From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
Clipstone Colliery
53° 9' 46.2" N 0° 48' 36.07" W
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Clipstone Colliery, is a mine in Clipstone village, Nottinghamshire.

The 'new' village of Clipstone was built on the site of Clipstone Army Camp in 1926 by the Bolsover Mining Company. It was built as a model village with modern housing and amenity areas to provide accommodation and recreation for the mine workers. In 1912 the Bolsover Colliery Company leased 6,000 acres of mining rights form the Duke of Portland. A test bore found the 6ft Tophard seam of coal at a depth of 640yds. At the outbreak of war in 1914 the work on sinking of the shaft was suspended at a depth of 50 ft but the surface buildings such as the winding house were completed.

The railway branch line reached the pit in 1916 with a short spur to serve the army camp. In 1919 work on the shaft recommenced and by 1922 two 21ft diameter shafts had been completed. Production on the Tophard seam began in 1927. A serious underground fire occurred in 1932 although it is not know how many people were injured or killed.

Up untill 1935 the only holidays were Christmas, Whit Monday and Good Friday. The first one-week paid holiday was granted in 1936.

By the Second World War, the seam being worked was becoming exhausted and deeper seams had to be developed, so a programme of reconstruction and reorganisation was drawn up just after the war. The National Coal Board (NCB) was created in 1947-48 and planed to reorganise both underground and surface workings. On the surface the work was started in 1953. The old steam winders, boilers, and fan, were scrapped; the winding houses, headframes, boiler house, fan house and heapstead buildings demolished. They were replaced by new heapsteads, headframes, a fan house, and a winder/power house located between the two shafts, with two electrically powered winders. New buildings contained new machinery, and in the case of the winding system, a different form from that of established practice. By the late 1940s, it was common for collieries in the UK to use drum winding to raise and lower miners and materials in the shafts. One system already adopted in Europe was that of 'Koepe' or Friction winding. This uses a single loop of rope, or two or more ropes in parallel, and a powered pulley or 'Koepe' wheel to move things along, rather than the standard drum. The system is under balance, needing less power for operation, and was invented in Germany in 1877 by Frederick Koepe. Interestingly the first British example was installed at Bestwood Colliery, Nottinghamshire, in the 1880s. This did not prove successful, and was soon taken out. The system was installed at a few more collieries up to the 1930s, but did not enjoy widespread use. It took the reconstruction programme of the NCB in the 1950s and 1960s to encourage further adoption. Clipstone was one of the first post war examples of this system, but surprisingly, here the NCB went for ground based winders, rather than the by now more usual system of winders installed in towers over the shafts. This of course, required the use of headframes, and the ones at Clipstone use pulley wheels or 'sheaves' located one above the other, designed specifically for Koepe winding, rather than the more normal way of sheaves next to each other. The winder house contained the two electrically driven Koepe winders, and two motor generator sets to convert the public AC supply to DC. This configuration pretty much remained as this until closure in 2003. The heapsteads are two monolithic brick buildings, enclosing the areas beneath the headframes. The central winder house is a modernist brick and glass affair. It is the sculptural qualities of the two magnificent headframes, which were the tallest in the UK when built, standing at approximately 65m high, which are the real landmarks. They can be seen for a miles around dominating the area.

The 1950s rebuilding of the headgear and winder house were listed in 2000 as an "early example of the 'Koepe' system" according to the list description. Whilst not the first built, it seems that it is the earliest in situ example left in the UK. The architecture of the rebuilding is good for a mid twentieth century colliery, it seems the site is an unusual survival of an early NCB reconstruction. The only other post war colliery structures to have statutory protection in England are located at Chatterley Whitfield colliery, these forming part of the scheduled complex. They include a winder house, a fan house, and a grade II listed store. This technical interest has not stopped demolition proposals. In 2003, a referendum in Clipstone was held, with the villagers voting overwhelmingly for demolition of the complete site. The Coal Authority has made a listed building consent application for demolition, everything has been demolished, even the 1930s baths house (mentioned by Pevsner). All that remains are the tallest all metal headstocks in the country.

Despite the collieries unbroken profit-making record it was closed and mothballed in 1993. Re-opened in 1994 in finally closed in April 2003. Clipstone Colliery was rescued from closure by RJB Mining, now UK Coal in 1993. One of 31 mines named for closure by British Coal, it was the first to resume production under under lease and licence arrangements a year ahead of the privatisation of the then State-owned coal industry. It resumed production in 1994 with an anticipated life span of six to seven years. In the nine years since, the colliery has produced nearly four million tonnes of coal, and while other reserves remain available, their quality, high sulphur content and cost of accessing them make them unviable. A small amount of equipment - including a coal cutting face shearer was recovered.