About this image
Many collieries around this period are shown in photographs with huge blocks of coal extracted for exhibitions, See also DCAV000218. Shown here is Markhams effort weighing in at 3 and a 1/2 tons, with dimensions of 7'2 x 3'2 x 4'2. For centuries prior to the sinking of the Markham colliery shafts coal had been worked in this area from several small mines owned and operated by individuals and small companies. These mines worked the shallower seams which often surfaced locally due to the uplift in the strata or anticline which runs from Staveley through Brimington towards Calow, called the Brimington Anticline. Coal has been one of the areas greatest assets, we know that the Romans mined coal along with ironstone, there were Mediaeval miners too. The history of coal mining is a vast subject with different areas and different owners mining coal in their own particular time honoured ways. Change was always slow and painful in coming with these changes often only coming after serious mining disasters with the loss of life or limb. Coal was not the first choice for fuel, it was wood that was readily available and ancient laws allowed the common people to collect wood for burning on the home fires. Charcoal was used to smelt iron, this was often made from animal bones and not wood. It would however seem that because the seams basset out in the area as a result of the Brimington Anticline, coal would be easier to find in larger quantities than wood. The shallow shafts and drifts employed in the middle ages to win the coal were frequently filled in and re-sunk elsewhere as it was cheaper to do this than to maintain the ventilation and the security of the underground roadways. After the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the gradual changes in technology and company laws by the latter half of the nineteenth century the disposable colliery made way for deeper, larger, permanent and more profitable mines being run by large private concerns. It is at this point that Markham Colliery comes into being. (The collieries at Markham were named after Charles Markham, whose family were so prominent in the history and development of the Staveley company and the Chesterfield area. Charles Paxton Markham (1865-1926) the eldest son of Charles Markham (1823-1888) and his younger brother Sir Arthur B. Markham (1866-1916) and his son Sir Charles Markham). In 1882 the Staveley company did however lease 5,000 acres of coal reserves on the Sutton Estates from William Arkwright, the lease was for sixty three years and by 1885 the new Sutton estate colliery and housing or Markham number one colliery was in full production. Another colliery was sunk shortly afterwards in 1886 into the Deep Softs or Clay Cross Softs seam at a depth of 1,512 feet from the surface, this colliery was to be called Markham number two. This area of coal had for many years been sought after by the Staveley Company but it appears that William Arkwright and his predecessors were in conflict with the Duke of Devonshire about way leave over Devonshire land to the Chesterfield Canal which Barrow and the Staveley company were mining underneath and as a result Arkwright would not allow Barrow to take up a lease in favour of the Smiths at the Adelphi Ironworks. The most productive seam in the area was the Top Hards seam which was worked at Markham, but, by 1919 the workings were out as far as Palterton and it was decided to sink another shaft at Doe Lea Bridge and call this Markham number five shaft or the Palterton Air shaft to improve ventilation and man riding, the Top Hard seam here was six foot two inches thick. (Were there ever plans to expand number five shaft pit head with a rail link and washery plant into another separate colliery?) It would appear that Ramcroft colliery took over this role, a subsidiary of the Staveley Company. The Palterton Air Shaft or 'Mackerel Main'. Was a new man riding shaft sunk around 1919 at Doe Lea Bridge as an improvement to the ventilation system in the Top Hard seam workings at Markham colliery. A small amount of coal was removed from the pit bottom area but the main use of the shaft was to speed up man riding and inspection of the workings and improve the depleted air supply to the seam. Markham as a two pit complex worked the following seams during its life: Blackshale, Site of the two explosions. Deep Hard, Deep Soft, Ell Coal, First Waterloo, drifted into from the Top Hards inset but drifts are down hill and development ceased due to severe flooding. High Hazells, appears to have been opened up from the shaft inset but never worked Piper, Second Waterloo, worked from a fully mechanised shaft inset, state of the art transport and coal cutting from a multi-million pound investment from EEC. Most faces on the retreat system and the machine remotely monitored from the surface.. Threequarter, Top Hard. Worked extensively until around the 1930's. During the 1980's a new shaft inset was set for the production of coal from the Second Waterloo seam, several units went into production from a multi-million pound project on L30's district. It was also planned to drift to the surface with a dog leg drift from the number two pit bottom to free up the shaft coaling bottleneck but this did not get past the planning stage. A planned link from Arkwright colliery to Markham colliery was to be constructed by 1988 into the workings of L401 's unit in the Second Piper seam of number two colliery to take the remaining coal from the Arkwright faces and out of the proposed new Markham surface drift, these plans were also abandoned. The colliery closed in 1994.