A pit of alright

IT’S SKELETAL head gear is so evocative of Wigan’s former life under the rule of King Coal.

Indeed the somewhat startling sight seen so readily by thousands of motorists zooming down the East Lancs Road each day still turns heads and triggers so many memories.

Astley Green pit

Astley Green pit

Now a colliery museum and open every weekend, Astley Green boasts free admission, although donations are more than welcome to help preserve and refurbish the massive exhibits.

Astley Green pit itself exploited deep coal seams of the Manchester Coalfield underneath the peat bog known as Chat Moss.

Shaft sinking began in 1908 by the Pilkington Colliery Company, a subsidiary of the Clifton and Kersley Coal Company, and the pit began production in 1912.

The mine was modernised when the coal industry was nationalised in 1947 and closed by the then NCB in 1970 with the sole remaining headgear, winding house and its massive winding engine forming the basis of the borough’s only mining musuem.

Indeed Astley Green Colliery’s is now the only surviving headgear and engine house on what was the Lancashire coalfield.

The headgear is 98 feet high and made from wrought iron lattice girders with riveted plates at the joints. It has two large and one small wheel mounted at the top.

It was built by Head Wrightson of Stockton-on-Tees and completed by 1912.

The winding house contains a massive gem of the industrial age ... a twin tandem compound steam engine made by Yates and Thom of Blackburn who also supplied 16 Lancashire boilers to feed the leviathan.

Its engine house has the largest steam winding engine used on the coafield at 3,300 horse power.

Today the museum has a small narrow gauge railways system running around the site and a collection of 28 colliery locomotives, the largest such collection in the UK.