Bersham Colliery Mining Museum comprises the former engine house and the last headgear still standing in the North Wales coalfield. The Headgear was restored with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund for Wales.
Coal was a vital raw material for industry and its plentiful supply locally (the Denbighshire Coalfield extends from Oswestry to north of Wrexham) transformed Wrexham from a market town into the industrial centre for North-East Wales. Villages like Rhosllanerchrugog, Ponciau and Llay grew up as the coal mining industry expanded in the 19th Century. In coal's heyday, there were 38 collieries employing over 12,000 men and coal production topped 2.6 million tons. This coal powered the growth of the local iron industry from the mid-eighteenth century. Other industries such as the brick, tile and terracotta works of Abenbury and Ruabon also needed coal. In the 20th century the Shotton steelworks used Bersham’s coal.
Bersham Colliery began in 1868 with the sinking of the first shaft on what was then an old brickyard. You can still see the small cage on top of the No.1 Shaft, which took miners and equipment down to the coalface and back.
By 1902 the original owners, the Barnes family from Liverpool, employed 675 men below ground and 94 more at the surface. It was dangerous work. An explosion in 1880 killed 9 workers.
The large metal structure on the site is called the Headgear. Now
restored, it came from nearby Gatewen Colliery. The headgear was
brought to Bersham Colliery for the No.2 Shaft in 1930 after a
fire destroyed the former timber-built structure.
The headgear helped to lift the coal up the No.2 Shaft from the coalface 1269 feet / 387 metres below. It also lowered and lifted men and equipment to and from the tunnels connected to the coalface. When you see the size of the machines that worked underground ( some are on display at Bersham Colliery), it is amazing to think that they all had to be lowered down this shaft. The brick building next to the Headgear houses the electric winding machine that pulled the lift cage containing the coal to the surface. You can tell how far Bersham miners had to travel underground by the fact that mining around Erddig caused the country house to subside and eventually forced Philip Yorke, the owner, to move out and hand the property over to the National Trust. The mine had to leave the coal seams in the area of Erddig in place, which adversely affected the viability of the pit.
Bersham Colliery overcame many problems: some of the coal seams were less than 2 foot high, the mine was wet, the Wrexham - Staffordshire fault made life difficult and there was always a problem in getting the coal up from the face to the surface quick enough. There was an ingenious machine that blew the coal up a pipe as powder to be sold on to the power station at Fiddlers Ferry. However, Bersham was an efficient mine to run despite a preference for economies of scale in the coal industry.
Bersham Colliery was the last working colliery in the Denbighshire Coalfield. It was closed down in 1986 with the loss of 480 jobs. Coal mining shaped the character of the local community and landscape beyond the pithead. With several generations, sons following fathers, all going down the mine, Bersham Colliery was important to local people. Villages like Rhostyllen, Ponciau and Llay would not exist but for coal mining. This headgear is the only one left in the coalfield. As many of the old collieries have changed beyond all recognition, the headgear is now a reminder of this local industry and of the miners who worked below. It is a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument in the care of Wrexham County Borough Council and Bersham Colliery Trust.
Cutting coal at Bersham. © The Coal Authority