Registered Charity Number: 1037414

Whaley Bridge Minewater Energy Preliminary Background Paper

March 7th, 2020 in featured by Noreen Shears


One of the Trustees of Clean Rivers Trust lives in Whaley Bridge, he is concerned that the Town’s primary school is shutting its swimming pool due to the cost of heating the water. The Trust has had a long history of championing the use of water from abandoned mines as a source of long term sustainable zero carbon renewable heat.

This short examination starts to consider the possible feasibility of available water and heat at or close to the school.

Whaley Bridge Primary School.

The site illustrated is that of the Waterloo Colliery also known as Gisbourne’s after one of the managers, it was closely linked into the workings of Wharf Colliery which in reality was just an offshoot. Just to the North was Railway Pit. Those workings are linked together.


The site is shown on maps published by the BGS to be underlain by solid strata of the

Carboniferous Pennine Lower Coal Measures. No natural drift deposits are shown in the area.

The Lower Coal Measures comprise predominantly mudstones and sandstones with some coal

seams. The strata of the area dips gently to the east. The outcrop of Big Smut coal is known to be to the west of the school site and would therefore be expected to be present below the site area at very shallow depth.


The coal produced from the four main seams was laid down in thin seams, these were worked from a small number of collieries. The workings between the various collieries were, it would appear from mine plans to be interlinked on several horizons.


Historical hydrogeological comments on the conditions in the mines indicate that the workings were very wet and pumped mine drainage was noted to have entered the River Goyt which ran red with ochre from the 1840s at least (note in BGS borehole log entry, 1880s). The working of coal all but ceased in the area prior to the 1st World War.




Coal Seam Outcrops.


The outcrops of the four coal seams are well illustrated in the plan above. It also demonstrates that there were mine workings in place prior to the reservoir development in 1837. (The owners of the reservoir purchased the mineral rights from their owners in the 1840/50s as it was noted that the dam was leaking into the mines being operated in the town. Such a history has not apparently been considered in relation to the dams near failure in 2019.)


The following plan demonstrates the known workings beneath Whaley Bridge as noted by the Coal Authority. Prior to 1876 mines often did not maintain or retain plans of worked areas of coal. After that date such plans were mandatory and on abandonment were lodged with the relevant government department. The Coal Authority now being the custodians of this knowledge.

Coal Workings Underground.

The plan above shows the positioning of mine entries, either shafts or drifts. The marking of some entries in what is now inundated land gives credence to concerns for the reservoir dam. These mine entries would have been drifts following the coal seam from the outcrop. They were sunk in the 17th 18th or early 19th centuries. They would initially gone down as far as the groundwater level would allow and then pumping or other drainage system such as soughs would have been employed to allow continuing coal exploitation.

Log of Wharf or Waterloo Colliery in BGS Borehole Record.

1899 The close proximity of the mine to the church is unusual.

One of the Wellington Pit winding engine houses.

Three pictures from the turn of the 19th to 20th century at the Waterloo Colliery which was the main mine and interlinked with the others in the town.


The 1886 map above shows the primary school in close proximity to the mine and its auxiliary support infrastructure, the canal and railway for shipping the coal away and the ventilation air shaft.


The following plan demonstrates the remarkable complexity of shafts, adits, drifts and roadways excavated to win what was noted to be very poor coal, thin seams of sulphurous quality, best used for roasting lime. It was used for and by households and industry.

Wellington/Whaley Wharf Pit Shaft Section (Thickness)

Shale (40 yards)

  1. Red Ash Mine (1 foot 8 inches)

Rock (7 yards)

Shale (13 yards)

  1. White Ash Mine (1 foot 8 inches)

Rock (4 yards)

Shale (4 yards)

  1. Coal (9 inches)

Rock (5 yards)

Shale (8 yards)

Rock (3 yards)

Shale (15 yards)

  1. Yard Mine (4 feet 8 inches)

Depth to top of seam

Depth of whole shaft 100 yards 1 foot 1 inch


Borehole (BGS) Those marked in the area of interest are at present confidential.

Water/Heat Availability.

The historic commentaries and other documents regarding mining in the area demonstrates that the mines were wet, There are though no upwellings of polluted water within the minefield so it would appear that the workings have filled to a fixed level underground.

The temperature at the deepest point within the mine would be a minimum of 10oC and likely to be >12oC. Even within the rock beneath the area similar temperatures should be expected.

It is likely that a sustainable heat resource is accessible.



The shafts and coal seam depths are modest with the maximum depth being in the region of 300 feet. With up to four seams beneath the school area the need for extreme care in any investigation need to be exercised due to the fractured rock that may be encountered in any drilling exercise. Ideally the shaft adjacent to the school might be pierced, but ground stability would need to be the priority risk to be assessed. The treat being that a crown hole may develop and the

The loss of water from the dam in 2019 plus the excessive rainfall since may have had some effects to the mines in the area, especially their stability. The possible rebuilding of the dam at some point in the future will need to factor in the mine workings that are directly beneath the present structure.



A study needs to be undertaken of all available information:

  • Coal Authority Records
  • Derbyshire Records Office
  • Lancashire Records Office


Ground studies and an understanding of the hydrogeology of the site fully developed and accessed.

Funding for such a scheme would not be seen as difficult to bring together after the feasibility scheme was carried out.






Author: Noreen Shears

Enjoy this Post? Share it on your favorite social bookmarking site...

Submit to Mixx Submit to StumbleUpon Submit to Delicious Submit to Digg

Comments are closed.

Related Posts

Check out some more great tutorials and articles that you might like.

Designed & Maintained by Online Toolbox Ltd