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Snowdown Colliery

Snowdown Colliery was conveniently situated alongside the main Dover to Canterbury railway line, near to Ackolt which lies between Womenswold and Nonington.

The Colliery was begun by Arthur Burr’s Foncage Syndicate in 1907, and the first sod was cut by Mrs Weston Plumptree.

The first shaft at Snowdown encountered the problem many Kent coal shafts had experienced in the years previously: the shaft hit  water at 260 ft and flooded. Twenty-two men drowned in the disaster. 

Despite this bad start, in the proceeding years there were few sinking problems and Snowdown became the first commercial pit in Kent in 1912. In this year, the first coal was brought to the surface from a depth of 1370ft on 19th November 1912.

Two months later, in January 1913 the “Beresford” seam was reached. At 5’6” thick, this seam enabled 800 tons per week to be mined.

Building Snowdown Colliery 1907

Miners who raised the 1st hoppit of coal from Snowdown

In 1920, the Emergency Powers Bill temporarily increased wages for six months. The result of this was reduced pay for miners and thus in 1921 the Snowdown workers went on strike and the company went into receivership.

The result of the strike was the colliery closed in 1922, although it maintained pumping operations so it could be sold as a working mine. The colliery was mothballed for almost two years before it was purchased in 1924 by Pearson & Dorman Long who had started a new colliery at Betteshanger.

Pearson & Dorman Long completely modernised the colliery, scrapping the old steam winding plant and installing a powerful electric one. They then purchased a 600 acre site and a Public Utility Society, Aylesham Tenants Ltd. The company also built Aylesham village nearby, in order to house 650 mining families. Prior to this, most of the Snowdown miners had lived in Dover.

Architects drawing of Aylesham

Snowdown was the deepest colliery in Kent reaching well over 3,000 ft (915 metres). It was also the hottest and most humid pit in Kent and was given the name 'Dante's Inferno' by the miners. Regarded by many as the worst pit to work at in Britain, most Snowdown miners worked naked because clothes became too uncomfortable. The miners could consume around 24 pints (14 lires) of water in an 8-hour shift. There were frequent cases of heat stroke.

Miners in the lamp room waiting to go down 1986

 

View of Snowdown, looking towards Nonington 1986

Snowdown closed in 1987.

 

 

 

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