This not intended to be a history of mining, which is a far too large and complicated subject to be tackled in a single article. It is just an attempt to show what effect the mines in the Todmorden area had on the people, and how the mines came to be. Conditions would have been the same country wide for miners at this period, so I have taken the liberty of generalising some of the story.


With apologies to all miners for any mistakes in the writing of this brief history.  


Cornholme miners about 1910

Coal mining in the area didn't start until the early 1800's although evidence of coal and minerals was known before this. There was no great demand for coal until the advent of steam to power the mills. Before this they had been powered by water, which was in plentiful supply in this area.

Mostly the mines were drift mines. This was a method of obtaining coal not far underground whereby tunnels were driven into the hillsides at an angle to reach the seams of coal. The coal would be visible on the side of the hill, showing where to start the shaft, and as the shafts progressed further into the seam, the mines would either be propped or else abandoned when they became too dangerous to work.


Underground roads would be lined with timber to allow the coal to be dragged out on carts to the surface and candles or carbide lamps would be used for lighting.


With the growth of the mills, brick was needed to build the new factories and some of the brick works had their own mine on the same site as the works, so the raw materials they needed was on hand. One example is the Clough Head mine at Sharneyford, owned by Thomas Temperley, which was also a brick works. There is mention of it in 1869, but it was probably in existence many years before this. In 1896 it employed 3 men underground and worked coal and fireclay. The fireclay would be used to make bricks which could withstand high temperatures and the coal possibly would be used to provide the power to run the brick works.


The Temperleys had three sites in the area of Bacup Road and the main item they manufactured was sanitary pipes, the existence of clay and coal together making ideal conditions for the making of ceramic pipes, which were in great demand for the new sewers.


Temperley's pipeworks at Saunder Clough,

Dulesgate, Todmorden 


Bankwell Colliery

In 1811, the Bankwell Colliery was opened at Cornholme, supplying coal for local needs. The coal was brought down from the pit by a tramway. In 1899 a lower pit was opened at Bankwell Corner just off Burnley Road. The first week's wage bill was £3.6s.6d. which seems to indicate that there weren't many workers at that time. Coal would be available to buy direct from the depot and take it home straight from there by whatever means the householders could manage. The pit closed in 1921.

Disaster at Cornholme


On October 16th 1947, the prompt action of the local services and the people of the area who rallied round in support averted a potential disaster.


The pit at Rattan Clough, Cornholme, was an open cast one, and during its operation, tons of peat and soil had been removed and left on the hillside. The weather had been very wet at the time of the incident and the heavy rain caused the resulting rush of water to suddenly shift these tons of residue, and they burst out, pouring down the Clough onto the valley below in the form of a moving mass of mud.


To see a huge black wall of mud, speeding relentlessly down the hillside, gathering momentum as it went and threatening to engulf everything in its path, must have been a terrifying sight. Two cottages were directly in the path on the oncoming sea of liquid mud and the residents were quickly warned and evacuated to safety.


By now the mudslide had picked up more momentum and had grown into a river some thirty feet wide and nine feet high. It crashed through stonewalls as if they didn't exist and nothing could hold it back. A lorry was pushed from the road into an opposite wall whilst other vehicles had managed to stop in time and warn others of the danger ahead.


The police took charge as the traffic was backed up and they diverted drivers onto other ways around the disaster.


The sea of black slime and slurry continued on its way, nothing was able to withstand its mighty force. The Cornholme Methodist Sunday Sunday School Football Club pitch was eventually covered in a lake of black slime as the moving mud reached the valley quickley and was in danger of engulfing the railway line.


Something had to be done quickly and a horde of bulldozers were brought in and tried to plough a trench through the river to ease the flow. Things looked grim as the first one stalled in mid stream, leaving the driver surrounded by a sea of bubbling slime, with no way out.


Another way had to be found to stem the flow and it was decided to bridge it, so mechanical diggers dug out an opening for the bulldozers. They also dug cuts further up the hillside to alleviate some of the force of the flow of mud.


By now, only the low wall around the football pitch stood between the sea of black mud and the railway line. The authorities worked on through the night by specially erected floodlights and by morning they had won the battle and the road was opened to traffic.


No lives were lost and what could have been a very tragic incident had been averted. In all nearly a million tons of slurry had shifted.


Most of the mines in the Todmorden and Walsden district were situated in the Dulesgate (Bacup Road) area, Cornholme, Portsmouth, Cliviger and Inchfield Road.



Drift mines at Dulesgate still visible today


Most, as previously stated, were drift mines and the coal would be taken down to the valley to be used for the local mills and to provide heating for the houses, which were springing up due to the influx of people seeking work in the mills. Some would be taken to the canal wharf and be taken elsewhere, wherever there was a demand and a good price to be had for it.



Mines and their owners mentioned in 1854 are:

Foul Clough, Todmorden, John and Reuben Haigh

Freeholds, Whitworth, Haigh

South Grain, Todmorden, J. Dearden

Todmorden Moor, J. Dearden


Mines in 1869 are:

Clough Head, Sharneyford owned by Thomas Temperley

Freeholds, Walsden owned by Reuben Haigh & Co

South Grain, Dulesgate owned by John Dearden

Todmorden Moor, Todmorden owned by John Dearden


By 1880 these mines were all still in existence although Freeholds has disappeared and FOULCLOUGH appeared again. By 1896, SAUNDERCLOUGH appears but Foul Clough is not listed. Clough Head employed 3 underground workers and mined manufacturing coal and fireclay and had the same owners as before. The manager was John Temperley.


Saunder Clough at Dulesgate employed 5 underground workers and mined manufacturing coal and fireclay. It was owned by Geo. Earnshaw & sons of Saunder Clough, Dulesgate, Todmorden and the manager was Geo. Earnshaw.


SOUTH GRAIN at Dulesgate employed 12 underground workers and 2 on the surface. It mined Household and Manufacturing coal. J.G. Dearden, The Manor House, The Orchard, Rochdale was the owner and the manager was Robert Kershaw.


Todmorden Moor at Todmorden employed 36 underground and 4 surface workers producing Household and Manufacturing coal. Also owned by J.G. Dearden and the manager was Edmund Lord.

By 1908 only Clough Head, from the original list of mines, is still in operation and Ramsden Wood mine has opened. John Tetlow & sons Ltd. Devonshire St. North, Hyde Rd., Manchester were the owners.

Plans to open the Cloughfoot mine were considered and a report appears in the Yorkshire Factory Times on the 1st January 1914:

"Resuscitation of a Moorland Village - A new coal mine is at present being opened at Cloughfoot, Todmorden, by Mr. James Howard, a Rochdale coal-owner. Cloughfoot is a small village situated on the bleak moorland road leading from Todmorden towards Lancashire, and up to a year ago was the home to a small community of miners. Then, a large colliery in the vicinity became - worked out - and was closed, and the bulk of the miners left the district, their little cottages falling into a dilapidated condition. Consequent on the opening of the new mine, however, the former life of the village community is being to some extent resuscitated. Skilled engineers are busily engaged in tunneling and boring operations, and it is confidently expected that in the near future regular work will be found for between 60 and 100 miners.

Up to now no serious difficulties have presented themselves in the task of constructing the main entrance to the mine, and a correspondent is assured that there is "any amount of coal suitable for either domestic or manufacturing purposes". What is known as the - forty yard - seam, which boring operations have shown to extend for nearly one mile under the barren moorland, has been located. This alone, it is claimed, will find employment for the next half-century."

(Article kindly submitted by John Alan Longbottom)

In 2004 the remains of the mine at South Grain are still clearly visible from the Bacup Road, testament to the mining activity once prevalent in this area.

John Travis, the local historian, also mentions Demain pit, Dulesgate, Dearden pit and the Kidnapper coal pit near South Grain. He also remarks that South Grain or Tunnel end coal pit is near to the Clough Head brickworks. Maybe South Grain and Tunnel End are one and the same.


It was common for children under the legal age of 10 to work underground in the mine but the managers would turn a blind eye. It sometimes made the difference between a meal and starvation for a family. In 1851, a child of 6, Samuel Crowther of Lower Dyches, was employed as a collier. This was at least nine years after the passing of the Coal Mines Act in 1842, which forbade children under 10 and women to work underground in the mines. It was normal practice for children's ages to be falsified and nobody asked any questions.

Their work would be as coal drawers, to drag and push the coal in the heavy trucks to the surface. This job was taken over by the pit ponies, but in this area horses were not the norm and only one pit was known to use them. Women, who were also banned by law from working underground in the mines, would often disguise themselves as men. Circumstances sometimes dictated such a drastic act in those days.


A banksman was a responsible job as it entailed being at the top of the pit and ensuring that the men and coals etc. were landed safely. The men would be paid more for this and it was a highly sought after job. Some men were coal getters and some were coal miners. Perhaps there is a difference in the two, or maybe just different terminology for the same job.

The carters would have plenty of work and would take some of the coal mined in the Dulesgate area over to Bacup and they would be kept busy hauling their goods over the high road, with stops for refreshment for both themselves and the horses at one of the inns that relied on their trade. The Bay Horse on the right was one such place.

Many accidents occurred in these mines and fatalities were common. A few, which have been recorded and appear in the local press or the Annals of Todmorden, are:

Rochdale Weekly Banner

20 October 1855

Colliery Accident

William Lord, a collier aged 28 years, who resided at Portsmouth near Todmorden, died on Friday week from injuries received on the 6th inst. In the Bankwell coal pit. The deceased was one of the workmen employed there and on the morning of the 6th was going to his work with a lighted candle in his hand when the liberated gas caught fire and an explosion took place. The mine belongs to Messrs. Haigh, Green and Co., and we are quite sure they would not permit such carelessness and foolhardiness.


Halifax Guardian Page 5

12th September 1863

A Man Shut Up in a Coal Mine – Cliviger New Drift

On Monday a portion of a coal mine belonging to the Cliviger Coal Company, called the New Drift, fell in, and by this occurrence a man named John Ingham, of Mereclough, who was working at the further end of the pit, was compelled to remain a prisoner there till Wednesday night. As soon as it happened, they began to clear away the debris, and continued at this work 24 hours, when it became apparent they would not be able to get to the poor fellow in that way, owing to the quantity of water they had met with. They then began to pick a road through the bed of coal, which was nine yards in thickness, and after working very hard for 18 hours, the man was released. He was very weak, but in a much better state then they expected to find him. He had not eaten anything during the whole time; he had an oatcake in his basket, and feeling very hungry he took it out and tried to eat, but whenever he did so something rose up in his throat and almost choked him. He is recovering nicely.


Richard Barker, 20, coal miner at Foul Clough was found under a wagon in the pit and died.



Harry Seymour, 23, collier, died from severe injuries by part of the pit roof falling in at Dulesgate Colliery.



At noon the dead body of John Barnes aged 52, of Owler Carr, Dulesgate, was found in the pit of the Todmorden Moor Colliery (where he was employed) with a stone weighing about 3cwt.on his head.


There must have been many more that went unrecorded; normal happenings in the life of a miner.



I think the last words should go to John Travis, who recorded the story of one of the many miners of Todmorden as follows:


"John was the son of Peggy Earnshaw of Holding Gate and Joseph Barker of Swineshead. He was born before they eventually married and was commonly known as John or Jack Peggy.

John was a young man employed as a collier during the cotton panic (American Civil War 1863-4), when there was not much coal required; most of the factories being stopped for a long time. He was living in lodgings at Cloughfoot, Dulesgate, with little work and wages. There was scarcely any work going on, and he vividly remembered the hardship of those days, which were indelibly stamped into both mind and body; the chief part of his sustenance being what he termed "greylegs" (oatmeal gruel or skilly) and hard bread or "snap and rattle" to eat with them, and give a little body to them, the gruel not often being sweetened with treacle to give a little savour. The family with whom he lived were only poor folks but, after turning up all the wages he earned to them, he very naturally thought that he deserved better fare than that provided; the "greylegs", in which he could see the husks or grain meal seeds (seedy billies), being made with one tablespoonful of oatmeal, well beaten up in cold water and then poured into a large quantity of water and boiled with salt for seasoning, which when dished and sweetened as before stated, had to be eaten with oat cake, and of those he had two meals a day for a long time, one before going to the pit and another when he came out again-that was all he had to have-who, during a long spell of bad trade got no fat, grease or "sewl" of any sort; but one day when he came out of the pit from work there was a nice little potatoes pie before the fire, ready for eating and he became ravenous at the sight.

Enquiring first of all who that was for, and was sharply told back again that it was for David, the woman's husband. "Eah!" said he, "an' o'm bewn ta hav som on it"


Jack had been debarred so long from "nifies" that he neither would nor could stand it any longer with that savoury smell in his nose, and so he got a portion of the pie, being completely weary of "greylegs" to get coals upon; and afterwards, from the day he had shown a little rebellion against the order of things in that household, matters mended, and he got better treatment from those people.

Ultimately there came a change to better days, and work and wages gradually improved again, in which he wrought on steadily at his trade as a working collier; and doing the best he could to gain a little education and so try to better his condition.

At length there came a turn in the crooked lane, when on the retirement of an old banksman at the Dearden Pits, he was favourably looked upon as the successor, and upon being appealed to, the old banksman recommended him for the post; he in every way eligible for the situation- a position of trust- and John or Jack Peggy received the appointment, which he held for about a period of thirty years with entire satisfaction to his employers and some amount of credit to himself and the class of men he has had to deal with; but he was one of them, and so as likely to know their tempers and ways as well as anyone else and died at the age of 70 years. "

This is one of the small episodes in the life of a colliery village, of which there are so many in this country. There is no romance at all about it, but yet is written simply to show what privations miners and others suffer by a dislocation of trade; and yet, how many of those tales go unrecorded?



Photographs of the Cornholme miners, Temperley's Pipe Works, Bankwell Colliery and the Bay Horse by kind permission of Roger Birch