The amazing aspect of Swannington’s coal mining history is how long it was. Documentary evidence of Swannington coal mining stretches back to 1204, so it had almost certainly been taking place beforehand. Some of the bell pits of the Trust owned Gorse Field would have been worked in King John’s day. In the Tudor period (1500’s) the gin pits would also have appeared in the Gorse Field. Newcomen Atmospheric Engines (similar to the boiler in the Trust owned Califat Spinney) were in Swannington in the 1720’s. The spinney’s Califat Coal mine stems from the start of the Crimean War with Russia.
Swannington was also a transport hub. At various times higglers with their pack horses, turnpike toll roads and horse drawn tramways were the way to move goods. The village became famous when Robert Stephenson’s Leicester and Swannington Railway reached Swannington in 1833. The Trust owns the winding engine house and the Swannington Incline which were the western end of the railway. The railway encouraged new mines to open in the village such as the other Trust site at Spring Lane, the Snibston No 3 mine that opened next to the railway line. See our Swannington Coal Mines slideshow for origins of coal mine names.