Shropshire

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Kinlet Colliery

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Highley (SO739819)

Coal

 

Kinlet Colliery was one of a number of coal mines in the Highley area, which have a complicated ownership history.  The Highley Mining Company, formed in 1877,  replaced the previous partnerships.  By the early 1880s the good quality of the coal, and the proximity to the Severn Valley Railway was ensuring that the mine was a success, and in June 1885 agreement was reached with the Kinlet Estate of William Lacon Childe to bore for coal. 

 

Although the company had signalled its interest in Kinlet, it was to be some years before this was translated into serious action.  Possibly this was due to a down-turn in the economy at this time. However, a bore-hole was put down, and as a result of this a new sinking began in 1892 on the Kinlet Colliery site.  The site had no road access, so the mining leases also made provision for a railway from the Severn Valley running alongside the earthworks of the uncompleted Billingsley Colliery railway, which had been started in 1880, but abandoned (for the time being) soon after. Coal was struck in December 1893, at a depth of 296 yards, and the hooter at the works was sounded for 40 minutes in celebration.  

Despite early optimism, Kinlet Colliery was something of a disappointment. Production started in the late 1890s, with the completion of the railway. The mine had a lavish 15' diameter production shaft, claimed with some reason to be the best in the West Midlands, and with a huge engine house and steam winder. 

 

There were hopes of finding additional seams, but these never materialised. Much of the seam consisted of basalt, which formed a hard rock mass difficult to cut through and destructive of the colliery screens.  Conditions did eventually improve to the north of the shafts, but working Kinlet was never easy. Nevertheless it grew from employing about 150 men at the turn of the century to twice that by the start of the First World War with an output of about 50,000 tons a year.  The combined efforts of both Highley and Kinlet ensured that average dividends were usually over 20% for the company shareholders in the pre-war years. 

 

The Billingsley Colliery Company was registered in July 1910, and this company finally completed the railway connecting its mine with the Severn Valley railway in 1913; this ran parallel with and to the north of the Kinlet Colliery line, and its remains provide the track access to the site from the road.  After a series of difficulties the Billingsley company was bought by the Highley Mining Company in 1915. 

 

The Billingsley mine was closed in 1921, and machinery and manpower transferred to Highley and Kinlet.  There was substantial modernisation at Highley through the 1920s, but progress was slower at Kinlet.  The colliery was abandoned in September 1937, when the leases on the Kinlet Estate expired. The mine had proved impossible to mechanise, and there were continued problems with basalt having burnt out the coal; ironically, at the time of closure, the workings entered some of the best ground ever encountered at the mine. 

 

Kinlet Colliery lies south of the B4555, which is the main road route into and through Highley village, The latter lies about 1km to the north, and Kinlet about 2.2km to the southwest. 

The Borle Brook, a deeply incised small river with steeply sloping sides, lies just north of the site.  The Brook flows into the Severn about 1km east of the site.  Much of the Borle Brook valley is wooded, and the site itself is now largely covered with regenerated woodland and scrub. 

 

No public rights of way run through the site, though a disused railway track along the south side of the Borle Brook provides relatively easy foot access to the site from the B4555 (Highley Road), a walk of about 0.5 km.  There are public footpaths to the north of the Brook, which provide links to Highley and the surrounding area, and to the Severn Valley and the Severn Way long distance path.  North west of the Highley Road, there are public footpaths on both sides of the Borle Brook, which connect with the Jack Mytton Way long distance path some 1.5km away. 

 

There is a small informal lay-by on the Highley Road where one can park at present and from there gain access to the footpath leading to the former Billingsley Colliery railway line, a well defined level path with a reasonable hard surface. The first feature of interest is the bridge taking the Highley Road over the former railway line, a robust stone structure built in the 1920s.  The 1903 edition Ordnance Survey map of this area shows that the Highley Road had not been built, but shows the temporarily abandoned line of the Billingsley Colliery Company with its earthworks. 

 

About 300m beyond the bridge, a track leads steeply up to the right, away from the railway path, this leads to the Kinlet Colliery site. On a 1934 Surveyors’ map, this is shown connecting with a footbridge over the Borle Brook, and the concrete abutments for this remain, though in poor condition.  The bank down to the bridge is also extremely steep.  This path continued north across the Highley Road up a steep bank to Netherton, in the south of Highley, and would probably have been the main access for those working at the mine. 

 

The line of the Billingsley Colliery railway, as shown on the 1934 map, continues at the same level as far as its former junction with the main line railway, now preserved as the Severn Valley Railway, though rather overgrown and difficult to follow at its eastern end. 

 

After a steep 100m climb, the path to Kinlet Colliery levels out, and soon the impressive remains of the Engine House come into view to the right.  This building dates from 1894, and is shown on both the 1903 OS map and the 1934 Surveyors’ map.  Although now roofless and overgrown with trees and scrub, this is still an impressive and beautiful brick structure, with some massive stone detailing still remaining. 

 

Of the other structures shown on the early 20th century maps, the foundations remain of the fan house, a second winding engine, boilers, workshops, screens and the locomotive shed.  For safety, the shafts have been capped with concrete. 

 

Historic photographs from around the 1920s show the site while working.  These show how impressive the structures were, and also the open nature of the site at that time: scrub and trees have completely transformed the character of the area.

 

The bricks for the earliest structures were made on site, and there are still the remains of the clay pits dug for use in the brick making; these are shown on both the historic maps. 

The line of the Kinlet Colliery railway leading to the Severn Valley Railway is still partly intact, though less easy to trace than the Billingsley Colliery line.  Several of the former railway bridges remain, in varying stages of disrepair, but still impressive.  The extensive spoil heaps are now largely covered in scrub and trees.

 

Figures from the Mineral Statistics are :-

 

Year

Underground Workers

Surface Workers

1894

12

6

1895

18

21

1896

30

36

1898

122

34

1901

150

39

1904

240

37

1907

267

44

1914

262

44

1915

233

32

1917

258

40

1919

285

42

1920

345

41

1926

282

69

1930

267

72

 

SO73808208

Miners' footbridge (C19)

SO738879

Colliery Brickworks (C19)

SO739819

Winding engine house (1896)

SO739819

Boiler House (C19)

SO739819

Fan House (C19)

SO739819

Locomotive Shed (C19)

SO739819

Blacksmiths (C19)

SO739819

Enginehouse (C19)

SO74208183

Girder Bridge (C20)

SO739819

Shaft (filled)

SO739819

Shaft (covered)