Coal workings, 500m south east of Corby’s Crags.
Reasons for Designation
Coal has been mined in England since Roman times, and between 8,000 and 10,000 coal industry sites of all dates up to the collieries of post-war nationalisation are estimated to survive in England. Three hundred and four coal industry sites, representing approximately 3% of the estimated national archaeological resource for the industry have been identified as being of national importance. This selection, compiled and assessed through a comprehensive survey of the coal industry, is designed to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity. Extensive coal workings are typical of the medieval and post-medieval coal industry, although this style of exploitation continued into the early 20th century in some marginal areas which were worked on a very small scale with little capital investment. In its simplest form extensive workings took coal directly from the outcrop, digging closely spaced shallow pits, shafts or levels which did not connect underground. Once shallower deposits had been exhausted, deeper shafts giving access to underground interconnecting galleries were developed. The difficulties of underground haulage and the need for ventilation encouraged the sinking of an extensive spread of shafts in the area worked. The remains of extensive coal workings typically survive as surface earthworks directly above underground workings. They may include a range of prospecting and exploitation features, including areas of outcropping, adits and shaft mounds (circular or sub-circular spoil heaps normally with a directly associated depression marking the shaft location). In addition, some sites retain associated features such as gin circles (the circular track used by a horse powering simple winding or pumping machinery), trackways and other structures like huts. Sites can include several hundred shafts spread over an extensive area. Coal occurs in significant deposits throughout large parts of England and this has given rise to a variety of coalfields extending from the north of England to the Kent coast. Each region has its own history of exploitation, and characteristic sites range from the small, compact collieries of north Somerset to the large, intensive units of the north east. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the regional, chronological and technological range of extensive coal workings, together with rare individual component features are considered to merit protection.
The coal workings 500m south east of Corby’s crags are well-preserved and represent one of the largest concentrations of shaft mounds in the north east of England. This type of local workings played an important part in the development of early small industrial concerns and was a factor in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The monument will contain archaeological deposits relating to the use of the site including the shafts and their surrounding platforms, spoil heaps, other pit top arrangements and any underground galleries extending from the pits.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 1 June 2016. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes the remains of at least 100 pits and shafts of 16th-17th century date, spread over an area of about 35ha. on Alnwick Moor. The shafts were originally used for quarrying coal from the Scremerston coal measures and are of varying sizes. Some shafts are surrounded by collars of spoil forming shaft mounds and between them are the remains of associated gin circles and buildings which are preserved as low earthworks.