The Somerset Coalfield covered about twenty villages. Timsbury was at the centre of the Coalfield and at different times 11 pits were in operation. The earliest reference to coal mining in Timsbury can be found in John Sambourne’s will dated 1572. An account dated 1610 stated ‘it is said the works at Timsbury are near worn out…’. This early activity would have been where the coal seams were close to the surface or shallow ‘bell pits’ where men would have descended by ladder.
Despite the pessimistic assessment of the state of the Timsbury pits, coal mining flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. The aerial view blow shows the location of eleven pits that opened at different times.
The table below shows the dates of operation of the the pits surrounding Timsbury. Progressively during the 18th and 19th centuries the pits became deeper.
|Pit||Opened||Closed||Shaft Diameter |
|Maximum Shaft Depth |
|Blombells||Before 1793||?||4′ 6″||?|
|Old Grove||1765||1878||4′ 6″||1373|
|New Tyning||1791||1856||4′ 6″||630|
|Withy Mills||1815||1877||4′ 6″||804|
|Upper Conygre||1791||1916||8′ 0″||1038|
|Lower Conygre||1847||1916||8′ 0″||1128|
The early pits were probably initiated by small partnerships which typically consisted of a coal miner and two local tradesmen, who would provide limited finance for a mining undertaking, hoping to make a profit between them. However by the second half of the 18th century as new and more sophisticated machines and equipment were introduced, the capital required by coalworks became even greater. The cost was beyond the local miner and local tradesmen, so mining partnerships were formed between larger numbers of people with money, such as the local gentry and wealthy financiers from further afield. To spread their risk the new mining partners would normally have small shares in several coalworks rather than a large share in one. Some grew rich and became very influential.
The names of the landowners who became very wealthy are very familiar – Sambourne Palmer, William and John Crang, John Parish, Robert Langford. All lived in Timsbury and most built large grand houses that reflected their wealth: Crangs – Pitfour House, Robert Langford – Vale House, John Parish – Parish’s House.
Both Upper and Lower Conygre Pits closed in 1916 thus ending a long tradition of coal mining directly in the village. Though many of the miners went and worked in other pits such as Pensford. Click on the following links to read accounts of local miners – Coal Mining 1 and Coal Mining 2.