A trip to Wigan

Southport Visiter, October 14th, 1858

A trip to Wigan

On one very pluvious and unpromising morning in last week a snug party from Southport – [let us, for convenience sake, indicate their several patronymics under the common but convenient names of, SMITH, BROWN, JONES, ROBINSON and Co;- and with reference to some, at all events, the noms de querre will not be very far wide of the mark] – paid a visit to Wigan to enjoy the attractions which even the Golconda of black diamonds and busy scene manufacture at present.

The main inducement for the journey was the fact that, Haigh Hall and the splendid adjacent park and grounds were thrown open to members of the friends of the Wigan Mechanics Institute; but incidentally, through the kind attention of some gentlemen of the locality, Messer’s SMITH, BROWN, JONES, ROBINSON and Co, were introduced to the wonders of manufacturing, enterprise and ingenuity, and to the subterranean sojourn 600 yds below the surface of the earth.

Starting by the first train hence, the clouds dropping fatness and the country looking dyspeptically replete, therewith, the party passed over the flat dreary moss; through the rocky plains of Parbold, suggestive of water-troughs and paving stones; by the water course which runs between Liverpool and Leeds, with its frequent locks, its heavy laden boats, their feminine helmsmen, and cabined, cribbed, and confined accommodation reminding one of being, “On the canal,” as described in rheumatically painful articles in Household Words; along the ordinary class of country seen on such occasions, direct to the dirty concentration of discomfort known as the Wigan station.

Thence through the kindness of Mr Thomas STANLEY, coal-owner and manufacturer, the party was conveyed to the extensive Cotton mill of, Messers James ECKERSLY and Sons, Swan Meadow Mills. They were shown through the splendid and spacious works by Mr BATTERSBY, one of the firm, by which the various departments were described. We could wish to describe the steam engines and their stupendous gyrations, the machinery with its wondrous adaptation to the minutest and most delicate work, as well as the more powerful and ponderous operations, the weaving, the spinning, etc, but they must be seen to be appreciated.

SMITH was struck dumb founded – “all in a heap,” when first introduced into the weaving room; where 350 females were attending their looms. We were informed that 240 miles of calicoes or 30 tons, are turned out every week, up to 1,200 hands are employed. The women looked for the most part cheerful and healthy.

The party still accompanied by Mr STANLEY and afterwards reinforced by Mr INGRAM and Mr WINSTANLEY, next visited Ince Hall and Rosebridge Colliery belonging to Messers CASE and MORRIS. They were received by the intelligent and obliging manager, Mr BRYHAM, at his neat domicile, situated very near the colliery, where they had the opportunity to inspect a museum of the veinous geological strata through which the workings passed before reaching the King coal Cannel a distance of 600yds. We were also favoured with the following description of the works:-

The proprietors commenced sinking on March 23rd, 1853, and sank a depth of 120yds, with a small temporary engine. In January 1854, an engine of 150hp was erected, and the sinking completed to the Pemberton Four-feet mine, at a depth of 297yds, in November of the same year, since which the Pemberton five and four-feet mines have been continuously worked.

The pits are 11ft in diameter each, and about 40yds apart, with one rope in each pit, and each pit working a separate seam.

The engine is capable of drawing about 800tons in a day of 10hrs.

In March 1857, Messers CASE and MORRIS leased the seams of coal below the Pemberton Four-feet, known by the name of the Wigan 4,feet, 5,feet and 6,feet and Cannel and King coal mines.

In June preparations were made for erecting an engine and boiler in the Pemberton Four-feet mine, the excavations and arching for which were completed, and the engine set to work in September, when the sinking commenced, and it was completed on June, 30th, 1858.

The second, “winning,” consists of two pits – one 12ft in diameter and the other 10ft in diameter, the former being directly under one of the shafts from the surface, and intended for drawing the coals from, and the latter, or 10ft shaft, a few feet from the former, and used as an upcast, or ventilating shaft only.

The engine for winding from the Cannel and King coal mines, is about 80hp, and calculated to wind about 400 tons per day.

These second pits are 303yds below the Pemberton Four-feet, which is about 300yds deep, and consequently 600yds deep at which the Cannel and King mines are found, both of which are of good quality, the former being 3ft thick, and the latter two decks of 2ft and 1ft 6ins.

In sinking the upper section of these shafts some water was found at a depth of 50yds below the surface, which was made out by cast iron tubing, [about 35yds in each shaft], weighing over 300tons.

In walling both sections of theses shafts, about 760,000 segment bricks of 10x6x3inches have been used, and upwards of 100 cast iron rings to support the same.

In forming the foundations for the engines, erecting boilers and arching the excavations below, upwards of 1,500,000 bricks and 3,000tons of stone have been used.

The pits have passed through 272 variations of strata, including 23 seams of coal, of an aggregate thickness of 68ft, varying from 1ft to 6ft in thickness, eleven of which seams are workable.

The shafts of the pits are sunk through a solid block of the upper or Ince mines of more than an acre in extent, the object of which is to prevent any inundation’s of the lower mines, by an influx of water from the upper ones, the latter being worked by other pits.

The extent of the lower section of these mines available to these pits is about 250 statute acres, producing in the whole about 6,000,000tons.

The position of this belt of mines is rather peculiar being partially basin formed, and bounded on each side by upthrow faults, the one on the east raising our present deepest seams, the Cannel etc, from 600yds to within 50yds from the surface, and the one on the west, or St Catherine’s fault, raising them about 200yds.

The faults run parallel and nearly in a North and South direction, in the Cannel seam they are expected to be about 900yds apart. The inetination of the faults narrow this belt considerably as we go deeper, and it is probable, in the Arley mines, which will be found at some little over 800yds deep, the width will not much exceed 700yds.

Those of the party who were adventurous arrayed themselves in collier’s attire and prepared to descend the regions below.

JONES and ROBINSON looked exceedingly picturesque, their own t’other halves, could not have recognised them in their loose rough pilot coats and trousers, with thick leather caps to protect what quantity of brains they possessed.

Standing upright in a sort of cage, the signal was given, the earth seemed to give way under them.

The reached the first half 300yds in 40 seconds, here they halted to inspect the different workings.

Through dark passages, with a roof as of polished marble, and now emerging into a high chamber glittering with mineral of stalactite brilliancy, through mysterious doors they see at various points, the places where the stalwart miners are plying their arduous vocation.

This portion of the pit is intersected with tram roads, and there are commodious stables, clean and comfortable, capable of accommodating a couple of dozen horses.

There is also ample provision for ventilation, which is assisted by engines and machinery below.

It is time we complete our descent and by the same means are taken to the bottom pit.

The seams of the Cannel described above, the amateur colliers set to work with their, “picks,” and brought down some quantity of mineral, but would require more practise before they would earn sufficient to buy bread and cheese.

From the bowels of the earth, to one of the loveliest views on the surface, was our next transition of the excursion.

Accompanied as before, in the afternoon, we reached the baronial residence of the Earl of Crauford and Balcarres, with the courteous hospitality of Col LINDSAY, we inspected the various objects of interest with which the mansion is replete.

The pictures, libraries, the gardens and surrounding scenery, the treat was highly enjoyable which was kindly provided, as was especially the nut-brown ale, liberally dispensed to all thirsty comers.

Col LINDSAY and other members of the household were unremitting in their kindness.


Copyright 2002 / To date