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 :
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:
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).
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
Walker Colliery Medal Recipients;
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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
The legend "E
TENEBRIS LUX" translates from Latin as "Out of darkness light".
3 See Article, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society Transactions.
4 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, page 306,
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.
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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