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Middle Engine Pit, Nailsea

NGR: ST. 482705

A brief history

The Middle Engine Pit is located in the Golden Valley area of Nailsea. It was run by a consortium formed in 1786 by Peter Cox, Joseph Whitchurch and Isaac White. White ran the partnership, which was known as White and Co. The partners were joined in 1788 by John Robert Lucas, who had founded the Nailsea glassworks. The pit is known to have been in operation by 1829, and may have closed in the 1850s. It is sometime known as ‘The Elms’, after the name of the house that was built on the site in the early 1900s.

Importance

The area was scheduled as an ancient monument, No 1004533, in 1985, as it is the most complete footprint of a 19th Century colliery in Britain. The site is high, priority category 'A', on Historic England's 'Buildings at risk' register, where it is known as the 'Elms Colliery, Nailsea'.

Restoration

The scheduled area covers approximately a quarter hectare. One engine house survives along with substantial remains of other features. Listing and subsequent scheduling followed a rescue dig by members of Nailsea & District Local History Society and Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society in late 1984. Following two Public Inquiries which both upheld its scheduled status, house builders sold the site to the Avon Industrial Buildings Trust for a nominal sum. The AIBT provided steel fencing to secure the site and grills to safeguard underground flues. It also funded or obtained grants for Feasibility and Conservation studies, and for further investigation by the Hereford Archaeological Unit. Their report by R K Morris on the investigations was published in 1996. Prior to the demise of Avon County Council in 1996, ownership was transferred to this authority so that the site would then come under the protection of North Somerset Council (NSC), the present owners.

The AIBT has worked with the NSC since 1996 to obtain a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, setting up a local Sub-Committee and appointing a part-time Project Manager. However, despite long term negotiations with NSC and discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage, it has been unable to obtain the necessary 15 year lease from the District Council on acceptable terms. The Nailsea Historic Monuments Trust maintains a watching brief on the site.

In 2014, discussions between NSC, Historic England and Nailsea Town Council has led to a resumption of restoration work. Tree surgery has already been carried out, and the next task is to repair the damage the trees caused to the boundary walls and fences.

Further information

Elms Colliery, Nailsea
P Lane and M Thomas, 1985

Nailsea - Excavations at the Elms Colliery
Lambert - David Gorwyn
Popular Archaeology, October/November 1986

The Nailsea Coal Mines
Margaret Thomas
Published by H G and M A Thomas, 1996, ISBN 0951774913

The Elms Colliery, Nailsea, Somerset: recording and analysis of the surviving buildings
R K Morris
City of Hereford Archaeological Unit, 1996

Further information on coal mining in Nailsea may be found on the website of the Nailsea and District Local History Society.

page updated 23 Jul 15

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