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An impressive ruin, remote and mostly hidden by trees, still looking down on the water it was built to deal with over 200 years ago.
The south side of Colne’s south valley had been mined for centuries by this time and, out of a drift mine head, just a short way from the engine, down the hill by Waterside Bridge, tons of coal for the town’s mills came from deep inside the hillside.
The steam engine would have been an atmospheric or Newcomen engine of the same type as this one at the Black Country Living Museum:
Protected from the elements in the sturdy stone structure, the coal-fired boiler helped work the beam up and down on a pivot. One end of the beam protruded from an opening near the top and its pumping action was used to draw water up from the mine workings below so that they could be dug more easily and extensively.
Looking out from inside, huge pieces of worked masonry at ground level: what’s left of floor that supported the engine:
Looking in from the front:
The opening to the shaft up which the water was drawn is still visible:
Nearby are the remains of a small building – a workshop or store perhaps – and the steam has been covered in places, to allow access to the engine house across it (for coal supplies?) and maybe to better channel away the water brought up from below:
Colne first became part of the passenger rail network when the final section of the Leeds and Bradford Extension railway was opened on 2 Oct 1848. The following year, on 1 Feb, this was met end-to-end by the Blackburn, Burnley, Accrington and Colne Extension Railway, and Colne Station was opened.
There was already another railway in town though.
Railway Street is nowhere near the Colne’s train station or any existing railway line. This has not always been the case, but it was no ordinary station or line which gave the street its name. In January 1836, Ingham Walton, a surveyor from Barrowford, received a letter which talked of the intention of the trustees and executors of John Hargreaves to build a railway, “already staked out“, from Colne Waterside to the town of Colne to transport coal from the drift mouth.
The “drift mouth” was the entrance to Foxclough Colliery on the south side of Colne Water, a little to the east of Waterside Bridge. The railway, or “Tram Road”, can be seen on the 1845 6 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey of Colne.
The five feet to a mile Ordnance Survey map of 1851 shows it and the colliery it came from in wonderful detail. I wonder how far the tramroad went into the hillside? The engine house would have contained a steam engine – well placed for fuel – but it is not clear from the map what it was there for. Was it pumping water from the mine into the river? Or, was it hauling hewn coal from inside the hill?
The tracks crossed the river and headed up towards town until the steepness of the hillside meant a tunnel was necessary.
It was some undertaking; not only did the river have to be crossed, but some smaller watercourses and several lanes or tracks too. How all this was achieved? What was the bridge over the river made of? How much and how long did it take to build? Did the tramroad go under or over the lanes, and channels?
The more you look at the map, the more complex the arrangement appears. In the section shown below for example, the initial two tracks seem to become part of a wider system, with two additional tracks running in parallel and extensions right – to the skin house (tannery) – and its boiler – and left, or are these simply walkways or walls ? Their angular nature suggests this as more likely. The absence of a key to the map (I’ve not been able to find one) makes it difficult to interpret.
The coal ended its short journey across the valley in a yard next to one of the town’s increasing number of mills.
Perhaps the most intriguing question is how the process of getting coal from one end of the tram road to the other was powered. Presumably, prior to the building of the tramway, coal was drawn up to town in carts by horses. Was horse power replaced by steam power when the tramway was completed? The engine house at the drift mouth does have the appearance of being an integral part of the tramroad but, if a steam engine was used to haul the coal trucks from mine to town, it would have been better placed at the higher end of the system.
I suspect that the steam engine was pre-existing and used for pumping water from the mine (there was certainly one further up the hillside, doing this job from at least 1805), the tramroad a separate development, giving the horses and their loads a much more straightforward journey into town.
Notes: letter to Ingham Walton – Lancashire Archives ref DDSP 79/3/1/10/7; 1851 map, Colne Library
Here are a selection of entries from the Christ Church School logbook 1871-1901, including death, bad weather, a mother kicking up a stink, punishments, treats, epidemics and bunking off to see the circus.
21 Dec 1871 – A treat of spice, nuts and oranges was given to the children this afternoon by Mr Hodgson
28 Jun 1872 – Many of the children away in the Hay field
29 Jul 1872 – Many of the children away This morning chiefly half-timers because the mill was stopped.
30 Aug 1872 – Punished Benjamin Eastwood for absenting himself from school, his mother brought him to school on Thursday morning and wished him to be punished.
6 Sep 1872 – Albert & Mary Heap returned to school this week having had to stay at home to work
16 Sep 1872 – Many of the children absent on Thursday afternoon. gone to Colne to see a Circus come in. Punished those that went by keeping them in school working during the playtime.
19 Dec 1872 – Many children away on Tuesday morning there having been a great fall of snow during the night.
18 Nov 1875 – The attendance is much lower this week on account of many children being sick. Martha A Hartley is dead.
31 Aug 1877 – Gave a Holiday on Monday next for Barrowford Rush-Bearing
8 Mar 1878 – Many scholars are in the measles and whooping cough.
5 Mar 1880 – A school at Winewall was opened on Monday and about 40 scholars have gone there. This has brought the average attendance very much down
14 May 1880 – ….about 17 more scholars have left Winewall School
5 Aug 1881 – Gave a half holiday on Thursday afternoon when the children had bun and tea etc. They also played on Mr Aykroyd’s field till 8.30pm
10 Mar 1881 – The average [attendance] is the highest this week that we have had for more than 12 months, it being 79.4
21 May 1883 – I hereby promise a 2/6 reward to any scholar who shall complete 445 attendances in this school…J Bradshaw [master]
21 Mar 1884 – Infants had an object lesson on Thursday (Crockodile) [sic]
9 Sep 1887 -Ellen A Alston has left for full time at mill
4 Nov 1881 -The Children’s Concert took place on Monday when the school was filled with parents and friends.
27 Apr 1888 – Mr J Tillotson visited the school on Thursday and Friday and brought John Blaycock with him who had been playing truant
22 Oct 1888 – Gave a holiday on Friday because the Plumbers were putting Gas Fittings in school
4 Oct 1889 – On Tuesday morning Mr Addison gave a Temperance Lecture to the Children
9 May 1890 – Ethel M Hudson died last Sunday, she was at school on Friday afternoon
8 May 1892 – Minnie, Margaret, John W and Ann E Marshall were expelled on Thursday by Mr Austen because their mother kicked up a row and used profane language in the school
7 Jul 1893 – Gave a holiday for the Duke of York’s marriage
13 Jul 1894 – Messrs Hawley commenced their work on Monday with respect to the extension of the school
15 Nov 1894 – Broke up on Thursday for a fortnight on account of the alterations of the school. Slaters came today.
18 Jan 1895 – Gave a holiday on Friday because of the plasterer taking possession of the school of his account
27 Nov 1897 – Miss Potter ceased teaching on Friday the 27th. She was about to be married. [women were not allowed to carry on teaching once married]…..school closed 6 weeks for measles
21 Oct 1898 – Many more children are away with scarlet fever this week
17 Nov 1899 – The Medical Officer of Health has closed the school owing to Epidemic of Measles until Monday 11th December. Medical Officer further closes the schools – to reopen on Jan 8 1900
12 Jun 1900 – This afternoon there was a very severe thunderstorm commencing just after 3 o’ clock and continuing for about half an hour. Work was suspended as many of the children were terrified and the assistant mistresses as well.
1 Aug 1900 – Visiting Day. Over thirty parents visited school this afternoon. The needlework was exhibited and the greater part of it sold. The children performed their musical drill.
24 Sep 1900 – The school was visited this morning by a lady teacher from Canada (Ontario) She spent some time observing the work of the school.
15 Dec 1900 – Children’s concert. A rough night rather interfered with the success of the concert financially. However it is hoped that about £7 will be cleared, which will be spent on apparatus and pictures.
22 Jan 1901 – Death of Queen Victoria 6.45 pm
30 Jan 1901 – Proclamation of King Edward VIII’s accession in Colne. All scholars in town assembled in Park School Yard at 12.45 to hear Proclamation read by His Worship The Mayor, Alderman Foulds Esq, JP. All schools in Colne have half-holiday.
Source: Christ Church School Colne log book (Lancashire Archives reference SMCO 11/1)