Counter Stamped Letters on Ollerton Colliery Lamp Checks.

Recently I acquired twenty three brass pit checks similar to the ones shown below. I understand that all of them originated from Ollerton Colliery in Nottinghamshire. 

Nearly all of the checks are die stamped with the letters "OLLT" on their obverse plus a unique identification number on their reverse.  In addition half of them bare various hand stamped letters on their reverses. On most of the checks the suspension holes are located as shown in the top image below. However, a few have been pierced in the 9 o'clock as apposed to the 12 o'clock position (see bottom image below).  

Two typical examples (top obverse, below a reverse) of the stamped brass "OLLT" checks. All are rectangular with rounded corners and measure 29 mm by 19 mm. 

Of the eleven checks which have hand stamped letters on their reverses several variations are present. These included;

  • FPR - 7 examples 

  • FR - 1 example 

  • PER - 1 example 

  • EM - 1 example 

  • M - 1 example

What were these checks used for and what do the various sets of initials stamped on their reverses signify?   

Submitted By : George Martin.
Date: October 2003
REPLY No.1  
I have seen similar small rectangular checks which were salvaged at the time of closure from the lamp rooms of three other Nottingham Area pits - Rufford, Mansfield and Bevercotes. In all three cases the now owners of these checks had literally hundreds of them. The vast majority of the checks simply carried a hand stamped identification number and nothing else. However, the obverses of a few examples were machine stamped with their respective colliery names.  I guess it is possible that many Notts. Area pits used such checks during the later N.C.B. period. However, given their basic and un-attributable design most of them were deemed not worthy of saving but instead have found their way into skips bound for scrap metal dealers. One NMMA member I have discussed these simple rectangular checks with (Ivan Dawson) remembers using them when he worked at Rufford Colliery. At Rufford each miner had three checks all of which bore his personal identification number. Firstly a small round brass embossed check which he was responsible for keeping safe. This was his pay check. His two additional checks which were used to control and record his descent into the mine. These were kept in the lamp room and were collected at the start of each shift. The first of these two checks was an octagonal brass embossed check while the second was one of the small rectangular numbered checks. These latter checks were retained by the miners while they were underground and were only surrendered to the banksman on being raised to the surface at the end of each shift. While under ground the miners kept these small checks safe by clipping them onto the battery casing of their cap lamps. Presumably the other similar rectangular checks used at Bevercotes and Ollerton (plus presumably other Notts. pits?) were used in a similar way.
I am not sure what the various initials on the Ollerton checks stand for. However, it strikes me that they may be similar to the hand stamped initials found on many of the pear shaped brass embossed checks known from Tilmanstone Colliery in Kent. At Tilmanstone it is understood that these initials signified the trades etc. that each miner had been trained in. These initials include the following;

D - Drawer Off (Salvage Worker).

E - Electrician

F - Face Worker (Collier)

H - Haulage Worker

M - Mechanic

R - Ripper (Stoneman or roadway enlargement)

It is interesting that out of the five different letters found on the Ollerton checks four of them (F,E,R,M) are the same as those found on checks mentioned above from Kent. Given this I feel certain that they had the same meaning and significance at Ollerton as they did at Tilmanstone. If this is the case I wonder what the additional letter "P", found on the Ollerton checks, could stand for? Does anyone know? 
I have an 1950s (?) book issued by the N.C.B. which lists all official colliery working tasks and job titles and categories them against national pay scales. Looking down this list of job titles their are many starting with the letter "P". However, one in particular could have a direct comparison with the "H" (for haulage engine operator) used at Tilmanstone - this is "Paddy" Haulage Attendant (i.e. the man that operated the haulage engine which drove the underground "Paddy" trains). 
Submitted By : Mark Smith (partly based on information supplied by Ivan Dawson). 
Date: October 2003       
REPLY No.2  
I worked at Ollerton Colliery from 1983 until its untimely closure and can remember using similar small rectangular checks to the ones illustrated above. Some of these checks were stamped with the abbreviated name of the pit (i.e. "OLLT") but I can't remember any of the other initials on the reverse which are mentioned.
At Ollerton colliery we had two stamped brass check for controlling access into the mine. One was round the other a small rectangular one. We collected these checks at the start of each shift after having first reported to the Deployment Boards prior to changing into our pit cloths.
The round checks were given to the banksman on entering the cage prior to descending into the pit. The rectangular checks were retained by each man while underground only to be given to the banksman on returning to the surface. All checks were returned from the banksman back to the time office via the use of a pneumatic canister conveying system.
The markings on the rectangular checks may be related to those similar letters that we to be found on our deployment checks. These checks were coloured (to denote which shift you were on) strips of tin (or similar) and hung on pegs on various deployment boards located on the pit surface. Depending on which board your deployment check had been hung by the colliery officials denoted the area of the underground workings plus task each miner had been assigned to each day.
The deployment checks were different to the brass checks and contained letters that reflected each mans under ground qualification or work skills . These initials included;

F- Face Worker

F.M. -  Face Market ("market" workers were those who were able to rotate from different face work tasks around the pit. Like a hit squad)

H - Haulage (i.e. some one trained to oerate the rope haulage system).

G.H. - Gearhead Driver (someone who was stationed at conveyor transfer points and "hit" the emergency stop button at the head of their allocated conveyor if there was a problem or proceeding belt trip. These workers were called "button boys" in some other Nottinghamshire Area pits).

In addition to the checks described above I also remember the earlier use of brass embossed pay checks at Ollerton. These were kept by each miner and were stamped with their personal identification number.  When I first joined the pit I had an oval pay check but prior to my time at the pit "polo" shaped ones had been used. The checks we had for controlling access into the mine were not embossed with the colliery's name. Most just were stamped with each miner's allocated safety lamp number. During the 1990s when further Nottinghamshire pits were closing there was an influx of miners to Ollerton from some of the closed pits. These men had new checks stamped up for them by the time office. During this late period under British Coal such new or replacement round checks were also stamped with the number "06" in addition to the miner's unique lamp number. The former number acted as a colliery identifier as Ollerton Colliery was designated at this time with the number "6" out of the listing of those pits which remained in operation in the area.
l hope the above information is of some help.
Submitted By : Jim Ridley. 
Date: June 2004       


I further check, thought to be of a similar age as the late British Coal issued ones from Ollerton (see picture above), has now been reported from Coventry Colliery in Warwickshire. This one also has the initials "PFR" hand stamped on its obverse. What ever these initials indicate it looks like they were being used at at least two pits in what was then left of the old British Coal Midlands Area.

Late British Coal Coventry Colliery check bearing hand stamped initials "PFR".

Submitted By : Mark Smith. 
Date: October 2009

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