16th July 2014:
Jubilee Colliery at Shaw in Greater Manchester was one of the most important collieries in the Oldham Coalfield, supplying coal and coke to many of the cotton mills and factories in the area. The colliery was founded in 1845, when a shaft was sunk into the Mountain Mine, which lies 99m below the surface. Owned originally by the Edge Lane & Dryclough Colliery Company, Jubilee Colliery was bought in 1883 by Platt Brothers & Co Limited, one of the largest manufacturers of textile machinery in the world. The Platt Brothers were keen to secure a cheap source of coke for their iron works in Oldham, where some 500 tons per week were being used, and the coal gained from the Mountain Mine at Jubilee was ideal for producing coke.
Many of the buildings were demolished when the colliery closed in 1932, and the abandoned site was allowed to be reclaimed by nature. It is currently managed as a local nature reserve by the environmental charity Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale, and is colonised by a diverse range of flora that thrives amongst the remains of the colliery structures. These remains include part of a double bank of coke ovens, the foundations of the winding engine for the downcast shaft, the dynamo house, and a raised mound that marks the site of the boiler house and chimney.
A network of paths from a small car park, together with several interpretation panels and benches, were installed some time ago to provide basic facilities for visitors, although it was primarily a nature site with some interesting industrial structures. In recent years, however, the remains of the colliery have become overgrown and some of the information panels have been removed, making it difficult for visitors to appreciate the industrial heritage of the site.
In 2012, Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale launched ‘Unearthing the Past’, a pilot project that was intended to rekindle the local interest in the historic colliery by revealing the hidden structures and establishing the extent of the surviving remains. Building on the success of this initial work, Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale secured additional funding from the Heritage Lottery to run a second, larger, stage to the project. Known as ‘Jubilee Colliery: Preserving the Past’, the principal aims of the project are to increase an awareness of Oldham’s rich mining heritage through engaging local communities, provide a unique learning opportunity for those volunteers involved, and develop a plan to preserve the site for future generations. A core component of the project is to enable volunteers to carry out the excavation of key elements of the colliery, under the supervision and guidance of Cookie from OA North.
The volunteer-led excavation of the site began in mid-June, and has been scheduled to run for ten weeks. By the end of the third week, more than 50 volunteers had actively participated in the excavation, with a core group attending every day. The first target for excavation was the mound marking the site of the boiler house and chimney, the foundations of which were found to be largely intact. Three local primary schools have also been involved to date, and have been provided with dedicated sessions in the classroom, coupled with days on site where pupils were tasked with unearthing the buried remains of some of the coke ovens.
Over the next few weeks, the volunteers will endeavour to excavate as much of the colliery as possible, and pave the way for the long-term presentation of the important site as a fitting monument to the local coal-mining industry. For more information on the project, or to get involved visit: http://www.groundwork.org.uk/Sites/bbor/Pages/preserving-the-past