Clayton Colliery - A new contender as being the issuer of the earliest known lamp check from Britain.

Can anyone tell me anything about the brass embossed check above? I assume it to be a safety lamp issuing tally although I expect it could also represent a time or possibly pay check. The item in question is uniface and measures 35 mm in diameter. I was unable to trace Clayton Colliery in Manchester in any local history books covering area or in Manchester central library. However, a friend did come across documentation in Liverpool Records Office that indicated the pit  had operated from 1798 until 1855.

Given the early closing date of this Manchester pit (i.e. 1855) this may make this pit a new contender for the earliest known colliery to have issued lamp checks. At present there are no similar lamp checks that are reported which definitely pre date those famous examples from from Elsecar Low Pit which are dated to 1882.

Any answers or further information about the above item would be greatly appreciated.

Submitted By : Terry Houghton.
Date: March 2005.


This pit must have re-opened for a while after 1855. I have found a reference to a Clayton Colliery located at Clayton in Manchester and owned by Leigh & Bradbury in the 1869 list of mines for Lancashire (see link off the NMMA web site under lists of mines for 1896). This pit was not listed in the 1880 list of mines so I guess it had closed again by that date. Even in light of this information your Clayton Colliery check is still in line as a new contender for the earliest know pit check from Britain. However, I suspect there might be a few other new contenders to knock the Elsecar Low Pit ones off their pedestal if only some collectors were able to do a bit more research on some of the more obscure checks in their collections.

Submitted By : Mark Smith
Date: March 2005.



Clayton was owned by Leigh & Bradbury in 1859. They also owned Broomstair, Haughton, Hyde Collieries.

Submitted By : Mike Gill
Date: March 2005.


Further to the above information Slater's Trade Directories for Manchester and Salford furnish some more particulars as to ownership of Clayton Colliery; see:

In 1863 Leigh and Bradbury are listed under Coal masters. In 1876, 1877-8, and 1879 a "Clayton Colliery Company" is listed with John Ridings as manager. His address is given as Coal Pit Lane, Clayton. Another reference mentions Droylsden.

This leads us, speculatively, to the 1871 census, Civil Parish of Droylsden, village of Clayton, Ecclesiastical district of St Mary's - Coal Pit Lane [RG10/piece 4076/ Folio 51v (printed p.10)] which has:

John Ridings, Hd, Mar., 41, P/Cinder (Looker)? Coal Pit, born Hyde, Cheshire
His occupation isn't clear to me, but would most logically be Over Looker. Harriet, his wife, 42, born London and John's father, also John, 72, Widower, a labourer,born at Middleton, Lancs.

Interestingly, the next house hold on the lane is:

John Bradbury, a 28 year old married Mining Engineer, born at Biddulph, Staffs; he has a 3 year old daughter born in Clayton, so appears to have had at least that length of time associated with colliery work in that area.

Ten years later in 1881, John Ridings is in the same place [RG11/4042/102v(p.22)], but unemployed, listed as a coal miner. It would appear he dies in 1890, a death is registered in the Ashton district in the December quarter (~Oct-Dec) of that year, aged 60. By the 1891 cenus, the surviving family are now living at what is called 'Colliery Street' though I do not know the geography well enough to say whether it is the same place. [RG13/3282/21v (p.4)]

Further to that slight excursus, I recommend reference to the Coal Mining History Resource Centre:

The 1869 colliery list which gives Leigh and Bradbury as owners of Clayton Colliery. However, there is no comparable entry for 1880. For 1854 see also the entry at:

Hope this is of some help.

Submitted By : Chris Jones
Date: March 2005.


In response to the questions regarding Clayton Colliery in Manchester I can add the following information.

My family owned Clayton, Hyde and Haughton collieries and also Bradley Green Colliery at Biddulph, Staffordshire from about the 1840's to the 1880's. Clayton was bought by John Bradbury and Silas Leigh although John had worked there as a book-keeper previously, I think as early as the 1820's. I am descended from John. His seven sons took over but the oldest gradually bought out the rest. William ended up running the Staffordshire end while John Jnr. ran the three northern ones including Clayton. After William's death John owned all four and retired in the 1860's to Southport. He sold out to William's son, John the younger who is the one listed in the census as living at Clayton. Soon depressed markets and bad luck and sharp practices by competitors forced him out of business.

John snr. wrote of water problems getting into the Clayton colliery from the adjoining Bradford Colliery and I wonder if Bradford eventually bought out the mineral rights for Clayton.

In the mining inspector's report Clayton was one of the few collieries that didn't employ women underground.

Submitted By : Ray Bradbury
Date: July 2005.



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