This is a partial glossary of coal mining terminology commonly used in the
coalfields of the United Kingdom. Some words were in use throughout the coalfields, some are historic and some are local to the different British coalfields.
The agent was the senior colliery manager: the term "
viewer", "captain" or "steward" also appeared in older regional terminology. Where the mine owner provided the capital and sank the shafts, the agent organised the development of the colliery, determined mining methods, advised the owner on the mine's commercial management and labour policy, and in later years was generally a trained mining engineer. In the management hierarchy the agent was superior to the colliery manager and under-manager, who had day to day operational responsibility. An agent responsible for several collieries and managers was termed a "general manager".
A roadway used for ventilation.
Bank, pit bank or pit brow
The bank, pit bank or pit brow is the area at the top of the shaft.
Banksman or banker
A banksman, banker, hillman or browman works at the pit bank to dispatch the coals, and organise the workforce. He is in charge of loading or unloading the cage, drawing full tubs from the cages and replacing them with empty ones. The counterpart role at pit bottom is the onsetter.
A bell, bell stone or pan was a loose, roughly bell-shaped stone in the mine roof, liable to fall without warning: the cause of many coalmine fatalities. Bells were usually found in
shale, but rarely in
A bell pit was a type of coal mine in which coal found close to the surface was extracted by sinking a shaft and removing coal from around it until the roof became unstable. It was then abandoned and left to subside.
A term used in various areas to refer to
shale, mudstone, clay or sandstone overlying the seam.
Bituminous coal is a type of coal found in the most coalfields. It is laid down in seams and varies in constituency and quality. It was used to produce
town gas or
coke, raise steam in industrial boilers or locomotives, to fuel power stations or for domestic heating.
Brattice, strong canvas sheeting coated in tar to make it air-tight, is used to make partitions to deflect air into particular areas of a colliery or divide a shaft to improve ventilation and dilute flammable or noxious gases.
A bump, pounce, thump or goff was a sudden movement in the strata while underground and occasionally gave warning of an imminent
outburst. They were often preceded by a characteristic noise, also in some areas called a bump. Trainee miners often found bumps a frightening experience.
A butterfly is a safety link or detaching hook above the cage attached to the winding rope to prevent the cage from being over wound. It was invented by
A miner's name for a working partner (South Wales) or for their opposite number on another shift (N. England) but also in earlier times an alternative name for a charter master. The "butty system" was the contracting system used by charter masters.
The cage is the iron framework in which men and coal tubs are wound up and down the shaft. It could have one or more decks to increase its capacity.
General term for a supervisory worker.
A charter master, butty or contractor was in the 19th century and earlier a man who contracted with a pit owner to work a colliery seam for a tonnage price, while arranging and paying for labour himself. While this labour system gradually fell into disuse except in small collieries, until nationalisation the term "charter master" was in a few areas still sometimes used to refer to the supervisory official usually called a deputy.
A chock was originally a piece of timber used to support the face. In later years hydraulic chocks were used.
In its most restricted sense, a collier is a worker who "gets" the coal, i.e. a
hewer or coal getter.
Contraband was material banned from being taken down the mine, generally for safety reasons, such as matches and cigarettes. Miners were regularly checked for contraband.
Workings and roadways at a level below the pit bottom.
overman", deputy, fireman (North Wales and parts of Lancashire) or examiner (South Wales) was an underground official who had supervision of a district and the men working in it. Deputies were designated as the competent person directly responsible for the safety of their district and inspection of its roadways. The role developed as an amalgamation of several earlier roles: in early mining, deputies were responsible for timbering, while a "fireman" was originally responsible for testing for
firedamp: an "examiner" was originally the supervisor on a non coal turning shift, earning less pay than a deputy. Deputies were promoted from amongst experienced miners: from 1911, the role required certification of competence, but gradually changed so that supervision of production was added to safety responsibilities. Deputies carried a yardstick, originally a measuring stick but later adapted to raise a safety lamp to test for gas, and later still to mount a gas testing bulb. Deputies like other officials also carried a relightable version of the standard safety lamp.
Declivity of the strata. A heading or roadway following the dip of the strata was called a "dip road" or (in the North and Scotland) a "dook".
A district is a specific, usually named area of the coalface where particular seams are worked.
A doggy, also known as a corporal in the Midlands, was an underground supervisor with responsibility for the haulage men; the role was similar to that of the deputy at the face, and later sometimes included the responsibility of the deputy to test for gas.
Downcast, downcast shaft
The downcast is the shaft by which fresh air descends into the mine. After a disaster at
Hartley Colliery in 1862, legislation decreed that collieries should have two means of entering the coal workings. In effect this meant two shafts which aided ventilation.
A fault, when approached from the higher side.
A drawer, putter (Northumberland), hurrier (Yorkshire), or waggoner is a person, usually a boy or young man who pushes tubs of coal from the coal face to the pit eye. Before 1842 women did this type of work in some coalfields.
A drift is an underground road between seams; to be distinguished from
The shaft where the pumping engine was located was often termed the "engine pit"; the second shaft sunk, during development, was termed the "bye pit". In practice the bye pit usually served as the upcast or air shaft.
In traditional terminology a mine engineer was a senior person responsible for all boilers and machinery and for supervision of the enginewrights. In Scotland an "engineer" referred to a surveyor.
An engineman drove a haulage engine; a winding engineman or winder drove the winding engine.
Eye or pit-eye
The eye or pit-eye is the area at the bottom of the shaft.
Face or coal face
The coal face is the place where coal is cut from the coal seam either manually by hewers or mechanically by machine.
Gannister is siliceus fireclay which can be used to make firebricks.
A garland was a water channel or gutter in the lining of a mine shaft.
A gate is a tunnel serving the coal face, the maingate is where fresh air enters and the tailgate is where spent air exits.
Goaf, gove or gob
The goaf, gove, gob, shut or waste is the void from which all the coal in a seam has been extracted and where the roof is allowed to collapse in a controlled manner.The term possibly comes from
Welsh languageogof, gof, "cave".
A hurrier (Yorkshire), putter (Northumberland), waggoner or drawer (Lancashire) was the historic local term for the person who brought empty coal tubs up to the coal face and took loaded tubs to the pit bottom.
Inbye means going away from the pit shaft towards the coal face (Opposite of outbye).
An inset is an opening part way down a shaft giving access to intermediate levels of a mine.
An intake airway is one along which fresh air travels into the mine.
A jenkin is a narrow excavation driven through a pillar of coal.
Jud, or judd (Derbyshire, North-East), is a depth of coal in the face that will fall after being undercut: a coal face ready for taking down. "Web", "fall", and other terms were used elsewhere.
A longwall face is a coal face of considerable length between the gates from which the coal is removed.
The main gate is the intake airway and the conveyor belt road to move coal from the face to the shaft.
Man winding: the process of using the cage to transport workers up or down the shaft. Also referred to as manriding, though the latter also referred to transport elsewhere in the pit. "Man winding speed" was usually set lower than mineral winding speed.
A colliery manager was appointed by the owner or agent and had overall charge of coal production and labour policy. Managers required certification following the 1872 Mines Act: in practice the duties of the manager were very varied and might extend to all parts of the business. The manager was responsible for observance of the regulations under the
Coal Mines Act 1911 and was required to make a daily personal supervision of the mine. They were assisted by one or more undermanagers and by the overmen, who largely assumed the face-to-face aspects of labour management. In the case of smaller mines, the regulations allowed the owner or agent to appoint themselves as manager.
The master shifter supervised gangs of shifters (labourers), repairers and stonemen carrying out work during the night repairing shift.
The overman or (in a few areas) overlooker, bailiff or gaffer was the foreman or senior underground official of a pit, immediately subordinate to the manager and under-managers. They were themselves superior to the deputies and had competence to run the whole of the underground workings in the management's absence. The overman was responsible for production or output, although after mechanisation elements of this role began to be assumed by the deputies. There was generally one overman for each shift.
The owner or coal owner, also called the lessee or coal master, held the lease to work minerals. They provided the capital and sank the shafts, and in some cases might act as a managing director. However except in small mines, mine development, pricing, buying materials and other technical and commercial considerations were the responsibility of the agent or viewer.
Loose stone built up to support the roof.
A pass-bye or passbye was a siding for coal tubs.
A pillar is a section of unworked coal supporting the roof. Unworked pillars of coal are left to prevent subsidence to surface features. The shaft pillar is left to prevent damage to the shafts from the workings.
Strictly refers to a shaft, though also used to refer to a colliery more generally.
Pit brow (pit broo) lasses were women who worked at the coal screens on the pit top up to the mid-1960s, mainly in the
Lancashire and Cumberland coalfields.
While the term "pitman" is sometimes used to refer to any underground worker, it was more specifically used, particularly under the
NCB, to refer to a worker who inspected and repaired the shafts. The terms "shaftman", "shanker" and "shaft hand" were also regionally used. Amongst other duties the pitman could be expected to descend the shaft on top of the cage, visually checking for problems.
Props or pit props are timber or hydraulic supports holding up the roof.
A short post, especially one used for supporting the roof in a coal mine.
A putter (Northumberland), hurrier (Yorkshire), waggoner or drawer (Lancashire) was the local term for the person who brought empty coal tubs up to the coal face and took loaded tubs to the pit bottom.
A repairer carries out work on roads, roofs, etc; in Wales a repairer was a timberman.
A member of the colliery
rescue team, trained in first aid and to work using a respirator. Rescue men could be volunteers or (after the
Coal Mines Act 1911) members of an area's permanent Rescue Brigade.
A return is a roadway along which foul air travels from the face on its way out of the mine.
Rippers are men who remove the rock above the coal seam and set rings (arches) to raise the height of the gate or road as the coal face advances.
Term for the pit head, where coal was sorted from dirt before washing.
A shaft is a vertical or near-vertical tunnel that gives access to a coal mine accommodating the cage and providing ventilation.
A shotfirer is a colliery underofficial qualified to detonate shots or explosive charges. Becoming a shotfirer was often a step towards becoming a deputy: whether deputies should also be permitted to detonate shots in addition to their other duties was a matter of some debate during the 20th century.