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Racecourse Colliery

The ground beneath the Museum site was once mined for coal, limestone, fireclay, and ironstone. More than 40 old mine shafts are shown on old plans and around one of these shafts, Racecourse Colliery has been built as a typical small Black Country coalpit. Small scale, ‘rough and ready’ pits  were common in the Black Country. There were once as many as 500 or 600 of these pits across the region.

The colliery was so named because the land on which it stands was originally the Dudley Racecourse which was closed when the railway line from Dudley to Wolverhampton was built in 1846.

Racecourse Colliery is shown as it would have been in about 1910 with the Manager's Office in the weighbridge house from Rolfe Street in Smethwick, the typical hovel and blacksmith's shop. It represents a typical Black Country coal, or fire clay mine.

The mine shaft which forms the centre-piece of Racecourse Colliery was originally the Earl of Dudley’s Coneygree Colliery Pit No. 126. It operated between 1860 and 1902, before being abandoned and the shaft filled in.The wooden pit frame stands over a shaft 30 metres deep and a cylinder outside drum steam powered winding engine would wind the cage up and down the shaft.

In the nineteenth century commentators spoke of this region as a great coalfield, and of the “earth turned inside out” by all the mining activity. It was coal mining which was at the heart of the industrialisation of the Black Country.

A pit like this could have been started up by a few men, possibly miners themselves, who would rent the mineral rights from the land owner. In this area, that was usually the Earl of Dudley.  Alternatively, the Earl of Dudley could mine the coal himself and appoint an agent or a manager to run his pits for him.

This pit has a manager’s office and a Weighbridge office. There is also, beyond the shaft and head frame, a hovel where miners could dry their clothing and perhaps brew a drink over the fire.

Next to the colliery is Brook Shaft a reconstruction of a small 1930's pit built over an original mine shaft worked before 1842.

 

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