was the company cashier. Later, by 1896 the company controlled a great group of collieries producing around 24,000 tons of coal each week. The company boasted some sixty miles of underground roadways including six miles of coal face. The main Grassmoor shafts to the Blackshale seam were 1,350 feet deep and a steam winding engine was used with two thirty six inch cylinders and an overall stroke of six feet. The double deck chairs used in 1896 could carry two tubs of coal or materials on each deck.
The collieries were known locally as the 'Barnes collieries' and were involved in the coking of coal since 1846 using 'Otto' ovens constructed by German engineers. These ovens were replaced by newer and more efficient ones in June of 1934. The gas produced from the coking process was piped to Chesterfield, Shirebrook and Mansfield for domestic and industrial customers, hence the saying 'Chesterfield depends on Grassmoor'. The plant could produce (daily) from four ovens with a fifteen ton coal capacity each, 300 tons of coke from 404 tons of coal, 5,000,000 cubic feet of coal gas 19 tons of tar, 6 tons of ammonium sulphate, 15,000 gallons of crude Benzol and 13,000 gallons of motor spirit. The Barnes colliery company event into voluntary liquidation in 1928 thus severing all the Barnes family ties with the company. The colliery which by now employed five shafts was finally closed in 1950.
On November 19th 1933, fourteen miners were killed and eight men injured when an explosion ripped through the Deep Hard seam at the number eight colliery. Prince George visited the area as he was staying at Chatsworth at the time, to convey the sympathies of the King and Queen to the families of the victims.
The colliery site was turned into an area training centre in 1957 to train new miners and educate existing miners on the new technology and safety.
The colliery remained in production until at least 1961. From at least the mid 1950's the colliery worked in the Tupton, 1st Piper, 2nd piper and the Deep Hard seams.
1st June 1861.
Joseph Wilson engine tenter late in the employ of Messrs Barnes coal masters Grassmoor summoned them for £4 being a month’s wages. The manager Mr. Bromley asked Wilson to work in the pit whilst the engine was being repaired. Wilson refused on the grounds that he was an engine tenter and was not justified in accepting any other employment than that in which he was engaged. Messrs Barnes had no right to require him to do any other work and were ordered to pay the £4 wages.
3rd March 1866.
A fatal accident to Joseph Lowe working at Messrs Barnes pit at Corbriggs met with his death under peculiar circumstances. The boys at the bank are employed in pushing up loaded corves up an incline in order to empty them and usually ride them down again to the pit mouth. A lad named George Rodgers was so employed when the corve on which he was riding attained to great a speed and ran down swiftly towards the pit mouth. The deceased was engaged in receiving a cage of men which was coming up the shaft and did not hear the shouts of alarm and the corve struck him on his buttocks and drove him violently against the prop handle which fatally injured him in the abdomen. He was put in a cart but told the manager he was done for. His anticipation proved correct he died the next day.
17th May 1876.
Great wages dispute. At Grassmoor things have not changed with regards to coal getting and the men refused the masters 15%. The proprietor A. Barnes Esq. Is in the progress of sinking another large and well fitted up colliery.
4th October 1876.
The new collieries belonging to Messrs Barnes and Company Grassmoor reached the Blackshale at a depth of 440 yards. The pits have been pushed forward with every possible speed since about Christmas 1874. The most improved and powerful machinery has been erected for the haulage of the mineral through the shaft 16 feet in diameter which will accommodate both the up and down cages. Another shaft is 15 feet in diameter and 320 yards deep. When these pits are in full operation the output in all probability reach 1,000 tons daily and give employment to at least 6oo hands. The Blackshale is a little over 4 feet thick of good coal and there is coal to last very many years.
8th July 1893.
Mr. Barnes of the local coal owners association said that on the increased coal supply changes in the weight from 21 cwts. to 20 cwts would amount to an increase to the Grassmoor Colliery Company of £4,000 per year. They raised about half a million tons a year, the increase to the Midland Railway Company would be £80,000 / 90,000 per year.
Colliery photographs from the collection of Bill Skevington.
Two dates of closure are mentioned in this article: 1950 and 1961. Having spoken to someone recently I have managed to clear the matter up. In 1950 the colliery ceased to produce coal as a colliery with a workforce but the shaft(s) were kept open as a second means of egress (a way out) for Williamthorpe colliery nearby for access in an emergency upon a breakdown of plant or winders. The washery was kept open and on occasions Williamthorpe coal was wound out and washed at Grassmoor colliery.