A look at what used to be in and under what is now an area of houses and shops.
This story was created by people interested in Bristol’s mining history in and around the Bedminster area. It was led by Aikaterini Gegisian, Paddy Uglow and Katie White and was supported by Bristol’s Museums, Galleries & Archives.
First voice: There had always been a large mining community within the Bristol area and open-cast mining was recorded as early as 1670. There was at least a dozen mines in Bedminster; some men spent their whole working life underground and it was quite common for sons (and sometimes daughters) to follow in their fathers’ footsteps.
Second voice: Winterstoke ran that way – Winterstoke Road and out, out through what was the Somerset coal field. And of course you’ve got the rest of this coal field goes on from I think it starts in Kingswood, goes through Bristol, comes through this part of Bristol (Bedminster) and out down through Temple Cloud, Radstock, Midsomer Norton.
Third voice: Those shafts were sunk in South Liberty Lane. The Smythes made a whole lot of money at Bedminster, with easy access to the docks and the demand for coal increasing.
By the 1820s, there were over a dozen coal pits in the Bedminster area. Thy were scattered throughout the area.
At the other end of Bedminster was the Argus pit. Dean Lane pit is where the Dame Emily playground is now.
First voice: Working conditions were dark, dirty and dangerous. After going down the mine in a wooden cage, they often had to walk a long way too get to the coal face, carrying their lamps or candle and their tools.
Some miners hung their lamps on a strap round their necks, others carried them in their teeth.
The appalling cramped conditions meant men were working in 11 inch spaces, often naked or semi-naked, with the fear of gas explosions or flooding.
Haulers dug the coal from the coal face and filled the drams. Men crawled through the tunnels with a rope round their waists and a heavy chain between their legs, pulling the drams behind them, which were taken to the area where the ponies were assembled, then on to the pit bottom.
The miners were paid for the coal they cut. If there was a rock fall, they often spent half day shovelling the slack, but they were not paid anything for that.
Some miners were working with ponies, and they had the same pony all the time. The ponies were fed and stabled underground and were not allowed to come up unless there was a strike or an accident.
Many children and women worked in the pits ‘cause they were cheap to employ. Thankfully in the 1840s the awful conditions were reported upon and eventually an Act of Parliament was passed forbidding women, girls and boys below the age of 10 from working below ground.
There was a high mortality rate among the children due to the awful conditions. Added to this, the terrible mine disasters and various explosions. There was a large explosion at the Dean Lane pit, when eight men, aged between 15 and 35 years were killed.
Another ten men, including two 15 year olds were injured, two of which died later.
The injured had been taken to the general hospital by horse and cart; each pit had their own rescue team, and they were responsible for bringing the dead and injured to the surface.
In spite of extensive injuries, the mining companies were not able to make the pits safe and the old Victorian mines became more uneconomical to work so they were closed.
Second voice: Dean Lane Park and it belong to the Smythe family, and the Smythe Family gave that ground to Bristol Council for the benefit of the people of Bristol as an open space.
First voice: A memorial bandstand stood on the site of the Dean Lane pit shaft, now known as Dame Emily Park. This has been replaced with a skateboard area, and an adventure playground for the children.
Bandstand, miner, mpa, miners memories created by CLASS, used under copyright licence.
Smythes image created by Voyages in Time, www.zip.com.au, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence.
Archive material created by Radstock Mining Museum, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence.
1895 pit picture created by Anton Bantock, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence.