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Rishton Colliery shortly after closure

Rishton pit was on Walmsley Street Rishton.

Owner P. W. Pickup.

Depth 525 feet deep.

In 1908 the lower mountain seam under Tottleworth area was being worked.

You had to go about 2 miles to reach the coal face, the seam was 18 inches to 32 inches in size and you used a sledge to get to the coal face.

The tools used to get the coal out was a pick and shovel, The miner had to buy this himself, and they use to purchase these from Gibson’s ironmongers. This shop was at the corner of Spring Street Rishton.

Rishton colliery extracted most of the coal from the lower mountain seam. The colliery was opened in 1894 by P. W. Pickup Limited, but its life was short as it was closed in 1941. There were about 300 employees producing a daily output of 300 tons. Most of the coal was used for domestic purposes though it did make reasonable coke. The coke was sent to Altham coke works, Sterniers, and the Calico printers in Church, and for a short while during the 1920’s the Whitebirk power station bought some from Pickups.

Pit House Rishton Colliery in the 1940's

The colliery claimed to be the first in the Country to be completely electrified. Located near the canal meant transport facilities and the company owned 5 boats of 40 tons capacity. Unfortunately, the Rishton colliery was often flooded with water because of the porous nature of the underlying rocks.

Pump House Colliery

A brick built water pumping station (supplying the paper works) marks the position of the downcast shaft, the upcast is situated to the south and is covered with concrete slabs. Various foundations can still be seen as of 2001, including a large concrete base and ruins of pit head buildings. The manager's house and office still survives as a private dwelling at the end of Walmsley Street, with a  yard of colliery immediately to front.

Map showing location of tram line to canal. Tramway Tunnel

The Tramway ran East through fields to the canal, section of embankment and retaining walls of the former bridge could be seen east of Rishton Methodist School field, near to Meadowhead. Large brick built staithe, with internal canal access steps, remains; traces of basin and wharf area along west bank of canal.

The manager of Meadowhead Pit at the time, P. W. Pickup, managed to negotiated a lease in 1882 for an unworked coalfield to the West.

This new shaft was commenced at the end of Walmsley Street on the 9th January 1884, and finished on the 8th July. The first turf of grass being cut on the 7th November 1883.

Pit Head winding wheel. Colliery

Coal was found on the 20th November and on the 22nd Mr. Pickup had a celebratory dinner at the Walmsley Arms for the workers.

The Blackburn Times reported this;

Discovery of coal.

On Saturday a dinner was held at the Walmsley arms high street Rishton, to celebrate the finding of coal, at the new colliery Rishton worked by Mr. P. W. Pickup.

About two years ago the old mine which was worked under the style of the Dunkenhalgh Colliery Company was worked out.

Fourteen months ago a number of the workmen of Mr. P. W. Pickup commenced to sink a new shaft and on Thursday last came across a good seam of coal.

(The first turf cut for the start of this new shaft was on 7th November, 1883.)

They started sinking the shafts on the 9th January, 1884, and they where finished on the 8th July 1884.

A generator was installed to work the pit. By the 1930s 230 miners were employed, by 1941 operations were ceased.

An old miner once reported that where the war memorial is in Rishton, directly under this point 500 feet below ground is what they called “west one”. At this point there are four different haulage roads branch from here.

Is it possible that at the start of the 2nd World War, the pit was "mothballed", but the pumps were kept running to keep the pit from flooding. The story goes that this is the case, but one night the pumps stopped from working and the water levels started rising.

A call was put out to the works manager at the time, but he couldn't be found. It is believed he had been for a drink during the evening and was sleeping it off somewhere!

Because of this the water levels carried on rising, and it is said that this is the reason for the coal mine to stop being worked in 1941.

Just before the pit closed on the 5/5/1941, they broke into the old Whitebirk workings.

Water had been pumped from no, 1 shaft, from 1941 when the pit closed to the dean reservoir at great Harwood, the water from the pit was taken to the dean reservoir from October, 1934 at a rate of 1,000,000 gallons daily.

On the 17th April 1947, Dunkenhalgh Estates applied for planning permission to Rishton Urban District Council, to convert the former colliery office into two cottages. (Plan number 865).

Water pipe exit to Dean Clough Reservoir in February 2002 Water channel from pit to Dean Reservoir Feb 2002

This was done even when the pits were still in production.

There were precautions taken, they had to use special lubricant so as not to contaminate the water as it was to be used for drinking water.

In 1960 the coal board obtained permission from the Dunkenhalgh estate to demolished some of the buildings to install 2 new electric pumps to pump the water to Dean Reservoir. The National Coal Board owned the mine, but the Dunkenhalgh owned the land. The buildings demolished were part of the mines headgear.

Building started After the Houses

The only building which was left was the weigh office. This building still remains, and is still lived in, and the weigh bridge remained until the mid seventies.

Later the water from the pit was also used by the Rishton paper mill. This water was pumped to Rishton paper mill until it closed.

Holes at Dean Clough

The only remaining building on the site now, is the manager’s office and weigh check office written on the glass windows use to be the name of P. W. Pickup.

This building has now been made into two residential properties (Walmsley cottages)

After the office there was an open space, this is where the ginney track ran. It went under ground from the pit shaft to halfway down the hill and then came to the surface and ran to the canal by the side of the old Meadowhead pit shaft. (Rishton Methodist School is now built on some of this land.)

In 1984 William Smith from Oswaldtwistle recalled a painted board he had seen at the bottom of the shaft. It read –

“179 yards deep

33 feet below sea level”

He recalled that the height of the coalface varied from 22 to 28 inches, and the haulage roads were around 36 inches high.

The Council Sub-Committee, who met on the 26th June 1951, reported as follows: An inspection was made of the derelict building adjoining the Colliery, and it was suggested that an interview be arranged with the Dunkenhalgh Estate and the National Coal Board with a view to the demolition of the building.

Filled in and Capped

The two shafts at Rishton pit were filled in and capped they started on the 17th June 1991 to fill the shafts in and by the end of August, 1991 this was complete.

The work was done so that a new road could be built to the south side estate.

On the original approved layout plan of 1973 for the Southside estate, there is a link road between Walmsley Avenue and Walmsley Street. This link road could not go ahead until the pit mine shafts had been filled in. In 1988 Hyndburn council obtained a compulsory purchase order this was so they could go ahead with the filling in of the shafts. The work to fill the shafts in started about the 17th June 1991, and completed in November that same year. Mr. Carroll for the technical services at Hyndburn council that maintained the project. Mr Carroll at that time was Based at Great Harwood town hall. The borough engineers dept was also involved.

When they filled the shafts in they came across a small ginney track, running from number one shaft just under the road surface they filled this in. But some of it still survives it is running under the top playground of the Methodist school. This ginney track use to run down to the canal.

3 more houses were completed on the site in 2003. By June they still hadn't been sold. Built on the site of the Ginney track, the houses have a very narrow access road, perhaps only 10 feet wide, leading to the driveway of each of the houses. The houses are built in red brick, and are 2 storey with a tiled roof and garage to the rear.


Chimneys being felled.

Coal was also transported from Rishton colliery by horse and cart.

Back at the pit site after the ginney track was the winding room for Number one shaft.

Next to this was the joiners shop, behind this block was a small red brick building this was the electricians shop.

The buildings on the other side of the road were as follows, a large glass veranda this is where they sorted and graded the coal, the weigh office was also here.

After the veranda came the main shaft with winding gear. (no, 1 shaft.)

On the other side of no, 1 shaft was the lamp cabin and then you came to the upper cast shaft and winding gear, (this was no, 94 shaft.)

After this was the winding room for the upper cast shaft.

Under ground at the base of the shaft it was about 14 feet high and about 20 yards in length.

Up top again, the gun powder and detonators were kept at the powder magazine at shear brook this was some three to four hundred yards, away from the pit head, it was in a hollow there was a small building at Shear brook, when working in here you had to wear rubber boots, you also used a copper hammer and copper chisel to open the boxes of gun powder, this was so that there was no sparks which would ignite the gun powder.

Derelect buildings


Industrial Rishton - Kathleen Broderick

A North East Lancashire Cotton Town - Marian Sleigh

Gordon Hartley

John Duckworth (Photographs)