Upper Peak Forest Canal

SamueL Oldknow's Coal Pits in Marple

While Samuel Oldknow was building his lime kilns at Marple to burn limestone transported from Bugsworth Basin at the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal, he also needed a supply of coal from local pits to fire the kilns. To accomplish this, three shafts were sunk in the vicinity of Brick Bridge, all on the west bank of the canal. At least one of these pits must have been operational by the 31 August 1796 when the upper level of the canal opened for trade thus enabling limestone to be brought to Marple Lime Works for burning.

Of the pits near Brick Bridge, one shaft was sunk to the north of the bridge, alongside the canal towpath behind Chapel Lodge (aka Churchgate Lodge), and a second shaft was sunk in Picky Wood to the south of the bridge (Picky Wood Pit). The third shaft was alongside the canal in the field to the south of the bridge.

A fourth shaft was sunk approximately 200 yards further south than Brick Bridge, again on the west bank of the canal. This pit was served by a short private arm of the canal and was known as Arm Pit.

After Oldknow’s death in 1828, ownership of the lime kilns, coal pits and land passed to Richard Arkwright Junior because at the time of his death Oldknow was in considerable debt to the Arkwright family.

In 1860 a coal shaft was sunk alongside the lime kilns in order to reduce the transport of coal to an absolute minimum. The shaft was 38-yards deep and it accessed the Yard Mine (coal seam). This became known as Peacock Pit (aka Marple Colliery) but the origin of the name ‘Peacock Pit’ is obscure. It is possible that it was originally thought to be the same seam as the Peacock Mine in Hyde that was worked in both Hyde Lane Colliery and the nearby Peacock Pit.

By 1875, Jesse Tymm was in control of lime burning and coal mining at Marple and his brother, Wright, was a junior partner in the business. In its final years only around 10 or 12 coal miners were employed in Peacock Pit and it closed in October 1893.

Arm Pit
Upper Peak Forest Canal

Grid Ref: SJ 964 879
Tithe Map: 1850, Ref: EDT 262/2
Courtesy: Cheshire Archives & Local Studies

Later Coal Authority records show that in a south-easterly direction from Top Lock (lock 16) that a seam of coal about 100-feet deep was worked up until 1893. The details are given in the table below. As the direct distance between Top Lock and Brick Bridge is 460 yards all the distances given lie to the north of the bridge. These measurements are of doubtful accuracy but they seem to refer to two shafts and not one as would be expected. The first is at an average distance of 326 yards from Top Lock and the second is at an average distance of 414 yards. The details in the table should be compared and contrasted with Ordnance Survey maps which position the shaft at a direct distance of 367 yards from Top Lock.

Coal Authority Records
DescriptionDistance SE of
Top Lock (yards)
Year of Mention
in Mining Records
Unspecified Disused Shaft3191975
Unspecified Old Shafts3221896
Unspecified Disused Shaft4141975
Unspecified Old Shaft4161907