The Neston collieries

by Anthony Annakin-Smith

Denhall Quay

Although you might not think so from the look of the area today, the peaceful marsh-side area at the bottom of Marshlands Roads, near The Harp public house, was once the largest industrial site in the region.

There were coal mines here, as well as a number of other industrial activities, with over 300 people employed in the 1920s.

The first steam engine anywhere in Wirral and west Cheshire was sited here during the early Industrial Revolution and later the great engineer, George Stephenson, visited the site.
The first colliery opened 1759 and had its heyday in the 1770s and 1780s. Another mine opened on adjacent land in 1819 and there was bitter rivalry between the mine owners – one of them was happy to deliberately flood his neighbour’s pit and blow up his tunnels! See here

Both these mines closed in the middle of the nineteenth century but a new colliery opened in the 1870s and operated under various owners until it officially closed in 1927.

There are still some signs today of the old mining operations. Most prominent is Denhall Quay, the remains of which still jut out into the Dee Estuary.

This was built in 1791 and was used to ship coal to North Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man as well as inland via the newly built canals. It also imported roofing slate and limestone – the latter was turned into lime for building and for use as fertiliser. Other industries here included coke and charcoal making, brick and tile making and, in the 1860s, metal smelting.

Working and living conditions were horrendous. Many miners worked 100 hour weeks and children as young as nine were employed.

Extraordinarily, underground canals were built beneath the Dee Estuary and man-powered boats were used to bring the coal from distant faces to the pit shaft. At the end of a hard shift miners went back to their homes – usually just shacks, described at the time as ‘the most miserable mass of hovels’ on the Wirral.

There is a Colliery Trail telling visitors more about the extraordinary story of the Neston mines here, and an Audio version here.

Also The Harp has several photos on its walls from the mines’ later days.

The Neston collieries