Newdigate Colliery took its name from its first owner, Sir Francis Alexander Newdigate of Arbury Hall, Nuneaton. The family had been linked with coal mining in Warwickshire for centuries. Work started on sinking two shafts, known as Frank and Lilah, in 1898 and coal winding commenced in 1901. As early as 1904 the colliery was in serious trouble due to poor performance, which was caused by fires in the underground workings. The Newdigate family regarded the enterprise as a liability by 1914, and so the colliery was sold and a new colliery company, Newdigate Colliery (1914) Limited, was formed.
Development and investment
New bit bottoms were constructed 115ft above the original levels and drifts were driven to connect with the existing roadways. The old pit bottoms, badly affected by fire, were sealed off. Despite these changes, productivity at Newdigate remained low until the 1920s, when it was decided to mine only the top section of the Warwickshire Thick Coal seam. Newdigate Colliery became profitable and remained under the ownership of Newdigate Colliery (1914) Limited until the industry was nationalised in 1947. Pithead baths and a canteen were built in 1951.
A change in management in 1957 led to modernisation of the colliery, and electric handlamps were replaced with Oldham’s electric cap lamps. This led to fewer instances of miner’s nystagmus, an industrial disease that affected the eyes. An investment programme was implemented, and the mechanised coalface was introduced, along with new electric winding engines that replaced the old steam engines.
Exhaustion of coal reserves
In June 1966, Newdigate Colliery became the first in the coalfield to produce 7,000 tons of coal from a single coalface. Productivity remained high, however the colliery’s available coal reserves were limited. It was bounded by the workings of other collieries: Arley Colliery to the north, Griff Colliery to the east, the old workings of Charity and Exhall Collieries to the southeast, and Coventry Colliery to the southwest. Newdigate Colliery ceased production in February 1982 due to the exhaustion of workable coal reserves, and the miners were transferred to other collieries in the Warwickshire coalfield.
Durham Mining Museum. (n.d.) ‘Newdigate Colliery.’ [Accessed 18 March 2021]
Fretwell, L. (2005) ‘Newdigate Colliery’, The Warwickshire Coalfield, Vol. 4, pp. 131-142
Northern Mine Research Society. (n.d.) ‘Warwickshire Coalfield’. [Accessed 30 March 2020]
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3166/3/2