Prescot and district coal mining

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

Where on earth is Halsnead Park? Yes that’s what I thought too.

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

When I saw the list of Garden Villages to be developed obviously Halsnead in Merseyside jumped out at me and I have to confess that despite living on Merseyside for 48 years and travelling all over it this name had never been on my radar at all.

A quick Google search brought up a primary school and a caravan park near Whiston in Knowsley Borough where the M57 and M62 Motorways intersect. Then old chum Keith found a link to the document below on Knowsley Council’s web site and the picture began to emerge.

And I started to wonder because to me the site looks like it should be a part of Merseyside’s Green Belt and ‘should be’ seem to be the important words because I asked my good friend Cllr. Ian Smith of Knowsley Borough Council and this is what he said:-

‘It’s green space taken out of the Greenbelt in 2016. Once again Labour run Knowsley Council is not taking any notice of local people. This area is built up enough without further development. It is adjacent to the Lickers Lane Estate built to take the overflow from Liverpool in the 60s & 70s.
We want to see the Local Plan amended with Halsnead being returned to the Greenbelt. The site should be protected, it includes farm land, woodland, fishing lakes and football pitches, and mobile homes on Halsnead Park.’

Whiston Delph Ward By-Election – Labour cling on as their vote collapses over Green Belt building

Whiston Town Council Delph Ward – 18th August 2016

Labour 159 [36.1%]
Lib Dem – Paul Shaw 157 [35.6%]

Lab Majority: 2
Turnout: 20.26%

Wow this was close with a number of recounts I hear. This was solid Labour territory but no longer.

Reminds me of the Maghull Town Council North Ward by-election in February of this year. My previous blog posting refers:-

Labour then lost the following Maghull Sudell Ward election in May to an Independent and you know what it was on the same major issue – A Labour-run Council (in this latest case Knowsley Borough) sanctioning building on the Green Belt!

Merseyside – Where to see its preserved Locomotives and Rolling Stock – Posting 1

A visit to the Foxfield Railway in Staffordshire recently, where I came across a preserved steam locomotive that used to work for the NCB on Merseyside, made me start to wonder where else you can see (or possibly not see) preserved examples of the now so called Liverpool City Region’s heritage and historic railway stock.

Let’s start this first of an occasional series of postings on this subject by looking at the National Coal Board 0-6-0 loco and the 502 3rd rail electrified unit that is presently being rebuilt in Burscough.

The colourful but powerful former National Coal Board (NCB) loco pictured below was seen on the Foxfield Light Railway in deepest rural Staffordshire. It has an interesting history and the name ‘Whiston’ gives away it’s Merseyside heritage. Read more about that here (when you have clicked the link below look for the name of the loco and click again):-

Former Haydock, Cronton and Bold Collieries steam loco 'Whiston' working on the preserved Foxfiled Railway in Staffordshire.

Former Haydock, Cronton and Bold Collieries steam loco ‘Whiston’ working on the preserved Foxfiled Railway in Staffordshire.

Secondly, the excellent work of the 502 Group in a warehouse in Burscough continues although it will be a very long job to fully restore a two coach example of the electric units (known as 502’s) that used to run on the Merseyrail network until around 1980. Dating from the 1930’s this last surviving example is in a poor state indeed and I suspect it will take a few years yet before the works are completed by the volunteers. The 502 Group have open days at their Merseyside Transport Trust premises now and again so you will have to keep an eye out for the next one if you want to see how they are progressing. I took this photo during an 2015 open day:-


And this is what is should look like and indeed did look like in the 1980’s:-

502 in LMS Maroon

More to come on this subject in due course.

Dogs Trust – Merseyside Branch

Last week I had reason to go to the Merseyside/Liverpool branch of the Dogs Trust which is in Whiston. I went not to pick up a re-homed dog for my family but one for a Lydiate neighbour who had adopted, if that’s the right word, one.

I must say the facilities were impressive as were the staff I encountered in my taxi driver type role. Here are a few pictures I took during the visit.