Coming from a coal mining family (both by grandads were miners and two of uncles as well) I’ve long taken an interest in it and not so long ago I picked up a fascinating Knowsley Council information sheet (in Kirkby Gallery) about mining in the Prescot area.
It seems that mining in the area commenced as early as 1510 but the first solid evidence comes from a court roll in 1552.
Prescot was above some very rich coal seams that were near the surface so easy to access. Seemingly a new shaft was sunk each year but each one had to be abandoned after it became flooded and this meant mining in winter was not really a possibility. This problem was not of course unique to the Prescot area and it was the invention of the steam pump which made year round coal mining possible. Whiston Mine had one of the first such pumps from 1719.
The coal dug was going to the nearby port of Liverpool but when the Sankey Canal was opened in 1757 everything changed as collieries further away from the port could now more easily get their coal to Liverpool. This led over time to the demise of pits at Prescot Manor (mid 1800’s), Whiston (1897) & Halsnead (1900). Interestingly Halsnead was effectively reopened during the First World War but under the name of Cronton Colliery – it was finally closed by the National Coal Board in 1984.
The scans of the information sheet which forms the basis of this posting are at the head of and below:-
Click on the scanned document to enlarge for reading
This is one of those places I had been meaning to visit for years but somehow not got around to.
My attention was drawn back to it because of of a controversial move of the Museum from its historic Georgian building into a shopping centre! You can see why it was controversial.
This is the old and seemingly now unused Georgian building:-
It really is quite a nice building and very much one that would befit a museum. So why the change? Obviously, local government funding issues were at the heart of the move but whilst having sympathy with Knowsley Borough Council for its financial dilemma I am told by Prescot locals that the Borough Council does not have the best of records in its governance of historic Prescot. I know that Cllrs. such as Ian Smith, and more recently Carl Cashman, have been fighting battles with Knowsley Borough for years to try to preserve the traditions and history of Prescot but the Kirkby/Huyton power-bases of the Borough always have had the bigger say for the socialist Borough.
The dead hand of local government can be a poor defender of traditions and local communities with its ‘Big Brother knows best’ approach to sensitive and very local issues. Here the solution is at best a halfway house because the old building is left empty and the setting of the new museum is at best odd. The comments on Trip Advisor give a flavour of what people think although not all are negative, I would add.
The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-