Over the years thousands of men and a few women worked at Water Haigh. Not all of the miners and surface workers lived in Oulton, Woodlesford or nearby villages. Many had homes in Hunslet or other parts of Leeds. Some came from the Castleford and Normanton area. Others as far afield as Bradford.
After the Second World War there were a number of new recruits who had fought with the Polish Armed Forces in the West and others from other countries in Europe who arrived via the European Voluntary Workers scheme. There was also a strong Irish and Scottish contingent as well as migrants from the South Wales, Durham and Newcastle coalfields. In the 1950s there were several newcomers from the Commonwealth including the Caribbean and India. There were so many nationalities in fact that the pit was nicknamed “The League of Nations.”
On the sidebar to this page you will find the names of just a few of them, including audio interviews about their working lives at the pit. The names of most of the Water Haigh employees will go unrecorded as staff ledgers have either been destroyed or are locked away in government held files. Below on this page is an attempt at a “digital” memorial to at least some of them which will hopefully be kept for many years at the British Library.
If you read this and know details of any Water Haigh employees not listed please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Page under construction.
John Edwin Saunders. 1876 – 1930.
Tom Jones. 1854 – 1935.
Jowett Walker. 1870 – 1915.
Cutting coal at face when small piece flew from pick and struck his lip. Died at home in Stourton under treatment for scepticemia.
Sid Wade, company weighman, then Ernest Rogers
Jock Ainsley, checkweighman until 1952 after William Hemingway
Selwyn Ephraim Hartley. 1899 – 1923. Selwyn was born into a mining family that can be traced back to the Wakefield and West Ardsley area at the start of the 19th century. His grandfather, Thomas, was a miner before he left the pits and went to Bentley’s brewery as a labourer. After a few years there, in the 1890s he became the landlord of the brewery owned Boot and Shoe Inn at the end of Alma Street in Woodlesford. Selwyn’s father, Edward, also worked at the brewery as a maltster before he took over as licensee of the pub from his father. Selwyn, who took his middle name from a coal mining uncle, was probably born at the Boot and Shoe. It’s not known what he did for a job in the years after leaving school at the age of 13 in about 1914 but a letter in the Henry Briggs company archives indicates he started work at Water Haigh in July 1921. Two of his uncles, Christopher and Frank Hartley had joined the Leeds City police force as constables with Christopher later being promoted to the rank of sergeant.
In July 1922, at Woodlesford church, Selwyn married Nellie Roberts, the eldest daughter of a fellow Water Haigh miner and eldest sister of the future Member of Parliament, Albert Roberts. Not long afterwards Nellie gave birth to a son who was christened Denis. Sadly Selwyn was killed in an accident at the pit in April 1923 and was buried in Oulton church graveyard. An inquest was held but the details of the accident are unclear. Correspondence between Thomas Richard “Dick” Hall, the secretary of the Woodlesford branch of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, and the pit’s management shows a claim for compensation was made, but it’s believed the colliery company did not accept liability and only paid a small sum. Any contributions Selwyn had made into a union accident fund would have only been small and a payment to Nellie from there would also have been paltry. It was a hard struggle for Nellie as a single mother with a young child during the tough years of the 1920s depression and in 1932 she eventually married Harry Morton, a Water Haigh deputy. He had been born in Woodlesford in 1898 and was the son of a foreman in charge of a maintenance gang on the Aire and Calder Navigation living in the small toll house by the side of the canal. Harry and Nellie went on to have a daughter, Shirley, born in 1933, and lived at 16 Back Eshald Place in Woodlesford.
Richard Fowler. 1907 – 1923. Pony driver, killed in an accident. Had only been at the pit a few weeks. Lived at Roumelia Place in Hunslet. Mother Annie Farrell.
Fred Lilley. 1894 – 1920. Died at Leeds General Infirmary on Thursday 25 November 1920 after an accident at the pit which fractured his skull. Lived 9 Evanston Avenue, Kirkstall.
Samuel Nathan Braddock. 1886 – 1976. He was the third son of George Wilson Braddock who was born at Cotmanhay north of Ilkeston in Derbyshire. His father, William Braddock, had come north to work at Whitwood colliery in 1864. Samuel married Lilian Starks, the daughter of a Castleford bottle maker in 1910. Initially they lived with his brother, also George Wilson Braddock, on Dukes Street in Hightown, Castleford before moving to 22 Lumley Mount in Whitwood. Samuel told his children he worked at Water Haigh from when it opened in 1911 and regularly walked more than 4 miles to the pit from his home.
James Hughes. 1890 – 1961.
Onsetter underground in 1939. Lived at 67 Church Street in Woodlesford opposite the church. Born at Cutsyke where his father, Arthur Hughes, from Woodlesford was working as a miner. His mother, Elizabeth Langfield, was born at the lost mining village of Waterloo between the River Aire and the Cryer Cut canal a couple of miles to the west of Woodlesford. A few weeks after the start of the First World War in 1914 James Hughes signed up to serve with the 8th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment. He was 5 days short of his 24th birthday and gave his address as 5 Oakdene Yard. After training for almost a year he was posted to France in August 1915. In July 1916 he was wounded by shrapnel or a gun shot and hospitalised in England. Later he returned to France where he was the victim of a gas attack in January 1918 and again sent to hospital. He was finally demobbed in January 1919. Later that year he married Elizabeth Maud Kershaw at Methley. She had been born at Menston near Otley where her father was a butcher but after he died she moved to Methley when her widowed mother, Eliza Shillito, married a Methley miner. Eliza had been born near Swillington where her father, Richard Shillito, was a horsekeeper at the Old Engine or West Allerton pit.
Walter Fox. Landsale office
Reg Penn, assistant enginewright, pit top winding gear No 1 and No 3, Greenlea, also his father?
Frank Lake, enginewright
Tom Jones, undermanager
Roland Kendrew, screen foreman, Leeds
Arthur Bowater, Aberford Road
William Wade, canteen
Francis Naylor, checkweighman
Eric Parker, master weighman
George Hudson, ex police
Percy Clarkson, senior weighman
John Willie Fox
Thomas Manuel. 1894 – 1953. He was born at Bowden Close to the north of Bishop Auckland in County Durham where his father worked at the local pit. By 1901 his father, also called Thomas had died, and he was living with his widowed mother and her father, 50 year old hewer John Abbot. They were still in the same place ten years later and Thomas had started as an underground pony driver. He married Elizabeth Jane King in 1925 and their daughter Margaret was born in 1926. A little later they moved to Woodlesford where they lived at 3 Highfield Mount. He was the conductor of a Welsh male voice choir made up largely of miners who had come to Yorkshire to find work from South Wales..At some point in the 1930s Thomas Manuel left the pit and became a road and footpath repair labourer for the council. During the Second World War he was in a civilian rescue squad. In 1954 Margaret Manuel married John Radcliffe Atkinson who lived at 30 Oulton Lane in a house called “Burma.” He was born in 1923, had been a clerk to a printer, and had been in the forces during the war.
Doreen Herbert (nee Woodhead). 1927 – 2019. Canteen worker.
Walter Brummitt. 1898 – 1985. Walter’s father, John Brummitt, was also a miner, born in Methley in 1863. After living in Bottomboat the Brummitts moved to Powell Street off Midland Street in about 1897 where Walter was born. Later they lived in a bigger house on Eshald Place. Walter left school at the age of 13 and went straight to work at Water Haigh as a pony driver underground at about the time the pit started winding coal. After serving for about 6 months in the Coldstream Guards in France in 1918 at the end of the First World War he returned to the colliery. He married miner’s daughter Elsie Lydia Firth at Woodlesford church in December 1922 and they brought up their family at 22 Eshald Place. In the hard days of the 1920s and 1930s Walter became active in the local branch of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association which after nationalisation became part of the National Union of Miners. He served as a branch official for 27 years holding all the main offices of secretary, treasurer and president. He was treasurer whilst future MP Alberts Roberts was secretary. His name appears regularly in minutes of meetings of the pit’s consultative committee in the 1950s when issues of pay and conditions were thrashed out with management. He was also elected as a councillor on the Rothwell Urban District Council and served on the highways and finance committees. When he and Elsie celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with a party at the Midland Hotel in 1972 he told a reporter from the Wakefield Express: “Many changes have been brought about because of the union and I think the men get a much better deal today than they used to. I don’t believe in strikes if they can be possibly be avoided.” When she left school Elsie worked for a Leeds tailoring company called R. B. Brown as a clothes machiner and during the First World War was employed at Armitage’s brickworks close to Water Haigh. “I had to wheel heavy trolleys with soft bricks into the baking ovens. It was hard work,” she said.
Ernest Carr. 1916 – 1945. He was killed when he was crushed by tubs in No 3 pit in November 1945. Born on Christmas Day 1916 in 1939 he was living with parents George and Annie, nee Watson at 51 North Lane. George also worked as a hewer at Water Haigh. George and Annie had married at Oulton church in February 1916. Ernest’s grandfather, Emmanuel Carr, and great grandfather, William Carr, were both miners in the Methley area. Annie’s father, John Watson, was also a miner.
John William Benson Sutcliffe 1898 – 1951. He was 53 when he died at Pinderfields on 24 August 1951. After an inquest the cause of death was given as: “Fractured skull caused by his being struck by a fall of stone from the ripping edge whilst working in Water Haigh colliery, Oulton. Misadventure.” He was living with wife, Nellie, nee Stockhill at Colwyn Mount off Dewsbury Road. Nellie had worked as a worsted weaver before their marriage in Holbeck in 1921. Census records indicate John Willie’s paternal grandfather, Issac, and father Thomas Ezra, were both miners in the Leeds area. John Willie joined the army in May 1917 and was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force before he was demobbed in April 1919. In 1939 he was living at Sissons Crescent on the Middleton estate when his occupation was described as “contractor labourer.”
Henry Arthur Dyson 1921 – 1991. Known as Arthur he was an engineering apprentice at a firm in Hunslet after he left school in the 1930s getting there and back by bicycle. His grandfather hadn’t want him to go “down ‘t pit” but the attraction was too great and he eventually found a job at Water Haigh. After studying for qualifications he rose up through the ranks from collier to shot firer and then deputy. After that he was often a stand-in overman. In the 1960s, as an official of NACODS – the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shot-firers – he represented the union at monthly pit top committee meetings with the management. He was also in the Territorial Army and became one of the drill sergeants at the Leeds Rifles’ depot on Oulton Lane. During the Second World War he served with the 7th Cameroonians. After the pit closed in 1970 he transferred to Lofthouse and then to Fanny pit at Rothwell before he retired “worn out” at the age of 60.
Henry grew up at 4 Airedale View in Woodlesford where his parents, Charles and Lavinia had moved from Horbury at some point after 1911. Henry’s grandfather, William Dyson, was born at Ardsley near Barnsley in 1836 and was still working above ground at the age of 75 at a Horbury colliery, possibly the one at Hartley Bank. Charles was a hanger on at the pit bottom but in 1901 had been employed as a roller at the Horbury Junction iron foundry next to the Charles Roberts works which manufactured railway wagons.
In 1903, at Thornhill Lees, Charles Dyson married Lavinia Abel, the daughter of mechanic in a glass bottle works, who lived at Savile Town near Dewsbury. Their first child died as an infant. Their second, Laura Hetty, born in 1908, also came to live in Woodlesford. She was working as a waitress when she married miner Willie Wright from Methley in 1929. They were living with their daughter Ivy in a newly buil council house on Green Lea in 1939 and Willie was working as a hewer so it’s likely he was also a Water Haigh man.
In 1952 Henry married May Moore, daughter of Richard Moore, a former miner who became the steward of the Woodlesford Working Men’s Club at Highfield House opposite the school playing field. Richard’s father, Harry Moore, born at Wath, was also a miner and had worked at pits near Monk Bretton and Bolton-on-Dearne.
Outside work Arthur Dyson was a keen cyclist and footballer. In the late 1930s he was was being scouted by professional teams but the Second World War put an end to his ambitions. After the war he played semi-professionally for local teams. He was a fan Leeds United but kept to his promise of never setting foot at Elland Road again after the club sold John Charles to Juventus in 1957. He was also a top local darts player and took part in competitions sponsored by the Player’s cigarette firm and the News of the World. His talent earned him a place as a warm up player on The Indoor League, Fred Trueman’s programme on Yorkshire Television between 1972 and 1977 where he threw darts against Jockey Wilson and John Lowe.
Initially Henry and May Dyson lived with his parents before moving to live in the large house on the corner of Midland Street and Oulton Lane. Later, when he had qualified as a deputy, they moved to 51 (now 153) Aberford Road on “deputies row” opposite Eshald House. Living next door at No 53 was one of the pit’s wages clerks, Henry Brunt, his wife Edith and their son Philip Henry Brunt who was a colliery surveyor. Nearby in the 1960s were other Water Haigh deputies and their wives and families including Horace and Mary Lee, William and Renee Blair, and Michael and Mary Coleman.
James Jocelyn Smart 1925 – 1914. Jim grew up in the streets of terraced houses near the Castleford potteries at Whitwood Mere. Both his grandfather, Joceyln Smart born in Kippax, and his father, John Thomas Smart, were miners. Jim’s maternal grandfather, James Baldwin, came from Methley and was also a miner before he joined the South Wales Borderers in the First World War. He was killed in action in February 1916. Jim went to Castleford Grammar School before working at an engineering firm in Leeds. He did evening classes to get qualifications, cycling between Castleford and Leeds. He then went to Water Haigh where he was employed as an electrician maintaining machinery underground until about 1965. In 1949 he married Joyce Addinell, the daughter of a colliery timber drawer who removed pit props underground. Joyce was also from Castleford and after their marriage they moved to Bernard Street in Woodlesford where they brought up their family.
George Henry Blanshard. 1923 – 1991. In 1939 he was working as a screen hand at Water Haigh. He lived at 63 North Lane in Oulton with his parents and younger sister Mavis. His father was Thomas Henry Blanshard, born in the Bramley registration district in 1892. He was a boiler firer at a local pit, probably also at Water Haigh. In 1921 he had married Anne Preston who was born at Woodrow in Methley in 1900. Her father was Samuel Preston, also a miner, originally from Oldbury in Worcestershire. He died in 1906 at the age of 42 and by 1911 the Preston family had moved to Beecroft Yard in Woodlesford. Annie was living with her widowed mother, Elizabeth Ann (nee Lister), three older brothers and two younger ones. Also crammed into the tiny house was Peter Gill, an Irishman from Kilkenny who was working as a pit sinker as Water Haigh was being developed.
Robert Patrick “Bob” Moss. 1925 – 1997. Bob had one of the key jobs at Water Haigh as one of a team of surveyors. They took measurements to locate precisely the depth coal was being mined and where the roadways and faces were in relation to surface maps. Bob had to serve an apprenticeship and was trained to use surveying instruments and a compass and learned to make accurate drawings and maps from detailed notes taken underground. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day in Leeds, hence his middle name. By September 1939 he had left school and was employed underground as an onsetter at Allerton Bywater colliery. At the time he was living on Robinson Street with his maternal grandparents, Joseph and Fanny Atkinson. Joe was a “duffer” at the coal face. Bob is pictured here (on the right) with his good friend Colin Ferguson, also a colliery surveyor. They met in the early 1940s when they were apprentices with Colin becoming a surveyor at Newmarket colliery. In 1949 Bob married Joan Evelyn Cockerham, the daughter of Percy Cockerham, a blacksmith from Swillington. They had one son and for many years they lived on Aberford Road in Woodlesford in one of the houses that were originally colliery owned opposite the picture house. They moved from there to the Parkways estate in Oulton and eventually to Garforth. After Water Haigh was closed in 1970 Bob became a surveyor at Kellingley colliery.
Teddy Walworth worked on the locomotives
Selwyn Wright fired the boilers that worked the fans
Bill Gibson (also Primrose Hill)
Brian Wallis to 1970
Jack Campell. 1938 – 1970. This is from his son Paul Campbell: “My Dad, Jack (John) Campbell, was born at Swillington House in 1924 and grew up there. He started work at Water Haigh colliery in about 1938 as an apprentice blacksmith. He eventually became the pit blacksmith in about 1946 or 1947. He married my mother, Mabel Thorpe at Woodlesford church in 1949. They lived in Raglan Cottages, just opposite The White Hart, on Church Street. My sister was born in 1950 and I was born in 1955 at Raglan Cottages. We moved to 63 Holmsley Lane in 1961 and to 27 All Saints Road in 1967 or 1968. My dad continued working at Water Haigh until it closed in 1970 when he transferred to Ledston Luck and then in 1972 to Newmarket Silkstone. He became ill in the same year and after a huge and brave battle he passed away in 1974, aged 49. He was respected by everyone who knew him. He was a gentleman, loving husband and father, the greatest, in my eyes.”
Bernard Muhl, Oulton 83 in 2018, area boremaster
Harry Webster, deputy
Jimmy White, from the potteries in Castleford, went to Castleford grammar school. He then worked at an engineering firm in Leeds and did evening classes to get qualifications, cycling between Castleford & Leeds. Then went to Water Haigh. Smart family lived in Bernard Street near the pit.
Gordon Leech, electrician
Samuel Hartley. 1910 – 1982. Shot firer and overman. Lived on Albert Road. Retired shortly before the pit closed in 1982. In 1939 was living in Robin Hood with wife Florence, nee Smith, and son Gerald. His father, also Samuel, was a miner born at Lee Moor in 1866.
Edwin Waite Forrest married Hadassah Britton at St. John’s church in 1905 when they were both 22 years old. A daughter, Lillie, was born in 1907 but she died when she was an infant. In 1911 they were living at a cottage known as The Hollins off Wakefield Road. Edwin worked as a labourer at a chemical manufacturer but later became a miner operating a coal cutting machine, probably at Water Haigh colliery.
Bob Wilkinson, union activist, member of the Communist Party
Brian Myers, joiner and aerial flight
Connie Myers, canteen
Joe Clapham, pony keeper, underground accident circa 1954
Hector Moore, shunter
Albert Longley, weighbridge
Alan Crossley, loco fitter
Joseph Ernest Horace Alderson
Samuel Warwick 1920
Alf Smith 1920
T. W. Isley 1920
Thomas Richard Hall 1920
Eli Thornton 1920
Willie Peel. 1895 – 1958. 50 Northfields Avenue. Rope boy at Robin Hood in 1911. His father Walter was a miner born at Beeston Hill. Grandfather of Eric Daniels. Married Verena Richmond 1916.
George Desmond Craze. 1927 – 1951. Ripper. Drowned in River Ouse at York.
William Edward Fennell. 1890 – 1971. He was born at Altofts. His father, Edward, came from Bromley in Staffordshire and as a miner migrated to Yorkshire with his family in the early 1870s. William grew up at 4 Silkstone Row in Altofts and was a miner still living there with his parents, and 8 brothers and sisters during the 1911 census. It’s likely that William worked at Henry Briggs’ Whitwood colliery before he moved to Water Haigh after it began production in 1911. In 1920 he was an active member of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association and took part in negotiations to set the rates at which members were paid per ton of coal mined at the pit. In 1913 he married Lily Dobson, the daughter of miner Ephraim Dobson. In 1939 they were living at Cross Terrace in Rothwell.
Sid Lewty 1920
William Schofield 1920
David Booth 1920
Coventry Paton, known as Jock (Ann Paton) 1950s to 1960s, then at Newmarket in the early seventies.
Malcom Brian Hyde, Born 1932 in Leeds
Ronald Wright until 1970 then Lofthouse.
Ignas Narkevicius. 1917 – 1995.