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Ford Colliery 920m north east of Blackcrag Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Ford, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.6337 / 55°38'1"N

Longitude: -2.055 / 2°3'18"W

OS Eastings: 396632.340711

OS Northings: 637791.308049

OS Grid: NT966377

Mapcode National: GBR G329.W9

Mapcode Global: WH9Z3.DNNJ

Entry Name: Ford Colliery 920m north east of Blackcrag Wood

Scheduled Date: 3 September 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020746

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34236

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Ford

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Ford And Etal

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the above and below ground remains of Ford Colliery,
situated on open moorland partly on and adjacent to Ford Moss. The
colliery was worked continuously from at least the middle of the 17th
century through to 1914. It exploited coal seams which are part of the
Scremerston coal measures. The visible remains are complex and represent
many phases of mining stretching over nearly three centuries. The later
phases of mining are well-preserved and visually dominant. They include a
wide range of features such as engine houses, shafts, gin circles, leats,
spoil tips, workers housing and ancillary structures. Earlier mining
remains survive in the areas unaffected by later mining and will also
survive beneath the later remains. Underground remains dating from all
periods are also believed to survive.
A considerable amount of documentary evidence survives relating to the
development and exploitation of the site. The earliest recorded mining
activity dates to 1660, when the three sisters of Thomas Carr received
shares of `collieries and coal mines within the manor of Ford'. The
sisters were gradually bought out by Francis Blake, who became the sole
owner of the site in 1673. These early workings on the site were by
outcrop and bell-pit mining; a map of 1777 shows straight lines of closely
spaced `old pits' that are thought to relate to this period of activity.
Drainage was a constant problem at the colliery because the coal seams
dipped eastward at a steep angle. The first attempt to work the colliery
at depth, rather than by bell-pit and outcrop working, was begun in 1697
when a water level drift was constructed which appears to have been an
attempt to lower the water table of the entire colliery. The drift was
constructed of stone but was too narrow for haulage so new winding shafts
were also sunk. Work on the water level drift continued intermittently for
many years. Its maintenance, and that of subsequent drainage systems, was
key to the colliery's development until steam pumps were introduced.
Documentary evidence records the sinking of three new pits in the period
1709-1710, although it is clear that drainage remained a problem. The
colliery was taken over by the Delaval family in 1718 who invested
significantly in its development. Although the colliery was tenanted for
much of this period, there was usually a requirement to provide Ford
Castle and its estate limekilns with coal. Much of the coal was sold
locally but in 1756 it was also being shipped from Berwick to the copperas
works at Hartley. Later in the 18th century there was also considerable
demand from the Ford Estate for coal to supply the pantile shed, forge and
nailers and the quarry. In 1744 it was noted that five pits were in
action. In 1762-1763 there are descriptions of the sinking of new shafts
and the repair and improvement of the drainage system. This included the
provision of a windmill to draw water. In 1767-68 a new drainage system
was installed to allow working below the water level; this included
provision of an undergound water wheel to pump water from the lower
levels. Accounts of the mid-18th century also refer to the building of
miners housing, work on a school house and the building of two `cinder
ovens' to supply coke to the iron forge. A plan of 1775 shows twelve pits
in use and, despite continuing problems with drainage, accounts indicate
that by the early 19th century the colliery was starting to be quite
profitable. In 1822 the site came into the ownership of the Waterfords.
There was an expansion of the colliery in 1844 with the sinking of a new
shaft, the `Engine Pit', thought to be the shaft now known as Moss Pit, at
the northern edge of the site. In 1858 the colliery employed almost 100
men and supported a sizeable community; a lease of 1883 mentions mines,
cottages, an engine house, blacksmiths shop, joiners shop and stables.
Problems arose however with the opening of the Alnwick to Cornhill railway
line in 1887, which permitted cheap coal to be brought in from South East
Northumberland. By 1889 output had fallen substantially, with only 12 men
employed. The colliery was acquired by the Joicey family in 1906 and
continued to be worked until 1914.
The visible remains of the colliery are complex and dominated by the later
phases of mining activity. A series of large pits run roughly in a north
east to south west direction across the site and are thought to be 19th or
early 20th century in date; all of these pits have been filled in but the
fill has sunk, allowing the mouths of the pit shafts to be clearly seen.
At the southern end of the site, to the east of Hill (or Hill End) Pit,
are the remains of what is considered to be a beam pumping engine house;
its boiler, constructed of curved red bricks on a square, dressed stone
base, still survives to its full height. The pit for the boiler house
survives to a depth of 2m, and the base of the winch lies nearby. The
engine house chimney is a Listed Building Grade II. Immediately to the
east of the engine house lies a large heap of furnace waste standing up to
7m high. To the north east of the chimney are the remains of the largest
pit on the site, known at various times as Temple Pit or Middle Pit.
Adjacent to this pit are the remains of a steam powered winding engine,
visible as the foundations of its boiler house, the stone remains of the
engine bed and a square pit, believed to be the bob pit. At the north
eastern edge of the colliery site is Moss Pit with the remains of two
stone built engine houses, believed to be mid-19th century in date. These
are roofless but stand almost to full height. The remains of miners
housing survive in four discrete areas, all aligned roughly north east to
south west along the main track which runs through the site. The most
southerly group of houses, known as Blue Row, has foundations surviving up
to 1m high. The other groups of housing survive as earth covered
foundations between 0.2m and 1m high. Each of these areas of housing has a
small area of enclosed land associated with it which would have provided
gardens and allotments. The remains of stables and sheds have also been
identified immediately to the north west of Temple Pit; these are
constructed of dressed stone and survive up to 1.5m high.
The remains of earlier mining can be seen in the areas between the pits
and miners housing on the east side of the track and also on the area of
gently sloping hillside to the west of the track. These remains include
traces of gin circles, a series of leats associated with colliery
drainage, which survive up to 1.5m wide and 0.3m deep, and possible
storage bins immediately to the west of the track. To both sides of the
track are a series of smaller shafts, both round and square, some of which
are stone-lined, often associated with small tips. Some of these represent
air shafts whilst others are believed to be the remains of earlier
All fences and gates which cross the monument are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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 remains of coal workings at Ford Colliery are well-preserved and are
important as a remarkably complete upland mining landscape of great
complexity and chronological range. The colliery contains a range of
mining features and forms which, as a group, are of major technological
importance with evidence of both animal and steam powered shaft winding
and pumping. The association of the colliery remains with the remains of
workers housing provides additional interest.

Source: Historic England


Dr Stafford Linsley, Ford Colliery, unpublished research paper
Northumberland County Council, SMR 1975, (2001)
Rowland, H., Ford Castle Workbook, 1968, unpublished results of field course

Source: Historic England

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