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Women & Mines in the UK
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Women and girls have been employed across the mining industries in the UK. After the metallic mines of Cornwall, probably most have been employed in the Coal Mines. It was not uncommon for them to employed underground, which was made illegal after 1842. They were certainly employed underground in the collieries of Scotland, Cumbria, Northumberland, Shropshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. In Scotland and Northumberland they often carried coal in baskets on their backs, to climb stairs out of the mine. Elsewhere, they hauled waggons on all fours, by means of a chain around their waist, through low passages. In Silkstone, near Barnsley, women and girls died in a mine explosion in 1805, and a further seven (9 to 17 years old) died in a tragic flooding of the Moorside Pit in 1838. In 1841 there were 2350 women employed in the coal mines of the UK, one third of them in Lancashire. After 1842 were supposed to be working only at the surface, pushing waggons from the pit head to the sorting screens, or sorting coal at the screen themselves. In some mines the latter continued until the 1930’s.

Some of earliest records of females at the mines, come from lead mining areas of the Peak district, the Yorkshire Dales and Co. Durham. Women were commonly employed (sub-contracted) to wash and dress ores during the 17th and 18th centuries. By the early 19th century this work was mainly done by boys. Females were also employed at the copper mines in Anglesey and Staffordshire.

Females were also employed at the iron mines of Shropshire, where they pulled nodules of ore out of weathered banks, by hand. Other girls carried these nodules away in iron ‘baskets’ balanced on their heads. They also appear to have worked in a similar way at Blaenavon in South Wales.

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