An Eighteenth Century Commemorative Medal or Token from Walker Colliery -Northumberland or West Cumberland?

 An engraved silver colliery token/medal from Walker Colliery (Actual size 33 mm diameter).

At a recent NMMA in Elsecar a fellow member showed me the commemorative medal/token  illustrated above. I believe it to be from Walker Colliery in Newcastle.  Can anyone supply me with any further information about its origins and history.

Submitted By : Mark Smith.
Date: November 2005.

Offered for sale in the February 1981 issue of the Numismatic Circular (1) was a supposedly unrecorded silver mining medal. The details of which were given as:
Walker Colliery. Broughton. 1762. Engraved silver token recording a record depth. WALKER COLLY / WON 13 JANY. 1762 / 99 FATHOMS. Reverse: Legend;  E TENEBRIS / LUX. Unrecorded and most unusual. 33 mm.
Foot Note: No record is known of the events that caused this piece to be issued, but the legend on the reverse would seem fortuitous to anyone emerging from a depth of 792 feet (2).
What at first attracted my attention to this medal was the name of the colliery. A coal mine with the same name had operated in the North East Coalfield prior to the Great War. The place name Broughton does not appear on the medal itself and it is my belief that the medal actually emanates from Northumberland and not Cumberland. I believe that the reference to "WALKER" in the legend of this piece has caused the confusion with regards it being attributed to West Cumberland. There are a well known series of coal carriers tokens recorded for Broughton Colliery in West Cumberland(3) one type of which bears the obverse legend "I & T / WALKER / COLLIERY / TOKEN" plus the date "1834" on its reverse. This obverse legend should be interpreted as "I & T Walker - Their Colliery Token". The brothers John and Thomas Walker operated Broughton Colliery from 1823 until approximately 1837.
 The copper token from  Broughton Colliery issued by John & Thomas Walker in 1834 (Actual size 29 mm by 29 mm).
The following information, I hope, will clarify the reason for the medals' issue, and at the same time confirm its association with the North East Coalfield. Recorded in the proceedings of the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Antiquarian Society are similar pieces, with a brief reference to the reason of issue (4). The medals commemorate the wining or sinking to the High Main coal seam at the Ann Pit, Walker, just outside Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in January 1762. Each sinker involved received an inscribed medal. The word colliery suggests in mining terms more than one mine, pit, shaft or drift. Is is well known that sinking was a very dangerous and arduous occupation. The sinking team was led by a master-sinker, usually an engineer. The team consisted of approximately 20 persons.

Walker Colliery Medal Recipients;
Reverse Details Information
1) J C Donated to the Newcastle Society by Mr. John Carr of Gateshead per Mr. Oxberry. This medal was originally in the possession of his father. 
2)  S 0 Originally belonging to Samuel Oswald.
3)  W A Named to an Armstrong. Information on medals 2 and 3 was supplied to the Newcastle Society by a fellow member Mr. M. F. E. MacFadyen.
4) E TENBRIS LUX At least two known examples. The first being offered for sale by Spink and Son in 1981 and the second by Baldwins in 1996.
5) B G Private Collection.
 Historical Note

Coal mining in the Tyne basin dates back to the latter half of the 13th century. Production increased slowly until the 17th century, and it doubled in the latter part of the 18th century to feed the Industrial Revolution. The Walker estate in Northumberland derived its name from the "marsh by the wall" and lies approximately three miles east of the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The Walker estate was purchased by the city in 1715, and in the following century chemicals, ship-building, and coal-mining were developed their on a grand scale.
By the close of the 18th century, out-crop and shallow coal seams around Newcastle and Gateshead and up river to the west had been practically worked out. Exploratory borings to find virgin seams moved outwards to the east, north, and south (5).
Sinkings around the Walker estate were carried out between 1753 to 1757 and the very rich High Main coal seam was discovered at a depth of 99 fathoms. Probably the first successful borings were carried out from existing shafts at the West Engine and Ann Pits.
Average mine depths in other parts of the coalfield were less than a third of the Walker undertakings. Although deeper mining meant far greater initial expenditure and time before investors saw a return on their money, this, however, did not deter them from taking the gamble as great profits could be expected if successful with the demand for coal on the increase. The Yard, Bensham, Five Quarter and Low Main seams would be discovered
later at greater depths still.
For centuries the Northern Coalfield held the monopoly of selling coals on the London market. Coals with the name Wallsend and Walker always sold at a premium. It would become the custom in the Walker area to name the pit shafts in alphabetical order using female names. Thirty years after the opening of the Ann pit geological problems started to affect output. Due to the Northumberland method of mining, large pillars of coal were left unworked to support roadways and roof. With the presence of gases, poor ventilation and the main problem of deep mine flooding, production was temporarily halted. With the introduction of the miners' safety lamp, the Ann pit once again started to produce coal in 1817.
Coal mining in Walker came to an end with the closure of the Ann Pit in 1918. From this time the Great Northern Coalfield was never able to achieve its prominence as the most productive coal mining area in Great Britain. Today the coalfield is now only a shadow of its former self.

1 Page 51, item 1127.
2 The legend "E TENEBRIS LUX" translates from Latin as "Out of darkness light".
3 See Article, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society Transactions. 1899.
4 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, page 306, 1923-24.
5 An account of the Strata of Northumberland and Durham, as proved by boring and sinking. Sand T issued by the Council of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, 1884.
Additional reference: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne by S. Middlebrook.

Submitted By : Site Webmaster based on information received from Jeffrey Gardiner and first presented by him in Spink's Numismatic Circular (May 1987).
Date: November 2005.


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