Coal Mining in Worcestershire

  • 17 Jan 2012
  • Archaeology
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Early Workings:  Coal was worked like an agricultural product, and pits were regarded as part of the manorial estate, with leases to let to tenants. there are records of coal being worked in Worcestershire in the 13th century. Coal was only used in the great houses, and when chimneys became popular. Previously, the baronial halls were heated with blazing logs on a clay hearth. Pit coal (called sea-coal, to distinguish from charcoal) was mined at Pensnett, Dudley, in 1291; at Stourbridge in 1321; at mines in Oldswinford in 1323, and at Abberley at the end of the 14th century.

Coal Workings in Pensax District At Pensax the Dean and Chapter of Worcester, being Lords of the Manor, granted leases to the Worcester City Corporation, for the City Chamber Records show that the City promoted coal mining out of the public funds. The first barge load to Worcester was brought down the Severn and sold by Richard Denson on All Hallows in 1570, and in 1610, a Mr.Vincent was supplying coal from Pensax to Droitwich for salt-boiling.

In 1634, after 21 years, the City lease had expired, and the Chapter gave the Bailiff instructions to stop mining in the manor, but in 1641, the bailiff himself obtained a concession to sink for coal 'on the wastes' at a royalty of 12 pence a ton, an enormous royalty then. Pensax could have become Worcestershire's 'Black Country' in the 18th century, when in 1727, the industry was put on a firm footing by a grant to Thomas Clutton of Pensax Court, of a Chapter lease of mining rights at Sneads and Pensax Commons, with a premium of £80, and a normal chief rent of one shilling a year, and an annual supply of four tons of coal to the Vicar, presumably as a commutation of tythe. The original lease was for 21 years, but was renewed from time to time, and was retained by the Cluttons and the Clutton-Brocks for 150 years. It brought the Brock family great wealth. In 1870, at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, there was a boom with three pits on the Pensax Court Estate producing an aggregate annual output of 3,000-4,000 tons, but production slumped afterwards, as Pensax coal was not favoured for domestic purposes, owing to the objectional excess of sulphur. By 1923, only one pit was working.

Increase in Coal Output The 17th century saw a great increase in coal output due to two factors: 1. the increasing growth of population in towns, and 2. the use of pit coal in the production of salt and in iron smelting. At  this time coal was sold in Worcester at 12 shillings a ton. very expensive. There were attempts to find coal elsewhere. Pits were sunk optimistically at Stoulton, Hampton near Evesham, and at Droitwich. After the enclosures in the 19th century, the landowners got richer, and the miners got poorer. In 1825,  miners rarely got more than 10 shillings a week.