Profits from coal paid for Wollaton Hall, the Deer Park, and the agricultural buildings which now house Nottingham Industrial Museum. Mining in Nottinghamshire began towards the end of the 15th century in and around Wollaton and later at Strelley. Coal fuelled the Industrial Revolution, feeding the boilers that powered the steam engines like those in our museum. Gin Wheels like the one which dominates the museum’s yard would have been used to haul up coal from the early shallow mines. Wollaton Colliery remained working until 1965 ending 400 years of coal mining.
The Willoughby family of Wollaton owned the land and developed coal mines from the 1540s. Around the same time, the Strelley family started mining on their nearby manor. Sir Francis Willoughby (1547–1596) was soon rich enough to build Wollaton Hall, which was financed partly by selling coal to Lincolnshire in return for the Ancaster limestone used for building the hall. The mines were sufficiently profitable to create disagreements between the families. However, the Strelley mines were unsuccessful, and by 1620 they had mortgaged them to London merchants.
Initially, the mines were shallow, and the coal would have been brought to the surface using horse-powered Gin Wheels. An example is found in our museum and is one of only a handful remaining today. The rope-drum helped get the heavy coal up and out of the ground using sledges or tubs that were placed into the ‘cage’ for hauling up.
Before the railways and canals, horses would have carried coal to the River Trent to be shipped. Nearby is a coal truck from Clifton Colliery. This mine provided most of the coal for the nearby Wilford Power Station which sat on the land that is now home to the Riverside Retail Park.
Also in the yard is a recently restored ‘living van’. Towed behind steam engines and steam rollers they provided accommodation for labourers and their families working on farms or road works.
There are several tractors which can be seen working during our steaming days – the last Sunday of each month. One is the Marshall Series 2 built by Marshall, Sons & Co. in the Britannia Iron Works, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.
Outside the engine house is a yard which is home to several ‘barn’ engines used to drive pumps and agricultural machinery. There are examples from a range of manufacturers, including Wolseley, Ruston and Lister.
There are many more exhibits, and The Gin Yard has many stories to tell. Our guides can help bring the exhibits to life. Perhaps you can help us? We are always looking for volunteers or your knowledge about our collection.