Underwood & Brinsley - Wheels Of Industry
w/e 28 August 2005
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

Whilst rummaging through the bookcase in search of information for this page, I quite by chance, picked up an old battered hardback book called "Out of Darkness" by E. G. Thorpe; a story about a typical Derbyshire mining family that I had inherited from an uncle. First published in 1953, Chapter 1 begins with this paragraph:

Colliers coming off the day shift were straggling up Pit Lane towards the main road and the afternoon sun, walking all the way in the shadow of the pit hills. They sprawled everywhere, these hills, a restless black tide swirling across the green fields, over bush and hedgerow, possessing the earth. Fires were smoking on the tipping end and a horse was toiling up the incline with a tram full of dirt crawling behind it like a tiny fat beetle. The old hills, no longer used, were turning grey and their sides were cracked wide open and dotted with patches of weeds which would soon be flowering into tall red willowherb and yellow ragwort daisies, an incongruous gaiety in that desolate land.

That descriptive passage could equally have applied to any of the mining villages on the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfield and elsewhere for that matter. The neighbouring villages of Underwood and Brinsley were surrounded by coal mines and would have been no exception. Lying close to Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, birthplace of the author D. H. Lawrence, they are part of what he called "The Country Of My Heart" and contain some of the locations that he used in his novels. Today the pits have all gone but the men who mined the raw material that drove the wheels of industry are still remembered. We'll begin our brief look at the villages at Underwood Church.

Underwood Church

Hunderwode was listed in the 11th century Domesday Book and acquired its present name in 1490 but a church was not erected until 1889 after being commissioned at a cost of £5000 by the Right Honourable Francis Thomas de Grey Cowper, 7th Earl Cowper. The Earl was a British Liberal politician who also served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland between 1880 and 1882. The church, dedicated to St Michael & All Angels was designed by the Birmingham 'Gothic' architect, J. A. Chatwin in the style of the 14th century, with the clock being installed in 1920 as a memorial to the local men who died in the First World War. The spire is visible from the surrounding countryside and is notable for being covered by oak shingles (see inset).
Lych Gate

Like the church, the lych gate was also designed by J. A. Chatwin for Earl Cowper and was built at the same time as the church. A more recent addition in the churchyard is the part of the Pye Hill Colliery Headstock which can now be seen from Church Lane through the lych gate.
Pye Hill Colliery Headstock

The wheel from the headstock stands as a tribute to the importance to the village of the mining industry and the plaque on the headstock reads "A memorial to Pye Hill Number 1 Colliery dedicated by the Bishop of Sherwood the Rt. Reverend R. Darby on 28th September 1985." Coal had been mined in the area for nearly 700 years since the Middle Ages and there may even have been workings back to Roman times. As we saw in the Monks Way series, the monks of nearby Beauvale Priory held rights to coal mining. The coal was extracted over time by shallow outcrops, bell pits, drift mines and finally deep mines but came to an end in Underwood in the 1980s.
The Yew Tree

The memorial in Underwood churchyard stands in the shadow of a tree. Although it is not a yew, yew trees have long been synonymous with churchyards. A pub bearing the name "Yew Tree" stands on the main road between Underwood and Brinsley, very accessible to miners after a long hard shift and no doubt the landlord here would have seen the inside of many a miner's pay packet long before it reached home.
Brinsley Colliery Site

At the other end of Brinsley is the site of the former Brinsley Colliery which has now been transformed into a picnic area. D H Lawrence's father worked at the colliery and DHL himself used the location in his work calling it Begarlee in "Sons and Lovers". A film of the story starring Trevor Howard was made in 1960 and the colliery scenes were shot here. Lawrence also used the colliery as the main setting in the short story published in 1911 called "Odour of Chrysanthemums" in which he mentions a railway line. The route of that line now forms one of a number of walks in the area, to and around the picnic site.
Brinsley Headstocks

A shaft at Brinsley Colliery was originally sunk to a depth of 450 feet (137m) but good quality coal had almost been exhausted by the 1870s. A second deeper shaft of 780 feet (238m) was sunk in 1872 when tandem headstocks were erected but the reserves were once again exhausted by 1930. The shafts were kept open for another 40 years after this to provide access to neighbouring pits. The headstocks that now stand on the original site in Brinsley are the original structures of 1872, having been restored by British Coal and Nottinghamshire County Council in 1991. The wheels are no longer turning but remain as a monument to their undoubted contribution to the industrial prosperity of the area.

Site Navigation

"Pick A Picture"
Weekly Favourites
Latest Images
Holidays &
Days Out
Special Features
The Guest Page
Site search Web search

powered by FreeFind
Jigsaw Puzzles
Recommended Links

Terms & Conditions of Use
This website is copyright but licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence.
Please credit the photographer Garth Newton, or add a link to these pages.