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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Running the new colliery

Part of an online exhibition to mark the Hetton Coal Company's pioneering advances in mining and railway technology in 1820.

Perspective view of Hetton Colliery works and railway, c.1822 (NCB 1/X 37) - © Durham County Record Office

Skill and attention

Arthur Mowbray poached skilled workers from his rivals Buddle and Londonderry and recognised the part they played in achieving the new colliery. In publicising their success, Mowbray praised Robert Stephenson, Engineer (George Stephenson's brother), 'to whom the Manager owes many obligations for fixing and improving the machinery and for his skill & attention in the sinking' and Thomas Wood, Accountant, 'for his diligence and accuracy not only as an accomptant but for assisting in the levelling & arranging of the waggonway, for the self-acting planes &c'.

Detail of text, from the Perspective View [by Thomas Robson], c.1822 (NCB 1/X 37) - © Durham County Record Office
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Detail of text from 'Hetton Colliery in the County of Durham. Perspective view of the Works of the Colliery, the Horizontal, Inclined and Self-Acting Planes with the Loco Motive and other Engines used on the Rail Way and the Staiths and Self Discharging Depot on the Banks of the River Wear near Sunderland', by [Thomas Robson], c.1822 (NCB 1/X 37).

He also thanked the following 'for their skill and attention in any difficulties and for their General Good Conduct':

  • John Hopper, Assistant Viewer
  • William Elliot, Master Forgeman & Smith
  • George Jowsey, Master Sinker
  • Thomas Naisbitt, Master Wright
  • Ralph Day, Master Mason
  • Matthew Stainton, Master Foundry-man
  • and to all the other men employed in the Colliery 

A new partner provides fresh vigour

However, things did not run smoothly and by the summer of 1823, the Hetton Coal Company was in deep financial trouble. The partners disagreed - Richard Scruton, a Durham lawyer wanted to oust Mowbray as head of the company, but Mowbray's son-in-law, the Honorable Archibald Cochrane defended him and recruited George Baker of Elemore Hall as a new partner.

Baker facilitated the Hetton Coal Company joining the Limitation of the Vend, the cartel that controlled the North East coal trade. Buddle reported to Londonderry that Baker seemed 'to have given fresh vigour to the concern'. The liaison ultimately resulted in an investment in two new colliery shafts at Elemore and Eppleton and made the Hetton Coal Company the largest producer in the North East in the 1830s.

Nicholas Wood and William Coulson

There were major changes to the Hetton Coal Company partnership and management in the late 1820s and up to Mowbray's death in 1840. Notable pioneering mining engineers were Nicholas Wood (1795-1865), who had worked with George Stephenson and had many colliery interests, also William Coulson (1791-1865).

Portrait of Nicholas Wood, 1860s (NCB 2/19(14)) - © Durham County Record Office
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Portrait of Nicholas Wood, 1860s (NCB 2/19(14)).

Wood became the Managing Partner in 1844 and was the first President of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.

William Coulson had worked for George Jowsey, master sinker at Hetton in the 1820s and is credited with reducing flooding through the permeable limestone with 'wedging cribs'. Over the next 40 years he sank many colliery shafts, in the UK, Germany, Austria and Belgium. Before 1850 Coulson sank 13 shafts through the limestone in East Durham.

Next - The workforce

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