The Arley Colliery Company was formed in 1901 after coal was discovered in the valley to the west of the village. Two shafts were sunk down to the Two Yard coal seam at a depth of 957ft, and coal production started in earnest at the end of 1905. Initially, it was planned to extract coal from both sides of the Arley Fault, however the management soon learned that profitable production would only happen by working in the Rider coal seam. The coalfaces in the Two Yard seam had run into many faults, often stopping production completely.
Shortage of manpower
At this time, the population of Arley was so small that miners from coalfields across the country were recruited to work at the pit. Due to a lack of housing in the area these new recruits often lived miles away in other villages, eventually finding work closer to where they had set up house. The shortage of labour worsened during the First World War and continued even after the war ended, leading to the construction of new houses in the 1920s to attract and retain new mineworkers from other parts of the country. These houses were built on the land which had once been Fir Tree Farm and became New Arley.
On 28 April 1931, an explosion occurred at Arley Colliery that resulted in the death of four men and another three injured. The inquiry into this explosion concluded that the cause had been an accumulation of inflammable gas due to inadequate ventilation, but no catalytic cause was ever discovered.
Development and nationalisation
Pithead baths and the canteen were built in 1940, and by this time the colliery had 1500 employees and produced almost 500,000 tons of coal a year. The Arley Colliery Company was nationalised in 1947, and once again began to suffer from a lack of manpower. Experienced miners from other declining coalfields were brought in to help boost numbers and all available workers were put onto productive coalfaces, leading to the neglect of the underground roadways. In turn, this led to a decline in profitability as it became difficult to get essential supplies to the working coalfaces.
In 1957 the old steam winding cage was dismantled as the colliery became fully reliant on electricity. Automation was introduced when the cage winding was replaced by modern skip winding. A mechanised coalface programme was introduced in 1961 to counter the continuing manpower shortage. Due to the declining demand for domestic coal and the effects of the labour shortage, the National Coal Board considered the colliery to be no longer economically viable. Arley Colliery was closed on 30 March 1968.
Arley Parish Council. (n.d.) ‘Village History’. [Dead link. Accessed 30 March 2020].
Durham Mining Museum. (n.d.) ‘Arley Colliery Co. Ltd.’ [Accessed 30 March 2020].
Fretwell, L. (2005) ‘Arley Colliery’, The Warwickshire Coalfield, Vol. 3, pp. 135-142.
Northern Mine Research Society. (n.d.) ‘Warwickshire Coalfield’. [Accessed 30 March 2020].