The extant remains of Barnsley Main Colliery are just a small survivor of a once much larger, busy, complex of buildings. The headgear, winding house and engine house are part of what was once the northern section of a much bigger colliery site including what is now buried beneath the Oaks Business Park close to the Trans Pennine Trail.
The first shaft on the current Barnsley Main site was sunk in 1838 to ventilate the Ardsley Main Colliery which had been in operation since 1824. Today the 10-feet diameter ‘Cupola’ shaft is marked by a concrete bollard on the bank near Oaks Lane. Ardsley Main Colliery was owned by Firth, Barber and Company.
The ‘Barnsley Seam’ of coal worked at the colliery was known to be gassy and dangerous. On 5th March 1847 a huge underground explosion killed 73 men and boys. The explosion lead to the site being closed for a number of years. When mining started again in 1851 the site was known as the Oaks Colliery.
On 12th December 1866 the Oaks Colliery suffered the worst mining disaster in English history. A series of huge underground explosions killed all but six of the men and boys working below ground. The official death-toll was 361 but current research suggests the actual number is over 380. You can view a list of all the victims here.
In 1890 the site was bought by local glass magnate, Dan Ryland, who started sinking two new shafts. One below the current headgear and another 27 yards to the west which was 18-feet in diameter. The 1838 shaft was also redeveloped to work the Meltonfield and Abdy Seams. The colliery was then known as Ryland’s Main. The redevelopment was a financial failure and in 1898 Ryland was declared bankrupt.
In 1899 Barnsley Main Ltd was incorporated and the two sites were brought back together. The 20th century brought further developments and two major disasters in 1942, killing 13, and 1947, killing nine.
Following the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike 1,200 men were transferred from Barrow Main to Barnsley Main. When Barnsley Main became part of the British Coal Corporation in 1987 nearly 600 men produced 700,000 tonnes of coal a year.
On 1st March 1991 it was announced that Barnsley Main Colliery would close with the loss of 500 jobs. Production ended on 19th July 1991. The whole site was cleared except for the remaining headgear and buildings, to be preserved as a memorial.