Shropshire Routes to Roots
|Close this window|
How was it lifted out of the ground?
When mining consisted of a tunnel bored into a hillside (an adit), the main danger was from falling rock. As mines started to be dug deeper and vertically, there had to be a means of lowering the miners safely into the pit. The most natural means of doing this was by way of hemp ropes, which had been in use for many years. They had one major drawback, which was that they rotted very quickly and were prone to snapping on any occasion. However, one of the by-products of mining is the natural tar that often seeps from the walls (The Tar Tunnel at Ironbridge is a good example). The ropes were coated with this tar and so lasted considerably longer.
The means of raising the miners and the coal was initially by a hand winch, similar to that used to raise water from a well, but as the loads became greater, horses were used to turn a large windlass, but even this method was limited to load a horse could raise.
How were explosions prevented?
There were, and still are, two main enemies of the miner. 'Fire Damp', or Methane, causes explosions. 'Choke Damp', an unbreathable Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen mixture, causes, as its name suggests, suffocation. These are natural gases seeping from the rocks, and in some cases found in pockets that can be released suddenly as a 'blower'.
Methane can easily be ignited and was the major cause of mining accidents until the invention of the Safety Lamp, which had a sealed flame within a mesh basket. Even so, the lamps gave a poor light and quite often the miners took a risk and opened them to see better. Sometimes that was the last thing they ever did!
How do you prevent the mine from flooding?
Water naturally flows to the lowest level it can find. Miners therefore dug sumps below the seams to contain it. To get the water to the surface, large cauldrons were lowered into the sumps and then simply lifted out. This could take some while, especially in a particularly 'wet' mine. The advent of steam allowed engines to pump the water out. In the early days in some deep mines this meant several engines working at different levels, taking the water from one to the other, as each on its own could only pump so much height.
The mines of the Stiperstones area made use of their elevated situation to aid drainage. Underground drainage levels were dug which drained the water into streams lower down the valley to save the lifting or pumping of water to the surface. The Wood Level, The Leigh level and The Boat Level were three of these.
Close this window
(Alternatively, use the close button on your browser)
If you came here from outside the Shropshire Routes to Roots website, and would like to open the page to which this 'popup' is related: Go