Fernilee Coal Mines

The picture above is the old entrance to Fernilee Coal mine near the Shady Oak.

Fernilee Coal Mines  date back to 1600.

Going back to the 1950s Grandad Horsfield showed me the remains of a coal mine air shaft.

Our walk down to the Clough at Fernilee descended by the bubbling brook.
This brook flows under a house at Stony Gate and winds down the valley and merges with the river Goyt.

The walk took us past the derelict old coach house and a bit further on looking to the right hand side of the brook in the clough valley near 100 foot shale bank the remains of the coal mine ventilation shaft could be seen.

In those days the walk through the Clough was fairly easy and could follow the brook to the river Goyt.

Today as a walker visiting this area has changed barbed wire fences block access.

The shale has mostly overgrown by grass.

Over the years I often wondered about the history of Fernilee Coal Mine.

Last August I was fortunate to meet Barbara from Fernilee Hall and told me a fascinating story.

One day they were using a tractor in the field near Fernilee Hall Suddenly the wheel dropped down into the ground on inspecting a hollow that opened up to reveal an entrance to a coal mine with great care they descended down a ladder and to there astonishment it was as if the mine had closed yesterday.

Miner’s footprints could be seen on the ground and even horse shoe prints on the ground.

To their amazement candles were still attached to the walls.

Tracing back the history of the coal mine at Fernilee  was the subject of an ownership dispute brought before the Star Chamber in 1606. In modern times, this mine was possibly submerged by the Goyt Valley reservoirs, as was one of the private mines which had served Errwood Hall. Several generations of the Shallcross family of Fernilee benefited from ownership of the High Peak coal mines, generally known as the Shallcross Pits, near Chapel en le Frith. One descendant, John Shallcross, issued his own trading tokens.



Castedge Colliery/The Little Mine is centred SK 005 743. (from PDMHS Newsletter #114 Apr 05)

The remains of a second small colliery in a side valley off the main Goyt Valley, exist further upstream near the ruins of Errwood Hall. This mine was already open when Farey published his list of mines in 1811 and did not close until 1933 (Coal Mining Around Whaley Bridge, Leach, 1992); while only ever employing a small number of men, a large area of coal was extracted over many years. South-west of the hall, a short overgrown track leaves the access drive to the hall’s demolished outbuildings at Castedge. By the stream there is a small ruined colliery building, while on the other side of the stream, hidden behind bushes, a run-in adit approach has drystone-walled sides (SK 0065 7465). This was the main roadway into the mine in its last phases of use and was something like 1km long, with coal being extracted updip to the west. Further upstream, south of Castedge, there is the site of a second, earlier adit, later used as a return airway. Here there is a short hollow at the site of a tramway,hidden in a clump of Rhododendron bushes, to a hillock above the stream (SK 0050 7456). To the west there are 4-7 small early shaft hillocks (centred SK 004 747). To the south-west, up Shooter’s Clough, there are two further clusters of surface remains -1-4 early shaft hillocks and a track to a run-in early adit (centred SK 003 742), and 5 early shaft mounds (centred SK 002 740).


HEWITTS ‘THE COAL MINE’ CASTEDGE (extract from ‘Goyt Valley Romance’ by Gerald Hancock)

The coal mine of Errwood was worked by the Hewitt family. They came to live at Shooters Clough cottage vacated by one of the gamekeepers who left to live up near the Cat and Fiddle inn. The cottage was situated at the little known corner of Castedge, which is at the top of the cobbled drive to the rear of the Hall below the cemetery hill. There was a large farm here too which had its own small cottage. This area of Castedge nestling at the head of a hanging valley is a very picturesque place with a few old oak trees and pines stretching out to the distant hills. A walk from here leads up to the Catholic shrine to St. Joseph, while another some two miles to the west winds up and over to the Cat and Fiddle where in the 1920s youngsters of the valley would attend dances at the inn, returning down the steep moonlit track during the early hours. Errwood Hall’s kitchen garden was set here at Castedge where there remains a single stump from the orchard, choked by the encircling bracken in summer months. Here too were the greenhouses which had to supply the Hall throughout the year. In this area were the tennis courts while further upstream was the private swimming pool.


The coal mine was very important, for not only did it supply the Hall, but the whole of the Errwood estate and farms. It was particularly favoured by local blacksmiths as it was a good ‘caking’ coal for forge work. In fact it was said that people came with their horse and carts from far and wide for the coal, but little money changed hands. They were usually paid in kind, cheese, meat or eggs, or something.


The Hewitt family, Mary and Jack, with sons Leonard and Joe, daughters Phyllis and Brenda who was later born at the cottage, came to re-open the Errwood mine.

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