Ellington Colliery was sunk by the Ashington Coal Company Limited in 1909 with production starting in 1911. It exploited coal seams that ranged far out off the coast of Northumberland under the North Sea. The colliery adjoined and eventually combined with the former Lynemouth Colliery. By the time the collieries were nationalised in 1947 there were 1,381 men employed. By 1986 the number had grown to around 2,170 men producing approximately 45,000 tonnes of coal per week.
The colliery was originally served by the Ashington Colliery Railway System but a major underground fire at Lynemouth in 1966 brought forward plans to drive a new coal-drawing drift at Lynemouth called Bewick Drift to link Lynemouth and Ellington underground with the coal going direct to the washery by conveyor. (Bewick Drift had no rail connection). This started in 1968 thus making the railway system redundant. The rail link between Ellington and Linton was lifted 1979-80 while Ellington to Lynemouth was used as a long siding for BR wagon storage awaiting use at Lynemouth. Ellington retained its separate identity for materials and man-riding, and its own underground locomotive allocation with a narrow gauge loco kept for surface use in the stockyard.
The mine was closed by British Coal in February 1994, but retained on care and maintenance until it was acquired by RJB Mining. Shortly after, in 1995, work at the mine recommenced. A bright future was predicted with plans to access new reserves of coal by driving tunnels through a major geological fault known as the Causey Park Dyke.
The first coal found had been affected by heat and did not burn well. Because this ‘low volatile’ coal was unsuitable, the miners instead began the difficult and dangerous job of extracting coal from beneath thick beds of sandstone, in shafts prone to flooding.
Ellington always had a severe water problem with as much as one million and twenty thousand gallons being pumped out of the pit daily, at one time there was at least three tons of water raised for every ton of coal wound.
In February 2005 water catastrophically burst out from the coal face of a new development in the mine that should have assured at least another five years of life for the pit. The face and all of its equipment was lost. Although pumps were employed for a short time to stop the inundation from flooding the rest of the mine UK Coal deemed the situation economically irretrievable and the colliery was subsequently closed with the loss of 340 jobs.
Ellington, otherwise known locally as the “Big E”, was the last operating deep mine of the Great North Coalfield.