Coal Mining Savile Colliery

Savile Colliery Video

Brief Introduction to Savile Colliery Video.
The movie commences with a shot of the colliery offices. This building was originally the old lamp room and was converted in 1957 some two years after construction of the pit head baths building which then incorporated the new lamp room.
Next we see home coals being loaded near to the landsale onto the Geo Davies delivery truck. The loading area was sectionalised at the back into one ton capacity segments for tipping outside miner’s houses. On average underground workers received one load every five weeks.
The camera now pans round to take in the two shaft headgears and fan house prior to a shot of the gantry access from the baths to the man riding shaft top. To the left of this is the baths building visible with smoke issuing from its boiler room.
Next is the upturned view of the Savile Park headgear. Then the view returns back to the colliery offices and shows a close up of the then cost clerk (Peter Glover) entering the building.
Another upward view now of the materials yard floodlight column. It’s always windy up there, even on a still day.
Following that we see a long shot of the canal basin cut to the loading staithe, this offering a distance view of the donkey bridge (constructed to enable horse drawn barges to proceed.
Then on view are a number of barges in loading position followed by shots of the conveyor feed gantries clearing the coal to the barges. Continuation of the view displays the side elevation of the old colliery screens not now in use following the introduction of washing facilities and the switch from domestic to power station fuel.
A run of full coal wagons and the steam loco (Airedale) being driven by Ronnie Hare and Charlie Oddy is next. Along with this picture is a view of the ancient steam powered crane and then into view appear the Jubilee side tipping trucks with stone and washer residuals ready to be hauled up to the surface dirt disposal area (Colliery Tip). More views of the surface buildings bring us to the rear of the pit head baths and the end of the short video.
I am indebted to John Sigsworth for permission to display this moving picture of Savile pit taken in the late 1960’s.


20th Century Characters Coal Mining Savile Colliery

Sam Bullough

Sam Bullough 1909 – 1973

Tuesday 17th September 1963 saw the start of what was then a unique slant of a disputation when a delegation of colliers from Savile pit descended on the NUM Yorkshire HQ at Barnsley.  They were seeking restitution over a simmering dispute with the NCB management at the pit.  This in regard to fall back rates of pay when  production was not available.     This visit included a discussion with President Sam Bullough (himself a man of Methley) seeking support for their claim.     Sam, it would seem was unable to resolve the situation in the short term hence their change of tactics and the introduction of what was to become a headline stay down strike.

Sam was formerly a collier at Allerton Bywater Colliery where he had been elected to become Branch Secretary, a position which was to be the springboard for his success in the ballot for the post of Vice President of the Yorkshire NUM.   Success in 1954 brought about as a result of two left wing aspirants standing which was to split their share of the vote.

Sam, throughout his tenure as vice president and later president from 1960 along with his period of office as vice president of the National Union from 1963 was to work against the influx of left wing political ambition into the union.   To that end he introduced forms compelling new members to sign an undertakingto prevent alleged communist influence into the union.  Sam was opposed to members of the communist party hijacking the trade unions and the labour party to advance their ideology. 

Sam initially lived in one of the rows of Methley Junction and later moved on to the new Pindergreen estate.   I did meet him on one of his occasional visits to Savile pit where he would look up his old mate Pat Mannion in the medical room for a non-official cal.  

He was always pleased to be invited to attend the retired Savile miners tea held annually at the ‘stute’ (Miners Welfare).  

Characters Coal Mining Savile Colliery

Joe Sidebottom – Foreman Blacksmith

Joe Sidebottom
Blacksmith Savile Colliery

Imagine, it’s 5.40am on a winter Sunday in the 1960’s, and Joe the foreman blacksmith is already igniting the forge prior to starting work at 6.00am. He takes note of all the men in their bib and braces arriving after clocking on (Every Saturday and every Sunday except holidays). It’s minus 2 degrees centigrade out there.

Joe has a schedule of week-end maintenance covering examination and replacement of screening plant, surface conveying installation in fact all equipment involving moving or vibrating metals.

After deploying the blacksmiths and their strikers, Joe will advise the surface foreman of the repair objectives and update him of any absences etc. Most of that work will be carried out on the heavy duty anvils at the forge in the blacksmiths workshop.

Joe had recently taken over the reins from the experienced and equally long serving Chris Beilby. With slight appearance he didn’t look like the stereotyped blacksmith but looks can be deceiving certainly in his case hiding the power and his mastery of the huge hammers,tongs and clamps.

Could it be that such conditions including dust, rust and smoke would be an aid to longevity because Joseph Sidebottom survived in decent health until the age of 99 in the retirement cottages in Woodrow.

No, it is more likely that his advanced age was contributed to by his extended interest in the sport of crown green bowls. Not only a successful competitor, but also a long established keeper of the green in that picturesque Churchside setting.

Many of Methley’s beginners in the sport would subscribe to the view that the same man had throughout, offered coaching and advice to all initiates in the sport.

The club members so admired the man that they have instituted an annual knock out competition in his name, winner to be presented with the Joe Sidebottom Veterans Shield.

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20th Century Coal Mining Galleries Savile Colliery

Savile Pit Reunion 28th Dec 2012

Closure in 1985 has brought about a number of gettogethers.   This time the meet was in the Commercial Hotel.

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19th Century Coal Mining

Evictions 1863

A printed poster on view at the National Mining Museum at Caphouse Colliery describes the dreadful state of industrial relations in and around Methley at this time.

This was a situation brought about by adverse trading conditions in coal mining at the time, subsequent cost cutting steps imposed by the mine owners (Briggs’) and the resulting hardship suffered by the coal miners involved and their families in Methley and the adjacent village of Whitwood.    

The poster (appended here) was in the form of a plea to the general public to understand the position that miners had found themselves in and the actions that were being taken by the owners.

The build up to the dispute began in the June of that year when the men, having had to accept a reduction of seven and half percent on wages refused a later request to riddle (screen) the coal before filling the tubs.  As a result of this refusal the men were then locked out having also refused to sign not to defend each other (form an association with representation).

One witness writing to the Leeds Express reported seeing hundreds of men and women along with their furniture being ejected from their homes at Common Row, Whitwood.    The bailiffs in this work being guarded by a strong force of police armed with cutlasses.

Similar action was taking place in Methley as extracts from the churchside school logbooks reproduced in Jim Melvin’s book Methley 2000 confirm:-

16th July   – All the pits are closed, strike likely to prove serious.
15th Sept   – Mr. Briggs the coal proprietor has turned parents and children out of
his houses and great destitution has been caused.
17th Nov    – Increase in attendance as some colliers return to work.
25th Nov   – Effects of the strike still very detrimental.
11th Dec    – Colliers working much better.
5th Jan      – The colliers are now returned to regular work.

Of equal significance to the melodrama described by the poster is the postal address of the Committee of Locked-out Colliers which was the Bay Horse Inn, Methley.   From this we can deduce that the pub was more than a watering place.   As meetings were taking place there (as they did right up to the 1970’s) it was clearly becoming one foundation of the developing Miner’s Association.   

After failure in earlier years by the Chartists to secure representation and organisation for workmen from the top downwards, it is possible to see that association developed from the bottom upwards and the Bay Horse at Methley would be a factor in the development of early representation for miners.   (The West Yorkshire Miners’ Association was formed in 1863 – it takes little imagination to work out where the originations for this type of association originated).

The structure of the later Yorkshire Miners Association in 1881 and then NUM was certainly an amalgamation of like groups.

One is left to wonder if Samuel Poppleton the landlord of the Bay Horse at this time could have envisaged the role of his public house towards that end.

Doubtless he would have simply been pleased to get the business of those thirsty colliers in his premises.

Characters Coal Mining Industry

Cllr Arthur Wright BEM

 Reported in the Pontefract and Castleford Express
When Cllr Arthur Wright, of Leeds Road, Methley, handed his riding check in at Savile Colliery last Friday, he ended 52 years of service there. In fact, he had worked at no other pit since the day he left school and took his place on the screens at Savile. Later he moved into the blacksmiths shop and then at 18 he went to the coal face as a ripper.

That was his work until his recent retirement.

From 1933 until the present time he served the National Union of Mineworkers as Delegate. He has been a member of Rothwell UDC through his connection with the Methley Labour Party.  And has been a representative of the Methley Ward since 1946 and was Chairman in 1955. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1956 in the Queens Birthday Honours List. His other voluntary interests included the welfare of the elderly, he was also a member of the National Playing Fields Association Council.

Characters Coal Mining Savile Colliery

Ronald Lewis

Born in Methley at St Margarets Road, the family later moving to the ‘newer’ houses on Savile Road.   Ron attended Mickletown School from 1931 to 1937 and then on to Normanton Grammar School until 1943.

I wonder if he ever thought when he was kicking his heels as a youngster near the old bus shelter built into the Landsale at Savile Pit (as he must have done at some time) that one day he would get to be Colliery Manager there.

He joined the St Oswald’s church choir by pursuasion when, after being caught trespassing with his mate Ken Smith near Shann House.   The tenant, Bob Farrer who was the choirmaster said ‘Now then what are  you two up to?’   To which the feeble reply was ‘We’re only looking for wild flowers’.    ‘Wild flowers! Wild flowers!’ exclaimed Farrer ‘If you come to choir practice on Friday I’ll not take the matter any further’.   This was to be the start of a long association for the pair of them as choristers and later bellringers at the church.

After leaving school, an unsuccessful spell at County Hall, Wakefield prepared the way for him to go for a proper job as an electricians apprentice at Peckfield Colliery, Micklefield.

I’m not sure how he managed,  biking it 8 miles there but the return journey which included the downhill Mary Pannel hill would have been a tad quicker.   Luckily for him, Lewis Snr. was appointed to the job of Enginewright at the same pit  where they secured a house virtually in the pit yard, ending his 3 year (4,000 miles /year) trek.    That additional travelling must have provided an incentive to  ambition, because after getting his electricians papers he went on to qualifying as a Mining Engineer in 1953.

This enabled him to get on the ladder – as a shotfirer at  Methley Junction Pit, which brought him back to Little Church Lane Methley (No more biking) with subsequent stints at Whitwood and Primrose Hill as Undermanager and Fox Pit, Altofts as Colliery Manager.

So there he was, 1966 and driving in past that old bus shelter at Savile Landsale no doubt looking forward to a warm welcome from some of his old schoolmates.      He got one from  Ted Portman, Fred Howson, Jimmy Gee and the colliers of No.3 Panel Beeston seam.

Ron was also President of the Miners Welfare (Stute), inheriting a not uncomplicated responsibility there  that went with the job.    His term at Savile was clearly  successful, productivity had increased greatly during his stay and he left to become manager at superpit Kellingley.  Now treading the  retirement boards, he tells me among other things he likes to look at this web site.

Coal Mining History Social

Bay Horse RIP

As an alehouse and local inn the Old Bay Horse played an integral part in many social aspects of this village.   It also had  important historical aspects too, especially in relation to its function as a meeting place for miners from the local coal mines.

Even after the Institute had been converted to the Miner’s Welfare, it was the  Bay Horse where the men argued/agreed/voted/resolved matters certainly in relation to Savile Pit on a day to day basis – the Welfare being used only for larger NUM meetings.     The pub even carried a signed notice by the magistrates to open one hour extra each working day for the benefit of miners coming off shift.

One hundred and forty years ago (1863) it was the headquarters of the Methley and Whitwood Colliers in their fight against enforced  evictions by the mine owners during a major dispute.

It was in fact one of many like public houses which would lead to the formation of the Yorkshire Miner’s Association. Witness the  membership card of Norman Green which prints the title – Savile Pit of the Yorkshire Mineworkers’ Association registered under the Trades Union Acts of 1871 – 1917 at the  Old Bay Horse, Methley.    Secretary G Bullen.

It was also a centre for the exchange of information on many other matters ranging from  pigeons to gardening and no one was banned from its doors. It attracted many lively and interesting characters – too many to name, however I have one abiding memory as a  17 year  old, calling in one Friday night on the way to the dance at the Welfare. Before going into the pub a look back showed a group of afternoon shift men silhouetted including the unmistakable  figure of 22 stone Benny Hanson walking down to the pub.   The landlord was pulling one of three pints as I walked in and then took my call for one pint of tetleys bitter  – the three pints  were being pulled in advance for Benny and by the time I had finished my drink Benny had shifted three and a further two pints before walking out to catch the 10.20pm 189 bus to Castleford!!

What on earth happened!  The pub had long since lost association of the colliers, but had been rescued and made into  a thriving bar and restaurant business.

However over the last 5 years business had fallen off, you didn’t need to be an accountant to know that – all you had to do was look at the car park.

Last orders were called on Friday 19th August, 2005 and in the following days constructors fencing was put in place.

Sadly enquiries made throughout the summer in relation to rumours about possible closure were not answered and the approach to rectify matters with even further investment rather that  a more simple solution has now proved to be unsuccessful.

Well, now that its closed we can see what it says on the Leeds City Planning Consents website  that on 12th July, 2005 permission to construct 10 houses and 30 apartments was approved following an application made on 18th February.    A later look shows that this was varied to 24 dwelling houses on the 17th October, 2005

Former landlord Bill Gettings would turn in his grave if he knew all this.   As no doubt the ghost of Methley will.

Just some former Landlords   1821   Jane Thornton
1861   Samuel Popplewell
1877   Sarah Wright
1881   Ellen Green
1892   Geo Risker
1908   Ephraim Jackson
1911   Arthur Wyke
1927   Elizabeth Earnshaw
1929   Solomon Darrell
1936   Wm Gettings
1972   Louis Napper Beevers
1992   Brian Lockwood