The early years of the twentieth century saw the end of limestone mining in the area. In 1902 Daw End Works employed thirty one men, seventeen underground, and fourteen on the surface. Phoenix Works run by J. Brawn employed sixteen men, ten underground and six on the surface. Lavender Limited began mining limestone, but closed in April 1911, by which time the East Anglian Cement Company was running Linley Works.

During the First World War only Phoenix Works remained open, but closed in July 1918. After the war, Linley Works reopened, employing just eight men by 1938. Production ceased during the Second World War when the R.A.F. took-over the caverns which were used for storing bombs. After the war an attempt was made to reopen the mine, but the caverns were soon abandoned because of flooding, and changes made by the R.A.F.

Brick making continued to expand thanks to several firms in the area between Leighswood and Walsall Wood. There were also coal mines, which were mentioned in a report prepared in 1950 for a meeting of the British Association in Birmingham. The report entitled “Birmingham and its Regional Setting” described the area as “more extensively disfigured, perhaps than any other area of comparable size in the Black Country.” It consisted of pools caused by subsidence, derelict pit mounds, clay quarries, and brickworks.

Coal Mining

Until the 1930s, coal mining was an important industry in the area, although it did have its ups and downs. By 1881 Leighswood Colliery had closed, putting a lot of people out of work, and resulting in about thirty cottages at Leighswood being left empty. There had been unrest at the colliery for some time, and many withheld their labour when they thought they would be working for a contractor rather than the colliery company, because a previous contractor had failed to pay their wages in full.

Aldridge Colliery. From an old postcard.

In 1889 the Aldridge Colliery Company was working the No. 1 and No. 2 pits, and the Coppy Hall Colliery was being run by Edward Barnett. All three were mining coal and iron ore. There were several pits at Pelsall including Fishley Colliery, Pelsall Colliery, Hope Colliery, and Pelsall Wood Colliery which appeared around 1891.

The number of workers in local mines was as follows:

Year Colliery Underground Surface
1902 Aldridge No. 1  462 183
  Aldridge No. 2  489 122
  Coppy Hall 240 74
  Pelsall 184 90
1906 Aldridge No. 1 542 175
  Aldridge No. 2  620 143
  Coppy Hall 258  83
  Pelsall Grove 12 4
1933 Aldridge No. 1 777 238
1936 Aldridge No. 2 453 163

In the early years of the twentieth century most of the workforce in Aldridge and Pelsall must have worked in the mines. In 1906 1,837 men worked in the pits, yet the population in 1911 was only 6,303. Each day the streets in Aldridge became crowded with miners on their way too and from work, carrying their wicker ‘snap boxes’. On their way home they were dirty and grimy because in those days there were no pithead baths.

Mining accidents were not uncommon. In 1859 at Pelsall Hall Colliery, the winding machinery went out of gear, and a miner lost his life. In 1876 a hanging scaffold in a shaft at Leighswood Colliery fell nine hundred feet and killed two miners. Many of the accidents were due to flooding. Three lives were lost at Highbridge Colliery in 1871 when a roof collapsed, and sand and water rushed-in.

A terrible accident happened at Pelsall Colliery on Thursday 14th November, 1872 when the pit rapidly flooded, after the miners struck some old forgotten flooded workings. Twenty two men and boys were trapped underground for five days. Sadly they all died before help could reach them. Sister Dora stayed with the waiting relatives, and distributed blankets and food at the pithead. She did everything possible to support and comfort them at that terrible time.

The General Strike of 1926 had a great impact on the industry. Mining ceased, there was no public transport, and miner’s children were given a free meal at lunchtime at the Red Lion. By the Second World War the industry had gone. By 1903 all of the pits in Pelsall had closed. Coppy Hall Colliery closed in August 1909, Aldridge No. 1 closed in December 1930, and Aldridge No. 2 closed in October 1936.

In 1918 the estate of the Scott Family was auctioned following the death Lady Mildred Scott in 1909. At the auction, Barr Beacon was acquired by Colonel J. H. Wilkinson of the Staffordshire Volunteer Infantry Brigade. He transferred it to a trust, and it opened as a public park on the 21st April, 1919. In 1972 it was handed over to Walsall Council who now manage the site. On the summit is the Barr Beacon War Memorial which opened in 1933, and commemorates those from Staffordshire and Warwickshire who lost their lives during the First World War.

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