24th May 1900. Story of a Coalmine.

The Bristol and south Gloucestershire region, in England, was one of the first to use coal as a fuel in industrial processes: in soap, glass, brewing and pottery.

Kingswood  once a heath and a royal hunting forest, in Saxon and Norman times, was later pock-marked with coal workings mined in outcrops. In the 19thc these had grown into large collieries, constantly acquiring new owners.

Thus it was Today in 1900 that the Kingswood and Parkfield Colliery, Pucklechurch, near Bristol was for sale ‘at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.’

A blunt statement which takes us back to its early days, when deep mining was in its infancy, at a time when Parkfield, founded by [Handel] Cossham and Wethered, was sunk in 1851; taking two years to reach the seams.

In 1867 it was named The Kingswood Coal and Iron Company, and in 1879, under Cossham and Wills, it was re-named The Kingswood and Parkfield Colliery Ltd.

Parkfield Colliery in its heyday.

Parkfield Colliery in its heyday.

In 1890 after Cossham’s death, the company was bought by Bristol United Collieries which again formed a new company, the Bedminster, Easton, Kingswood and Parkfield  Colliery Ltd.(1)

Cossham, a man of his time, was a an industrialist, non-conformist lay preacher, geologist and Liberal MP for Bristol East, and a notable public benefactor, refuting the lie that all coal-owners were hard-faced men.

In fact he was local bred, taking an active part in local affairs, built a hospital, a school at Thornbury, both of which still stand, workers’ houses and libraries.

He was held in such high esteem by his workers and local people that 50.000 turned out for his funeral, after his sudden death in parliament.(2)

In 1914 further change saw the mine and others, bought by Frank Beauchamp, owner of a number of collieries in the Radstock area, now to be retitled, The East Bristol Collieries Ltd.

Then by 1936 flooding and increased pumping costs plus a decrease in reserves, affected profitability and Parkfield closed 15th August 1936: an end of an era!

Hospital from old post-card

Cossham Memorial Hospital at Kingswood, Bristol, from an old post-card. Now part of the NHS.

Coal was one of the great British industries, particularly after 1850. In 1851, there was a quarter of a million miners: double that thirty years later.

By 1914 however, South Wales became the most important coalfield, as the population grew along the valleys and exporting ports.

Output was to peak at this time, with a tenth of all exports being coal, with 1.2 million employed in 3,000 pits, as many as the entire agricultural and textile industries combined.

The Bristol area coalfield shrunk when competition came not just from South Wales, but from The Midlands and elsewhere. The last to go was Kilmerdon /Writhlington near Radstock in 1975.

(1)  Handel Cossham was named after the composer, and after his death in 1890, his collieries were auctioned for £61,000. He left £59,127.  Ref: Bristol Chronicles 1930s.

(2)  It was common in those days for large numbers of people to line the funeral route for public benefactors, or the ‘celebrities’ of the time.

Ref: wikipedia.org/Pic.Ref. of hospital.

Ref: Pic. of Parkfield Pit. Courtesy of Bristol Record office. Google images.

Ref: wikipedia.org/parkfield_colliery.

Ref: brizzlebornandbred on Flikr site.

Ref: History of coal mining in Easton.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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