Along with Phoenix Colliery, this antiquated pit forms
a unique pair of surviving full-time Free Mines . The pit is known
locally as 'the Monument'. It sits in a very isolated pine forest
called BixSlade, ¼ mile west of the B4234 road, and on the
western Edge of the Forest Of Dean. Apart from being one of the
very last pits in Britain to still employ Victorian mining methods,
Monument has other fascinating, unique characteristics. Until 2000
it was the second last mine in Britain to employ just one man. The
pit represents the last working coal-mine gantry in the country,
the railway gauge being 1ft 8 in.
Contrary to common belief, Monument is not the same mine as the
Union Colliery in which an accident of 1902 claimed the lives of
three men. These workings have in fact, a surprisingly short history.
Gerald Haynes,a local free miner first started the colliery in 1980
and unlike most modern Free Mines, began the mine drift completely
from scratch, insteadof utilising old mine drifts. At the time it
was the first completely
new mine to be dug in the forest for many years, and given the present
situation will probably be the last. Under Haynes ownership the
mine was named Hayners Bailey mine. For the next twenty years he
worked the mine completely alone. Following the repeal of the Free
Miners rights in 1994, we are told that the pit became a storm centre
for political debate, as MPs tried to convince the Tory Government
of the need to
restore the rights. This led to parliamentary visits to the mine
by Government officials to view the mine in action.
Despite the Governments hostility and determination to close the
Forest mines, work at the pit continued. A new haulage engine was
installed in 1995 made by Peckett and Anderson Ltd of Glasgow. The
following year 1996 Gerald Haynes and his mine were featured on
the BBC programme Country File as one of the very last Dean mines
still in operation. Another development at the mine took place in
the summer of the same year when the original drift entrance was
reconstructed and the incline flattened. Another Tv program was
made about the colliery in 1998, when a half hour episode of Chris
Chapman on assignment filmed Mr Haynes at work in his mine.
Mr Haynes retirement from the pit in 2000 was a major blow that
everyone had known was coming. This was felt not just in terms of
mining traditions but also to the future of Haynes Bailey pit itself.
were stacked against any possibility of the mine being taken over,
but that in fact happened. Nervyn Bradley and Ray Ashley stepped
in to save the pit. These two miners continued the pit as a full
time concern and renamed it Monument mine in Autumn 2000.
The pit currently works the Yorkley Seam, with an average section
of 2-3 feet. The levels of technology are ultra basic. An AB 15
coal cutter works back and forth along the Longwall face. The top
1-2 ft of coal is
then brought down with pneumatic picks. Only wooden props are used,
cut from local forest timber. The coal is moved down the face by
shovels, where it meets a chute and tub in the main haulage road.
The loaded tubs are then wound out of the mine by the direct rope
electric haulage engine, to the tippler screens at the surface.
Currently Mervyn Bradley and Ray Ashley work the mine all year,
and they have recently been joined by a third miner. Their annual
production is 400- 500 tonnes per annum. For the coal which is sold
to households good money can be made. However small coal can only
be sold to industry and commands only a much smaller rate of return.
Little data is available on coal reserves for mines of this size.
Provided the Coal Authority remain lenient toward the Free Mines,
there should be few problems in keeping the pit running in the near
assuming that coal prices remain stable, and that new men can be
found to enter this hard way of making a living. Forest of Dean
locals are proud of their free mining traditions and minersadvice
would urge all our readers to buy their coal from the mines if they
live locally and of course insist on British Coal from their merchants
(info thanks to Alex Potts)