Bream Heritage Walk

22 – Flourmill Colliery

Flourmill Colliery, almost certainly named after the mill we passed earlier, used an adjacent site at the end of the buildings. About 2 acres was leased from the Crown for 31 years by Ralph and Arthur Price for a rent of £5-00 a year. They commenced sinking a shaft in the coal measures in 1866 and in 1870 they applied for a connection to the Oakwood tramway.

Problems were encountered with water getting into the mine and the colliery changed hands in 1896 when it was bought by William Camm and Edward Watkins who owned the nearby Park Gutter colliery. The Princess Royal Colliery company now owned both Flourmill and Park Gutter collieries but Park Gutter eventually became known as Princess Royal and Flourmill retained it’s name. Old miners would still refer to employment at Princess Royal as working “down the gutter”.

In 1892 a surface, rope-hauled tramway, was constructed from Flourmill to the larger Princess Royal colliery, more than ½ a mile away, so that their coal could be sorted and cleaned with the coal from that mine.

A photo of Flourmill Colliery with drams and a horse
A photo of Flourmill Colliery showing two of the three shafts and drams and a horse. Photo (c) Brenda Preest.

As this meant crossing the valley and the Oakwood tramway the engineers built a brick archway over the oakwood tramway, then built this up with earth to create a steep sided land bridge across the valley.

Another shaft was sunk in 1904 but proved to be very wet. To carry the coal to the Princess Royal this new shaft necessitated the construction of another brick arch and land bridge over the Oakwood tramway.

Later, another shaft was sunk and the mine was connected to the Princess Royal underground. It was then possible to walk underground to Whitecroft and eventually from there to the New Norchard Colliery at Pillowell. From Pillowell you could continue walking underground to the original Norchard Colliery near Lydney (now the Norchard Steam Centre of the Dean Forest Railway).

In 1909, because of problems with flooding, a large electrical generating plant was constructed to drive underground pumps. The use of electricity was highly unusual at the time since Gloucester city only received a limited supply in 1900.

Before the closure of the Princess Royal colliery in the early 1960’s the plant was manned day and night by two men, Harry Webb from Parkend and Bill Davey who lived in Parkend Road, Bream.

This complex of collieries closed in the early 1960’s and it is difficult to describe the Flour Mill Colliery when so much of it has been demolished and much of the site allowed to revert to nature. There is more information on Flourmill colliery and old photos under Mines on sungreen web site.

The largest remaining building housed the electrical generating plant. It was at one time used for plastic reclamation and is now operated as “The Flourmill” by Mr Bill Parker. The Flourmill is a railway locomotive engineering business. The Flourmill have renovated and built many locos here including a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket and Met 1 that originally ran on the London Underground. Geoff Phelps one of the engineers here drove Met 1 on the Metropolitan Line underground in 2013 to celebrate 150 years of the London Underground.

A restored steam loco at The Flourmill works in 2007
A restored loco under steam at The Flourmill works in 2007

Up the hill on the Bream side of the colliery are a series of large stone quarries, usually referred to as the Parkend Road quarries. These quarries, in massive sandstone, extend back to Mill Hill and would have supplied building blocks for the Bream area.