An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 87 (of 92 parts) - Bold Colliery Part 1 (1875 - 1955)

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 87 (of 92) - Bold Colliery Part 1 (1875 - 1955)
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Bold Colliery Part 2
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII
Bold Colliery was a major pit within the South Lancashire Coalfield, extracting high quality coal for over 100 years. The cost of coal has historically included loss of much human life and 70 men and boys died at Bold during this period. This page will document as many fatalities as possible and will also discuss the fluctuating fortunes of the pit, with the loss-making colliery closing during the late 1930s for nearly four months. Bold bounced back under new owners and after nationalisation was reorganised and modernised. In an article in 1965, the Times reported that it was being showcased as the most advanced mine in the country. It took the impact of the 1984 strike to bring Bold's long mining history to a close.

An early 20th century photograph of Bold Colliery which had its first shafts sunk in the 1870s and closed in 1986

An early 20th century photograph of Bold Colliery

An early photograph of Bold Colliery

The colliery was located off Bold Lane and the sinking of its shafts was first begun by the Orrell Coal & Cannel Co. Ltd. during the early 1870s. The directors created a new company, the Bold Colliery Co. Ltd., to operate the mine. Sinking a new pit was a perilous business and one mistake could prove fatal. Twenty-three-years-old Charles Jones was the first man officially recorded as having been killed on the site when in January 1875 he was struck on the head by a winch handle. In June 1875, a second fatal sinking accident occurred when 20-years-old engineman John Ryan fell nearly 200 feet down the pit after repairing a pumping engine.

By 1875, no.1 shaft with a diameter of 12 feet had been sunk to 607 yards and no.2 shaft with a diameter of 16ft 6 inches had been sunk 200 yards. Later that year after £57,000 had been spent, operations were abandoned due to flooding. However, in 1878 the
Collins Green Colliery Company bought the plant and extended the no.2 shaft to match no.1's depth of 607 yards. On January 23rd 1886, 18-years-old William Yates was killed when installing a heavy bar. He was working with his father when a prop suddenly gave way and the bar struck him on his head. A few days later, 35-year-old Dominic Dalton died after entering a cage to remove loaded tubs. The engine accidentally lifted the cage eight feet and although Dalton, the pit banksman, was able to leap out, a tub of coal fell on top of him.

Bold Colliery miner c1900
Bold Colliery miner pictured around 1900
During May 1886, four men suffered serious injuries from an explosion while shaft sinking at Bold. The colliery manager Andrew Jackson sent for Sutton GP Edward Casey, who had a surgery on the corner of Junction Lane and Peckers Hill Road. However, the men were employed by a contractor and not directly by the Collins Green Colliery Company. So when Dr. Casey sent his bill for £14 12 shillings to the company for treating the injured men, they refused to pay. Dr. Casey took legal action against the colliery company and on March 9th 1887, at a second hearing in St.Helens County Court, the judge somewhat reluctantly found for the medic.

The Collins Green Company were back in court on April 4th 1887 when they were prosecuted for storing 48 lbs. of dynamite and 51 lbs. of blasting cartridges within unlicensed places in Bold Colliery. Their gunpowder store was also said to have been very dirty when inspected, with iron hooks and brass cans lying about. The company initially put the blame on their former storekeeper, telling the court that he should have been summoned not them. Then they said it was the fault of a
Mr. Pygott who had sunk the shaft eight months previously and left dynamite behind. However the sinker took the stand and claimed he had not used dynamite, nor left any behind. The magistrates said the case demonstrated an 'utter want of care and supervision' and imposed the full penalty on the company that the law allowed, which amounted to £4 10s. plus costs. The company had previously been fined 60 shillings in 1884 for keeping gunpowder in an unauthorised place.

Bold Colliery miner pictured c.1900

The price of digging coal out of the former Bold Hall estate continued to include loss of human life. On August 20th 1887, young pony driver James Rigby, who lived at 76, Normans Road, Sutton, was crushed to death by the wagons that he was taking down the pit. Then on September 16th 1887, 15-years-old pony driver Thomas Rigby lost his young life when loaded tubs ran over him. 1887 was an especially bad year for accidents at Bold. In November, 26-years-old collier John Williams died at home after rupturing his spleen in the pit putting a box back onto the rails. He hadn't bothered to report the accident to colliery officials or to G.P. Dr. Casey, whose first involvement in Williams' case was in undertaking his post-mortem.

Then on February 11th 1888, 45-year-old blacksmith
William Storey was helping to install a new cage when he fell down the pit and was instantly killed. During the afternoon of Thursday 16th October 1890, 36-year-old Robert Lewis of 414 Watery Lane, Sutton was crushed by a stone that fell on his back from the pit roof. He was taken to his home and died at midnight. His inquest was held at the Vulcan Inn the following Monday where no blame was apportioned. Mr. Hall, the government inspector, had found the place where the accident happened had been well timbered with props. This wasn't always the case with insufficient supports costing the lives of a number of men at Bold and at 8pm on November 10th 1890, 33-years-old tunneller Hugh Jones was instantly killed by a roof fall and another man severely injured.

In 1890, the sinking of shaft no.3 began and this was completed to a depth of 617 yards by 1892. By that year, the height of the headgears for all three shafts was recorded as being 60 feet and it was also stated that the Collins Green Colliery Company had constructed 100 workers' cottages at Burtonwood with 54 more being built. A social club had also been established which had 100 members of which the Colliery Guardian said 'Every endeavour is made to provide means of recreation and to give interest and employment to the mind'.

Health and safety during the nineteenth century was, of course, nowhere near as strict as today. However, there were certain rules that had to obeyed and smoking or drinking were taboo. In April 1891, Richard Houghton, John Riley and a man called Tickle were each fined between five and 40 shillings for drinking in the engine house at Bold colliery.

Then on April 12th 1892 Richard Clare appeared in St.Helens Police Court charged with breaching the Coal Mines Regulation Act. He was accused of getting into the cage at the bottom of no. 2 shaft when the full complement of twelve men had been reached. Clare refused to get out and after five minutes hooker-on James Yates felt obliged to signal the cage up, allegedly jeopardising the safety of the men. The collier from Sutton was defended by feisty solicitor Henry Riley who argued that the prosecution was instigated because his client was a trade union activist. Riley also argued that all 13 men had technically breached the law and Clare shouldn't be singled out. Enoch Woods gave evidence that there was a lack of discipline when getting into the cage and he and fellow collier John Leyton agreed with Clare's assertion that he had been seventh in order but had been pushed out of the way. The magistrates fined Richard Clare half a crown plus costs.

Two pictures of Andrew Jackson who was an early manager of Bold Colliery - contributed by Martin Heys

Two pictures of Andrew Jackson who was an early manager of Bold Colliery

Bold manager Andrew Jackson

Not every death at mines was inside the pit itself, with a number of men killed on the railways that serviced them. At 7pm on the evening of October 10th 1891, 31-years-old surface labourer James Spencer of 45 Peckers Hill Road, Sutton lost his life. He was crushed to death between the buffers of two wagons in the sidings of Bold colliery whilst unloading bricks. Six days later James France also lost his life while unloading bricks from railway wagons in a colliery siding. On the 25th September 1892, 56-years-old Peter Woods received internal injuries while cutting a sleeper and later died.

Many mineworkers received serious injuries which, although not life-threatening, could have fatal consequences. In October 1892, 48-years-old labourer
Joseph Grice of Hills Moss Road, Sutton was injured at Bold and was unable to return to work. Consequently he became very depressed and on August 21st 1893 he took his own life in a pit of water near his home. Grice had used handkerchiefs to bind his body and left a widow and seven children. The number of boys who sacrificed their lives at the colliery was especially tragic. On January 9th 1893, 15-years-old Edward Parry became the second youngster to be killed at Bold colliery. He was the son of collier William Parry of 5 Rolling Mill Lane, Sutton and they were working together in the Florida Mine when a large stone detached itself from the roof and struck Edward. A similar tragedy occurred on November 23rd 1894 when 43-years-old packer John Griffith was crushed by a stone from the roof.

There was no production at Bold for several months during 1893, as a result of a strike that affected all Lancashire and Yorkshire pits. It was caused by the owners cutting wages by 25% to compensate for a drop in the market price of coal. Although the unions gave permission for men to carry out important maintenance and safety work, this didn't always go down well with firebrands such as
William Jackson. He was a Barnsley miner who came to St.Helens in June of 1893 and on August 30th he led 200 miners, women and boys to Bold colliery. They were met by manager Andrew Jackson who insisted that no coal had been wound since the strike had begun. The sixteen men who were keeping the pit in good order were brought to the surface and warned by the strikers not to to undertake any work in future. Jackson also led strikers to Lea Green and Ashton's Green collieries and was given the nicknames 'Leader' and 'Agent'. On September 23rd 1893, William Jackson was sent to prison for two months for smashing 11 panes of glass in a cobbler's shop in Worsley Brow after a dispute (details here).

Reports of Bold Colliery deaths
Liverpool Mercury from 1895 & 1890
Being struck on the head was a common way to lose your life within Bold colliery. 24-years-old labourer William Kerrigan of Junction Lane died that way on February 6th 1895 and 28-years-old day wageman John Hughes was killed at 4 am on April 13th 1895 when an iron bolt fell from the surface and struck him down. On September 2nd 1895, 36-years-old Thomas Burke (one report called him Murphy) and 43-years-old William Hughes, who lodged together at 21, Rolling Mill Lane, were crushed to death by a 'tremendous quantity of stones and dirt' which had come adrift from the pit roof of the Florida Mine. The Liverpool Mercury's report of the 3rd September said that Burke's body had been 'early extricated, but the unfortunate man had been terribly crushed, and life was extinct.'

It took two hours to dig out Hughes's body as the fall of stones had been so great. The two friends had only started working at Bold some three or four days earlier and at their inquest, the jury and coroner called for a legal requirement for officials to visit work persons more than once during each shift. Coroner Sam Brighouse pointed out the large number of fatalities through roof falls and how the law only required employers to make timber available to the miners so they could prop up roofs. The obligation was on the worker to keep himself safe and not the employer.

Three months later on December 6th, 28-years-old William Jones of 13 Junction Lane was killed by another roof fall while creating a roadway down the mine. Then on May 27th 1896, John Smallshaw, the 48-years-old surface manager at Bold colliery, died in St.Helens Hospital from injuries sustained nine days earlier. Smallshaw, who lived at Bold Villas at St.Helens Junction, had been inspecting a new engine house when he missed his foothold and fell eighteen feet. He landed on his head and also damaged his spine. On January 3rd 1896, 40-years-old day wageman John Jones was crushed to death by a roof fall and on May 1st of that year, 50-years-old engine wright John Smallshaw was fatally injured after he'd fallen while working on a new fan house.

By now the Collins Green Colliery Company were taking a more proactive approach to health and safety and on March 9th 1897 it took three of its own workers to court for separate breaches of its rules. Shot lighter
William Cartledge of Mansfield Street, Sutton, was summoned for not putting up a danger board and fencing off an area. This was after a 'shot' - an electrically-triggered high explosive - had misfired on January 12th. For that he was fined £2 in the St.Helens Police Court. Some time later an accident occurred when Robert Jones attempted to unram the misfired shot and he was very badly injured. Despite his injuries, Jones was prosecuted as a warning to others and fined £1. Robert Hughes of Watery Lane was also summoned for having matches down Bold Colliery and he was fined £1.

On June 27th 1898, fifteen men were seriously injured when the cage in no.3 pit crashed into a wooden platform at the bottom of the shaft. The engine seemingly developed a fault and began operating at full speed which led to the ascending cage getting stuck in the headgear. On July 20th, collier Edward Hewitt had his right arm amputated after an accident with a box. When he later made a claim under the Workman's Compensation Act, the Collins Green Colliery Co. took out a summons against him that alleged he'd breached regulations. On November 2nd 1898, collier 48-years-old Samuel Jones of Penny Lane, Collins Green was killed in no.3 pit of Bold colliery by a stone of more than two tons that fell from the roof.

On February 20th 1899 there was a dreadful accident that cost three lives and left two men injured. The dead were 16-years-old
James Thomason of Newton Road in Parr, 27-years-old William Donnellan and 23-years-old Philip Fogarty, both of Weymouth Street in Sutton. The tragedy was caused by a couple of wagons that broke loose from the endless rope haulage which then triggered a roof fall. Although help was quickly at hand, it took over an hour to extricate the three men who were all found to be dead. Their bodies were removed to the Clock Face Inn where an adjourned inquest was held. It continued in Farnsworth, where Mr. Hall, the government inspector commented that generally he did not feel that the colliery owners maintained a high standard of safety.

On Sunday May 7th 1899, 20-years-old Henry Rigby of 102, Normans Road, Sutton told his father John that he didn't want to go to work as he feared falling down the new shaft. On Monday the pumpman did exactly that, plummeting 75 feet into 12 feet of water and was dead when removed. He had been expected to work on a platform measuring 7 feet by 2 feet 6 inches with no safety fencing. At Rigby's inquest on the 12th, Mr. Matthews, the government inspector, recommended that a fence should be put around the platform, which was a bit too late for Henry Rigby.

On March 22nd 1901, 22-years-old labourer
William Blackmore, who lodged in Watery Lane, met with what one newspaper described as a 'terrible death'. He missed his footing when putting a large water tank into the cage and fell to the bottom of the 600-yards-deep shaft.

Then on February 10th 1902, 45-years-old
John McGrath was crushed to death. On July 30th 1902, 33-years-old collier Joseph Jones of 5, Assam Street, Sutton was fatally crushed by a coal wagon. At the inquest into his death on August 1st, county coroner Samuel Brighouse threatened to jail colliery manager J. G. Thompson. Following his employers' instructions, Thompson had arranged for Jones's body to be removed to his home, which was outside of the township of Bold. Without the permission of a coroner, transferring a body between townships was illegal. So Brighouse adjourned the inquiry for a fortnight demanding that Thompson apologise and provide an assurance that he will obey the coroner's orders in future. At the resumed inquest at the Railway Hotel in St.Helens Junction, it was revealed that a deal had been struck between the coroner and the Collins Green Colliery Company. In future when there was a death at Bold Colliery, the police would immediately summon a jury to examine the body. The deceased could then be removed to his own home and the coroner then contacted to schedule the formal inquest.

On January 20th 1903 in the no.3 pit, 26-years-old collier
Charles Doherty was fatally injured when he was crushed against a wall. Two months later on March 19th, 31-years-old Joseph Horsley was killed when he was struck by a haulage rope after three tubs fell out of the cage and struck the rope. A fortnight later on April 4th, 24-years-old Robert Williams lost his life in no.2 pit when a stone fell on him. Then on June 14th 1903, four sinkers were badly hurt when an explosive 'shot' blew prematurely. The injured men included Patrick Coffey of Powell Street plus Martin Grace and Patrick Monaghan both from Herbert Street in Sutton. Exactly a year later, 26-years-old sinker Philip Lennon was fatally injured and on September 23rd 1904 an overturned tub killed 15-years-old pony driver James Jones of Frederick Street, Sutton.

Memorial plaque at Bold Colliery
Memorial plaque at Bold from 1905
By January 1905, the no.1 shaft had been deepened to 700 yards, an operation that involved seventy sinkers and on the 14th a celebration was held at the Pear Tree in Collins Green. Manager Mr. Southern praised the men for experiencing no more than slight accidents during the dangerous shaft extension. It was ironic that just 36 hours later, four boys and one man were killed and eighteen others were injured in the worst accident at Bold colliery. The cage in no.3 shaft, which carried eighteen males on two decks, was overwound by engine winder James Fowler who was coming to the end of a 13 hour shift. Instead of stopping, the cage sped down the shaft until it struck a platform that had been used in the recent sinking operations. It was fortuitous that it had been left there, as otherwise the cage occupants would have gone straight into 30 feet of water and all eighteen would have drowned.

The ascending cage went up into the headgear and the top of the engine house was demolished. Sutton's medical men,
Dr. Bates and Dr. Casey plus Dr. Jackson and Dr. Tough arrived at Bold colliery as the fourteen injured men were brought to the surface. Nine were seriously hurt and they were taken by colliery ambulance and Dr. Bates’s car to St. Helens Hospital. The dead were John McHenry, Thomas Rothwell and John Caveney who were just 14-years-old, plus 15-years-old Evan Davies and 24-years-old John Swift. The inquest was held first at the Clock Face Inn before continuing at St.Helens Town Hall where no blame was attached to the unfortunate winder.

Within a few weeks of the tragedy, two more youngsters died at Bold colliery. These were 16-years-old
James Smart from Marshalls Cross and 17-years-old James Monaghan, both haulage hands. The pair were killed on February 20th in no. 3 pit by a large roof fall, despite the roof being well propped. It took half-an-hour of digging to get Smart's body out and a further two hours to retrieve Monaghan's. Then on April 17th 1905, 57-years-old collier Richard Dixon suffered internal injuries in no.3 pit. He was injured by falling against the tub that he was pushing and he died three days later. On October 10th 1905, 52-years-old collier William Taylor died at no.2 pit when a stone from the roof fell on him. On January 31st 1906, 42-years-old packer James Rigby died in St. Helens hospital of blood poisoning after injuring his thumb two weeks earlier lifting a stone. Nine days later, 59-years-old collier Thomas Whalley was killed at the no. 3 pit after a roof fall. On June 7th Bold contractor Peter Healey was charged with shooting his wife with intent to murder her, after a row at their Burtonwood home.

One would have thought that lessons would have been learned after the terrible tragedy of January 1905 caused by overwound cages. However just 19 months later on August 25th 1906, a very similar event occurred within the same pit. Sixteen men were being sent down the shaft and sixteen men were being raised, when the two cages overshot their stopping points. This caused the rising cage to get hung in the head gear and the descending cage to strike the landing at the pit bottom with terrible force. Most of the men lived in the St.Helens Junction district and rumours spread like wildfire that all 16 in the descending cage had been killed. Amazingly it turned out that there had been no serious injuries, with just
John Moran of 214 Reginald Road and John Doans of 57 Hoghton Road receiving minor injuries to their legs.

In November 1906,
William John Carter of 70 Morris Street in Sutton died in hospital after being struck by a box that had gone off the rails. However, it was revealed at his inquest that he had an underlying medical condition, although his injuries accelerated his demise. On March 14th 1907, labourer, George Sharps, of 108 Herbert Street, Sutton, was run over by a locomotive. Six weeks later on April 26th in no.2 pit, 44-years-old collier David Leyland caught his knee with a pick. Blood poisoning set in but he continued working until May 7th and died a few days later. On September 5th 1907, 23-years-old drawer Joseph Fairhurst was fatally injured after being crushed in the no. 1 pit. Then on December 15th 1907, 63-years-old Peter Ellison died in St.Helens Hospital from injuries received after being struck by a large stone. Yet another roof fall occurred on January 27th 1908 after an explosive 'shot' had been fired and 30-years-old contractor Patrick Regan was killed. On November 23rd 1909 St.Helens Fire Brigade spent several hours extinguishing a fire underground at Bold. They were not helped by having to obtain water from almost 800 yards away.

Tough miners would often continue to work after injuring themselves which sometimes cost them their lives. 35-years-old collier
William Saxon slipped down a landing in the no.2 pit on May 18th 1910 and injured himself. He complained of pain in his leg and groin but carried on working until November when he died from a malignant tumour in the hip joint. On December 30th 1910, John Kearney, aged 29, died from the injuries he'd received in an accident six weeks earlier after he'd gone to pull up a sleeper to lay rails in a roadway.

The six-week long strike of 1912, which began at the end of February, was said to be the first national coal dispute and was centred on miners’ demands for a minimum wage. The Bold Colliery management refused to allow people to pick coal from the ‘stuff’ or spoil heap. Technically this was trespass and theft but it could also be dangerous. So on March 18th an angry crowd of 400 gathered at the colliery and had to be driven away by the police. The crowd tore up some fencing before moving onto Collins Green Colliery where they broke windows and threw stones at police. On June 27th 1912,
Samuel Copeland, a 16-years-old haulage hand, was killed in the no.1 pit at Bold when 10 tons of metal fell on top of him. 70-years-old brow hand Louis Helsby was killed on March 20th 1913 (possibly 1923) when he fell 22 feet as he attempted to lift a tub. Then John Mather, an 18-years-old haulage hand, was crushed to death against the roof on May 10th 1913.
Robert one of three locos at Bold Colliery

Robert one of three locos at Bold Colliery from Frank Bamber's Round About The Pits

Robert one of three locos at Bold Colliery

Robert one of 3 locos at Bold - from Frank Bamber's Round About The Pits

Robert one of three locos at Bold Colliery

The loco Robert at Bold Colliery

On January 10th 1914, 20-years-old haulage hand John Garner was killed after being buried under a stone after a shot firer had neglected to check that the area was clear. Then on March 30th of that year, Robert Lee (or Leigh), aged 30, was fatally injured by a roof fall. 50-years-old George Green was also fatally crushed when a roof gave way on August 26th 1914. During 1914 the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation threatened strike action unless the large numbers of non-union labour at Bold and Collins Green collieries joined their union. Their threats worked and they received hundreds of new members.

The long list of casualties at Bold continued in 1915 when on April 27th, 48-years-old
Edward Morgan of 53 Helena Road died on his way to St.Helens Hospital after being struck by a stone that measured 7 feet by 5 feet. His two sons were working on the surface when the accident happened. A large stone also saw off 24-years-old packer James Golden at the colliery on July 30th 1915. Sometimes it took months before pit men succumbed to their injuries. 46-years-old Moses Billinge of 19 Watery Lane suffered spinal injuries at Bold on March 22nd 1915 when crushed by full boxes landing on him. However he didn't die of his injuries until mid-August. Griffith Roberts of 33 Eliza Street in Sutton met a shocking death on December 11th 1915. The 20-years-old had reached over to attend to a leaking steam tap and caught his clothing in a shaft revolving at 100 revolutions per minute. He was carried round and round and the top of his head was torn off.

Albert Jelley was killed by a roof fall on March 15th 1916. The latter lived at 18 Powell Street in Sutton but had curiously been employed at Bold under the name of Thomas Kelly. The coroner's jury at the Clock Face Hotel were in the process of signing their verdict of 'Accidental Death' after completing their inquiry into Kelly's death when William Jelley hurried into the room. He stated that his brother's real name was Albert Jelley and the coroner had to change all the paperwork. Then on June 26th 1916, 34-years-old Edward Davies of Tickle Street in Parr badly damaged his spine at Bold, from which he died a week later. On December 16th 1916, 16-years-old Fred Hilton of Burtonwood was crushed between boxes of coal. However, he failed to report the accident and went home telling his parents that his legs hurt. Hilton didn't seek medical attention until two days later and shortly afterwards died in hospital from blood poisoning.

Boys were not paid well for their arduous work down the pit.
Robert Heyes began working at Bold Colliery about 1912 when aged 11 or 12. Like other youngsters he was in charge of the tubs and his first wage packet was just a few shillings for over 50 hours labour. To supplement his meagre wages Robert was forced to dance on pub tables. Understandably he became a communist and after moving to Doncaster after the 1926 strike was badly injured and broke his back.

Mary Worthington and Martha Prescott
Mary Worthington and Martha Prescott
The word 'crushed' is synonymous with the perils of mining and 22-years-old Edward Roughley fractured his spine after a fall of stone on January 16th 1920, dying four days later in hospital. He had served in the St.Helens 'Pals' from 1915 to February 1919 only receiving a slight arm wound. It took a return to mining at Bold, just six months before the accident, to see him off. From about 1920 until 1940, a narrow gauge railway was introduced that connected Bold colliery with Sutton. This enabled day shift workers to be ferried to work and night workers to be returned home. Between 5.30am and 6.45am six days a week, a petrol driven Lister engine pushed ten carriages to Helena Road in Sutton and pulled them back to Bold.

On February 17th 1921, fireman
Henry Worthington and John Prescott died at Bold as a result of yet another roof fall. 52-years-old Henry lived at 7 Garnet Street in Sutton with wife Mary and family. The cold statistics of mining accidents belie the family tragedies which had enormous personal as well as financial consequences for the widows and children. This photograph - contributed by James Prescott - was taken at the rear of 7 Garnet Street in happier times, with Mary Worthington standing at the rear by daughter Martha Prescott and her grandchildren (baby Edward with Jimmy, Marjorie & Harry Prescott.)

It was reported in a Mine Inspector’s Report of 1923 that three persons met their deaths at Bold while riding on tubs although no details are known. On June 5th, 1924, 60-years-old
Ralph Thompson was killed by a roof fall that weighed about two tons and on September 27th 1924, Joseph Morris aged 50 years was killed by runaway boxes. Also in 1924, engineer John Webster went down the mine to remedy a problem but failed to allow his eyes to adjust to the dark and consequently walked into the spokes of return pulleys and was killed. Surprisingly, the job of notifying relatives that a mineworker had met with a serious accident was not undertaken by senior management or by a police officer but by a boy apprentice. Frank Bamber was employed at Bold colliery from 1924 to 1942, initially as an apprentice joiner, and for three years was given that unpleasant task to undertake:
 Between the ages of 14 to 17, the time of my apprenticeship, the Assistant Engineer would come into the shop from time to time and tell me that “so and so” had met with a serious accident, and had been stretchered off in the ambulance to the hospital. I was asked to get on my bike and let the relatives of the injured or deceased man know. I was given the address if I said I did not know where they lived. I always knocked on the door and told them that their relative had met with an accident and would they go to the hospital as soon as they could, as it was urgent. I never mentioned it if the person had already died.
Up until the 1920s, coal was extracted through colliers' muscles wielding picks and shovels. However, the installation of air compressors at Bold enabled mechanical coal cutters to do the back-breaking work, with thousands of yards of steel pipes connecting the compressors on the surface with the coal faces. Facilities for the workers at Bold colliery at this time were very basic as Frank Bamber recollected in his book 'Round About The Pits':
 There was no canteen provided for the workers, either below ground or on the surface. Also, there were no toilets provided for men. There was an old type of small, brick toilet built a good distance away from the pit brow, in a secluded spot for the women and girls. Hand washing facilities consisted of an iron bucket filled with hot water which came down from the boilers and was discharged into the reservoir. This was brought to the shop by me or the youngest apprentice. Everybody used the same bucket, and hands were dried with cotton waste. Soap was the semi-liquid type you could get from the stores by taking a tin. So, conditions were no better than camping out in the woods....The only privacy the male workers had for toilet use was an avenue of trees, which led from Bold Road - probably the old entrance to the farm which preceded the colliery. Alternatively, they could make their way under the wagons in the sidings. 
On July 20th 1938 a miner's self-sacrifice was related at the inquest on Henry Roughley. The 33-years-old from Alma Place, Peasley Cross, had pushed James Smith out of the way just before a stone fell from the roof crushing him to death. On May 14th 1939 a fire, that the Daily Herald described as ‘fierce’, broke out underground at Bold. Firefighters from all over Lancashire, wearing respirators and working in relays, took 24 hours to quell the blaze, after a large quantity of sandbags had been taken below to suffocate the flames. John (or William) Nicholson received fatal injuries at Bold on August 10th 1939 after a ‘shot’ had been fired. It was thought that the 54-year-old from Billinge had prematurely returned to the coal face from a place of safety, as two minutes had elapsed from the shot firer’s warning shouts to the detonation. As a consequence, procedure for shot firing at Bold was changed, with the firing of the shot taking place more quickly after the second and final warning.

As a result of the outbreak of war, it was reported in October 1939 that staff at Bold Colliery and the associated Collins Green Colliery were receiving an intensive series of anti-gas and first-aid lectures. The miners were used to the threat of gas underground but were now facing the possibility of being gassed above ground by the Nazis. On October 16th
Albert Gee was working down Bold when he heard a man shout that someone had been trapped by a roof fall. He dashed to the scene and discovered that the man was his brother James Gee of Holt Lane in Billinge. A large stone that was five feet long, a yard wide and eighteen inches thick, pinned down the 33-year-old, who died from his injuries three months later. An explosive ‘shot’ had been fired, which was believed to have loosened the pit roof, causing the stone to drop out.

The three seams at Bold colliery at this time were known as Crombouke, Higher Florida and Lower Florida. By the late 1930s they had been worked for such a considerable distance that the economic position of the colliery became difficult. At one point the colliery closed and in 1940 the Collins Green Colliery Company went into liquidation. However their assets were bought by the Sutton Heath and Lea Green Company, who redeveloped Bold and used the pits at Collins Green for pumping purposes.
They began working a new seam of coal, called the Yard seam, and utilising deep-seam mining, which until recently had not been possible. As a result nos. 1 and 3 shafts were deepened to 918 yards and the Rushy Park horizon with diameters of 21 feet and 16 feet respectively. Bold became the outpost colliery in the direction of Warrington and new sidings were also laid, a new screening plant was built and tubs of a larger 15 cwt. capacity were introduced.

At the inquest into the death of 18-year-old haulage hand
Joseph Barton on February 5th 1940, it was stated that hard hats were not compulsory at Bold and had to be purchased by the men. Barton was helping to get a derailed tub back onto the lines when a chain broke and struck him on the head. Colliery overman David Jones told the inquest that Barton was only wearing a beret at the time and the danger would have been lessened if he had worn a hard hat.

News cuttings from 1971 on Bold hero Carl Schofield - contributed by William Hancock

News cuttings from 1971 on Bold Colliery hero Carl Schofield

Cuttings from 1971 on Carl Schofield

Between 1907 and 1971 the heroic deeds of miners who endangered their own lives to rescue fellow workers was recognised by the award of the Edward Medal. This was the industrial Victoria Cross and in 1940 Bold miner Carl Schofield and colliery agent Thomas Jameson were both awarded the Edward Medal (second class). This was for saving five men who were buried in debris as a result of a roof fall. The accident happened on February 14th 1940, when seven men were relocating a turbine. Without warning a large section of roof collapsed upon them, injuring two of the men and completely burying the other five. Manager Thomas Jameson was at home but immediately went to Bold Colliery to take charge of the rescue operation. As Carl Schofield arrived at 10pm to begin his night shift, he learnt of the accident and immediately went to the scene. He realised that his father, who'd been on the afternoon shift, was likely to be one of the trapped men. Once fireman Ernest Hayes was freed he was able to tell the rescuers the approximate location of the other men.

Schofield and Jameson worked non-stop for 28 hours to rescue five men using their bare hands to remove rocks and rubble, as there was no room for a shovel. Speaking in 1971, Carl said the pile of rubble was 35 to 40 feet high. Using a small saw he cut through a conveyor chain, a rail and a beam and two men were brought out at 2am and 3am. There was then another fall that blocked the rescue tunnel.
It took 28 hours to extricate the bodies of Carl's 62-years-old father Charles Schofield and 40-years-old Richard Shaw. Carl had been a mineworker since 1916 and after his experience, he thought twice about going down the pit again. However he did eventually return to Bold and later transferred to Clock Face Colliery, where he worked until his retirement in 1963. Eight years later, Carl and Thomas Jameson were invited to Buckingham Palace to exchange their Edward Medals for the George Cross. Robert Mather, a haulage engine driver at Bold, was also honoured in 1951 when he was awarded the British Empire Medal.

Another fatal surface accident occurred on June 10th 1940, when 62-year-old John Porter of 62 Edgeworth Street was struck down by a waggon that was being shunted. The brakesman Frederick Hill was criticised at Porter’s inquest for riding on the engine with the driver instead of walking in front. Robert Phillips from Platt Bridge near Wigan, suffered a dreadful death at Bold in May 1941. The 17-year-old was found dead at the bottom of the shaft after apparently falling from the pit cage. There are not many reports of other accidents during this period, although on January 11th 1945, Charlie McCarthy, aged 56 from Collins Green, was fatally injured at Bold.

There was some industrial action at Bold Colliery during the war years over pay. It was part of a wider dispute in the Lancashire coalfield and took place on some days between December 1943 and February 1944. The so-called 'Porter Award' established a new national minimum wage but some felt it unfair with many anomalies. On January 31st 1944 the Daily Express reported how: 'After working half-naked down a coal mine, Mr. Edwin (Teddy) Hall, president of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners’ Federation, put on his old grey suit and made a 70-minute speech to miners who are on strike. It was the longest and most important speech of his life.' These were 1000 Bold Colliery workers who Hall, of Prescot Road in St.Helens, addressed in a Labour Hall in Sutton. The men had been off work for a week, as a protest against a £5 minimum pay award. Hall clearly possessed powers of persuasion, as all but one of the men voted to return to work.

On July 12th 1944 59-year-old
Ernest Marsh from Newton Road in Parr died in the pit cage at Bold as he was being conveyed to the surface. The manager at Bold at this time was Albert Taylor, who lived at Bank House in Burtonwood, and one of his undermanagers was Edward Brown of Wheatsheaf Avenue in Sutton. On December 8th 1944 the pair were assaulted after a dispute with six haulage hands boiled over into violence. There had been a reduction in output in no. 2 pit and one man had been let go. This caused some resentment but Taylor refused to speak to the haulage hands without trade union representation. This angered the men and they pinned the undermanager Brown against the wall and then struck him about the face and body. 21-year-old John Monaghan then assaulted the manager Taylor and threw him to the ground. In court the six were charged with assault and behaving in a violent manner in a mine, for which they received fines.

During 1948 Bold's Moses Heyes featured extensively in an NCB newspaper recruitment campaign

During 1948 Bold's Moses Heyes featured in a recruitment campaign

In 1948 Bold's Moses Heyes featured in an NCB recruitment campaign

During 1946 the 670 underground workers at Bold Colliery and its 240 surface staff produced 200,000 tons of coal, with an almost identical amount excavated in 1947. As the pit could potentially wind 1000 tons a day, this was far less than its potential and its output per man-shift (OMS) was less than 20 cwts. One reason for the under-performance was a three week stoppage in July of 1946 through the failure of a winding engine. Production was also disrupted by a strike in early August 1947 through the management's order that miners must work an eight yard coal face instead of the existing seven. A false rumour that a bonus was not going to be paid, also contributed in keeping them off work. After only working one day in the previous nine, the men were persuaded by their miners' agent Charles L. Tyrer to return to work and give the new distance a trial. However these production disruptions were temporary and the real problem was inefficiency coupled with the employment of old-fashioned equipment.

In January 1947 nationalisation of the coal industry began and the newly-created National Coal Board (NCB) decided to completely reorganise Bold Colliery with the intention of making it one of the largest and most modern pits in Lancashire. There were a number of reasons for this. First of all production needed to be stepped up to replace the declining output from other collieries in the area whose reserves would soon be exhausted. Boreholes drilled to the south of Bold had suggested 60 million tons of workable coal reserves and geological conditions were the most favourable in the area. So the colliery had plenty of potential for the future. Another reason was the decision of the Central Electricity Generating Board to construct a power station on an adjoining site, providing a major customer for the colliery on its own doorstep.
The above picture was photographed about 1948/9 and was probably made as a record prior to the colliery’s modernisation. The photo looks east with the Liverpool / Manchester railway line on the extreme left and Bold Lane on the right, with the photographer standing in the field where the last of the cooling towers for Bold Power Station would subsequently be built. To the left at the rear of the picture, you can see the inclined ramp, which allowed coal tubs to climb into the large Screens building. This would have been built after 1939, most probably to increase production during the war, which would justify its high cost. The large rectangular wooden structure to the right of the screens is the cooling tower for the boilers behind it. Indeed you can just see some of the return steam at the top of the building. The huge slagheap in the middle of the picture displays the signs of variable weather erosion over many years. As would be expected, the much newer slagheap to its right shows far less erosion, with its conical shape being quite rare in Lancashire. Note the tub guide outline, which travels to the top of the heap. A careful examination of the sole chimney indicates that its upper two thirds had recently been rebuilt, with some scaffolding still in place at the top. You can view a larger version of the photo here.

On April 22nd 1949, the NCB announced more details of the £5.4 million investment, which would involve a complete reconstruction of Bold, both on its surface and below ground. The plans would take six years to complete (from November 1949 to April 1955), and over a further five years, the winding capacity would be increased six-fold to 6000 tons a day. The estimate of workable coal reserves was now considered to be as much as 192 million tons, which would provide employment at Bold for decades.

There would also be a new (or reconstructed) coal preparation plant, power house, workshops, sidings, pit head baths, canteen, medical centre and an administrative block. The NCB announced that engineers and contractors
Simon-Carves Ltd. would be designing and installing new headgears, using a Koepe winding installation. Two electrically wound 9-ton skips would be designed to operate from two levels, with coal extracted by the longwall advancing method. Twin horizon tunnels would be driven to open up the new reserves of coal and 13kw battery locomotives introduced to haul 30 and 60 cwt. capacity mine cars. A 2000 feet conveyor would take the coal from the Bold washery to the boiler bunkers, which was intended to be ultimately at the rate of 300,000 to 400,000 tons per year.

The new no. 2 headgear at Bold Colliery pictured in 1953 - photo found in the papers of engineer Ronald D'Souza

The new no. 2 headgear at Bold Colliery pictured in 1953

New no. 2 headgear at Bold in 1953

The above photograph shows the no. 2 pit's new headgear, which was photographed on September 26th 1953. Note a crane and scaffolding in the background as the modernisation of the colliery continued. Work was also proceeding on creating the new power station adjacent to the colliery. As a result of nationalisation all mines had the quality of their coals graded according to their heat, ash content and freeness of burning. The coal from Bold was rated the best in St.Helens and was awarded high grades of two and three. So with strong demand for its high grade of plentiful coal that was being extracted and distributed using state-of-the art technology, Bold Colliery had a guaranteed future for many decades to come. Or so it seemed...
Also See: Bold Colliery & Bold Power Station Photo-Album 1 (31 images), Photo-Album 2 (Terry Almond Collection - 29 images), Photo-Album 3 (Cliff Payne Collection - 31 images), Photo-Album 4 (John Brooks, Keith Halton and Steven Oakden Collections - 23 images), Bold Power Station, Sutton Manor Colliery, Clock Face Colliery, Lea Green Colliery & Sherdley Colliery
Also See: Bold Colliery & Bold Power Station Photo-Album 1 (31 images), Photo-Album 2 (Terry Almond Collection - 29 images), Photo-Album 3 (Cliff Payne Collection - 31 images), Photo-Album 4 (John Brooks, Keith Halton and Steven Oakden Collections - 23 images), Bold Power Station, Sutton Manor Colliery, Clock Face Colliery, Lea Green Colliery and Sherdley Colliery
Also See: Bold Colliery Photo-Album 1, Photo-Album 2 (Terry Almond Collection), Photo-Album 3 (Cliff Payne Collection), Photo-Album 4 (John Brooks, Keith Halton & Steven Oakden Collections), Bold Power Station, Sutton Manor Colliery, Clock Face Colliery, Lea Green Colliery and Sherdley Colliery
Next:  Part 88)  Bold Colliery Part 2  |  Back To Top of Page
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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