Neston and its Collieries
The Neston Coalfield first disturbed the peaceful fields of Ness over two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1759. It was an eastward extension of the North Flintshire Coalfields across the Dee, and much of the coal was hewn from tunnels that ran out under the river.
Sir John Massey Stanley, of the rich and influential Stanley family, lord of the Manor of Ness sunk the first shaft, but in the following decades complex issues of land ownership emerged, involving Stanley, the Earl of Shrewsbury who held 3/5 of Little Neston, and the Cottingham family, who held the other 2/5.
Coastal vessels shipped the coal to North Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man, and a prominent landmark in Little Neston is the line of huge sandstone blocks near to the Harp, the remains of Denhall Quay. The mines flourished throughout the 1770s but a period of recession followed towards the end of the century, and into the next, when Stanley’s records describe the colliery as being ‘a losing concern’.
Disputes over land boundaries, and consequent disputes over royalties for the coal were especially a problem when it came to holdings under the estuary, and Thomas Cottingham eventually brought an action against Sir Thomas Stanley after an explosion in one of his tunnels in 1821; detailed reports of the machinations involved appeared in the newspapers of the day.
By the middle years of the nineteenth century, after nearly a hundred years, mining was abandoned, as the Denhall gutter was silting up, road transport was difficult, and the local market was insufficient.
But in 1874 a new shaft was sunk and another mining enterprise was opened in Little Neston, this time with a railway, the ‘Mineral Line’ for transport. After a few years, serious flooding, then industrial action led to voluntary liquidation and another closure. At this point the first Wirral Colliery Company was established, and further companies struggled on until 1927 when the colliery closed for the last time.
Acknowledgements to Williamson Art Gallery for the image at the top of the page.