Pleasley Colliery is located in the small village of Pleasley close to Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. It stands in a prominent position on the skyline.
The land was leased from W. E. Nightingale who owned the majority 1224 acres used for the site. He was the father of Florence Nightingale, the famous Victorian nurse. The seam to be mined was the Top Hard coal layer, which was beneath his land. A large field known as Round Hill was used for the construction of the surface buildings. A narrow strip of land to the north and part of the adjacent field to the west was leased to the Midland Railway for their line from Teversal and the colliery sidings.
It was sunk in the 1870s and produced coal until 1983. It escaped complete demolition after closure and it still retains its headstocks, engine-houses and steam winders, one of which was installed in 1904 by Lilleshall Co. Ltd. and the other in 1922 by Markham & Co. Ltd. Pleasley Colliery is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is in the process of being developed into a mining heritage site. The engine-house roofs and the chimney have been renovated and the winders are in the process of being restored by members of the Friends of Pleasley Pit preservation group.
The lease was signed in 1872 and building work began almost straight away. Some confusion remains as to who actually owned the colliery, but it is believed to be owned by the Stanton Iron Company, later becoming the Stanton Ironworks Company Ltd. The sinking of the shafts took about six years to complete, technical difficulties plagued the site and an economic recession which began in 1873 caused delays. Huge amounts of water were found during the sinking and was tapped to provide a water supply for the pit. Unfortunately it had an adverse effect on the boilers, but an alternative supply was found by 1892. The water came from a steam driven pump located at the Horse-Fair spring by the river. By 1900, the engine-house was demolished and replaced by a building situated closer to the river. A small weir across the river created a reservoir with a channel to the pump-house. The pumps were electrically powered with steam available as a standby. By the 1960s only the electrically driven pumps were in use.
The sinking commenced of the two 14.5 ft. diameter shafts in 1873, the engine-houses were constructed for the installation of two pairs of steam winding engines built by the Worsley Mesnes Iron Co. As the sinking ran into difficulties with the high volumes of water that were encountered in the first 150 yds it coincided with the serious depression in the iron and coal trade. Work was halted for four to five months. To deal with the water, four 18in. diameter pumps were installed in the number one shaft while sinking at the number two shaft was discontinued. The pumping of the water caused an environmental impact in the surrounding area, with wells and springs drying up.The water disappeared from the Mansfield quarries almost 3 miles away.
Number one shaft was lined with cast iron tubing for at least 110 yd's down, it was a slow and expensive operation. After this depth, the strata was much drier, most of the pumping equipment was removed. The Top Hard seam was reached in February 1877. The pumps were then installed in number two shaft and the process repeated. The Stanton Iron Co. had to raise further capital and decided to sell shares, issuing 5752 shares in 1878. The sinking headframes were then removed and the main headstocks built. By the end of the year, the fitting-out work above and below ground was approaching completion and when the Top Hard seam was finally reached in number two shaft in February 1879 the colliery was ready to commence.
In 1881 experimental use of electric incandescent lamps underground was underway and this was later followed by carbon-arc lighting on the surface. Production had increased to such an extent in 1888 that the main winding shaft had reached its maximum capacity. The upcast shaft was then fitted out for coal winding and output continued to climb. With an output averaging 1000 tons per day by 1890, the underground haulage of coal by ponies had become a hindrance, a 60HP electrically driven underground rope-haulage system, the first of its kind, was installed near the downcast pit bottom to haul coal up the roadway from the workings. Four more electrically driven rope haulages were installed, which raised output to about 1700 tons per day.
A new more powerful winder and boilers were fitted by 1899, as increased output was exceeding the capacity of the old equipment at the upcast shaft. At about that time they decided to replace the old wooden headstock which was in poor condition. This was completed by 1900, with all production temporarily shifted to the downcast shaft by means of a two shift working pattern. The following year, the headstock at the downcast shaft was replaced, pre-erected on the pit top and then winched into position. In 1904 the drum shaft on the downcast shaft winder fractured and a new, more powerful winder was installed. Older boilers were replaced, more powerful fans were installed, new screening plant built and turbine generators running off the exhaust steam from the winders were commissioned.
The upcast shaft was deepened, which was completed in 1921, the Deep Hard seam was opened out. This required a larger winder, which in turn forced the engine house to be completely rebuilt and the power plant was redesigned, a single range of boilers, and a new large mixed-pressure turbine generator was constructed. Recession made digging the Deep Hard seam uneconomic and production stopped in 1927, this left the Top Hard seam, the workings of which were now quite extensive. Most of the coal to the north of the river Meden had been worked out and production shifted to the reserves to the south but these were running out by the 1930's. Two seams underlying the Top Hard seam were then investigated for production.
Electric coal cutters were in use from the 1900's but the coal was loaded by hand in tubs. Conveyor belts replaced the tubs on the coal face by 1938. The new seams were thinner that the Top Hard seam, producing 'smaller coal'. This had to be processed by a washing plant, fortunately the demand for 'small coal' increased dramatically as more coal fired power stations came online.
As World War II drew to a close, the workforce was reduced, the Deep Hard seam was reopened. To counter the reduced workforce, Huwood power loaders were used on the coal face, increasing production. Nationalisation soon followed and with it, major redevelopment. The Top Hard seam was worked out, the last face closed in 1951 it extended more than three miles from south of the pit bottom.
By the 1960's the surface infrastructure of the pit was showing its age, the new large surface drift and processing plant at Shirebrook Colliery, work at Pleasley was wound down. It was only used for man riding and materials until it was closed in 1983. The upcast shaft was converted to supply air to the Shirebrook workings. The removal of the baths, washery and other infrastructure, the filling of the downcast shaft slowed down, long enough for the local authority to get a preservation order on the remains just before demolition was scheduled in 1986, thus saving the colliery. The mine sat until 1995 when the Friends Of Pleasley Pit was formed. They are now in the process of restoring the colliery to its former glory.
Source - J. S. Thatcher of pleasley-colliery.org.uk and Wikipedia