Astley Green Colliery: engine house and headgear


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017061

Date first listed: 14-Dec-1999


Ordnance survey map of Astley Green Colliery: engine house and headgear
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wigan (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: SJ 70459 99962


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

The remains of the coalpit at Astley Green have two surviving elements of importance. The latticed headgear still stands intact in a landscape which has lost almost all traces of the coal industry. It is connected to one of the largest steam winding engines in its horizontal engine house in Britain and only ten of these now survive. The shaft of the underlying pit was an example of pioneering engineering for its time, having been sunk through layers of unstable strata and sands to reach the coal seams. The `tubbing' for the shaft survives underground and can be exposed for the public should the museum which has been founded on this site develop further. The rarity of the survival of the headgear and the equally rare survival of the engine make this an important site in the historical analysis of the coal extraction industry.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The colliery at Astley Green was begun in 1908 by the Pilkington Colliery Company and opened for extraction of coal in 1912. In 1928 the colliery was amalgamated with a number of local pits to form part of the consortium called Manchester Collieries. In 1947 the coal industry was nationalised and this led to considerable modernisation of the mine. After 23 years of operation under the National Coal Board the mine was closed in 1970. It is now a museum. The mine supplied coal to Manchester and Liverpool by train and via the Bridgewater Canal and Manchester Ship Canal, as well as supplying a local market for industrial and domestic requirements. Later the pit sent coal to power stations at Trafford and Stretford. The monument includes the pit headgear for the number 1 shaft, the concrete thrust pillar for the `tubbing' which supports the headgear and the steam winding engine in its original engine house for the number 1 shaft. The first shaft on this site (the number 1 shaft) was sunk by the Pilkington Colliery Company in 1908. Because the ground was unstable and wet the shaft was sunk using a pioneering method known as `drop shaft' in which the hole is dropped using forged iron rings with a cutting shoe at the bottom of each ring. These `tubbing' rings were forced into the underlying soils by the use of hydraulic jacks braced under a concrete thrust pillar. This pillar now supports the headgear. The shaft was bored into the ground until stable strata could support the shaft unaided. This was at a depth of 35m. The headgear is a steel lattice construction, rivetted together, and stands 24.4m high. It was built by Head Wrightson of Stockton on Tees and completed in 1912. The two winding pulleys are 20m in diameter. The winding engine which served this shaft is one of the largest steam winding engines in Britain. It was made by Yates and Thom of Blackburn. It has four cylinders in twin tandem compound arrangement developing 3300 horsepower at 58 rpm. The engine was installed by 1912 and took two years to complete. It is connected to a bicylindro-conical drum which in turn was connected to the headgear pulleys to wind up the coal and wind down the mining personnel and maintenance supplies. At the height of its working life the number one shaft was putting out eight tons of coal every two minutes. During the 1950s the efficiency of this colliery was supposed to ensure the future of coal extraction on this site for the foreseeable future. In fact, the rising costs of extracting coal led to the closure of the mine in 1970. Most of the remainder of the colliery buildings and a second shaft with its gear have been destroyed. Part of the pit head is attached to the platform under the headgear but this has lost most of its railtrack and all the loading gear. Consequently the scheduling includes the top 10m of the shaft, the concrete thrust pillar, the headgear and the winding engine inside its engine building. The winding house and the winding tower are Grade II Listed Buildings.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 32565

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
A Brief History of Astley Green Colliery, (1998)
A Brief History of Astley Green Colliery, (1998), 4
A Brief History of Astley Green Colliery, (1998), 6
A Brief History of Astley Green Colliery, (1998), 5-7

End of official listing