Site Records

Site Name: Tilmanstone Colliery

Pike Road
Eythorne, Kent
OS Grid Ref: TR288505

Sub Brit site visit July 1987 & April 2005

[Source: Nick Catford]

Early profits were turned into huge annual losses as the price of coal plummeted.  The colliery was once again in the hands of the receivers during the 1926 General Strike and was sold to Tilmanstone (Kent) Colliery Ltd. which was owned by Richard Tilden Smith. One of his many ambitions was the development of the Milyard seam and sinking restarted immediately reaching the seam in May 1930 at a depth of 3,035 feet. No further development of  No. 2 shaft was undertaken, this remained at 1560 feet.

Photo:Tilmanstone Colliery in 1935

Twin tunnels emerging in the cliff face above the docks. Click
Tilden Smith was keen to export his coal from Dover. At that time the only means of transporting the coal was by rail using the East Kent Light Railway.  Tilden Smith felt that the EKLR's charges were excessive and proposed building an aerial ropeway from the colliery to the Eastern Docks at Dover. Initially this proposal was turned down by the Harbour Board but they had a change of heart when Tilden Smith suggested building a 5000 ton bunker on the Eastern Docks and offered to pay £35,000 towards the building costs. Once completed, the ropeway was capable of moving 120 tons of coal per hour; buckets with a capacity of 14.5 cwt. were spaced 46 yards apart and left the colliery every 21 seconds.
The first section of the ropeway was opened between the Colliery and East Langdon on 12th October 1929 but Tilden Smith died in December that year before the ropeway was completed. The first vessel was loaded with Tilmanstone coal at a rate of 500 tons an hour on 14th February 1930. Exports of coal through Dover didn't come up to expectations and the ropeway was little used after 1935. During the war the structure fell as there was no export trade and by the end of the war it

The end of the ropeway at Dover Eastern Docks Click
beyond economic repair and was dismantled in 1954 and sold for scrap.

Photo:The 'divide station' and power station for the aerial ropeway at East Langdon in 1930

The 'divide station' and power station for the aerial ropeway at East Langdon in August 1990. This is now the only Tilmanstone Colliery building still standing.
Photo by Nick Catford

By 1930 coal extraction reached 7,000 tons per month but despite this increased production, the colliery was still making a huge annual loss as the country moved into the depression. The workforce were told they would have to accept a reduction in pay to avoid closure of the mine; eventually the miners settled for a percentage of their wages to be lent back to the company, this would be repaid once the mine was in profit.

Tilmanstone Colliery in 1940 Click

In 1937 the colliery was sold to the Anglo-French Consolidated Investment Corporation Ltd.; they planned to develop the lower seam as the Colliery was not working to its full capacity. Despite WW2, the company invested heavily in the mine and eventually managed to turn the losses into a small profit with a 5% dividend paid to shareholders. No sooner had they achieved this then coal industry was nationalised.

Tilmanstone was extensively modernised after

nationalisation in 1947 but was always considered uneconomic by the National Coal Board. Kent coal was some of the most difficult to extract making it some of the most expensive in Britain. There were major improvements in 1949 and again in 1952 bringing the annual output up to 420,000 tons. The Beresford seam was closed in 1961 with all future extraction concentrated on the Milyard seam which, by 1963, was fully mechanised as a 'longwall' mine but despite this development, production dropped.

Photo:Tilmanstone Colliery in c.1940

The NCB made plans to start closing the Kent collieries as early as 1960. Chislet Colliery closed in 1969, it had supplied most of its coal to British Railways but with the demise of steam its market had gone.

Click here for further information and pictures of Tilmanstone Colliery

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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