#460 – Chatterley Whitfield Revisited 1

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I rarely go and revisit places that I’ve photographed, with only a handful of exceptions e.g. Bailey Mill last week. Partly this is due to sating may curiosity first time round, and partly due to my usual modus operandi of being one step ahead of the demolition crews. In Chatterley Whitfield’s case, my curiosity wasn’t sated, and I’m hoping the demolition crew are a long way off – but I’m not overly optimistic.

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The mine was one of the most productive in the country, and the biggest on the Stafforshire coalfield. There has been mining on the site for hundreds of years, but the name Chatterley Whitfield is a comparatively recent one. It came about due to the acquisition of the Whitfield colliery by the nearby Chatterley Iron Company in the 1870’s. The iron company folded in the early 1900’s but the mine survived through various changes of ownership into the 1970’s. It was certainly a very successful mine, being the first one in the country to produce a million saleable tons in a year in 1937. However, the infrastructure was aging and the colliery’s best -and most productive days were behind it. It was becoming less economic to extract the coal and output dropped to 408000 tons in 1965.

Coal drawing stopped in 1976 and coal from the Whitfield mine started to be extracted from the nearby Wolstanton Colliery. Thereafter, the mine became a visitor attraction but closed in the early 90’s, since when it has been left to rot.

Tours are organised once a year as part of the annual Heritage Open Days and these are led by the Chatterley Whitfield Friends group who do a sterling job. They also have an excellent website that has been massively improved of late and is well worth a visit.

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I found this quite humbling – 60 years of service. And by the time this certificate was issued, he was 73 but note that it says ‘he is at present employed on the surface as a General Labourer’ (my emphasis) – the implication being that he was still employed. I know of plenty of people at my workplace with 25 year service certificates on their desks, and a few with 40 year certificates, but not many of the latter as they’ve usually taken redundancy by that stage. But 60 years? That’s impressive, especially for a career in an industry so fraught with danger as coal mining, in an era when safety standards weren’t anything like they developed into in the latter years of the 20th century.

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Apparently, this roadway through the site was once a road through the site that anyone could use to walk or drive across the site.

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The giant chimney that dominates the site. There’s talk of it not being in a good state and may have to be brought down at some point in the next 5 years – don’t know how true that is. In fairness, most of the brick structures on site are in poor condition, but chimneys are a slightly different proposition.

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I don’t know what the future holds. Most of the buildings are listed but appear to be in a poor state of repair, and very few are accessible. The Hesketh engine house still has its steam engine intact, but is not accessible unfortunately.

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5 thoughts on “#460 – Chatterley Whitfield Revisited 1

  1. It’s a terrible shame that the political momentum and the funds to conserve this marvellous place will never be available- and without doubt, it will succumb to the relentless attentions of the weather before too long, or when it crosses that invisible line and becomes a threat to public safety. At least there are folk to appreciate it in the moment- to make artistic, evocative images of it like yours are, and of course, places like this are a gift to those of us who like rust and dilapidation! A fantastic, evocative set of photos, as usual 🙂 It must have been so frustrating not being able to access that Hesketh engine house.

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    • Thanks Iain! Industrial heritage is one of those things that’s a hard sell from a tourism perspective – we have recently lost, or are about to lose, Helmshore Textile Mill and Queen Street Mill museums, Lancashire Mining Museum shut a few years ago and of course there’s Dunaskin which is rotting away still. The National Mining Museum in Yorkshire seems to be OK (although the surface infrastructure is massively reduced compared to it’s heyday and to Chatterley Whitfield) and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester seems to have survived the recent talk of closure.
      And yes it’s a pity the engine house wasn’t accessible but I don’t think anyone has access currently.

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  2. Pingback: #470 – Best of 2016 part 3 | Mechanical Landscapes

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