Coal mining remains in Mallygill Wood


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018232

Date first listed: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of Coal mining remains in Mallygill Wood
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: West Rainton

National Grid Reference: NZ 30961 45985


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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. Some later sites also retain evidence of the use of steam power, typically in the form of engine beds or small reservoirs. Extensive coal mines vary considerably in form, depending on the underlying geology, their date, and how the workings were originally organised. 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 remains within Mallygill Wood survive well and represent a remarkable concentration of surface features, ranging from simple shaft mounds through to a late 19th century colliery. They provide evidence for both the historical and technological developments of mining in this area and provide a rare and valuable opportunity to study relatively unsophisticated mining technology of a type once common in the North East Coalfield, but now rare due to agricultural reclamation. The remains, which are typical of the medieval and early post-medieval periods, contrast sharply with the capital intensive nucleated deep mines which characterised the later development of the coalfield.


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


The monument is situated within Mallygill Wood on the east side of the A1(M), 1km south west of West Rainton, and includes the earthworks and buried remains of 19th century and earlier coal mining. Coal mining is recorded at nearby Rainton in the 15th and 16th centuries, and it is thought that the remains within Mallygill Wood relate to that period of mining activity. The mines had been abandoned long before 1861 since by this date the Ordnance Survey maps show an established woodland on the site. Mining was resumed, however, in the later 19th century when a deep mine, known as Woodside Colliery, was sunk towards the north east corner of the wood. This was abandoned by 1896. The mining remains include at least 76 shaft mounds, including Woodside Colliery, remains of a drift mine, and evidence of opencast extraction directly on the coal outcrop. The greatest concentration of workings lie in the central and western part of the monument where the coal seams are situated close to the surface. Here, valuable evidence of mining activities, such as features relating to sinking and haulage, will survive as buried deposits at the shaft heads. The shaft mounds, 28 of which are now waterlogged, generally survive as inverted cones measuring from 3m to 12m in diameter by up to 2m in depth. Many are surrounded by a spoil collar surviving up to 1m in height. A series of trenches running north to south on either side of the Mally Gill are thought to be the remains of opencast working on the coal outcrop and are also thought to represent one of the early forms of coal extraction at the site. The monument also includes the earthwork remains of a small drift mine driven north eastward into the north side of the ravine of the Mally Gill, as well as other shallow depressions thought to be associated with mining activities. The site of the Woodside Colliery has been cleared, though evidence such as features relating to winding and sinking, will survive as buried deposits at the shaft head. All modern fence posts 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: 30933

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blood, K, Mallygill Wood Coal Workings, (1996)

End of official listing