Coal Mining Artefacts

Coal Tubs

Coal tubs at the National Coal Mining Museum, Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton, Wakefield, Yorkshire.

Long Wheelbase Coal Tub

Long wheelbase coal tub at the National Coal Mining Museum, Caphouse Colliery.

Motty (Coal Tub Identification Token)

Coal miners were paid according to the quantity of coal they hewed. When tubs full of coal reached the bank (surface), iron motties attached to the coal tubs showed which miners had hewed which coal.

Motties were usually made of cast iron with a number embossed on them and when a miner had filled a tub he attached a motty to it for identification and payment purposes.

Any miner who was caught replacing another miner's motty with his own would lose his job.

Check or Tally

There were a number of slightly different systems for using for checks but the following is typical.

On arrival at work every miner reported to the lamp room/time office where he was issued with two personally numbered checks and a safety lamp. The miners then went to the colliery bank where the banksman was waiting to supervise them entering the cage that would take them down the shaft. Each miner gave one check to the banksman and retained the other. When everyone had descended the shaft, the banksman returned the checks he had collected to the lamp room/time office.

On ascending to the colliery bank at the end of their shift, each miner handed in his check and safety lamp under the supervision of the banksman. In this way, every miner who started a shift was accounted for.

Miner's Safety Lamp

Sir Humphry Davy and George Stephenson independently invented the safety lamp in 1815/16 for the purpose of providing a safe source of light in coal mines.

The lamp allowed oxygen for the flame to get in but prevented it from coming into contact with any flammable gas present in the mine. This gas, known as firedamp, mainly consisted of methane. Air entering the lamp passed through wire gauze, the purpose of which was to cool any flame or spark escaping from inside the lamp and so prevent it from igniting any firedamp present in the mine. There was an additional advantage in that a safety lamp detected the presence of firedamp by the flame burning higher with a blue tinge.

Tallow Candle

Prior to the invention of the safety lamp, the only means of lighting in mines was the tallow candle. Due to the constant risk of the presence of firedamp, the use of candles was dangerous. Regardless of the invention of the safety lamp, candles continued to be used and they were often the cause of underground explosions.

Clog Bottoms (aka 'Donkeys' or 'Horses')

Clog bottoms with a groove along the underside.

To use them a miner placed the clog bottoms onto the coal-tub rails at the top of an underground incline (called a brow) and then stood on them in order to slide down to a lower level while holding his safety lamp, snap (lunch) and Dudley (water bottle).

In some districts, miners wore special clogs that were hollow underneath in the manner of clog bottoms and these were used in the same way.