38 – Princess Royal Colliery

The large steep hill that you see on the right is the spoil heap from the colliery that was working coal here until 1962. It is usually known locally as Princess Royal Colliery, although to miners that worked there it was often referred to as Park Gutter. The Park being Whitemead or Knockley Park and gutter being somewhere that plenty of water flows. The spoil heap was known for its “volcanoes” areas where steam and smoke from spontaneous combustion of coal fragments deep in the tip escaped at the surface.

An image of an oil painting by Peter Saysel
Courtesy of Bryan Nelmes, painted by Mr Peter Saysel .

In 1891 the Princess Royal Colliery Company was formed to run Park Gutter colliery and Flourmill Colliery. A rail line called the Oakwood Branch of the Severn and Wye railway was soon extended up to here to reach Park Gutter. It crossed the road just down the hill where the road levels out a little. It left the main line 3/4 of a mile away at Tufts Junction At the same time the rope-worked tramway was laid from Flourmill Colliery to Park Gutter.

The shaft sunk here to the High Delf coal seam was 187m deep. Pursuing the coal seam further as it sloped downwards took the working depth below the surface to 457m. In the 1930’s the annual output from the High Delf seam was around 300,000 tons. That’s about 41 twenty ton loads per day. To keep the workings “dry” about 20 tons of water had to be pumped for each ton of coal won. At its peak Princess Royal employed 1,300 men and had an output of 1,000 tons per day.

A photo of miners afetr the last shift at Princess Royal Colliery
Miners carry out their kit after The last shift at Princess Royal Colliery

A few of the minor colliery buildings survive below the spoil tip but on this side of the road were the “pit baths”. These showers and drying rooms were welcomed by the miners and even more so by their women-folk who became freed of the tasks of preparing”tin baths” full of hot water for their men to wash away the pit dirt acquired during their shift down the pit. They also no longer had to dry out the pit clothes after every shift as this could be done in the pit baths building.

A photo by Mike Wilks of Princess Royal Pit Baths
A photo by Mike Wilks from Facebook showing the Pit Baths

After the colliery closed the “pit baths” were used by H. J. Roberts of Cinderford, not for bathing but for the sale of various items including furniture, ex Ministry stock, new tools etc., binoculars etc. and carpets.

The buildings were threatened with demolition after H. J. Roberts left and despite efforts to find a new use, the main of the pit baths buildings were demolished. However, some lower rooms remain as a home for a colony of lesser horseshoe bats.