Silverwood Logo by John Doxey background photo Mick Carver1900 - 1994

Dedicated to the Miners of Silverwood

History of the Mine

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Silverwood Mine

Hollings Lane

Thrybergh

South Yorkshire England

Webmaster John Doxey

Main Photos Jonathan Dabs.

Additional content Mick Carver

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ralph Law  pg2
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FRED SPENCER

Ex Silverwood Miner and Policeman

 

Silverwood Mine painting by Fred Spencer copyright

 

Starting his working life at Silverwood in 1955 Fred observed not just the surroundings of the mine he was working in, he also observed the many characters he encountered. These observations stayed with him and enabled him to later write down in great detail these vivid memories. Fred also produced some fine paintings and drawings of Silverwood as can be seen above.

Like all trainee's when he started work at Silverwood he travelled to Manvers Main which was the area training centre.
As a young teenager he was a member of the Mexborough Wheelers, the club room was in a room above the Three Horseshoes Public House on Low Road, the building remains, it is no longer a Public House. When he worked at Silverwood as a 15 year old, he biked it over to Conisbrough to the club room along with his mates.

Leaving Silverwood for a new career in the C. I. D. he found himself stationed at nearby Rotherham, a vastly different environment from his days underground.

 Fred recalls "In the early 1970s having joined the Police, I was posted to CID at Conisbrough, a great old 'nick' almost as old as the Castle? We lived in one of the Police houses on Morley Place. From there I was posted to nearby Mexborough CID. As the years went by, I was transferred around the Force area. Returning as Detective Inspector at Mexborough in 1989 one of the areas covered, being good old Conisbrough. I retired in 1995 after 10 years I still miss the area and working with all sections of the community.

Back in the mid 1990s I was called across to Grimethorpe Colliery, not my area, but the powers that be knew of my mining background. There had been a very serious sabotage underground, the pit was out, " Over to you Fred" I was left to sort it. I went underground to examine the scene, taking a photographer with me. "

 

Today in retirement, it is memories of his time at Silverwood that remain to the forefront of his memories, and when reading his stories and verse one senses the pride of this mans involvement with the miners at Silverwood.

Having had several stories published including the terrific memory below which was
published in the Morgan Sports Car Club magazine (Yorkshire Centre) in Spring 2001. Fred has kindly given permission to have the article below presented on this site.
He has a very adept way of drawing on the humorous aspect of some very fond memories, which make you laugh, he can also produce some heart wrenching memories in his poetry, memories that will bring a tear to your eyes. Above all Fred's writing is honest and I sense from the heart.

 

Many thanks Fred,

John Doxey

 

 

MORGAN MEMORIES

Copyright Fred Spencer

Fred with his Morgan courtesy Fred SpencerI experienced few pleasures as a coal face worker in the 1950s, other than removing my size seven boots, from my size nine feet. Until, that is, I bought my first motor car, a red 1946 Morgan 4-4 Drophead Coupe  JTT 96 a Devon number I believe. This had been for sale at the Falcon Garage, Dinnington, with an asking price of 225. I was earning 18-00 a week on the coal face. The dealer gave me 125 for my BSA B31 350cc solo motorcycle.

The Morgan was a real beauty, we enjoyed many miles of motoring, in all weathers, the year round, no heaters, no frills, plenty of thrills, with regular trips to the Yorkshire coast.

I travelled day or night, depending upon the shift, to Silverwood Colliery. Where the Morgan was left, without any form of security, in the Colliery car park, no problem with theft of or from motor vehicles in those days.

Shifts on the coal face, were bad or worse, the mice would get to your 'Snap' or you would have drank all your water, well before the shift had finished, leaving ones mouth like the bottom of the proverbial 'Budgies cage'. No refreshment or other facilities underground. It was always a pleasure to be drawn safely out of the warm dusty darkness, adjust ones eyes to the natural light, swill off the dust in the Pit Head Baths. Then meet up with the Morgan, patiently waiting in the car park. Those aching bones appreciated the comfort of the inflatable squab and backrest, complete with covers made from material my girlfriend Sue (now wife) and I had bought from the Worksop Market.

The Standard Special engine, was always a first time starter, however, had it been raining whilst I was underground, the engine became a 'Beesum' to start, the top louvres of the bonnet allowing water onto the electrics. The cure, a sheet of polythene, when I left her, up went the bonnet, in went the polythene sheet, avoiding the hot parts. Reversed the procedure on returning to her.

I never travelled home alone, there was generally a passenger, eager and privileged to travel in the Morgan, hood down, force-fed with the oxygen we had been deprived off, whilst underground, They would insist on leaving me with their bus fare. I recall on one occasion, refusing this, the reply being  " TEK IT, THA'D PAY HALF A CROWN FOR A RIDE LIKE THAT AT BLACKPOOL."

Another face worker at Silverwood, owned an Austin Metropolitan, red and cream in colour, not a mans car? When we were on the same shift, we would meet in the car park, a sort of High Noon, only six hours earlier in the day. A Le Mans start, running to our cars, first out of the car park, would be in pole position for our race up the Pit Hill, to Ravenfield cross roads, where he would go straight on and I would turn right to Wickersley and home.

I recall one of these occasions, we had worked night shift, it had been raining, whilst we had been underground, we went for our cars, my passenger thought it was his birthday, off we went, I was first out onto the road, a flying start at the hill. The road was quiet, other colliers were waiting for buses or walking wearily up the Pit hill, we accelerated into the early morning air. Then it happened, the engine cut out and in again and out again and in again and out, full stop. My passenger and I were engaged in a form of synchronized whiplash, may be an Olympic Sport now, everything else is. Of course the ladies car left us spitting coal dust. Up went the bonnet, to find some clown, had placed a sheet of polythene over the engine, which in turn, had been sucked into the downdraught carb, starving it of air, I appreciated how it felt, having worked on the coalface.

The following shift, I told the lads, the problem had been caused by dirty petrol, I did not wish to admit that this brainless moron, had forgotten to remove his anti-wet device.


On another occasion, we came out of the Pit, after working night shift, it had been snowing heavily, she started okay, cleared the windscreen, removed the polythene sheet, we were on our way, there was virgin snow (nothing to do with Richard Branson) on our side of the road, the other being used by the day shift travelling to the Colliery. At the foot of the Pit Hill, a puncture in the rear nearside "Blood and Stomach Pills!!!"  A number of colliers walking home, gathered round the rear of the Morgan, lifted her, whilst I changed the wheel, a 'Pit Stop' to be proud of. On attempting the hill, we lost traction. Hood down, two of the 'Pit Crew' climbed aboard, sitting on the folded down hood, their feet in the space behind the seats, we bounced her up the hill. Would have made a good photograph, not though for the likes of Motor Sport, four colliers in a Morgan, what next?

Mind you, the then young William Boddy, would no doubt have been pleased to know, his beloved magazine, was regularly read on the coal face, down in the Barnsley seam, home of the Countries finest coal. Many of us would take reading material underground, generally the newspaper wrapped around our sandwiches, it helped pass the time, when the conveyor was stationary, due to some breakdown, or in winter, points frozen on the Pit Top.

Again on night shift, it had been a tough one, I was exceptionally tired. Prior to the Morgan, I had  used the Colliery Bus Service, provided by Rotherham Corporation Transport. Again it was always a pleasure, to stagger onto the bus, pay the fare, find a seat and to nod off. On this occasion, I was like a 'Zombie' I used the Pit Head Baths, as I left, I turned towards the bus and not the car park. Boarded the bus, paid the fare, found a seat and drifted to the land of nod. The bus had turned right at Ravenfield cross roads and was heading towards Bramley; I was woken by a tap on the shoulder, a voice enquired " TOL'D GERT OFF COLOUR THEN?" meaning the Morgan. It was then I realised, how I had travelled to work. Off at the next stop, as I began to drag myself the two miles back to the Pit, snap tin under arm, a Police car drew up alongside, a Morris Oxford. " OVERLAYED MATE?" enquired the officer, no doubt thinking I was on the dayshift" SORT OF." came my reply. He kindly gave me a lift " WAIT TILL I TELL THE SARGE." came his reply, when I explained my return journey. There she was in the car park, if vehicles could talk, she would no doubt have said " WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN UNTIL THIS TIME?" Heard that somewhere before.


Marriage and two children, meant a tin top Standard Vanguard. I sold the Morgan in 1964 for 45. Out of interest my wife and I named our first son John Morgan. I believe the number JTT 96 is on an Oliver Lorry somewhere in Devon. Wish I knew where the Morgan herself was, would like to thank her for the pleasure she gave and apologise for any abuse.
The next time you hear 'Country Roads' take note of the opening two words 'Almost Heaven'.

 

FRED SPENCER fred@coalface.fslife.co.uk


 

Poetry by Fred

 

The Price of Coal 

Colliers

Jack

Loss

 

 

Articles by Fred

 

Morgan Memories

Stone walling

 

 

 

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