Site Records


Site Name: Tows Bank Colliery

Tows Bank
Northumberland
OS Grid Ref: NY686572

Sub Brit site visit 17th May 1998

[Source: Alistair Roberts & Clive Seal]

Tows Bank opened 1986 by three partners; Ted Nancarow Snr, Willie Armstrong and Frank Shepherd.

They entered the Little Limestone coal on top of the exposed great limestone to the west of Eals village in Tows Bank Wood. The area had been worked previously to a small extent though nothing is known about these excavations.

Photo:Drift hauler house with the banksman on the diamond crossing. Note the small yellow winch which appears to be sat on top of tub to the left. This was used to pull the tubs back across the points to send them down the drift. 12 cwt. tubs with old 6 cwt. side tippers abandoned on left hand side.
Photo by Clive Seal

Two drifts were commenced with Frank Shepherd working the return drift employing many of the men who had worked for him at Flow Edge. Though it was a three man partnership Frank worked this area separate from the main concern, taking his own coal back up to Flow Edge.

As there was no direct road access from the pit to the Eals-Coanwood road coal was at first transported up to the top of the hill in dumpers, eventually a direct rope hauled tramway was installed from the coal prep plant down to the pit top. A further hauler catered for the haulage within the drift.

The main way was advanced by means of blasting and filling the stone out with an Eimco shovel, Kenny Gilby was mainly employed on this job. At first 6 cwt. side tipping U shaped tubs were used before they were replaced with 12 cwt. tubs purchased from Brancepeth colliery.

Photo:Incline Bottom with a set of empties going down drift. Note the air receiver behind drift mouth.
Photo by Clive Seal

The coal at Tows Bank was very low, down to 9" in places and hardly attaining more than 12" at best. Many places were also quite wet but a plus side was the coal worked very well.

The partnership however began to break up; Frank Shepherd was the first to leave and consequently opened Barhaugh Colliery. By the early years of the 1990's Tows Bank was about the biggest man power pit on Alston Moor but it wasn't to last even though they paid the best prices at £1 per cwt. Willie Armstrong was the next to leave which left the Nancarows in charge; Ted Jnr. being deputy and manager.

In 1994 the pit, along with the rest of the private mines, suffered under denationalization. Prior to this insurance had been obtained through the NCB via the licence agreement. However following denationalization they had to obtain their own insurance at astronomical prices. In consequence the men at Tows Bank were made 1% partners to avoid insurance payments at all.

Photo:The sealed top of the drift after closure
Photo by Nick Catford

The colliery suffered mixed fortunes but was always hampered by the narrow seam and water. A further obstacle was met when they applied to mine under the Eals Road.

On more than one occasion the colliery closed then re opened, lastly with Ted Jnr. in charge. Following the last closure Ted became deputy at Clarghyll colliery where he remained until that also closed during the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001, this affected the coal trade and mine owners weren't compensated.

For further pictures of Tows Bank Colliery click here

[Source: Alistair Roberts & Clive Seal]

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