Wrenthorpe Colliery 10: false hopes in desperate times

Within six months of closure of Wrenthorpe Colliery – and two months after it had failed to sell at auction as a going concern – hopes were raised that the pit might be reopened. The horrors of the dole was so awful that miners were prepared to forego a proportion of  their wages until the pit was self-supporting.

Ironically, the article even states the colliery would be capable of producing coal well beyond the year 2000.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 22 October 1928

WRENTHORPE PIT MAY RE-OPEN
WAKEFIELD DISTRESS
COLLIERS GUARANTEE FUNDS FROM THEIR WAGES

(From Our Own Correspondent)
WAKEFIELD, Sunday.

The closing of the Wrenthorpe Colliery at Wakefield has caused much distress in the district, but there are hopes that it will be re-opened soon.

A sub-committee, which was appointed to inquire into the possibility re-opening the colliery, report that they can see no reason whatever why the colliery should not be able to carry on, and produce from 5,000 to 8,000 tons of good quality coal per week, at economic rates, for at least a further fifty to eighty years. The conditions at the moment are such that in two or three weeks’ time from 1,000 to 12,000 tons per shift could be wound on the second or third day.

Workmen’s Guarantee

Providing the necessary working capital can be found, the sub-committee have a unanimous resolution from the general body of workmen, guaranteeing contributions from their wages until the pit becomes self-supporting.

The sub-committee state that they are fully aware of the fact that much of this coal could at some future time be got by neighbouring collieries, but they state that this would not help the 1,000 Wrenthorpe workers and their dependants, many of whom are now becoming destitute.

Sadly, any such recommendations came to nothing and by January 1929, colliery equipment is being dismantled for auction.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Wednesday 23 January 1929

DISMANTLING WRENTHORPE, GAWTHORPE. and SOOTHILL WOOD COLLIERIES and COKE OVENS

The unique opportunity occurs to purchase first class, up-to-date Colliery Plant, Electrical Plant, and general Power Plant, from the above pits astonishingly low prices. Several Brand New Items, including steam-driven Winding Engine, 34in. r 66in., and electric-driven Compressor, 2.500 cu. ft. Ask for Catalogue.
GEO. COHEN, SONS, and CO., LTD.,
11, INDEPENDENT BUILDINGS, FARGATE, SHEFFIELD.

Wrenthorpe Colliery 9: pit and farm up for sale

Little more than six weeks after the Colliery closed, it’s advertised in the Yorkshire Post as up for sale by auction but failed to sell as a going concern.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 11 August 1928

SALES BY AUCTION

By Order of the Joint Receivers for the Debenture Holders.
Re: LOW LAITHES COLLIERY CO, LTD, WAKEFIELD,
Re: SOOTHILL WOOD COLLIERY CO, LTD, BATLEY.
To SOLD BY AUCTION at the EXCHANGE AUCTION MART, LAND’S LANE, LEEDS, on TUESDAY, AUGUST 28th, 1928, 2.30 p.m., as a GOING CONCERN, OR FOR DISMANTLING,
unless previously disposed of privately.

LOT 1. — THE WELL EQUIPPED COLLIERY,
known LOW LAITHES COLLIERY,
comprising
THE GAWTHORPE AND WRENTHORPE PITS, THE MODERN COLLIERY PLANT AND EQUIPMENT, AND A LARGE AREA OF FREEHOLD LAND, containing the SILKSTONE AND BEESTON SEAMS.
This property will be first offered in one Lot, and if not disposed of, the GAWTHORPE and WRENTHORPE PITS will be offered separately.
This Colliery has been worked until quite recently, and can be started immediately, everything being in first-rate condition.
The average weekly output is estimated at 3,000 tons and 10,000 tons respectively.

Belfast News-Letter
Wednesday 29 August 1928

NO OFFER FOR COLLIERY.
Pits Sold tor Dismantling.

As a going concern, the Low Laithes Colliery, Yorkshire, failed to attract bid when offered for sale at Leeds yesterday, and the auctioneers submitted the separate pits – Wrenthorpe, Gawthorpe and Soothill – for dismantling, together with Wrenthorpe Brickworks. This way a total of £25,630 was realised by the sale. The properties were offered on the instructions of receivers acting for the debenture holders.

Later in that year, equipment at Wrenthorpe Farm (site of Southfield Close) was put up for sale too.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 23 October 1928

TO FARMERS, CARTING AGENTS and Others.
WRENTHORPE FARM, POTOVENS LANE, WRENTHOHPE, WAKEFIELD
(The omnibuses from Wood Street pass the Farm.)

Messrs ALBERT HUDSON and SON (instructed by F Leather Esq, owing to the closing of the Wrenthorpe Colliery), will Sell by Auction on the Premises, as above, on MONDAY, OCTOBER 29th, 1928, the
HORSES, CARTS, WAGONS, TRAPS,
and GEARS,
Including 10 Cart Horses, 21 3 inch and 4 and 4 inch Carts, Rhubarb and other Carts (some new and some lately done up);
3 Wagons and 12 Sets of Cart Gears.
Safe to commence at 11 a.m.
ON VIEW MORNING OF SALE.
Auctioneers’ Offices, Crown Court, Wood Street, Wakefield.

Wrenthorpe Colliery pollutes Balne Beck again

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Wednesday 25 January 1922

RIVER POLLUTION FROM COALWASHING PLANT: £150 FINES

Before his Honour Judge Randolph, at the Wakefield County Court yesterday, Mr H F Atter, on behalf the West Riding Rivers Board, applied under the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876, for an order directing payment by the Low Laithes Colliery Company (Limited), Wakefield, of penalties for default in complying with an order dated November 4, 1913, requiring the colliery company to abstain from allowing the flow of polluted water from the coal-washing plant at the Wrenthorpe Pit.

Mr Atter stated that on March 17, 1914, an application was made for penalties for breach of the order of 1913, and an order was made for the payment of £50 per day for offences on two days, but execution was stayed until proof should be given of further pollution.

Mr James P Hutchinson, an inspector of the Rivers Board, said that on several occasions in the past three months he had found the effluent at the Wrenthorpe Pit unsatisfactory, chiefly owing to neglect of the settling tanks and the non-working of the pump. Cross-examined by Mr R Watson (for the colliery company), witness admitted the pollution was not offensive. It consisted of small particles of coal deposited as black sludge in the course of stream, which flowed into the Balne Beck.

Mr Watson said they did not dispute the fact that there had been pollution, but they had done their best under difficulties, and the company had now entered into contracts at a sum of considerably more than £10,000 with a view of making their coal-washing plant ahead of anything of its kind in the country.

His Lordship ordered payment of penalties of £25 in each of six cases and costs.

Wrenthorpe Colliery 8: closure and unemployment

After 80 years the pit’s productive life comes to an end.

Aberdeen Press and Journal
Saturday 23 June 1928

Work is to cease at the Wrenthorpe Pit, Wakefield, next Thursday, and 1,000 men and boys will be thrown out of work.

Its impact on the local economy is massive.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 2 July 1928

DEPRESSION AMONG MINERS
5,500 PERSONS ON THE LIVE REGISTER AT WAKEFIELD

(From Our Own Correspondent.)
WAKEFIELD, Sunday.

The depression in the mining industry, so far as the Wakefield area is concerned, is more marked than for a considerable time past, and the result has been that an increasing number of mineworkers from the several pits have been compelled to bring themselves within the scope of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and register at the Employment Exchange.

The live register at the Wakefield Employment Exchange contains the names and particulars of 5,500 persons, the great majority whom are mineworkers from the coal pits in the district, who are not working more than three shifts in the week, and therefore eligible for State benefit.

For the first time, it is believed, the men employed at the Crigglestone Colliery are so affected, and they have qualified for benefit. The number permanently unemployed men has been greatly augmented by the recent closing down for an indefinite period of the Wrenthorpe Colliery of the Laithes Colliery Company.

The total permanently unemployed on the register, including those from Wrenthorpe, numbers about 1,500.

There is only negligible increase of unemployment among the women workers in the city and district.

Wrenthorpe Colliery 7: the 40-week strike

Less than two years before the General Strike and the prolonged 1926 miners’ strike, the miners at Wrenthorpe Colliery were embroiled in a dispute which lasted for 40 weeks.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Friday 18 July 1924

THIRTY WEEKS’ STRIKE OF YORKSHIRE MINERS
OFFICIAL SETTLEMENT IGNORED
(By our Labour Correspondent.)

Mr Herbert Smith, President of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, has intimated that unless there is an early settlement of the prolonged strike at the Wrenthorpe and Low Laithes Collieries, he will consult his Association the policy of taking county action.

The strike turned upon certain demands respecting payment for men in abnormal places, and it began in December. To enforce their point of view, the Yorkshire Miners’ Association called out the men at Soothill, although the only connection was that one gentleman happened to be a director there, as well as at Wrenthorpe. Operations at the third pit were soon resumed, but at the two others no coal has been got for thirty weeks. Wrenthorpe is a fairly large colliery, and the output there and at Low Laithes will be well over 400,000 tons a year. The serious loss turnover in local wages and trade, resulting from the stoppage, can be conjectured.

There have been many joint conferences about the strike, and they resulted in terms of settlement being agreed upon weeks ago between accredited representatives of the Owners’ Association and the Miners’ Association. Both sides agreed to recommend the terms for acceptance the men and by the colliery company respectively. These terms were as mutually fair as it was possible to devise. They were accepted by the Low Laithes men and by the company, but rejected by the Wrenthorpe men.

At that time the Yorkshire Miners’ Association might have intervened to the great advantage of the community, and of their own funds, by advising the Wrenthorpe men that their original claims could not conceded by any company, and that the terms offered were the best that could possibly be obtained. The Wrenthorpe men, however, seem to be retained on strike pay as a means to establishing a precedent that a claim to the effect that place is abnormal must carry extra allowance. All such claims, anywhere, must be investigated, and subjected to conditions. It seems lamentable that an arrangement agreed to by officials from the Association at Barnsley should be ignored, and the strike prolonged.

Plans to end the longest dispute in the pit’s troubled industrial history were drawn up in September 1924.

Leeds Mercury
Wednesday 3 September 1924

FORTY WEEKS’ STRIKE ENDS
WAKEFIELD MINERS TO RESUME
2,000 AFFECTED

It is announced that the long-drawn-out dispute at the Wrenthorpe (Wakefield) and Gawthorpe pits, belonging to the Low Laithes Colliery Company Ltd has at last been settled.

About 1,100 men and boys were employed at the Wakefield Colliery, and about 450 at Gawthorpe, and they downed tools on December 4th last year. After waiting for two or three weeks many of the men succeeded in finding work at other collieries, but a large number have been idle for the past forty weeks. During this period Mr Herbert Smith, the President of the Yorkshire Miners’ Federation, and prominent local colliery officials have been making efforts to bring about a settlement, but an agreement could not be arrived at with regard to the points at issue.

Yesterday, however, it was reported that an agreement had been reached on practically all the points under dispute, and the men’s representatives regard the terms as satisfactory.

During the long time the pits have been idle many falls have taken place in the workings, and much cleaning up will be necessary before coal-getting can be proceeded with. It is hoped, however, that in the course of a few days all the men will be fully employed.

Was this the final accident at Wrenthorpe Colliery?

Arguably the strangest accident in Wrenthorpe Colliery’s 90-year history occurred just three months before its closure. But this time no miner was directly affected.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Wednesday 21 March 1928

BURST FLYWHEEL
HOUSE WRECKED: WOMAN’S NARROW ESCAPE

There were miraculous escapes from yesterday when the flywheel of the engine driving the ventilation plant the Wrenthorpe Colliery, Wakefield, burst. The engine-house was wrecked and piece of machinery was hurled through the roof and crashed into the room of cottage in which a woman was sleeping. The woman, Mrs Colley, escaped injury, but her cat was killed. Mr Colley was in the pit at the time.

The flywheel was 13ft in diameter and weighed about 10 tons. A large piece of metal from the broken flywheel crashed through the rear wall of Mrs Colley’s cottage, carrying away the whole of the staircase and part of the ceiling. Mrs Colley was trapped the bedroom and had to be rescued through the bedroom window. She was able leave hospital after attention.

Wrenthorpe Colliery 6: the 1919 lockout

Even during the First World War, industrial relations at the pit did not run smoothly.

Leeds Mercury
Friday 26 October 1917

WAKEFIELD STRIKE SETTLED

The strike at the Wrenthorpe Colliery, Wakefield, which has been in progress for the past seven weeks, has now been settled, and the men and boys, to the number of about 1,800, will resume work next week.

The dispute arose owing to the demand of the bye-workers to be supplied with coal at the same price as the, miners, the latter receiving their coal six shillings per load, whilst the bye-workers had to pay eight shillings.

The management have now acceded the bye-workers’ request.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Tuesday 23 April 1918

MINERS’ COUNCIL MEETING

A meeting of the Council of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association was held at Barnsley yesterday, Mr H Smith (president) being in the chair…

The Council decided to grant lock-out pay to members at the Wrenthorpe Colliery, near Wakefield, in consequence of the engine winders refusing to lower men, and also decided to deal with the question at a future Council meeting, with a view to taking action to avoid similar stoppages.

And as demobilised men returned to work at the pit they were dogged by a dispute caused by a rival trade union.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 21 April 1919

LOCKOUT PAY
THE STOPPAGE AT WRENTHORPE COLLIERY

A special meeting of the Council of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association at Barnsley on Saturday considered the dispute at Wrenthorpe Collieries, near Wakefield, and decided to grant lock-out pay to members who have been out work about a week.

Mr Smith (president) said the dispute had been forced upon the Association by another organisation, and was not the fault of the men at the colliery. He pointed out that over 700 men at this colliery enlisted, and eighty-one were killed. There was an understanding between the owners and that Association that men who were recently set should be dismissed in order to make room for men returning from the Army. Under this agreement 146 members of the Association had left. A blacksmith belonging to another Association received notice, but when that expired the remaining pick sharpeners, seven or eight, left, and the miners were told that they could not continue working because there were no sharpened tools. The Association would have to consider whether they would work any longer with a few members belonging to another Society, as this showed that it was necessary that the whole industry should be organised in one body.

“The effect of the action of a small section,” added Mr Smith, “is that we have to pay lock-out pay to 1,800 men and boys.”