On 24th June 1740, Fletcher and other owners of collieries at Heanor, Smalley and Denby, having been accused of monopolising the sale of coals, denied and offered to supply any coals at 2s 6d (12½p) to 3s (15p) a ton, for 40 years to come, and to give security for the performance of the same. (Précis from Glover’s Derbyshire, 1831).


Sinkings 1747: 

Denby Old Hall pit (Lowe).


In September 1752 there was hue and cry throughout the land as 11 days were removed from the English or Julian calendar to harmonize with the Gregorian calendar of the Continent.


PP Burdett carried out a survey of Derbyshire and Notts from 1763 to 1767 and published a plan, updated in 1791.  4 pits at Newton ¾ mile east of village; 3 pits at Pinxton west of Brook Hill Hall and south of Carter Lane; 2 pits at Shipley ½ mile east of Hall; 3 pits at Awsworth ¾ mile southwest near to River Erewash; 3 pits at Ilkeston ¼ mile east of town; 1 pit at Ilkeston 1 mile west of town.


Hurt acquired the Manor of Heage for around £16,000 in 1767 and it included the Morley Park coal and ironstone mines. It was a colossal sum of money at that time.


Around 1776, John Curr of Sheffield, Manager for the Duke of Norfolk’s collieries, substituted trams running on cast-iron angle rails instead of boys having to drag coals on sledges, however it was some time before the idea was used in our local mines due to the expense. He also invented the flat rope used for winding and used small wooden tubs to raise the coal instead of corves.


In 1780, at Ripley a drift was cut to intersect the old Hard coal.  Marehay colliery was 110 yards (100m) deep to the Hard coal, whereas at Hartshay Foundation it was 95 yards (87m).  Pits were also at Hill Top and Haslam’s Foundation (Pentrich).


Horse gins were the general means of hauling coal up the shafts but steam engines had been invented and the first use of one at a shaft was at Oakthorpe, near Measham in 1787, then in South Derbyshire.  An atmospheric engine designed by Francis Thompson was installed at Oakerthorpe, North Derbyshire in 1791 and was later re-erected at Pentrich colliery and had a working life of 127 years. Eventually this engine was removed after standing for 8 years and is preserved in the Science Museum, South Kensington, London. Care must be taken when researching these two collieries with similar sounding names. The word ‘gin’ is a corruption of engine.


These small steam-engines of between 8 and 20hp were called Wimseys, Whimseys or Whymseys and unfortunately when they broke down it could have been several weeks before repair was completed, therefore at many pits an old Whim gin or horse driven ‘engine’ would be kept as a standby.  One of the first Whymseys in Notts was put to work at a pit at Bilborough, north of the village of Bilborough and the old Strelley wharf. The cost of these engines was about £500 and could raise corves containing between 5cwt to about 12cwt according to the depth of the shaft.


The Rise of Butterley Company

Benjamin Outram & Co was formed.  The partners were Benjamin Outram (1764-1803), born Alfreton, Francis Beresford, Solicitor (1737-1801), John Wright (1758-1840) Banker, and William Jessop (1745-1814) Engineer.  The firm established an ironworks and bought the freehold of the Butterley Hall Estate in 1790 from the Horne family and began developing the ancient coal and ironstone workings.  Benjamin’s father Joseph was born at Alfreton in 1732. The Butterley Company was formed in April 1791.   The new company paid 8 sinkers up to 2s 3d (11¼p) a day and 5 labourers 2s (10p) a day.  

The Codnor Park collieries began working in 1794.  These were shallow pits between the Langley Bridge Canal and Codnor Castle and taken out by Butterley Co on a 63 years lease from the Rev’d L Hoskins Masters.  The pits were exhausted or worked out by 1856 - i.e. 62 years!  The working of the coal would have been done by hand got methods using primitive tools and without the use of any machinery at all, the only illumination would have been tallow candles, and the miners were paid between 2s 4d (11½p) and 2s 6d (12½p) a day.  New ironworks were built at Riddings and Butterley by the canal side.


The Cromford Canal opened in 1794 and along with other developments in Canals significantly improved transport links in the area, providing eady routes to market for Coal, Lime and other products such as finished Iron.

In 1796 the Nottingham Canal had reached 14¾ miles long, from the River Trent lock to the junction of the Cromford Canal at Langley Bridge.  The Nutbrook Canal at 4½ miles long completed in 1796 (Act of Parliament 1793) was built by Outram for Sir Henry Hunloke of Wingerworth owner of West Hallam colliery and Edward Miller Mundy owner of Shipley collieries at a cost of £22,800.  The Derby Canal was completed also in the same year. Robbinett’s Cut at Cossall was opened and also the Pinxton Canal.  The price of coal dropped dramatically as competition between  the coal owners increased.