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On the 31st December 1852 William Worswick signed a 35 year coal mining lease with Wyggeston Hospital.  The Coleorton No 2 Colliery was then sunk. It became known as the Califat mine after the Russian siege of the town of Calafat (then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, now in Romania) January to April 1854.

The Califat Coal Mine had two shafts.  The Califat shaft was used for winding and the engine and boiler house complex has been excavated by LIHS June 2006 to 2019.  The Alabama shaft was used for pumping and the engine and boiler house complex was excavated 1993-1999.  The miners cottages excavation began in March 2016.

Read more:



Califat Shaft – Engine House and Boiler House Consolidations

In May 2013 the Califat engine house was stabilised by Classic Builders of Ashby.  Original bricks from the excavation were used to partially rebuild the walls, so that the outline of the engine house could be more easily understood.  It is believed that there would have been an engine on each half of the central engine plinth.  Photos by Bill Pemberton.

To see more read the Engine house excavation and consolidation photo history

Engine plinth with holes for holding down bolts
Consolidating engine plinth by replacing bricks
Engine house viewed from boiler house side

In June 2014 the Califat boiler house was stabilised.  As with the engine house stabilisation, walls were rebuilt on the lines revealed by the excavation.  The position of the three boiler cradles and their stoke pits can be seen.  Photos by Bill Pemberton.

Flues taking gases from coal fired boilers to chimney
Position of three boiler cradles
Brick pier between two stoke holes filled with breeze blocks and faced with original bricks

By arrangement, Larry South brought his drone to the Califat in February 2019 to take aerial photos of the Califat engine house complex.

Engine house left, boiler house right, chimney below boiler house
An 18th century shaft to the right of the 19th century buildings
The bottom left pond was a rectangular water reservoir


Miners’ Cottages

When taking visitors on a tour of the Califat we used to point to a mass of brambles and hawthorn and tell them there were miners’ cottages there.  In March 2016 we started by clearing the scrub and as soon as digging began evidence of the cottages started to emerge.

Some dig sessions are in glorious sunshine
Some dig sessions require warm clothes
Excavating the cottages is slow careful work

Larry South’s drone photos show the entrance porch and the room to the right.  There were two cottages next to each other, about 75% of one cottage is on Trust land.

To see more read
Miners’ cottages excavation photo history
Summary of December 1958 Environmental Health Report leading to the demolition of the Califat Cottages

Drone view of the cottages on right and neighbouring area where they continue
Porch and main room to the right
The close up of the porch and stairs area with fireplace next door in main room


Partnership Excavation

The Swannington Heritage Trust partnership with Leicestershire Industrial History Society is very important.  LIHS lead the dig on the second Tuesday of the month, 9.30am-1pm. Visitors and new diggers are always welcome.  See diary for Califat Coal Mine tours during the ‘Festival of Archaeology’ in July and ‘Hello Heritage’ in September.

Recording the dig is essential, as is the social dimension of the dig.  The coffee break, Christmas barbecue and monthly post dig lunch at the Bull’s Head, Thringstone, involves discussion about all manner of subjects as well as the dig.


Califat Dig Photographic Reports

In addition to the formal recording of the dig a monthly photographic report is produced:

September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020

The reports for previous years are on the Califat Excavation Reports page


Cage Overwind Fatality – Friday 29th May 1863

Incident Summary

At about 5.30pm two miners, John Hutchinson and William Clements, finished their shift and were in the cage at the bottom of the winding shaft.  They signalled to ascend but nothing happened because the engine man, William Walker, had gone to get a bucket from the pumping engine 60-70 yards (55-64 metres) away.

The overman, Robert Lakin, was in the engine house at the time.  He had experience of operating the winding engine to raise coal tubs and decided to bring the men up to the surface.  He did not stop the engine in time and the cage hit the headstock and broke.  John Hutchinson fell 130 yards (119 metres) to his death, while William Clements clung on to the remnants of the cage and headstock for 20 minutes until he was rescued.


Inquest Extracts

The Leicester Journal on Friday 5th June gave a detailed account of the incident, including the following extracts:

  • Blacksmith – James Waring – went out of his workshop after hearing a crash “I saw the position they were in, and shouted for them to hold fast, the first thing the guard or fencing came into contact with was the bottom cross beam, which caused the guard to break and the cage to swing round.  The end of the guard that did not catch the beam caught against the underpart of the cage.  At the same moment the cross bars of the cage the men were holding by broke, and both men were thrown out.  Clements was first thrown out, and caught the slide of the conductor, and deceased was thrown clean over the side down the shaft.  He tried to catch the side but missed it.  Clements was dashed against the diagonal bar across the pit, by which he held, and sat on the cross piece of the frame or head gear.”
  • Deputy of the day shift – Thomas Bird – Proved to finding the body at the bottom of the shaft.  Two boys told him a man had fell down the shaft.  Made haste there and found it was deceased.  He was quite dead.  The depth of the shaft is about 130 yards.
  • Engine man – William Walker – “No one had any right to meddle with the engine unless the manager gave permission.  I had seen Lakin work the engine several times, he had drawn coals up during dinner time.  I knew he could manage the engine before I came there.  I never knew him draw men up.  The engine was in good working order at the time.”
  • Manager of the Coleorton Colliery – George Lewis – “I produce a copy of the rules of the Coleorton Colliery, every man is supplied with a copy.  Special Rule, clause 53 states, “The engineer shall not permit anyone but himself to interfere with the engine, or machinery without the permission of the manager.”  By the Chairman: Have you ever given Lakin permission?  No”
  • Overman – Robert Lakin – “When I commenced turning them up, and had got better than half way up, I saw Walker, the engine man coming.  When I saw him running my mind seemed fixed on him.  I let the engine go, and the cage appeared in sight.  I took the steam off, and clapped the break on, and stopped her instantly, but the crank coming over the swing it took the cage up higher.”


William Clements (Survived)

The newspaper reports do not give any information that would identify which of the two William Clements (father and son) was involved in the incident:

  • William Clements 1812-1871 – William was born in Radford Nottinghamshire.   William was a coal miner living in Whitwick in 1841, he was mining in Staffordshire in 1851 then back in Leicestershire in 1861.  William was buried at St Leodegarius church, Basford, Nottingham on the 2nd April 1871.
  • William Clements 1841-1915 – William was born in Whitwick and had moved to Staffordshire with his coal mining father by 1851.  By 1861 William had adopted his father’s occupation as a coal miner.  In 1881 he was a coal miner living in Clay Lane, Derbyshire.  By 1891 he was living in Market Street, Swadlincote and was still in Market Street in 1911 where he is recorded as a 69 year old coal hewer.

After the incident William walked home.  The family was probably living in Limby Hall Lane at the time as that is the address on the burial register for Harry Clements in October 1863.

The Leicester Journal report of the inquest describes William Clement as “This witnesses was scarcely able to walk and trembled in every limb, showing visibly the effect of the late accent on him”.

The inquest took place at the Fox Inn, Thringstone, on Monday 1st June, three days after the incident.  Considering the newspaper description of William’s condition, one wonders how he managed to get there.


John Hutchinson (Died)

Very little is known about John Hutchinson.  John’s marriage certificate partly explains why this is the case:

  • John’s father is not included on the marriage certificate
  • John Hutchinson married Selina Varnham at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Whitwick, which would account for him not appearing in Church of England baptism and burial registers.
Marriage certificate of John Hutchinson and Selina Varnham at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Whitwick 21st April 1862

John’s birth certificate has not been traced.  His sister Eliza’s birth certificate in 1848 does not include a father, although sister Fanny’s 1844 certificate names her father as Francis Hutchinson a collier.

The Leicester Journal describes him as “J Hutchinson, who is a young man, had not been married more than 15 months, and buried his only child a few weeks ago.  He did not bear the best of characters, but has lately changed for the better.”  Other newspapers give his age as 22 years old.

The death certificate confirms that John died of a fractured skull.

Birth certificate Eliza Hutchinson, 1848 in Thringstone, father's name not included
Birth certificate Fanny Hutchinson 1848, father shown as Francis Hutchinson
Death certificate of John Hutchinson killed falling down the shaft - certificate obtained from General Register Office


Flooding Fatalities – 8th October 1863

On the 8th October 1863 the coal mine flooded trapping six miners underground, three were rescued.  The incident was commemorated 150 years later on the 8th October 2013, at the memorial plaques at the Alabama shaft engine house complex.

Alabama shaft engine house site, excavated 1993-1999
Memorial plaques for the 3 miners who died in the 1863 flooding
LIHS diggers 8th October 2013 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 8th October 1863 flooding



A Coal Mining Dynasty


The owners / managers / mining engineers at the Califat Coal Mine were part of a coal mining dynasty, a network of family and business relationships that spanned:

  • 150 years
  • 400 people
  • 16 mining engineers
  • 12 coal merchants
  • 8 counties – Derbyshire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire Leicestershire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire and Sussex

See the Talks Page for details of the “A Coal Mining Dynasty” talk offered to community organisations.


Benjamin Walker and William Worswick owned the Coleorton Colliery Company whose No 2 mine was the Califat.   Benjamin gave his occupation as Farmer and Coal Master.  Benjamin’s family continued the coal business in various ways:

  • Son, Joseph became a coal merchant
  • Son, William took over the colliery businesses
  • Daughter, Hannah married her cousin a coal higgler
  • Daughter Caroline Elizabeth married farmer John Richardson and their son John Walker Richardson became manager at Whitwick Colliery.

In 1839 William Walker married Emma Bailey the daughter of Captain William Willis Bailey and Mary Johana Ibbetson.  The families had known each other a long time (William Willis Bailey had been a witness at the 1812 marriage of William’s father Benjamin Walker).

When Benjamin died in 1861 his mining interests passed to his son William.  It was around this time that William moved to Nottinghamshire to supervise the opening of the new Walker-Worswick mine at Annesley.


A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - descendants of Thomas and Sarah Walker
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - Benjamin Walker and his family


William Willis Bayley was born in Madeley, Shropshire in 1758.  How he became a mining engineer at Coleorton is not known.   Along the way he changed the spelling of his surname to Bailey.  He became Captain of the Coleorton Volunteer Militia, which was formed in the early 1800’s when Britain feared an invasion by Napoleon’s French army.

William Willis Bailey was 48 when he married 19 year old Mary Joanna Ibbetson in 1806.  He died in 1818 leaving Mary Joanna with five children aged 3-11 years including a son also William Willis Bailey.

Mary Joanna needed a father for her five children, so married her late husband’s nephew a third William Willis Bailey.  They had a son, named Julius Caesar Ibbetson Bailey after her father.  Julius became a mining engineer like the three William Willis Baileys.

Mary Joanna’s three daughters all married within the coal industry.

  • Jane Bailey, born 1809, married Thomas Stubbs a Northampton coal merchant in 1837.
  • Harriet Bailey, born 1811, married Richard Smith Lewis, who became a coal merchant in Northampton,  in 1833.
  • Emma Bailey, born 1815, married William Walker the mining engineer in 1839.  When William and family moved to Nottinghamshire to supervise the new mine at Annesley, he needed a replacement for Coleorton Colliery.  Who better than his wife’s half brother Julius Caesar Ibbetson Bailey?
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - William Willis Bailey born Madeley, Shropshire 1758
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - William Willis Bailey born 1758 marriage 1806
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - William Willis Bailey born 1791 marriage 1819
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - William Willis Bailey born 1791 marriage 1819 - children


Richard Smith Lewis and Harriet Bailey had four children:

  • Daughter, Frances Lewis born 1836
  • Son, Richard George Bailey Lewis, born 1837.  He usually used the name George Lewis.  He became a mining engineer.  In 1861 his uncle Julius Caesar Ibbetson Bailey became the mining engineer/manager for the Coleorton Colliery.  However he lived at Abram, Lancashire and only visited the colliery periodically.  He needed a man on the spot, who better than his nephew George Lewis?
  • Son, Henry Lewis, born 1839.  Henry also became a mining engineer.  Amongst other roles in Nottinghamshire he was manager at both Annesley and Linby collieries.
  • Daughter, Mary Joanne Bailey Lewis, born 1842.  Mary married William Gray in 1870.  He was a colliery manager in Swannington in 1861 and a colliery agent in Nottinghamshire in 1871 and 1881.

Richard George Bailey Lewis was the on site manager at the Coleorton Colliery company at the time of the two fatal incidents in 1863.  He acted on behalf of his uncle Julius Caesar Ibbetson Bailey who had been appointed by William Walker and William Worswick.  George Lewis married his cousin (and William Walker’s daughter) Emily Walker in 1866.  They had five children:

  • Daughter, Emily Harriet Lewis, born 1868
  • Son, George Alfred Lewis, born 1869.  George Alfred was a mining engineer who became Lieut Colonel of the 5th Sherwood Foresters during WW1.  He was chairman of Whitwick Colliery for more than 20 years until nationalisation in 1947, as well as being a director of Wollaton Colliery.
  • Daughter, Mary Lewis, born 1871.  Mary married Richard Hutton Frith Hepplewhite in 1902.  Richard was a mining engineer and manager / agent at Bestwood Colliery 1911-1926.
  • Daughter, Ethel Isabel Lewis, born 1873.
  • Son, Percy William Lewis, born 1874.  Percy William became a mining engineer and part of the Lewis and Lewis mining consultancy in Derby.
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - family of Richard George Bailey Lewis
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - the Walker, Bailey, Lewis family relationship


Mary Joanne Bailey Lewis married William Gray in 1870.  His brother was Thomas Henry Gray 1827-1914.   Thomas Henry was a colliery manager / agent living in Station Row in 1861 and 1871.  Possibly the manager of the Swannington No 2 mine (Sinope) or No 3 (Clink).  Thereafter he moved to Linby Colliery.  Amongst his Swannington born children were:

  • Thomas Edward Gray born 1855.  Became a coal merchant in Stevenage (1891), Enfield (1901) and Barnet (1911).  He married Mary Isabella Nall of the Lancashire carrier family whose brother later became Sir Joseph Nall and a director of Linby Colliery.
  • William Arthur Gray born 1861.  Coal merchant in Finchley, Middlesex, 1891, 1901, 1911.
  • John Wesley Gray, born 1863.  Commercial clerk at colliery.  Married Josephine Nall of the Lancashire carrier family.
  • Alfred James Gray, born 1865. Commercial clerk at colliery.  Later a builders’ merchant, then coal merchant in Finchley.
  • George Frederick Gray, born 1867.  Coal traveller at Ipswich, Suffolk, 1891, 1901, 1911.
  • Charles Wesley Gray, born 1870.  Colliery commercial manager Hucknall Torkard 1901.  Colliery commercial manager Linby and Papplewick collieries.  Married Harriett Machin whose father and brother were at times directors of Linby Colliery.
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - brothers Thomas Henry Gray and William Gray
A Coal Mining Dynasty talk - members of the dynasty who had a senior role with the Linby Colliery Company