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Haunchwood Collieries

The Haunchwood Colliery Company was formed in 1881 and encompassed two pits, both of which were adjacent to the Midland Railway Nuneaton to Birmingham Line. Haunchwood pit was approximately one mile west from Nuneaton station, it opened in 1881 and closed in 1914 whilst Tunnel pit was three quarters of a mile further west adjacent to the Midland Railway's Haunchwood Tunnel. This pit opened in 1894 and was absorbed into the NCB in January 1947. These collieries mined fine steam coal which was in demand from industrial users over a wide area. It also supplied coal to electricity generators in Birmingham, Northampton and the Metropolitan Railway at Neasden. The board of directors included a number of the Hickman family who owned steel works at Bilston in the Midlands.

Robert Ferris

Peter Lee wrote in the Coventry Evening Telegraph on 16th January 1999 the following article:

Haunchwood (Nowells) Colliery was one of the oldest pit workings in Warwickshire, and records indicate it was producing coal in 1729. Throughout its early history there are notes of leases, and by 1801 the collection of individual pits making up the colliery were reckoned to be producing between 200 and 300 tons each week. By this time the pit had developed a railroad of sorts, with waggons hauled by horses down to the wharf on the Coventry Canal. My first record of ownership goes back to about 1820 when Peter Unger Williams, born in Devon but practising as a lawyer in the City of London, became coalmaster. How a London lawyer came to be managing a Warwickshire coal mine I have no idea. Especially one who married Caroline Brown (nee St Barbe), a lady of some standing.

The St Barbe's were a noble family descended from European royalty! Nevertheless it was a good marriage, and as owners of Haunchwood Colliery, brick and tile makers and farmers of 36 acres in Stockingford, they made their home at Haunchwood House. After the death of Peter in 1837 the pit was variously managed by his wife Caroline, and his son John McTaggart Williams. Caroline also managed Charity Colliery in Bedworth, which the family ran until 1858. After the Williams family relinquished control of Haunchwood pit its ownership passed to John Nowell in the early 1850s. The Nowells came from Wednesbury in Staffordshire and they continued to have a connection with the colliery for the next 70 years. The early horse-drawn railroad was in service until the Nuneaton to Whitacre Junction branch of the Midland Railway came into use. A new branch line was laid to the new main line, and it became known as The Haunchwood Brick and Tile Company's Siding.

The title came about because the colliery shared a track with the adjacent brickworks. The signal cabin at the junction was known as Nowell's Siding. There are no records revealing how the new branch worked, but almost surely the colliery company purchased an old second-hand steam tank engine from one of the principle railway companies which generally speaking had plenty of surplus stock around at that time. John Nowell passed the colliery onto his son William who died in November 1873 at the age of 47. In turn he left it to his son also known as William. In the 1880s the company, now with the name John Nowell and Son, failed because of the prevailing climate in trade. Another Staffordshire man, Sir Alfred Hickman the great coal owner and industrialist took over, and from that day forward Haunchwood Collieries Limited made great progress. Another pit was sunk at Stockingford known as the Tunnel Pit which started to mine coal in 1891.

Certainly from those days the railway to the colliery was worked by steam engine, and a precious but fragile photo exists of an old long funnelled steamer outside the loco shed. The trackage is roughly laid and dumb buffered wagons of a crude type lie around the yard complete, with sprags of wood which were lobbed under the wheels to stop them from rolling. By the turn of the century the previous branch line, which had been laid through the brick stock yard, had become so congested with clayware traffic that a new line had to be built to the outside of the site. A total of four engines appear to have worked Nowells Colliery. Details of numbers one and two are sketchy, but we do know about number three which was built by Hawthorne Leslie in 1901 and sold in 1925 to Measham Collieries on closure of the colliery. And number four, named Haunchwood, built by Andrew Barclays of Kilmarnock in 1911, was transferred to Haunchwood Tunnel Pit in 1925.

On July 7, 1925 Nowells Colliery ceased coal winding and two submersible pumps were fitted down the shafts. These were used to keep the Tunnel Pit's seams free of water. They were retained until the colliery closed on March 25, 1967. Coal for these was delivered at first by a trip engine working down the branch. Then after 1941 heavy goods road vehicles were used. Between 1925 and 1941 an agreement was reached whereby the adjacent brickworks engine was used to deliver the wagons of coal. When the brickworks closed all the track was lifted including the truncated remains of the Nowells Colliery branch.

Locomotives seen at Haunchwood Colliery

North British 0-6-0T 'Coventry No 1' stands under the cableway at Haunchwood Colliery on 16th August 1966
Ref: misc_coll-locos037
HA Gamble
North British 0-6-0T 'Coventry No 1' stands under the cableway at Haunchwood Colliery on 16th August 1966
Hunslett 0-6-0ST 'Haunchwood Colliery No 1' is seen at Haunchwood Colliery's on 22nd April 1967
Ref: misc_coll-locost038
HA Gamble
Hunslett 0-6-0ST 'Haunchwood Colliery No 1' is seen at Haunchwood Colliery's on 22nd April 1967
Hunslett 0-4-0ST Works No 498 'Good Luck' is seen withdrawn from service at Haunchwood Colliery
Ref: misc_coll-locos039
J Hill
Hunslett 0-4-0ST Works No 498 'Good Luck' is seen withdrawn from service at Haunchwood Colliery
Hunslett 0-6-0ST Works No 498 'Good Luck' stands stored at Haunchwood Colliery on 2nd March 1963
Ref: misc_coll-locos050
KJ Cooper
Hunslett 0-6-0ST Works No 498 'Good Luck' stands stored at Haunchwood Colliery on 2nd March 1963
North British 0-6-0T 'Coventry No 1' is seen standing in the yard at Haunchwood Colliery on 16th August 1966
Ref: misc_coll-locos049
J Hill
North British 0-6-0T 'Coventry No 1' is seen standing in the yard at Haunchwood Colliery on 16th August 1966

Haunchwood Colliery Wagon

View of a coloured diagram showing the livery of Haunchwood Colliery's 5-plank wagon
Ref: haunchwood_wagon
Northern Fine Scale
View of a coloured diagram showing the livery of Haunchwood Colliery's 5-plank wagon

Ordnance Survey Maps of Haunchwood Colliery

View of the map showing the layout of Haunchwood Colliery,  its buildings and the many sidings circa 1924
Ref: misc_indust045a
Ordance Survey
View of the map showing the layout of Haunchwood Colliery, its buildings and the many sidings circa 1924
View of the map showing the layout of Haunchwood Colliery,  its buildings and the many sidings circa 1924
Ref: misc_indust044a
Ordance Survey
View of the map showing the layout of Haunchwood Colliery, its buildings and the many sidings circa 1924