Swannington’s coal mines were part of the eastern area of the Leicestershire and South Derbyshire coalfield. The coalfield has 15 seams of coal. The shallowest outcrops are at Staunton Harold and they get deeper and deeper until they reach Desford. This is why coal mining took place in Staunton Harold, Lount, Newbold, Coleorton and Swannington for many centuries before the south eastern segment of the coalfield. Technology needed to progress before the deeper mines of Whitwick, Snibston, Bagworth etc could be sunk.
Swannington and the surrounding villages were mining villages. A glance through the 19th century census returns shows family after family working in the coal mines. In many cases sons followed their fathers into the mines. 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 for decades (if not centuries) beforehand. The last major pit to close in Swannington was the Snibston No3 colliery in Spring Lane.
Transport was a major coal industry issue, how to get the coal to market. For centuries Swannington’s higglers led trains of pack horses loaded with baskets of coal to towns such as Loughborough and Leicester. Roads were terrible even when toll paying turnpikes were introduced. Tramways where horses pulled carts along rails or plateways were an improvement. Finally steam locomotives ushered in the railway age, with Robert Stephenson’s 1832 Leicester and Swannington Railway being one of the world’s earliest examples.