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