Remains of Aspen Colliery, associated beehive coking ovens and canal basin


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Hyndburn (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SD 73733 28512

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. The term `nucleated' is used to describe coal mines that developed as a result of increased capital investment in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are a prominent type of field monument produced by coal mining and typically consist of a range of features grouped around the shafts of a mine. The simplest examples contain merely a shaft or adit with associated spoil heap. Later examples are characterised by developed pit head arrangements that may include remains of engine houses for pumping and/or winding from shafts, boiler houses, fan houses for ventilating mine workings, offices, workshops, pithead baths, and transport systems such as railways and canals. A number of later nucleated mines also retain the remains of screens where the coal was sized and graded. Coke ovens are frequently found on or near colliery sites. 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 nucleated coal mines, together with rare individual component features are considered to merit protection.

Coking is the process by which coal is heated or part burnt to remove volatile impurities and leave lumps of carbon known as coke. Originally this was conducted in open heaps, sometimes arranged on stone bases, but from the mid-18th century purpose built ovens were employed. By the mid-19th century two main forms of coking ovens had developed, the beehive and long oven, which are thought to have been operationally similar, differing only in shape. Coke ovens were typically built as long banks with many tens of ovens arranged in single or back to back rows, although stand alone ovens and short banks are also known. They typically survive as stone or brick structures, but earth-covered examples also exist. Later examples may also include remains of associated chimneys, condensers and tanks used to collect by-products. Coke ovens are most frequently found in direct association with coal mining sites, although they also occur at ironworks and next to transport features such as canal basins. Canal building in England peaked between 1760 and 1840, during which time they provided the most important method of industrial transport. Canals offered the cheapest means of transporting heavy and bulky goods and the safest way of carrying fragile ones. They were especially advantageous for the economic and social development of industrial areas remote from navigable rivers in the half century leading up to the coming of the railways. The upstanding and buried remains of Aspen Colliery, its associated beehive coking ovens and the canal basin, is a well-preserved example of a 19th and early 20th century industrial complex which still retains its original integral relationship. The coking ovens in particular survive well and are recognised as being the most complete and best preserved examples of 19th century banks of beehive coking ovens in north west England.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Aspen Colliery, a group of associated beehive coking ovens known locally as Fairy Caves, and an associated canal basin from where coal and coke were transported. It is located on the north side of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Blackburn Road, Oswaldtwistle. Coal mining at Aspen is thought to have commenced in the early 19th century and continued until the colliery closed in 1930. The upstanding remains of the colliery include two stone-built engine beds situated in the northern part of the monument and the buried remains of two capped mineshafts in the eastern part of the monument. To the west are 24 well preserved brick and stone-built beehive coking ovens arranged back to back in three rows or banks with central brick flue systems. The central and eastern row are the earliest, with the western row having been added at some time between 1893- 1910. Adjacent to the canal towpath, on the south side of the coking ovens, is a stone wall which functioned both as a retaining wall and a boundary wall. Between the coking ovens and the southern of the two capped mine shafts is a stone-lined canal basin, measuring approximately 30m long by 8m wide, and to the east of the basin the ground is paved with original stone setts. The canal basin originally had direct access to the adjacent canal. All fence posts and a telegraph pole are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


SMR No. 2070, Lancashire SMR, Aspen Colliery, White Ash Bridge, Oswaldtwistle, (1987)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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