Markham Colliery: Derbyshire – Twenty-fifth anniversary of closure.

On 2nd July 2018 it will be twenty-five years since Markham Colliery in Derbyshire finished production, bringing to an end deep coal mining at large collieries in the county.  Markham was the biggest colliery in the former NCB North Derbyshire Area, a massive mining complex, being an amalgamation of four shafts in one colliery yard. In 1986 Ireland Colliery at Staveley was absorbed into the huge Markham Complex becoming Markham No. 5.

Twin shafts were originally sunk between 1882 and 1886 by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company near to the village of Duckmanton, five miles north-east of Chesterfield. Later Markham No.4 was developed and the original Markham No.1 shafts were deepened to the Blackshale seam in 1926.

At the NCB reorganisation in 1967, the whole complex was combined into one Complex, with coal turning being concentrated at No.1 and 2 shafts, while No. 3 and 4 shafts were used for manriding and taking equipment underground.  In 1986 Markham went into the Central Group of the British Coal Corporation.  Record weekly production of 62, 405 tonnes was achieved in May 1991. Production finished on 2nd July 1993 during what is now termed as the ‘Coal-Crisis’.

Generally the East Midlands Coalfield escaped the worst of major colliery disasters.  However, Markham was the scene of three major underground accidents in 1937, 1938 and 1973.  Nine miners were killed in a firedamp (methane) explosion in 1937 and in the following year 79 miners were killed following an underground coal dust explosion after a runaway tub struck some pipes in a roadway causing sparks to ignite the coal-dust.

For most people in the region, and within living memory for many older people, was the tragic winding accident at Markham No. 3 shaft on 30th June 1973.  Part of the breaking system of the winding engine failed which resulted in the cage full of miners plunging to the pit-bottom killing 13 of them instantly.  5 more miners died as a result of their injuries.  It was one of the few modern day disasters in British coalmining but brought home the danger of the job to many people in Britain.  A memorial now stands at the site of the former Markham Colliery to the 106 miners killed in the three separate major underground accidents.

The colliery site is now redeveloped as Markham Vale Business Park with a new intersection, Junction 29A, giving access to the M1 Motorway which runs at the side of the former colliery site.

A project called Walking Together, devised by artist Stephen Broadbent, is currently ongoing at the former colliery site at Markham Vale. A number of steel figures are in situ, symbolising the miners walk to and from work.  Eventually it is planned to erect 106 steel figures, representing the total of miners killed in the three Markham mining disasters of 1937, 1938 and 1973.  More details at https://walkingtogether.org.uk

Below are images of the Markham Colliery Memorial and of the Markham pit-yard in the early 1990’s.