Coal mining remains at Birch Coppice and Rough Park, 950m and 1.5km south of Smoile Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018462

Date first listed: 24-Nov-2000


Ordnance survey map of Coal mining remains at Birch Coppice and Rough Park, 950m and 1.5km south of Smoile Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Leicestershire

District: North West Leicestershire (District Authority)

Parish: Coleorton

National Grid Reference: SK 39249 18640, SK 39326 18090


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. 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 mining remains at Birch Coppice and Rough Park survive well, providing evidence for the historical and technological developments of a much more extensive area. The range of surface features varies from simple shafts to more complex shaft mounds with gin circles and an associated transport system, allowing the development of the mine workings to be understood. Buried remains will preserve details of drainage, haulage, cutting and ventilation techniques. In addition, surface remains retain information on pithead apparatus, a particularly rare feature of early coal mining sites; information about the system of tracks and tramways at the site will also survive. The site's industrial archaeology is enhanced by the presence of medieval field and woodland boundaries, surviving as earthworks within the monument, whose character has been clearly determined by pre-existing mine workings. The monument is therefore unusual in retaining elements of an agricultural landscape shaped by its relationship to an evolving industry. The site has links with the Beaumont family, pioneering mine owners, and the Stephensons, influential engineers of the early railway period. The archaeological remains will provide valuable information on the different mining techniques employed in the Midlands and North East coalfields, where both families were influential in introducing innovations to the coal industry.


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


The monument lies in Rough Park and Birch Coppice, around 1km north west of Coleorton village, and is within two separate areas of protection. It includes earthworks and buried remains of part of the Coleorton historic coal mining area, including medieval land boundaries whose character was determined by their proximity to mine workings. The area is well-known for early mining remains, some of which were exposed in the early 1990s by opencasting close to the site. Evidence recovered included early 14th and 15th century tools, textiles and unparalleled dendrochronological (tree-ring) dating of pit props which led to a substantial revision of mining history. Mining took place in the area from at least 1204 until the 1990s, and this is reflected in the density and complexity of the remains. From at least the 13th century, coal was picked up, or mined in shallow opencuts. The latter will survive as buried remains. The cuts were succeeded by the sinking of small closely-set pits, whose surface remains take the form of dense clusters of hollows and small-scale earthworks. These are visible most clearly in the north part of the site, where hollows of up to 0.5m depth and mounds of similar height are seen in clusters. A deep boundary ditch of the same period survives as a linear cut of up to 1m deep along the north eastern limit of the site. Further ditches are thought to survive in the southern part, and demonstrate the relationship between agricultural and industrial activities during the medieval period. From the late Middle Ages coal was mined using pillar-and-stall workings, in which pillars of coal were left to support the roof as miners cut along the seam. Techniques were also developed to support the deepening shafts with timber props. It was from this type of working in the nearby opencast area that pit props were analysed, providing a mid-15th century date. It is believed that similar workings will survive in the southern area of the site. These methods were superseded by longwall mining which allowed more coal to be removed, and by deeper shafts. Areas close to the site exposed by opencasting showed that the longwall technique, previously thought to have originated in Staffordshire in the late 17th century, was in use here by 1620. This period also saw the development of new techniques to solve the problems of underground drainage, winding and transport. The Beaumont family who owned the mines at this time introduced the earliest tramways to the area, and the remains of the tramway network employed at the site will survive as buried features. Drainage and winding were driven by horse-powered machinery, the horses walking on circular platforms or `gin circles' which remain as earthworks. In the central area of the site gin circles around 3.5m diameter and 1.5m high are visible. From the 18th century atmospheric engines and steam engines were used for drainage and winding, including a pumping engine brought in by Robert Stephenson during the 1830s. Stephenson oversaw new developments in ventilation, drainage, transport and shaft cutting. A system of soughs (drainage cuts) was constructed, and a method of lining shafts with cast-iron bands introduced. Evidence of all these developments will survive in buried remains. Further coal mining remains are visible approximately 500m north east of the site, and these are the subject of a separate scheduling. All fenceposts, track surfaces, feeding hoppers, water tanks and telegraph poles are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 31754

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hartley, R F, Coleorton, (1992), 76-77
Griffin, Colin P , 'Industrial Archaeology Review' in Technological change in the Leics & S Derbys coalfield <1850, , Vol. Vol 3,1, (1978), 65-74
Hartley, R F, 'Mining Before Powder' in The Tudor Miners of Coleorton, Leicestershire, , Vol. Vol 12,3, (1994)
Director of Planning and Transportation, LCC, Coleorton: Area of Historic Mining Landscape, 1990, Environmental assessment
Notes from fieldwork, Eric Instone, Coleorton: Historic Mining Landscape, (1994)
Plan of earthworks at Coleorton, LMARS (Leicester City Unit), The Tudor Miners of Coleorton, Leicestershire, (1990)
R York and S Warburton, Digging Deep in Mining History, 1991, Interim statement
Register of Parks and Gardens etc, Coleorton Hall, The Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest,

End of official listing