words by Sandra Noon
Haunchwood colliery formed part of a chain of collieries that extracted coal from the Warwickshire coal seam, there were several in the local area such as Daw Mill and Baddesley.
The colliery was in two parts, the original shaft was sunk just of Whittleford road in Stockingford next to Haunchwood Brick and Tile Company. The seam was worked towards Galley Common were in 1891/2 a further two shafts were sunk.
The Hauchwood Nowell’s Company owned the colliery along with the brick and tile works. The managing director was Sir Alfred Hickman. The mine workings at Galley Common were known as the Tunnel Pit because of its location close to the railway tunnel. It must have been dangerous for the miners each time an express train went passed because of the vibration caused. The first coal was extracted in 1892, however full scale extraction wasn’t evident till 1894, at that time there were 817 men working underground and the mine became one of Warwickshire’s largest collieries. A W Nott was the first manager, and his under manager was W Cowburn.
On the 23rd of December 1911 tragedy struck the Tunnel Pit. As the men were working their last shift before the Christmas break a fire broke out in the newly opened cross-measures heading Junction, the miners who were starting to enjoy their well earned break were called back to help fight the fire, all through the night, but they were unable to contain the fire, the part of the coal seam became fuel for the fire. As a result Tunnel pit was closed a 1,012 miners were out of work. This was devastating for the families some had to leave their homes and take up residence in the workhouse, and children were seen begging on the streets. In 1912 an appeal for money to be released from the Baddesley disaster fund was denied. Work began to clear the mine of gasses and repairs were carried out. F S Hanson was appointed as the new manager and the mine was reopened. 1,254 men were working underground and 408 on the surface within a few months of re-opening, this increased to 1,468 underground and 432 on the surface by 1920.
The Tunnel Pit remained open till the 1970’s when the mining industry was devastated and all but one mine, Daw Mill, now remains in the area. In the 1970’s Haunchwood Colliery was bulldozed to make way for park and an housing estate, many of the residents of Galley Common now commute to jobs as far as London.
This area used to be thriving with local jobs such as farming, silk ribbon weaving, brick and tile making as well as coal mining, now there is very little evidence left to show what it was like.