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Clipstone Colliery headstocks
Clipstone, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, UK
Clipstone Colliery headstocks
associated engineer
Bollsover Colliery Company Ltd
date  1912 - 1922, 1953
UK era  Modern  |  category  Mining/Quarrying  |  reference  SK594633
photo  public domain
Clipstone Colliery in Nottinghamshire had the tallest pair of headstocks in Europe when they were constructed. The colliery closed in 2003 and most of the site was cleared, except the Grade II listed headstocks for its two shafts. However, their future remains uncertain.
Clipstone Colliery was established by the Bolsover Colliery Company, which owned other pits in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It was a profitable business, set up in 1889 by mining engineer and philanthropist Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge (1845-1911), who was also Liberal Member of Parliament for Gainsborough 1895-1900.
In 1912, the company leased 800 hectares of land around Vicar Pond at Clipstone near Mansfield with the intention of exploiting the Top Hard coal seam. Test boreholes revealed a 2m thick coal deposit at a depth of 585m and the sinking of a shaft commenced. During World War I (1914-18), work on the shaft stopped at a depth of 15m but the construction of surface buildings continued. Shaft sinking resumed in 1919 and the two 6.4m diameter shafts reached coal in April 1922. No. 1 Service Shaft to the north was used by workers and for lowering materials, while No.2 Winding Shaft to the south was for raising coal skips.
The colliery company built Clipstone village in 1926, on the site of the former army camp, to house its growing workforce. In 1927, mining began in the Top Hard seam. Clipstone Colliery became one of the most productive in Britain, with an output of 4,000 tonnes of coal per day by the 1940s.
However, by the end of World War II in 1945, the seam was almost exhausted. Colliery facilities were developed to allow coal to be extracted from much deeper levels and miners were able to access the Low Main seam, a rich reserve located almost 240m below the Top Hard seam.
The National Coal Board was constituted formally on 15th July 1946 by the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act. By the time the board took over at Clipstone on 1st January 1947, the Bolsover Colliery Company was the third largest in Britain and its shafts here were among the deepest in the country.
The National Coal Board presided over a period of restructuring, mechanisation and modernisation to fulfil Britain’s increasing demand for coal. Government funding for colliery expansion enabled pits like Clipstone to invest in better equipment and increase production by working deeper seams more effectively.
In the 1950s, Clipstone’s winding gear and surface facilities were upgraded. The original steam-powered winders, boilers and fan were scrapped. The buildings housing the machinery were demolished, along with the old headframes. New headframes (headstocks), pit bank buildings (heapsteads), a fan house and a powerhouse — located between the two shafts — were constructed.
The two Clipstone headstocks were designed by architect Young & Purves and completed in 1953. When built, their latticework steel towers were the tallest structures of their type in Europe and remain the tallest in England. Headstock No.1 is 67m tall and Headstock No.2 is 65.5m tall. The upper part of each tower incorporates twin headgear sheaves, 7.3m in diameter one above the other, to support the continuous winding rope. The brick buildings below and between the headstocks are of functional Modernist style.
The stepped powerhouse has extensive upper level glazing and was built to accommodate the machinery and electrical equipment. It contained two Koepe winding engines, each powered by two direct-coupled motors linked to generator sets for converting the alternating current public supply to direct current. A control cabin adjacent to each winder monitored the winding in both shafts. To facilitate installation and maintenance of the winders and generators, the building had travelling cranes mounted on running beams carried by lattice metal piers.
Flanking the powerhouse are two pit bank buildings into which the winding ropes extend via the headstocks. The buildings enclose the shaft heads and the surface car circuits that linked to the underground conveyors.
The Koepe hoists installed in 1953 represented a change from drum to friction winding at Clipstone. Developed in Germany in 1877 by Frederick Koepe, the less expensive friction hoist occupies less space than a drum hoist, and can be mounted on the ground above the mine shaft or at the top of the headframe. A pulley rather than a winding drum drives its wire. Tail ropes and counter weights pass around the wheel but are not fixed to it, so the hoist’s motor does not have to overcome the weight of the conveyance and hoisting rope, reducing the required motor power by up to 30 percent. Unlike drum hoists, they can — and normally do — use multiple ropes to provide larger payload capacity.
At its peak, Clipstone employed more than 1,300 men and in 1986, it produced almost one million tonnes of coal.
In 1987, the National Coal Board became the British Coal Corporation. The corporation closed Clipstone Colliery in 1993, ahead of the privatisation of Britain’s mining industry. It had never recorded a loss in profits and in April 1994, it was re-opened by new owners RJB Mining (now UK Coal).
On 19th April 2000, the Clipstone headstocks and winding house were given Grade II listed status, reflecting their group value as an outstanding surviving example of post-war 20th century coal mining technology.
By this time, however, the colliery’s miners were facing adverse geological conditions and the quality of the coal was declining. In April 2003, the pit closed. Clipstone had produced almost 4 million tonnes of coal between 1994 and 2003.
After closure, most of the non-listed surface structures, such as the pithead baths and coal hoppers, were demolished. The two shafts are now sealed, though much of the associated equipment, including the rails and turntables for the colliery cars, remains in place. The former pit tips were returned to nature and now form the 80 hectare Vicar Water Country Park.
A 2003 request to English Heritage for de-listing of the headstocks was not taken forward as an application for consent to demolish was submitted to Newark & Sherwood District Council. In 2012, the listing description was revised to emphasise the significance of the structures. As of May 2015, no decision has been taken and the fate of the headstocks remains uncertain.
The Clipstone Colliery Regeneration Group has been formed and it favours alternative uses of the complex, such as developing the winding house into a sports and leisure facility. The surrounding site could be used for residential and business accommodation, and recreational uses, as has been done with former mining installations in the Ruhr Valley in Germany.
Architect (1953): Young & Purves, Manchester
Headstocks (1953): Head Wrightson Colliery Engineering, Thornaby-on-Tees and Sheffield
Winding engines (1953): Markham & Company, Chesterfield
Writeup: ECPK

Clipstone Colliery headstocks