An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 76 (of 83 parts) - Sutton Manor Colliery Part 2 (1960 - 1991)

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 76 (of 83) - Sutton Manor Colliery Part 2 (1960 - 1991)

Sutton Manor Colliery St.Helens sign
The British Coal sign at the entrance to Sutton Manor Colliery (Frazer Nairn Collection)

Sutton Manor Institute sign
Institute sign - contributed by Frazer Nairn
By the beginning of the 'swinging '60s', Sutton Manor Colliery was in a strong position with 1600 men on its books and coal output levels rising. Now controlled by the National Coal Board (NCB) since the industry's nationalisation in 1947, the colliery was annually outputting over 300,000 tons of coal and it seemed to have a rosy future. They could even afford to knock down and rebuild part of their new social club because there was not enough elbow room in their snooker room!

The new Sutton Manor Institute or Welfare Club had been built in 1959 at a cost of £54,000 to replace the original building that had opened in 1922. It was financed from a Lancashire miners' welfare fund grant, of which the NCB contributed halfpenny for every ton of coal from Lancashire pits. However, soon after construction, the miners began complaining of cramped conditions inside the snooker room with insufficient elbow room. The club's committee limited the number of spectators, rearranged the furniture and even bought shorter snooker cues. But it was all to no avail and so three walls of the newly-built club were knocked down and it was rebuilt at a cost of more than £2000. The story of 'Miners Snookered!' even made it into the Times! In the Guardian's account, steward Edward Gallagher said he thought that when the club was at the design stage, they simply measured two snooker tables, forgetting that people have to stand behind them to play.

A hazard of mining at Sutton Manor Colliery through geological pressure
An example of a mining hazard at Sutton Manor Colliery caused by geological pressure

As revealed in Part 1 of the history of the pit, working underground at Sutton Manor Colliery could be highly dangerous, something that Harry Hickson is very much aware of. Between 1959 and 1966, Harry worked for the National Coal Board as an engineer, initially at Bold Colliery but then working out of the Haydock Area Office, he regularly visited Sutton Manor dealing with underground and surface installations. Harry describes how the above photograph illustrates some of the dangers:
 This clearly shows one of the hazards of underground mining, namely extensive geological pressure being applied to an area. In this case it’s a roadway going into and out of the Coal Face. You could get the floor being pushed up, or as in this example, the roof being pushed down by the various faults in the geology of the strata. The Belt Conveyor shown, brings coal from the coal face out to a loading point, where it passes into the Tubs and then taken to the surface. The original roadway construction would consist of the heavy steel arch supports being evenly placed down the tunnel, with intermediate cross supports being placed all the way round between each arch to prevent loose rock from falling onto the conveyor, or more importantly, onto anybody walking to and from the coal face. The steel arches have been bent and twisted by tremendous roof pressure, the intermediate supports have been broken, or have come out, and about halfway on the right, there has been a considerable fall of roof material under the conveyor. On the left side the service pipes (air / water), have been pushed off their block supports and are bent / twisted. It will take a large amount of time and much material input to make this a safe working area. 

This 1964 view from St.Nicholas church has Sutton Manor Colliery in the background behind Mill Lane
This 1964 view from St.Nicholas church tower has Sutton Manor Colliery behind Mill Lane - contributed by Jim Lamb

During the early '60s, the National Coal Board began a study of the industry's pits, assessing long-term economic viability and cost-effectiveness. In October 1965 as a consequence of their controversial 'streamlining' initiative, the NCB decided to close the apparently uneconomic Clock Face Colliery. However, the adjacent Sutton Manor with its record-breaking production figures seemed to have a much more secure future. Having initially (and rather surprisingly) placed Sutton Manor in the 'jeopardy' class of at risk pits, the NCB removed it from their list and began an advertising campaign to recruit boys to Sutton Manor and Bold collieries. In a series of advertisements placed in the St.Helens Reporter during 1966, 15-year-old school leavers were promised a job for life:
 Coal mining offers Apprenticeship and a Lifetime's career. Boys entering coal mining today can look forward to a lifetime in the industry. The new streamlined Coal Industry will have fewer collieries but they will be big ones and highly mechanised. And there's an Apprenticeship waiting for every boy accepted.

Sutton Manor Colliery tallies
Sutton Manor Colliery tallies were issued to each miner as a safety check so it was known how many men were underground

Fresh young recruits were promised "good pay right from the day you start". If they chose to work underground they'd receive a weekly wage of £7 3s 6d a week. The wage on offer for a 15 year-old surface worker at Sutton Manor was only slightly less, at £6 9s 6d. Employment benefits on offer included access to the canteen, pit-head showers, club and sports facilities.

Underground locomotive in Sutton Manor Colliery
Albert the underground loco at Sutton Manor Colliery (contributed by Les Dunning - pic by Ian Lally)

Ex-miners were also targeted by the National Coal Board as part of their recruitment campaign using the headline 'Come Back Into Mining'. They were promised better pay than before plus 'permanent employment and a secure future'. The strap-line of the ads used uppercase to emphasise the longevity of employment on offer: 'Britain will need coal and mines for a LONG, LONG TIME'.

Sutton Manor Colliery, St.Helens in British Coal's in-house magazine Sutton Manor Magazine
Sutton Manor Colliery, St.Helens in British Coal's in-house magazine Sutton Manor Magazine

In February 1967 AEI Electronics of Leicester announced that they were supplying remote conveyor control and monitoring equipment worth £100,000 to seven collieries, including Sutton Manor, which would be equipped in March. In the Spring of 1968, the colliery was reorganised and coal production ceased in no. 1 pit, as the management believed that there were more economic seams contained within pit no. 2. The local NUM branch opposed the closure plans but they were supported by area secretary Joe Gormley and by a vote at the union's north-west area conference. As a consequence there was a reduction in the workforce of 481 men, leaving 937 men still on the books producing about ½ million tons of coal per year. Shaft no.1 was still used by the colliery, however, for essential ventilation and winding operations.

In November 1973, the NUM introduced an overtime ban in pursuit of a wage claim. On January 13th 1974, NCB Chairman
Derek Ezra described how on a visit to Sutton Manor, he had witnessed volunteers having to operate the steam engines that powered the winching gear. Ezra also said that the overtime ban meant that underground workers were being laid off for two days, while winding cables were replaced. The coal board was bound by law to replace these cables every three years, but the work would normally be done at Sutton Manor during the weekend. The national dispute, which affected production at Sutton Manor, led to a state of emergency being declared and a general election. On February 28th 1974 the Daily Express reported how strike-bound Sutton Manor Colliery had agreed to allow 600 tons of coal to be shipped to an Ulster hospital that was running out of supplies. The NUM branch gave permission after Coal Board officials passed on an urgent appeal from the Londonderry hospital.

Later in 1974 a new 10 ton triple drilling rig was introduced that was said to resemble a mechanical octopus and two years later an untapped coal field was discovered just south of Sutton Manor at Barrows Green. A scheme was proposed which would involve driving two underground roadways of 1,150 yards in length through a major geological fault. The Colliery Manager
Peter Male was quoted in the St.Helens press as saying that this boded well for the future:
 Sutton Manor has been in jeopardy for some years because of a shortage of results from the coal face and we have lost some money. But this new field opens up new roads for the future and there are reserves of coal to last the pit for up to thirty years.
Coal was also being obtained from the two faces in the Higher Florida and Wigan Four Feet seams and marketed locally to industry, power stations and the domestic market. Although Sutton Manor now had a slimmed down workforce, there weren't as many accidents and the colliery seemed to have a good future. One mineworker's family was also able to enjoy a free trip to the Soviet Union!

Tommy Ludden worked in the Powder magazine and distributed detonators to shotfirers. About 1974 Tommy and his wife Mary - a former Sutton Manor pit brow lass who was then working at the colliery as a cleaner - travelled to Russia with daughter Jane on a three week all-expenses paid holiday. This was as a result of an arrangement between the Soviet super-power's Miners Union and Britain's National Union of Mineworkers. It was a wonderful opportunity to get away from the dirt and grime of the pit in the company of fifty other mining families from all over the UK. Sutton Manor miners were selected from a rota and had to be members of the union to qualify for the holiday.

Joe Gormley at Sutton Manor Colliery
NUM President Joe Gormley at Sutton Manor Colliery (Contributed by Alf Houghton / Mel Moran Collection)

This photograph shows Joe Gormley, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, on a visit to Sutton Manor Colliery about 1975. The former coal face worker at Bold Colliery is pictured in the lamproom signing for a lamp along with Sid Vincent, the Lancashire NUM secretary. Foreman lampman Alf Houghton is pictured on the left pointing out the correct place to sign.

Police officers who visited Sutton Manor Colliery in 1976
Group of St.Helens police officers who visited Sutton Manor Colliery in 1976 with three mineworkers

The above photograph from 1976 shows a group of police officers from St.Helens who, accompanied by three Sutton Manor mineworkers, are enjoying a tour of the colliery. The bobbies are the ones dressed more for a night out than a trip underground! On the far right of the photo is Tommy Peet, a mining instructor at Old Boston who had come to the colliery to learn the job of Training Officer. Standing next to him is Sutton Manor Colliery Training Officer Brian Salkeld. Third from right is Assistant Colliery Manager George Blackmore, who was one of many workers of Welsh heritage. George had previously been an under-manager at Clock Face Colliery.

The award-winning Sutton Manor Colliery firefighting team
The award-winning Sutton Manor Colliery firefighting team - view version with identification (Mel Moran Collection)

This history of Sutton Manor would not be complete without mentioning the volunteers who served as the colliery's firemen. As well as dealing with any incidents on site, the team of firefighters competed in the annual Fire Brigades' competition, which was open to teams from factories and pits. As can be seen from the above picture, Sutton Manor was extremely successful in this and other firefighting competitions and acquired many trophies. The core of the group was Billy Saunders (Colliery Fire Officer), Colin Neimarlija, Terry Gilford, Jack Prescott and Alan Barnes, who all served for many years during the 1970s and '80s.

The Sutton Manor colliery lamp room team in 1981 examining lamps prior to their deployment down the pit
The Sutton Manor colliery lamp room team in 1981 examining lamps prior to their deployment down the pit (Mel Moran Collection)

Bob Mellor and Alf Houghton
The aforementioned lamp room team also played an important safety role within the colliery. They were charged with not just distributing the lamps used by the men down the pit, but in keeping them in top condition. These photographs were taken in September 1981 with the picture above showing (L to R) Bob Mellor, Tommy Stanley, Nic Neimarlija and Alf Houghton. Bob and Alf are reprised in this second photo.

In 1982 the colliery announced its intention to sell surplus methane gas to the ICI Pilkington Sullivan works at Widnes. A 5 mile-long pipeline linked Sutton Manor with ICI and over five million therms of methane - equivalent to three million gallons of oil - was pumped through it. Cooling, distribution and pumping facilities were sited at the colliery and filtration and metering equipment was situated at ICI. The scheme cost £3 million and began on July 14th 1983.

Also that year Sutton Manor Colliery was chosen to undertake the first underground trials of a high pressure water assisted roadheader machine. Water had long been used in mines to reduce coal dust and prevent frictional sparks. The former impaired miners' visibility and had serious health risks, while the latter could cause explosions. Initially the method of application was somewhat crude using hand-held hoses, which was somewhat hit and miss. Over the years the means of deploying water in mining operations improved considerably, although its effectiveness was often curtailed by severe limitations in the water supply.

By the 1980s it was appreciated that the quantity and pressure of the water were vital factors for an efficient deployment. So purpose-built machines were designed, complete with large water tanks. Some early trials were conducted at the limestone mine at Middleton. These led to Anderson Strathclyde developing an
RH22 High Pressure Water Assisted Roadheader in early 1983. Roadheaders were excavating / tunnelling machines with boom-mounted cutting heads, which had first been employed in mining during the 1950s.

RH22 High Pressure Water Assisted Roadheader at Sutton Manor Colliery
Two views of the RH22 High Pressure Water Assisted Roadheader at Sutton Manor Colliery

Sutton Manor began the first coal mining trials of the RH22 HPWA in August 1983. A bulky machine weighing 35 tons and measuring 28 feet in length, it carried a 455 litre water tank, plus a 700 bar high pressure pump on its rear. The roadheader was employed within the mine’s Main Florida Intake, tunnelling under the Trencherbone coal seam, as well as through shale, mudstone, silt and sandstone. This created access to the Higher and Lower Florida coal seams, which in the 1980s were seen as being the future of the pit, providing coal for at least twenty years.

The trials lasted six months ending in March 1984 and were largely successful, especially when the RH22 was used at the highest water pressure. The cutting rate increased by 50%, there was no frictional sparking, energy consumption was reduced, machine vibration was minimised, visible dust was virtually eliminated and respirable dust was cut by half.

On the negative side the total advance of the roadheader over the 28 week period was only 222 metres. However this was caused by many teething problems that had to be solved during the trial period, as well as through an overtime ban. An impressive 19.62 metres was, however, achieved in a single week towards the end of the six months, which boded well for the future.

St.Helens Star newspaper articles on Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens
St.Helens Star newspaper articles on Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens published December 15th 1983 and October 9th 1986

In December 1983 the National Coal Board announced a £14 million investment in Sutton Manor which they predicted would provide a 'kiss of life' for the 'viable' pit, converting it into one of Britain's most modern collieries. The St. Helens Star began its report of the cash injection by saying:
 Happy days could be here again for pitmen at one hard-grafting colliery.  (St.Helens Star 15/12/1983)
However the 1984/5 national strike delayed the implementation of the planned improvements. The period of the strike was one of the most difficult times in the colliery's life. Although it is also remembered for the generosity shown by many towards the miners and their families, who were denied state benefits. There were gifts from a number of sources, but especially from people in Liverpool. Sutton Manor's Brian Mitchell and Jim Smith took a brightly painted Play Bus into the city each week and people came out of their homes and donated whatever they could. There were also collection centres in Hardman Street and at the Liverpool Seamens' Offices. For almost a year the Printers Union took Sutton Manor miners to a local cash and carry to buy fruit, bacon, eggs and vegetables. Every week a man, who no one knew, turned up at the Sutton Manor Institute with a large bag of carrots and one of onions. For the children of the strikers, the free school dinner was a lifeline that served as their main meal of the day and the community also ensured that the youngsters had an annual Christmas party. On August 23rd 1984, 200 children from Sutton Manor families got away from the hardship of the strike through a day in Blackpool. The trip was funded by the NUM and businesses, who provided specially reduced rates. There were also large reductions made by Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens, where meals and a disco were enjoyed.

There were some ugly incidents at Sutton Manor, which developed a reputation as the most militant pit in Lancashire. At the end of August a minibus, which was taking 15 pickets from Northumberland to London for a court hearing, was set on fire outside the Institute. On November 28th 1984 the Guardian newspaper published a photograph of the first coal that Sutton Manager pitmen had hauled to the surface for nine months, with manager
Peter Earnshaw supervising the operation. However only a quarter of its 800 miners were working, compared to the Lancashire average of 58% with 77% employed in the whole Western area. As production resumed, NCB area director John Northard announced that the investment planned for Sutton Manor had risen to over £17 million. The three-year modernisation programme, would, said Northard, turn a consistently and heavily-loss-making pit into a profitable one, although there would be a slight reduction in labour.

Aerial plan of Sutton Manor Colliery, St.Helens
Sutton Manor Colliery plan: 1) Forest Road 2) Colliery canteen 3) Main gates 4) Manager's block 5) Pit baths clean side 6) Pit baths exit 7) Pit baths dirty side 8) Surveyors office 9) Toilets 10) Engineering workshops 11) Lamproom (pic by Ian Lally)

During the Spring and Summer of 1986, the NCB's successor, British Coal, electrified Sutton Manor's number 1 shaft steam winder, leaving the number 2 shaft winder in its original condition of steam. Sutton Manor colliery was, for a time, unique in possessing one of the newest electric winding engines, as well as having one of the oldest in number 2 shaft's steam winder. In fact it was the last colliery in the country to use steam as the St.Helens Reporter had reported eight years earlier:
 The sounds and smells of steam engines have left the railways and the factories but they still hang over Sutton Manor Colliery. For steam power is alive and well and putting in a 24 hours a day shift...every year visitors come from all over the country to take a look at one of the last refuges of the steam age.   (St.Helens Reporter July 14th 1978)

Work to electrify the no.1 pit's steam winder and shaft at Sutton Manor colliery by Qualter Hall in 1986
Work to electrify the no.1 pit's steam winder and shaft at Sutton Manor colliery by Qualter Hall in 1986

The no. 1 pit had previously been used for winding men and materials driven with the same coal-fired boilers built by the same company that manufactured the Titanic's boilers and engines. The electrification meant that for the first time in the mine's history, coal could be wound up the no. 1 shaft. The work was undertaken by engineering consultant's Qualter Hall & Co. Ltd. of Barnsley and the opportunity was taken to replace the old coal tubs with modern skips. The new structure was built around the old headgear, so that during construction coal production could continue. The winding engine had originally been built in 1914 by Yates & Thom of Blackburn. The no. 2 pit's engine, incidentally, had been manufactured by Fraser & Chalmers of Erith.

Sutton Manor Colliery headgears in St.Helens
Photographed in August 1986 the new no.1 headgear and the no.2 headgear at Sutton Manor (Mel Moran Collection)

With months of this new investment, British Coal shocked Sutton Manor mineworkers by announcing that they were going to make 250 redundancies, more than was expected. The pit was considered uneconomic and the management claimed it was losing £25 for each tonne of coal that it produced. Jack Evans of British Coal told readers of the St.Helens Star that in his opinion some members of the workforce weren't grafting hard enough:
 Despite our best efforts to make the pit a success, there is an apparent reluctance on the part of some members of the workforce at Sutton Manor...Its future is in the hands of the men.  (St.Helens Star October 9th 1986)

Gilford top dog of the Sutton Manor Colliery lamp room, with his pitmen pals
Gilford, top dog of the Sutton Manor Colliery lamp room, with his pitmen pals in June 1988

On June 16th 1988 Manor pitmen Kevin Mather, Colin Brown, Bob Baugh and Alan Swift appeared in the St.Helens Star with their pet pooch Gilford. The dog had wandered into their lamp room some weeks earlier and decided to take up residence. As the animal had been found above ground, it was given the name of the colliery’s surface superintendent. Whether Terry Gilford considered it to be a tribute or insult wasn't recorded!

In 1989 Sutton Manor miner
Steven Sullivan was made president of the Lancashire area NUM but continued to work on the coalface. Steven had played a leading role in the 1984/5 strike, during which he discovered that he had a talent for public speaking. As an activist he helped to ensure that the majority of Lancashire mineworkers went on strike and that Sutton Manor pitmen stayed out for as long as they did. Sadly Steven died aged just 41 in 1997, after a long fight against cancer.

Left: Anonymous Manor miners (Frazier Nairn Collection); Right: Bill Mullaney at his Milton Street home after a nightshift
Left: Anonymous Manor miners (Frazier Nairn Collection); Right: Bill Mullaney at his Milton Street home after a nightshift

The redundancies in 1986 left just 425 men on the colliery's books and by February 1990 with a downsized workforce, matters seemed to be improving. In the 5th edition of in-house publication 'Sutton Manor Magazine', then Colliery Manager K. A. Leech praised the men for breaking three output records since the previous edition of the 4-page newsletter. For week ending 20/01/1990, total weekly output had been a record 15,096 tonnes and the colliery results for the month of January 1990 were shown as an operating profit of £157,000, with net profit after capital charges of £46,000.

Miners at Sutton Manor Colliery in Sutton St.Helens
A photograph which appeared in 'Sutton Manor Magazine No.5' published in February 1990

Happy mineworkers posed for a photograph propping up a board which detailed their record breaking activities, subtitled as 'Manor Men Are Back Again'. The caption underneath the picture in 'Sutton Manor Magazine', referred to the output levels as a 'grand achievement'. Colliery Manager Mr. Leech in an article entitled 'Well Done!' explained that "work is well underway" on a new coal face.

By December 1990 the Colliery Manager was P.G. Redford and in the Christmas edition of 'Sutton Manor Magazine (no.9) he informed the pitmen that in the quarter that ended in October, output had gone down. He claimed that British Coal had lost money and so Sutton Manor had been put back into the 'Reconvened Review Procedure'. However, the colliery manager also revealed that since October, the week by week tonnage was starting to rise and there was some cautious optimism for the future with Redford also referring to planned development work.

So there was some bewilderment when just weeks later British Coal announced that the pit was unviable and scheduled for closure in June 1991. They claimed that Sutton Manor Colliery had lost £23 million over the previous five years and a British Coal spokesman was quoted by the St.Helens Star on May 30th 1991 as saying that "The pit was losing money and not hitting output targets". It finally closed on May 24th 1991, with 40 years of coal said to be still underground and a new £40 million Gladstone dock being constructed at Liverpool to handle cheap imported coal.

St.Helens newspaper cutting on the closure of the Sutton Manor Colliery, St.Helens
St.Helens Star report on the closure of Sutton Manor Colliery from May 30th 1991

The old National Coal Board gates in Jubits Lane and the remnants of the pit shafts (see right - pit no.2) are all that’s left to remind visitors of the site's illustrious past. After the colliery’s closure, the shafts were filled with stone from the pit bottom up to the first inset. Concrete was then poured in and more stone added up to the next inset, where more concrete was introduced. This process was repeated up to the top of the shaft, where a concrete cap and pipe were added.

Sutton Manor Colliery, St.Helens capped pit shafts
The capped pit shafts in Sutton Manor Woodland - The first two images show pit 1 and the third pic is pit 2

The stone came from Holme Park quarry near Carnforth. John Melling was aged about 14 at the time and recalls working in the school holidays with his uncle who was contracted to bring stone from the quarry to Sutton Manor. John believes that the total amount of stone that his uncle and other haulage companies delivered was about 30,000 tons.
 The stone was sent along a conveyor and into the shafts. I recall it took many weeks and the stone was a large grade, around 6 to 8 inches across. I remember one of the men who was working on site telling us how the first lot of stone that was dropped down the shaft sounded like thunder from above. It was one of those things that fascinates you as a young lad. It seemed a never ending job with truck after truck heading down from Carnforth for weeks. 
John adds that around the same time the Hotties canal in St Helens was being drained and all the rubbish and mud that had been scraped from the bottom was tipped onto the Sutton Manor slag heaps. These used to be enormous and they dominated the 230 acre site, which is now a Forestry Commission-managed woodland enjoyed by many. The people of Sutton haven't forgotten the site's illustrious past and, hopefully, the old NCB gates will remain as an ever-present physical legacy. In 2009 a number of heritage seats were installed on the site, courtesy of nearby Sutton Manor Primary and artist Bernadette Hughes, and a heritage art trail will be installed in 2010. Former mineworkers have considerable affection for their former workplace and as many as nine have had their ashes scattered or interred there.

The certificate awarded to Noah Lamb who spent 48 years at Sutton Manor Colliery
The NCB certificate awarded to Noah Lamb who spent 48 years at Sutton Manor Colliery - Contributed by Jim Lamb

Noah Lamb
Noah Lamb
A number of former Sutton Manor pitmen became councillors or civic leaders such as Harry Williams, who worked at the colliery for 50 years as a foreman in the power house. In fact his brothers Arthur and Wilfred worked for similar durations and so the trio put in about 150 years combined service at the pit. Harry held the distinction of being the Mayor of St.Helens in 1973, its final year as a borough council prior to becoming a Metropolitan Borough under Merseyside.

Mike McGuire served as MP for Ince from 1964 to 1983 and was then the parliamentary representative for Makerfield until 1987. When at Sutton Manor, McGuire served as full-time branch secretary of the NUM. Dr. Ken Moses CBE from Thatto Heath was a General Manager at Sutton Manor Colliery and later worked as a senior executive at British Coal. Former pitman Brian Spencer was until 2010 the Leader of St.Helens Council. Ernest Patterson deserves a mention too for his football prowess. The Manor miner of Shakespeare Road played some games for Manchester City in the early 1950s and was scouted by Doncaster Rovers.

Another with a distinguished Sutton Manor service record was Noah Lamb (1898-1990) who spent forty-eight years down the pit. Noah is pictured right sitting on his bed inside his white cottage at 30 Chester Lane in Marshalls Cross where he was born. Being a miner for almost half a century didn't do Noah any harm, as he lived to the ripe old age of ninety-two.

Pit deputy George Streete pictured in 1960 and at his retirement in 1980
Pit deputy George Streete pictured in 1960 and at his retirement in 1980 (contributed by Esther Streete)

George Beresford Streete worked at Sutton Manor for 30 years after arriving in the UK from his native Jamaica in 1950. He served as a pit deputy and is remembered by colleagues for his ever-present smile. George's German-born wife Esther was a district midwife for 35 years after starting nursing at St.Helens Hospital. The mine also employed large numbers of Polish, Lithuanian and Russian pit men. On Saturday nights during the 1940s, Polish and Lithuanian miners often fought each other outside the Griffin pub!

House and garden of Sutton Manor Colliery miner Albert Rigby from Ditton who often won NCB garden competitions
House and garden of Albert Rigby from Ditton who often won NCB garden competitions - Contributed by Pat Beesley

Although many Sutton Manor Colliery pit workers lived in 'miners houses' in local streets, such as Tennyson Street and Forest Road, others like George and Esther Streete lived in Ditton at Widnes. Their houses were built by the NCB to house miners' families from Sutton Manor, as well as Cronton. They would cycle to work, unlike the local lads who'd mainly walk, the noise of their clogs puncturing the early morning peace. Post-war many of the mineworkers were proud of their gardens. The NCB held an annual garden competition and there was keen rivalry between neighbours. Pictured above is the home and garden of Sutton Manor pitman Albert Rigby, who lived in one of the Ditton houses. A keen gardener, Albert won the competition or was runner up on several occasions. Pictured in the 1950s prior to smokeless fuel, the houses are soot-stained like many other buildings at that time.

Although there were many improvements in terms of technology and practice during the 20th century, working down Sutton Manor was never easy. Ex-pit man
Gary Conley described the conditions on BBC North West Tonight on March 4th 2009, in a report that commemorated a quarter of a century since the start of the 1984 strike: "It was hotter than the flames of hell in some sections and cold as the Antarctic in others."

Despite the often harsh conditions, the bonds of friendship between the workforce, in what's been called a family pit, were very strong. Almost twenty years since the closure, many mineworkers still have a considerable connection to the site. On May 31st, 2009 as part of the
Big Art Project, a work of public art called Dream was officially opened at the apex of the former colliery's spoil heap, which rises 270 feet above sea level. This artwork towers over the M62 and was designed by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa both to serve as a memorial for the site's heritage but also to look forward to the future. Appropriately, former Sutton Manor pitmen have played a pivotal role in commissioning this monument to the blood, sweat and toil that took place underneath the statue for eighty-five years of the twentieth century.

Sutton Manor Colliery mineworkers in 1980s
Sutton Manor Colliery mineworkers pictured during the 1980s (Mel Moran Collection)

Also See: Sutton Manor Colliery Part 1; Memories of Sutton Manor by Stan Johnson who worked at the colliery from 1955-62; Lancashire Miners Gala Queen 1964/65 by Pat Beesley; Sutton Manor Colliery Photo-Album #1 (49 pictures); Photo-Album #2 (Mel Moran Collection - 50 pictures); Photo-Album #3 (50 pictures); Photo-Album #4 (Frazer Nairn Collection - 44 pictures); Photo-Album #5 (Frazer Nairn Collection - 44 pictures); Photo-Album #6 (No. 1 winder and headgear's electrification in 1986 - 38 pictures); Plan of Sutton Manor Colliery (courtesy Mel Moran)
Next:  Part 77)  Clock Face Colliery Part 1
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many mages photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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