Content: The History of Mining in the Cessnock Area

The History of Mining in the Cessnock Area

Mining played a significant role in the development of the Cessnock and its surrounding townships. Relics of earmining can be seen throughout the area.

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Mining commenced in this area 1862 close to the township of Greta. By 1886 the whole area had been mapped by an engineer of the time to expand into more mining. Anvil Creek Colliery which later became Greta Colliery was the first mine in the area. 


Pelaw Main Colliery 

This Pit was commenced by a group of West Maitland Coal Mining entrepeneurs. In 1891 the began driving prospecting tunnels which a process that was suspended in 1892. Coal was officially produced in 1901 but it was not until 1902 was the first train dispatched from Pelaw Main. Pelaw Main Colliery used a pillar bord system of mining throughout its pit. 

This mine was closed on the 17th of Febuary 1961. 

Fun Fact: 639 Miners electric safety lamps were in use in 1927 in Pelaw Main Pit 


Stanford Merthyr Colliery 

Tunnels were first driven for this Colliery in 1891. This process was actually ceased until a joint offer was made and accepted. Operations officially commenced in 1901. This pit also used the Pillar and Bord system of mining. This process was largely kept until the 1950s. 

This mine later renamed Stanford Merthyr Colliery No.1 was closed on the 24th May 1957. 

Fun Fact: in the early days of this mine no electrical miners lights were used. These were kerosene burning lamps attached to the miners helemets. 


Richmond Main Colliery 

Following information that was given by TW Edgeworth David a company was formed called the Richmond Vale Company. This company sunk some bore holes in 1888 and in 1890 they sunk their first shaft. Having run into finacial difficulties John Brown bought this company and then decided to work his other coal mines first and left Richmond Vale on the back burner for a number of years. In 1911 this production was restarted full steam ahead. This mine used the pillar and bord system of mining. 

This Coal mine ceased production in 1967 and the powerhouse closed in 1976. 

Fun Fact: At one time there was as many as 200 horses down in this mine!


Aberdare Central Colliery 

The Shaft sinking for this mine was begun in October of 1914. In 1915 a small electricity station was built on the site and in 1917 the miners had reached the coal seam. Like most mines this mine used a pillar and bord system for much of its operation. The original Poppett Head of Shaft B is still preserved and able to be viewed in the park in the Township of Kitchener. 

This mine ceased production in November of 1961. 

Fun Fact: Pit Horses were considered by the miners of the time to be of great importance. In the fire of 1943 many miners risked their lives to save the pit horse which was a great feat as these horses were spooked and hard to manage. Of the 91 pit horses in use at the time the miners managed to go back in and save 81! 


Abermain No. 1 

Mr Isacc Chapman and hsi company began mining operations in 1903 and they strck the seam quite quickly. The first load of coal out of this mine was later in that year. In 1904 a small electrical plant was built on the site to power the mine. Like all other early mines this mine used the Pillar and bord system of mining. 

This mine closed in 1960 in the 1970's all the left over buildings were completely demolished. Now all that marks the mine site is a small placard. 

Fun Fact: for almost a year this mine operated without the use of any coal wagons to bring the coal to the surface it used pit horses instead! 


Pelton Colliery 

This mine was started by the Newcastle- Wallsend Coal Company on the 15th April in 1916. This mine struck the seam realatively quickly and began carring coal out of the mine. Pelton Coal mine is still in operation today although its methods of mining have changed from the orginal Pillar and bord that it used when it was first opened. 

Fun Fact: Whilst most of the buildings that were used in the orginal mine have been demolished the stables and loft houses have been preserved as a kind of memorial to the Pit horse and men that served in this mine. 


Rothbury Colliery 

In 1908 bore holes were sunk around the site of the Rothbury Colliery to prove the exsistence of coal on the site. In October of 1910 work on the site was officially commenced and in 1912 ancilliary activities such as the dam and the above ground facilities were commenced. This mine although very steep in some places used a bord and pillar method of mining. 

Perhaps the reason the Rothbury is still quite well known is the tragedy that struck down one innocent and wounded many more this would become known as the Rothbury Riot. This is still one of Australias most violent indistrial actions. A memorial to this incident can be seen in the town of North Rothbury today. 

Fun Fact: In 1912 mining families could buy a parcel of land to build a house at a cost of just 66.00 dollars! 


Greta Colliery 

Greta Colliery was commenced in November 1873 it was then known as The Greta Coal and Shale Company. The First entry was in 1874 according the Singleton Argus report of the time. This mine used the orginal Pillar and Bord system to work the mine. On Christmas Day in 1884 a fire broke out in this mine and badly damaged the entry way. A New shaft had to be sunk to replace the entry of this mine as it was so badly damaged. 

This mine ceased operations in 1904. Interestingly the brick shell of the C shaft airway still stands. 

Fun Fact: Pit Horses were used very early on in this mine. There was a stables underground and the horses were brought in on slings and left in the mine permanently. In 1888 there were 50 pit horses in this mine 


Aberdare South Colliery 

This mine commenced operations in the 4th of Febuary in 1908 but it actually ceased operations in 1910. The cause of this is not actually known. This mine was purchased by the Caledonian Collieries Limited in 1913. Like most mines of the era this mine used a Pillar and Board System of mining. Interestingly this mine needed additonal timber known as pit props to hold the roof up due to the stress and strain. 

This mine ceased operations on the 11 November in 1927, but wasnt permanently sealed until the 1960's.

Fun Fact: Much of the orginal mining equipment was sold overseas. Intially to the Soviet Union and the Poppett Head Wheels sold to New Zealand in the 60's 


Tradgedy has always played a role in early mining. It was a hazardous environment to work in with little light, poor ventilation and mine subsidence massive issues for both workers and pit horses, but tragedies often led to upgrades in tecniques, safety procedures and equipment. There are several monuments in the area marking and remembering some of the major tradgedies these iclude the monument for the Bellbird mine Tradgedy and the Rothbury Riot Memorial. 


Whilst most of these mines have ceased production in the late 1960's the towns of Cessnock and surrounds are heavily influenced by the mining in the area if you look down the streets in our area you can still see the miners cottages, large heritage pubs that serviced the pits, the old buildings of the CBD and the remains of the South Maitland Railway corridor. 


You can also still see the relics of the old mines in some of our heritage parks and nature walks this includes the Aberdare Central Colliery Shaft B Poppet Head which now is in the township of Kitchener and the above pit buildings of the Aberdare South Colliery in Werekata Nature Corridor. 


Courtesy of Newcastle University Cultural Collections