Site Records


Site Name: Guilford Colliery

Coldred
Kent
TR281469

Sub Brit site visit July 1984, June 1994 and May 2005

[Source: Nick Catford]

So far no unexpected difficulties had been encountered in the sinking; water was first encountered in the chalk at 280 ft. and continued down to 330 ft., the total quantity amounting to 100 gallons per minute. This was raised by 'suction barrel' (a type of pump) until it was successfully sealed off by brickwork.

It was now essential that pumps should be installed before attempting to sink the shafts through the Lower Greensand and Wealden beds. Accordingly two Evans double-acting ram pumps were erected in a cross passage between the two shafts at 613 ft., their combined capacity being 800 gallons per minute.

Photo:Guilford Colliery

During 1912 there was no further progress but the management made further attempts to secure a direct rail connection with the South Eastern & Chatham main line and in October the colliery finally got its wish with the building of a branch to the pit from Eythorne the East Kent Light Railway which was under construction at this time. As a result another attempt was made to secure sufficient funds to continue the shaft sinking in November 1912. To raise further capital the company issued £80,000 of debentures (long-term loan used by large companies to obtain funds from investors) and it was stated that the Syndicate would immediately form and register a company to acquire the Guilford Colliery as a going concern.


Guilford Colliery after the mine was abandoned. None the headframes above the two shafts have been removed and the shafts are now surrounded by a high wall - these remained until the 1980's

However no practical steps were taken towards the formation of this company until 1st July 1913 when a purchase price of £233,500 was agreed but like the two attempted flotation's which had preceded it, this scheme also proved abortive. Ten months later, when the shafts had been sunk to within 80 ft. of the coal measures, a sale was arranged that gave the Syndicate only about one third of that amount. But this was sufficient to allow sinking operations to be resumed; sinking at No. 2 shaft resumed in February, 1913 reaching 1,272 ft. by the following September, by which time No. 3 shaft had reaching a depth of 1,269 ft.

When money was available sinking continued round the

clock with three eight hour shifts with fourteen men working on each shift but as the money ran out shifts were regularly cut down to two or sometimes one per day and the workforce on each shift reduced to seven. No particular difficulties were met sinking through the Lower Greensand and Wealden beds, the water in which was entirely shut off by means of 'tubbing' (sealing with steel linings).

In the early part of 1914 a side gallery was excavated at 1,264 ft. in No. 2 Pit with a view to putting down a 3-in. borehole to test the strata of the next section to be sunk but water was encountered at 1,316 ft. with a flow up the tubes at the rate of 300 gallons per minute; this was dealt with by winding and the borehole was continued, in soft ground, to 1,346 ft., when what is believed to be the ‘junction bed’ was reached. A considerable volume of water heavily mixed with sand then made its way up the tubes and the borehole was closed with a controlling valve as the boring did not actually enter the coal measures.

It was now considered too difficult and expensive to sink the shafts down to the coal measures and the Guilford Syndicate now found itself in extremely grave financial difficulties; its third promotion scheme had failed; its capital had long since gone and the proceeds from the debenture issue had been spent and over £40,000 was owing to the Contract Company.

On the 14th March 1914 the shareholders were told that due to lack of funds the managers of the Guilford Colliery were compelled to restrict their operations to sinking under conditions of extreme economy, hoping to be able to continue the shafts to a good workable seam of household coal which would have put an end to the financial difficulties. In this they were unfortunately disappointed, for on reaching the junction with the coal measures further engineering problems were encountered.

It was now imperative to either sell the undertaking, provided that satisfactory terms could be negotiated or find sufficient funds to continue the shafts through the junction bed to a good seam of coal. With no further finance available, the company was forced to sell at a loss and on 4th June 1914 a sale was agreed with the French company La Compagnie des Forges de Chantillon at a price of £150,000. The company intended to mine coal for smelting iron ore.

Further development of the mine was halted during WW1 and the shafts were allowed to flood. After the war the water was pumped out and the colliery was prepared for a resumption of shaft sinking. A new power station was built in 1920 and for the first time in many years coal production at Guilford seemed likely.

Photo:The derelict Guilford Colliery in 1935. The high circular wall on the right surrounds one of the shafts. This wasn't removed until the shaft was capped in the 1990's.
Photo by Dr. J R Hollick

A development grant of £350,000 was offered by the government but never taken up as the company had failed to seal off water carrying beds above the coal measures by the 'Cementation Process' (a crude method of producing steel by heating iron with powdered charcoal, soot and mineral salts, called cement powder) In 1921 it was soon clear that the shafts would never reach the coal measures and all further shaft sinking was halted.

With no possibility of mining coal the French company pulled out in 1929 and the colliery was sold to Richard Tilden Smith, the owner of Tilmanstone. Some plant and other material was moved to Tilmanstone but Tilden Smith had no plans to resume the sinking at Guilford. The remaining mineral leases for Guilford Colliery were acquired by Tilmanstone the following year with the intention of reaching the coal from Tilmanstone rather that completing the Guilford shaft and in 1932 the Tilmanstone management started dismantling the plant for reuse. The branch railway line from Eythorne was abandoned on 14th July 1937 and the track lifted leaving 650 yards as the Eythorne end as a siding, although it was, in part, relaid during WW2 to accommodate a railway gun.

In time most of the buildings were demolished with the exception of the engine house and a long brick workshop on the north side of the site.  In 1989 the two shafts were still open and surround by high brick walls. The shafts have now been capped with a thin layer of concrete and grassed over but according to the landowner they have not been filled and are clear down to water.

Photo:The engine house in June 1994 - the shaft for this engine house was never sunk.
Photo by Nick Catford

After remaining empty and unused for many years the engine house was fully restored as a private dwelling in the early 2000's and the workshop remains in good condition and is now used as a farm machinery store and workshop and some narrow gauge railway track is still visible embedded in the concrete floor. Some sections of the branch line to the colliery can still be traced; a short stretch of the cutting on the south-east side of the Coldred-Eythorne road near Coldred Court Farm still exists, with a line of trees marking the course of the line for some distance either side of the road.

See also East Kent Light Railway, Tilmanstone Colliery, Woodnesborough Colliery & Wingham Colliery

Sources:

  • ‘The Kent Coalfield – its evolution and development’ by A. E. Ritchie. Published 1919 by the Iron & Coal Trades Review
  • ‘Invicta Coal’ unpublished history of the Kent Coalfield by Jim Davies, Robert Ross Job and Richard Tilden Sherren
  • The East Kent Railway Vol 1 & 2 by M. Lawson Finch & S R Garrett. Published 2003 by Oakwood Press.
  • Colonel Stephens Museum web site

Derelict colliery in 1935

Workshop July 1984

Engine House
July 1984

Workshop June 1994

Powder Magazine
June 1994

Engine House
June 1994

Engine House
June 1994

Engine House
June 1994

Engine House
June 1994

Engine House
June 1994

Engine House
June 1994

Workshop May 2005

Rails in situ in the
workshop May 2005

Workshop May 2005

Workshop May 2005

Capped shaft
May 2005

Engine House
May 2005

Engine House
May 2005

Engine House
May 2005

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

[Source: Nick Catford]

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