Profits from coal mining paid for Wollaton Hall and Deer Park, and the agricultural buildings which house Nottingham Industrial Museum. Mining in Nottinghamshire began in the 15th century in and around Wollaton, and later at Strelley.
The Willoughby family of Wollaton 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. He partly financed the build by selling coal to Lincolnshire in return for Ancaster limestone. He used the limestone to build the hall. Initially, the mines were so profitable they created disagreements between the families. However, the Strelley mines proved unsuccessful, and by 1620 they mortgaged them to London merchants.
Early mines were shallow, and horse-powered Gin Wheels (also known as a ‘whim-gin’) brought the coal to the surface. We are proud to have an example from 1844 which was originally erected at Langton, before being moved to Pinxton Colliery. It is one of only a handful remaining today and we have plans to refurbish it. The turning wheel pulled on a rope-drum which heaved the heavy coal up and out of the ground on sledges or tubs.
Later, coal mined locally fuelled the wider Industrial Revolution, feeding the boilers that powered the steam engines, like those found in our museum. Gin Wheels like the one which dominates the museum’s outside yard hauled up coal from the early shallow mines. Wollaton Colliery remained working until 1965, ending 400 years of coal mining.
Before the railways and canals, horses carried coal to the River Trent for shipping. Adjacent to our Gin Wheel we have a coal truck in the livery of the Clifton Colliery, a mine which provided most of the coal for the Wilford Power Station which sat on land now home to the Riverside Retail Park.
Although in the Clifton livery, we don’t know who owned the wagon before private wagon pooling in 1940 and the nationalisation of the railways and collieries in 1947/48.
The owners of steam engines and steamrollers travelled the country selling their power. Unlike today’s long-term commuters, these labourers took their families on the road.
We have a recently restored a ‘Living Van’ in our yard and plan to continue its restoration to show you how these families lived on the road. Can you imagine five grown men living in this one small room?
Outside the Steam Hall, the original Piggeries of Wollaton Hall look over our Demonstration Yard, and house several ‘barn’ engines which work on our Live Action Working Days. These small engines drove pumps and agricultural machinery and we have examples from a range of manufacturers. Also on display are a number of items reflecting the social history of Nottingham, such as Poor Law Boundary Markers and dyers cauldrons.
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.