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Coal mining remains and brick works on Catherton Common

A Scheduled Monument in Hopton Wafers, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.3978 / 52°23'52"N

Longitude: -2.5606 / 2°33'38"W

OS Eastings: 361951.669372

OS Northings: 277904.997592

OS Grid: SO619779

Mapcode National: GBR BS.Q2B4

Mapcode Global: VH840.KZNP

Entry Name: Coal mining remains and brick works on Catherton Common

Scheduled Date: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014869

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21664

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Hopton Wafers

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Cleeton St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument is situated on Catherton Common, approximately 0.8km to the
south of Cleeton St Mary and includes a selection from an extensive area of
nationally important earthworks and other remains of post-medieval and 18th-
19th century mines, a drift mine, the site of an 18th-19th century colliery
complex and its associated brickworks, and the earthwork remains of part of an
associated transport system. The monument is in two areas of protecting.
Documentary sources indicate that coal was extracted from Catherton Common and
the adjacent Clee Hill between the 13th and early 20th centuries. The surface
remains of mining activities thus extend over a considerable area and more
than 2000 pits have been identified. Many of the historical and technological
developments which occurred within this extensive mining landscape are
represented by the earthwork and other remains of the mines on Catherton
Common and a representative sample of the range of mining remains, including a
core area (approximately 28ha), have been selected for inclusion in the
scheduling. The coal outcrops were the first areas to be worked, followed by
the sinking of small closely-set pits. Once these early sources had been
exploited, shafts were sunk in the less steeply inclined areas and were worked
through the medieval period until the early 18th century. As the shallower
reaches of coal became exhausted, larger pits were sunk to an increasing depth
and these are visible as large shaft mounds and are thought to be early 17th
to early 19th century in date. In the late 19th century the scale of mining
further increased and the working of these small shafts became less practical.
Extensive levels or drift mines were driven into the coal seams from sites on
the lower slopes, but problems with ventilation and the declining quality of
coal as they extended deeper into the hillside led to their abandonment.
Advances in mining technology in the 19th century allowed deeper shafts to be
sunk and the larger coal reserves beneath the basalt capping to the hill could
be mined. The north eastern slopes of Magpie Hill in the western part of the
site retain evidence for the earliest mining activites at the site. Several
hundred years of mining are believed to be represented in this small area,
which measures some 300m by 150m. Along the lower slopes, following the coal
outcrop, is a concentration of small, closely-set pits, only 3m-4m apart in
places, whilst upslope, and to the west, are the earthwork remains of shaft
mounds which increase in size and spread further apart from one another as
they ascend the hill. Together they are believed to represent early to post-
medieval mining activity. Towards the north eastern extent of these workings
is a drift mine which is thought to date from the late 18th century. It
extends some 60m into the hillside below Magpie Hill and is 8m wide at ground
level. A 19th century tramway incline, which is associated with the 18th-19th
century Catherton Colliery in the extreme western part of the site, has been
built diagonally across the drift cutting, filling it for 25m of its length.
Beyond, and to the north of the drift mine entrance is a spoil heap of clay,
stone and some clay which is associated with the mine. It measures 44m by 36m
and a 10m wide sample area of the spoil alongside the tramway incline is
included in the scheduling to preserve its relationship with the mine.
The north eastern part of the monument originally formed part of Blue Stone
Colliery which was mined in the 18th century. The associated shafts are
visible as closely-set circular or sub-circular depressions which measure
4m-6m across. To the south, these features merge into an area of larger pits,
set approximately 30m-40m apart, which are not shown on a 1769 map of the site
and are thus considered to be of later date. Their collapsed shafts vary
between 6m and 10m in diameter and the surrounding spoil heaps are up to 40m
across and 2.5m high, generally with level, fairly circular tops. To the south
and west, and higher up the slope, is a group of 17 small mines which are
believed to have been worked during the late 18th century. The associated
spoil heaps are mostly situated on the downhill side of the shaft. At all but
three of the mines the opposite, uphill, side of the shaft has a 10m-12m
diameter circular earthen bank which abuts onto the site of the shaft. These
banks inidcate the positions of horse gins or whims (winding gear) and at
several shafts the centrally-placed post hole for the gin remains visible. The
majority of these mines also retain the earthwork remains of sub-circular
enclosures which are situated at the base of the spoil heap. They are bounded
by low banks and are approximately 15m-20m across. They are thought to have
been built as stock enclosures for packhorses and several have small building
platforms set into the enclosure bank. The westernmost of these late 18th
century mines has no evidence for a horse gin, but there is a small water
reservoir to the north west, and it is considered that the shaft was, at some
time, operated by steam power. Other subsidiary features associated with this
mine shaft include the remains of a water channel feeding into the reservoir,
a working area on the east, downhill side of the spoil heap, and a trackway
running south towards the course of a late 19th century tramway which is
associated with Catherton Colliery. Working areas, visible as low areas of
coal waste below the spoil heap, are believed to be present at two other mines
within this group.
As the scale of mining increased during the late 18th and early 19th century a
new shaft was sunk at the south western end of the monument and a small
colliery complex was constructed. The shaft has been capped but remains
visible as a large depression at the centre of a fan-shaped spoil heap. To the
north west of the shaft are the foundations of several buildings and the
earthwork remains of a reservoir which measures 45m by 25m and has a low
retaining bank along its west side. The earthwork remains of several water
channels are visible running between the site of the colliery buildings and
the reservoir. Adjacent to the north western side of Catherton Colliery are
the earthwork remains of a brickworks and its associated clay pit. The site of
a long, narrow rectangular building, and the stone foundations of a smaller
building are visible to the north west of the clay pit and are thought to mark
the positions of a drying shed and a kiln. A slight circular depression with
an enclosing bank is visible beyond the southern corner of the large building
and is believed to be the site of a horse gin which would have been used to
hoist clay out of the adjacent pit. These earthworks, together with those of
the colliery, provide evidence for the final phases of mining at Catherton and
are included in the scheduling.
Documentary evidence indicates that Catherton Colliery was worked until the
late 19th century and is believed to be one of the earliest deep mines in the
area. It was served by a network of tramways, including one which ran from
Clee Hill village to the south west. A 20m sample length of this tramway is
included in the scheduling to preserve the relationship between the mine and
its western transport route. A second tramway runs eastwards from the mine
across Catherton Common and its western and central sections are included in
the scheduling. It can be traced as a low, raised embankment for much of its
length, except on the lower, northern slope of Magpie Hill, where a 300m long
incline was operated. This feature takes the form of a raised causeway of
earth and stone and is included in the scheduling.
The surfaces of all roads, the electricity posts and their support cables, the
modern walling and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000
coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war
nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four
coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national
archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of
national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a
comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the
industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity.
Extensive coal workings are typical of the medieval and post-medieval coal
industry, although this style of exploitation continued into the early 20th
century in some marginal areas which were worked on a very small scale with
little capital investment. In its simplest form extensive workings took coal
directly from the outcrop, digging closely spaced shallow pits, shafts or
levels which did not connect underground. Once shallower deposits had been
exhausted, deeper shafts giving access to underground interconnecting
galleries were developed. The difficulties of underground haulage and the need
for ventilation encouraged the sinking of an extensive spread of shafts in the
area worked. The remains of extensive coal workings typically survive as
surface earthworks directly above underground workings. They may include a
range of prospecting and exploitation features, including areas of
outcropping, adits and shaft mounds (circular or sub-circular spoil heaps
normally with a directly associated depression marking the shaft location). In
addition, some sites retain associated features such as gin circles (the
circular track used by a horse powering simple winding or pumping machinery),
trackways and other structures like huts. Some later sites also retain
evidence of the use of steam power, typically in the form of engine beds or
small reservoirs. Extensive coal mines vary considerably in form, depending on
the underlying geology, their date, and how the workings were originally
organised. Sites can include several hundred shafts spread over an extensive
Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this
has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England
to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and
characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north
Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. A sample of the
better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and
technological range of extensive coal workings, together with rare individual
component features are considered to merit protection.

The coal mining remains on Catherton Common survive well and represent a
remarkable concentration of surface features, ranging from simple shaft
mounds of the medieval period through to a mid-19th century colliery complex,
and the earthwork remains of its associated transport system. They provide
evidence for both the historical and technological developments of extensive
mining in this upland landscape. The shaft mound features are considered to be
some of the best preserved examples of this type of mining in the country and
cover a wide chronological range. Buried features, particularly the remains of
manual and horse-powered winding gear, will survive in the vicinity of the
shafts, providing information on the sequence of technologies used at such
mines through time.
The site is accessible to the public and thus serves as an important
educational resource and public amentity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clee Hill, (1769)
Goodman, K W, Hammerman's Hill, (1978)
RCHM, SO 67 NW 24, (1983)
RCHM, SO 67 NW 26, (1983)
RCHM, SO 67 NW 34, (1983)
RCHM, SO 67 NW 55, (1983)

Source: Historic England

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