Brands Pit

Brands Pit was owned by the Butterley company and was located on the Butterley Park Estate in the area now occupied by the St. Saviour’s Church, at the Swanwick museum site, Midland Railway Centre.

It gets its name from the group of fields that previously occupied the site,Five acre Brand, Upper Long Brand and Nether Brand.

The pit had two shafts, 
Shaft No.1 was 184 yards deep to the Hard Coal and was later used for winding water.
Shaft No.2 was 62 yards deep to the Soft coal.
Brands Colliery stopped turning coal on 10th November 1906, but continued use as a ventilation shaft for the nearby Britain Pit and also served as an exit shaft for miners.

Fig.1 This Map from 1881 shows the location of Brands Pit and also two other Butterley Company pits of Britain and Western.

Fig.2 This picture from a Butterley Company publication, shows Brands Pit with the head gear of both shafts visible on the left and right of the image and in the middle can be seen the pumping house and also a horse gin. The Brands pumping house was responsible for keeping the Butterley northern pits dry, a similar pumping station at Butterley park concentrated on the southern old workings. Displayed Courtesy Martyn Taylor Cockayne

Brands colliery was one of the first pits to have John Kings 'Safety detaching hook' installed after it was patented in 1867.
The hook was designed to prevent the accidental “over wind” of the cage into the winding gear.  This was a potential hazard that miners faced every time they ascended the shaft to the surface. It only took a moment’s lapse of concentration by the individual in charge of the steam winding engine and the cage could be hauled over the wheel, spilling the unfortunate miners into the winding mechanism causing terrible injuries, or the action of the “over wind” would snap the rope and the entire cage full of miners would fall back down the open shaft, killing them all. 

Nottinghamshire Guardian 3rd July 1868

Trial of Mr King's Patent Safety Cage At Butterley Park.

A public trial of the safety cage patented by Mr King, of Pinxton, for the prevention of accidents at collieries arising through the breaking of ropes, Etc., was made a few days since at the Brand's Pit of the Butterley Company, where two of them have been in use. A number of gentlemen connected with various colliers in the kingdom, and upwards of a thousand people, principally colliers were present, great interest being evinced in the proceedings.

The trial commenced shortly after five o'clock, when the engineman was instructed to draw the chair over the wheel, but the moment the apparatus reached the top it disconnected itself from the rope, and allowed the rope to pass over by itself, the chair remaining fixed where it was, not having sunk an inch. It was next tried with a load of coal, and as it neared the top, at a very quick pace, again it disconnected itself and the loaded chair remained fixed just as the empty chair did, when a hearty cheer was given by the spectators. At the wish of Mr King, a bucket of water was then placed in the chair, in order to ascertain how far this would be affected by the shock. The result in this particular was very satisfactory. The cage that had been in use at the other shaft of the pit was then tried with the same success. At the conclusion of the trial, a hearty vote of thanks was tendered to Mr King for his patent, and that gentleman having replied in a few appropriate words, the proceedings terminated.

Fig.3 This diagram shows how the John King detaching hook worked. It was installed on the rope just above the cage, the winding mechanism being attached to the top of the hook. If the cage was wound too far out of the shaft (over wind) the detaching hook would pass through a hole in a disengaging plate, which disconnected the winding rope from the hook, allowing the rope to pass harmlessly over the wheel. The cage itself was prevented from falling back down the shaft by two projecting plates, which would not allow the hook to pass back though the hole. The cage would remain stationary, allowing the miners to evacuate safely.

However there were still many other dangers that miners had to face every working day. Here are a few examples of fatal accidents that occurred at Brands pit.

Nottinghamshire Guardian 11th March 1852

Fatal Colliery Accidents

On Tuesday last, a man named John Bowler, aged 35 years , working in the Brands pit (one of Butterley company’s) was killed by the bind falling on him. He had been cautioned but a few minutes before, of the danger he was risking, by one of his fellow workmen, when he replied that he would see to it when he had loaded the next truck.

Near the same place on Thursday last, a lad named George Wallis aged 13 years, was riding on one of the coal waggons, when the side gave way and he fell across the rails , when the waggon passed over him, causing instantaneous death.

Derby Mercury 22nd December 1869

Inquest on Tuesday last was held by Mr Whiston, county coroner, at the house of Mr Abraham Briddon, Golden Valley (Newlands Inn), on the Body of Samuel Jepson, collier, Leabrooks.  Deceased was employed at Brands pit, belonging to the Butterley company, as a contractor. The day previous he was engaged taking away a puncheon, when a qty of bind fell upon him, knocking him down and broke his neck. Deceased who was 32 years of age, has left a wife and two young children. He was regarded in high esteem in the neighborhood. 
A verdict of accidental death was returned.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 18th November 1878

Fatal accident near Ripley.

A fatal accident occurred at Brands pit, near Ripley, belonging to the Butterley company, on Saturday. A workman named George Phillips, an entire stranger in this part of the country, went to work in the pit at six o’clock on Saturday morning, and continued until noon. Near the pit mouth there is also another little shaft, and in which is placed a small cage for getting bind. For some reason deceased on Saturday went under the cage when the chain attached to it suddenly broke, and the chair dropping on deceased, he was literally crushed to death.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 15th June 1885

Sudden Death at Ripley

On Saturday a sudden death occurred at the Brands pit near Ripley, and which is worked by the Butterley company. A miner named Robert Moss was carrying water on the pit bank. A fellow workman spoke to him as to the heat, and he replied that he was very warm. After taking off some of his clothes, without another word he fell back on the pit bank and expired. Deceased was a married man with a family.

Information for this page was obtained from the following sources.

The Coal Authority.200 Lichfield Lane,Mansfield,Nottinghamshire,NG18 4RG.

Derbyshire Records Office D4669/2

Durham Mining Museum website:

Nottinghamshire Guardian 11th March 1852

Nottinghamshire Guardian 3rd July 1868

The Derby Mercury 22nd December 1869

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 18th November 1878

The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 15th June 1885


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