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The end of Kent Coal

Kent coal was some of the most difficult coal to extract and consequently it was some of the most expensive in Britain. The whole industry was always close to failing for the first fifty years of its operation.

In 1947 the entire industry was nationalised. The National Coal Board made plans to start closing the Kent collieries as early as 1960.

Collier using a “jigger” or air pick c 1980

Setting a steel bar c 1980

Chislet Colliery's biggest market was British Rail and thus when steam locomotives were withdrawn between 1966 and 1968, the colliery could no longer survive. It closed in 1969 and most of its men were transferred to the other three Kent pits.

Chislet Loco “St Augustine”, Built in 1923. At Chislet from 1955 to 1960.

By 1975 there were just 3000 miners at Betteshanger, Snowdown and Tilmanstone, producing one million tons of coal per year. By now most Kent coal was used as a coking blend for the steel industry, which was also in crisis.

Picket Line, Tilmanstone Colliery. 1984

By the 1980's both the government and the NCB (National Coal Board) were determined to make the coal industry viable by closing 'uneconomic' pits. Meanwhile, the miners and the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) were convinced bad management and poor investment were holding the industry back. Things came to a head in 1984 when the NUM called a national strike.

Kent Miners in London on march to Nottingham. April 1984

Kent NUM Meeting. 1984 Strike
Terry Harrison of Betteshanger speaking. To the right is Arthur Scargill, President of the NUM

The 1984 strike lasted for almost a year and became one of the most controversial and bitter disputes since the General Strike of 1926. When it was over, neither the NCB nor the NUM fully recovered. The NCB was reorganised as British Coal in 1987. In that year that Snowdown and Tilmanstone collieries closed with little opposition. Betteshanger was the last colliery in Kent, closing in 1989, just one year short of the centenary of the discovery of coal in Kent.

Demolition of Betteshanger Colliery. 1989

Site of Tilmanstone Colliery. 1990
The Pike Road Industrial Estate was built on part of the site. The lower part of the site was cleared in 2000 for new industrial units, including Kent Salads' massive new factory

Bringing down the headgear, Snowdown Colliery

View of land where Chislet Colliery used to be, before the redevelopment of the land by SEEDA. 2000

 

 

 

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