Minerals and mines

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Coal mining history

Roman times

It is thought that the Romans mined coal in the Nettlebridge area, close to the Fosse Way. The third-century writer Solinus even makes a somewhat cryptic reference to the temple at Bath which suggests that coal was burned there.

Newbury Colliery
Surface remains of coal workings, Benter

Post Medieval times

Coal mining only really began in earnest during the 1600s. The first pits exploited surface outcrops, but by the 1790s, shafts up to 150 m deep were being sunk. The arrival of the railways in the mid to late 1800s caused some expansion, but most of the mines served local markets and could not compete with other coalfields. Demand for coal was at its peak during the early decades of the 20th century. Gradually demand fell for coal and the mines in the region closed one by one, especially after Nationalisation in 1947. The narrow seams, coupled with mine gas problems made production expensive, and many smaller pits were closed. The larger pits survived into the 1960s when reduced national demand together with competition from more economical coalfields led to the closure of the last remaining pit in 1973.

Medieval workings

There are numerous surface remains of medieval coal working in the Nettlebridge valley, especially around Benter where there is an extensive area of earthworks associated with early coal mining. Medieval coal working also exist in Harridge Wood where at least 52 bell pits (small shafts sunk along the surface outcrop of a coal seam) lie scattered through the wood, together with a number of deeper shafts and 16 adits (horizontal mines for access and drainage).