1936 : Decision made to sink mine shaft in Calverton
1937 : An announcement is made by B.A. Collieries that it plans to have a coal mine at Calverton. They say the proposed mine should yield 100 million tonnes of coal. They also point out that men will be employed for over "125 years".
April : Road work and erection of temporary buildings
June 14 : Number 1 shaft - First sod cut by Captain C.B. Lancaster and Sir Hugh Seely
Visitors Document (1937-1978) Archived by former Colliery Electrician, Michael Buczko
(press the picture to view)
January 1 : Number 2 shaft, turf cutting ceremony hosted by Captain C.B. Lancaster. View by playing the above left video
January 11: Miners arriving for work. View by playing the above right video
January 12 : Start of second shaft
1947 : All U.K Collieries are nationalised and will now be run by the National Coal Board.
Boring began on January 1, 1947. Freezing operations began - because some of the surface equipment could not be ready in time - on August 28, 1948. Sinking the holes for the freezer pipes started November 23, 1948, and by May 11, 1949, the twenty-five freezing holes had been sunk around a 33-feet diameter circle to the bottom of the watery strata 412 feet from the surface.
When the new headgear was finished late in 1948 it was believed to be the tallest in the country - 145 feet from ground to the top of the "Cat's Gallows."
There was no hitch - and thawing out was finished by July 1949.
This slight warming up was for the benefit of the tools - not the men. When pumping was used to cope with the tremendous problem of water in the first shaft-sinking, conditions were so bad that 150 men of the sinkers' teams left the job and had to be replaced in the first critical three months.
This time the teams were free of water - but they were working in Arctic conditions quite foreign to this kind of job in Britain. "If you slackened off, you froze!" said Cyril Wesson, master sinker, when recalling his stage of the task at Calverton.
The men were supplied with two-inch thick felt socks for their oversize boots, with heavy gloves and thick flannel coats. String-type vests, which had proved their worth - and warmth - in the cold zones of the Second World War, were another part of the sinkers' equipment as they fought their own battle with icy rock and icy cold at Calverton. Hot drinks every two hours - and back to the surface for "snap" half-way through their seven-and-a-half-hour shifts.
Five men, shaft-sinking crew, in a "hoppit." Left to right, Bill Chambers, Joe Chantry, Arthur Miller, "Pom" Leverton, Arthur Chamberlain and, top right in the shaft, "Taff" Lawson
The "hoppit," emptied of men is filled with wet muck - by Jack Atherley and Arthur Chamberlain - while Colin Marshall snatches a drink of water
Duffle-coated, way down in the shaft, Marshall, Chantry and Joe Webster, swing the full "hoppit"
Work will then commence on the skip bottom at Low Hazel, and semi-horizon working would then enable coals from Main Bright and High Hazel to be brought out at that level.
Overall Output Per Man-Shift of 44 Hundredweight, was hoped to be obtained by a projected, 1,770 men underground and 340 surface men. This was against a backdrop of unspoilt countryside, for coal from the 400-ton surge bunker - to be taken there by belt-convenors from the skip winding plant which will be totally enclosed - then travel again via enclosed conveyors under rural Oxton Road over to the coal preparation plant which will be only 600 yards.
This mine would be no eyesore amid the lovely scenery of the village. There was to be no dirt tip, for an aerial ropeway was to take the dirt to a re-entrant valley, well away from the preparation plant - with room enough for over thirty years' tipping to be hid. Afterwards the dirt would be graded to merge into the smooth contours of the countryside, and planted with trees.
Development at Calverton was planned with a huge eye on the future - this was one of the N.C.B.'s biggest schemes ever.....
1950 : Underground drivages commenced in High Main Seam
August : Number 2 shaft has now reached a depth of 350 yards
On the job - master sinker Cyril Wesson (left) and one of the chargemen (and pump-rider) Arthur Miller
It was really a freezing job - as these ice-coated refrigeration pipes at the shaft end show
Around the fire in the crew's "glory hole," smiling over a shift ended - and a job well done in spite of Arctic cold and ice-hard rock
There were eight experienced sinkers - hard core of experience for the teams which had to be created from green hands - fitters, ex-hosiery workers, farm labourers and navvies. Inexperienced men to work in a tough, dangerous and vital job - vital because there could be no slip-up if the sinking was to be done properly and on time. Drilling, shot-firing, "mucking out" the rubble after the explosions, walling with metal tubbing, extending the compressed air, water and ventilation pipes.
Twenty-four hours a day in three shifts each of twelve men. Experienced and free hands both learning from hour to hour, day-to-day experience...........
"The best people I ever worked with; enthusiastic and interested," was No. 6 Area's sinking and boring engineer Arthur Wadsworth's tribute to his teams. "No preconceived ideas on how to do the job, so they came into it with open minds and a fine spirit."
At this point, if you went down the shaft in a "hoppit" - a great big, three-ton bucket which took men from the surface to pit bottom, or coal from the onset to the banksman - you could travel in seconds past the hard work of months. You could admire the shaded beauty of the fan-drift as its unscreened vents tumbled light over the rounded edge of the big hole. A lot of the technical detail was hidden behind the cast-iron and concrete lining of the shaft. But it was there - ready for the new winding gear which was hoped to bring 1,000,000 tons to the surface.
At 105 feet you would enter the arctic section. At 392 feet you left it behind. At 900 feet you would have reached the point at which the sinkers were working. They had already cut through one three-inch seam of coal. But their first target in the development scheme was the High Main, a 3 feet 3 inch seam, some 1,000 feet down. Below that was Main Bright, High Hazel, Low Hazel and Top Hard, at nearly 1,750 feet. Those five seams - with even more below - are said to be good for a century of work....100,000,000 tonnes! The skip bottom was first to be cast in the High Main level - where development work will be concentrated for twenty-five years.
"Mucking out" at the shaft floor - more of the crew : Left to right, Lawson, Bert Holehouse, Eddie Gilfilian, Chantry and Chambers, fill the ever-hungry "hoppit"
Not a game - but a problem solved by, "Toby" Taylor (assistant sinking and boring engineer), Arthur Wadsworth, and Cyril Wesson, master sinker
1938 : Proposal to build village to house mineworkers (500 houses)
February : Number 1 shaft reaches a depth of 64 yards
May 22 : Number 1 shaft final depth of 562 yards is reached
September : Baths, canteen and Lamp Cabin erected plus 22 houses near the pit
October : Housing estate of 500 houses proposed next to pit (Phase 2)
October/November : Number 1 shaft brought into operation for ventilation and manriding from Bestwood
1942 : Concert staged by ENSA in canteen
December : Work started for sinking number 2 shaft and building a permanent winder and headgear
February : Order placed for new winder with Messrs Fraser and Chalmers, Erith, Kent
April : Application made to LMS and LNER railways to supply railway service
May : Calverton borehole 1.25 miles east of shaft completed
1937: Pithead gear being sunk
In 1940 the architecture of the mine was published via a lovely pamphlet (press the picture to view)
But the below-zero temperatures in which the men worked are really part of the human drama enacted throughout the Calverton shaft sinking. At 100 feet down it was found, as work proceeded through the ice collar, that the air temperature was 22 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of the walls 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ten to fourteen degrees below freezing point - wonderful for the purpose, but tough on men cutting a painful way through the ice-hard rock. The compressed air drills froze every twenty minutes - and had to be thawed out. The concrete would not set well on the frozen walls.
So from freezing, by refrigeration experts, to heating by electrical engineers. Three heaters were rigged on a frame which could be raised or lowered in the shaft. They gave an even flow of warm air - enough to prevent the tools freezing, enough to let concrete set, enough to raise the temperature to six degrees above freezing point.
Right - How the first stage of the new shaft has been sunk by the refrigeration method:
(B) First 60ft. below the surface before bunter sandstone is encountered.
(C) Water - bearing bunter sandstone bed.
(D) Marl (clay bed 300ft. thick, which separates porous sandstone from coal measures and rock). The high main coal seam is 1,100ft. below surface.
Continuation of shaft, marked with arrow, would proceed normally in a month's time. The collar of ice, estimated to be 70ft. in diameter, was formed by ringing the shaft with cooled brine from a surface plant.