Bickershaw

In 1947 Bickershaw was one of 86 collieries in Lancashire that were taken into state control. In 1972 the fields surrounding the colliery hosted the Bickershaw Festival, with performances by the Kinks, the Grateful Dead, and Captain Beefheart. The colliery was also featured in the ITV drama series Sam (1973) and the BBC play Early to Bed by Alan Bleasdale (1975). In 1977 Bickershaw celebrated its centenary with a week of special events and an open day for visitors. By now it was designated with ‘super-pit’ status by the National Coal Board. The three collieries that formed ‘the Complex’ (Bickershaw, Golborne, and Parsonage) were now fully joined underground with the coal being extracted through a conveyor system that reached the surface at Plank Lane. In 1991 the colliery was subject to geological problems and profitability warnings from British Coal. The end of production was announced in early 1992 with the union officials declaring that it had been ‘a political closure’. The site has recently been developed with the construction of a new housing estate and a marina. 

Pay Day

 

In 1947, miners were paid in cash each week.  Below is W. Gildart's payslip from just after nationalisation.  Levies for welfare funds were deducted before he received his pay. There was a very slow transition from pay slips in cash, to being pay being deposited in miners' bank accounts, a process that was not finished until the 1990s at some pits. 

Payslip for W. Gildart. The payslip is printed the details of the date and the person paid are typewritten, all figures are handwritten

W. Gildart 1948 Payslip, (Keith Gildart personal collection, Crown Copyright, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence) Transcript

Miners

Miners at Bickershaw Colliery lived in Leigh and surrounding towns such as Wigan and Atherton. Leigh’s economy had been built on coal and cotton, and this produced a vibrant working-class culture of clubs, pubs, music and sport. 

Black and white image of children playing football, with Bikershaw in the background

Children playing football on the Heath in the shadow of Bickershaw, 1981 (Derek Greenough)

Mick Coombes
00:00 / 01:05

Interview with Keith Gildart, 16 February 2019, Transcript

A printed page that contains a black and white image of Bickerhsaw miners welfare, indivdiuals sitting at he bar with a bar in the background. Text below is headed with 'Enjoyment for all the family'.

Bickershaw Centenary Brochure, (David Howell personal collection, Crown Copyright, digitised for this project under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence) Transcript 

The above image of Leigh Miners' Welfare Institute comes from the brochure the NCB created to mark Bickershaw's centenary.  We have digitised the brochure.

All text poster tiled 'the situation in the minng industr'. Most black and white with one section white on red

Poster advertising meeting addressed by Arthur Scargill on his re-election campaign, 1988, (Keith Gildart personal collection) Transcript

Working Conditions

Bickershaw was one the deepest mines in the country and at the coal faces workers had to toil in extreme heat

Brian Beckinsale
00:00 / 05:07

Interview with Keith Gildart, 16 February 2019, Transcript

Neal Rigby
00:00 / 01:12

Interview with Keith Gildart, 6 December 2018, Transcript

11 white men wearing hard hats and lamps, most in overalls, pose for  photo, colliery buildings are in the background

Visit to Bickershaw/Parsonage. Back far left is Bert Oliver, far right is Alf, Plank Lane Branch officials, National Union of Mineworkers (North Western Area) (Keith Gildart personal collection, Crown Copyright, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence)

Feeding Mining Families during the 1984–5 Strike

 

The majority of Bickershaw miners were organised in the Plank Lane Branch of the North Western Area of the NUM. In the 1984–5 strike the branch mandated miners not to cross picket lines, but a significant number returned to work in the later stages. Women played a crucial role in supporting the union and maintaining solidarity. Mining families established networks for the collection and distribution of food. 

Mick and Gill Shaw
00:00 / 01:09

Interview with Keith Gildart, 26 October 2018, Transcript

Joan Gildart
00:00 / 00:15

Interview with Keith Gildart, 5 September 2018,  Transcript