Sutton Colliery: Thirtieth anniversary of closure.

Thirty years ago, on 11th August 1989, Sutton Colliery in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield closed through exhaustion of viable coal reserves. Closure had been planned from the early 1980’s. Known locally as ‘Brierley’, from the early days of the colliery, when a significant part of the workforce came from Brierley Hill in Staffordshire. It was also known as a ‘Bread and Herring’ pit which was a reference to it being a poorer relation to some of the more modern collieries in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield.

The twin shafts were sunk in 1873-74, the colliery initially being called New Skegby. It was owned by the Skegby Colliery Brick and Lime Co. Ltd., the Sutton Colliery name being adopted in 1888 when the Sutton Colliery Company was formed. It was an early pioneer of mechanisation and introduced coal-cutters in the late Victorian period, a move which caused industrial strike action by the miners. The nearby Blackwell Colliery Company brought the colliery in 1899. At Vesting Day, 1st January 1947, Sutton became part of the National Coal Board (NCB) East Midlands No.4 Area. In the NCB reorganisation of April 1967 it went into the NCB North Nottinghamshire Area and for the final three years of its life it was part of the British Coal Corporation Nottinghamshire Group.

Coal-seams worked at Sutton Colliery included the Top Hard, Dunsil, Low Main, Deep Hard and Piper, the colliery had low seam working for all of its life. Production figures for the final full financial year of 1988-89 was 528,012 Tonnes from the Deep Hard and Piper seams with a workforce of 520. Colliery Manager at closure was Mick Dames who was previously Manager at nearby Annesley Colliery. Personnel Officer was Tony Whelan, a coalmining historian, who was previously NUM Branch Secretary at Selston (Underwood) Colliery near Eastwood. He wrote ‘Send for T’oss’ (1987), an insight into the working conditions and treatment of coalminers in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2017, following his death, a collection of coalmining documentation came to light in a shed at his former Underwood home.  Included in the collection were contract and accident books, a collection of photos and various other documentation relating to the history of Sutton Colliery.

On 28th February 1957, tragedy struck at Sutton Colliery, when an explosion on 28’s coalface in the Low Main Seam resulted in the death of 5 miners. Fifteen others suffered serious burns. A fall of roof brought down some rock which fractured the terminal casting on a motor, igniting firedamp, resulting in a fireball which went through the coalface and back down the gate. The youngest fatality, John Godber, was just sixteen-years old. Five wooden statues, as memorials to the five dead miners, are situated near to Brierley Forest Park Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre opened in 1994 and features a small display local coalmining memorabilia. The statues featured on ‘Civilisation Stories: The Art of Mining’ which was broadcast on BBC 4 TV on 10th June 2018.

A year prior to closure, in September 1988, the colliery had an open day which featured a visit by an 8F steam locomotive No.48151. The 8F gave guard-van rides to members of the public in the pit yard. A Class 58 Diesel locomotive also visited for the open day and various items of coalmining machinery was put on display around the colliery surface.