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Shakespeare Colliery


Shakespeare Colliery, also known as Dover Colliery, was Kent's first coal mine. The Colliery was owned by Kent Coalfields Syndicate Limited and was formed in 1896 to take over the old Channel Tunnel workings at Shakespeare Cliff.

The Colliery was opened with the sinking of the Number 1 pit (The Brady) in June 1896. Two shafts were sunk, but the first hit water at 366ft and flooded.


Shakespeare Colliery c. 1896
This was taken not long after the old Channel Tunnel workings were taken over by the colliery.

Encountering water was a surprise to the miners in 1896. Unfortunately water was to prove to be the chief problem of the Kent coalfield in the years that followed. Hidden in vast underground lakes, water could pour into a shaft at the rate of a million gallons per day.

Due to poor investment, all sinking was done with little money and the cost of installing pumps had not been accounted for.

Still with no pumps installed, the second shaft (The Simpson) was started in November 1897. Once again, at 303ft, the shaft hit water and was flooded. The water filled the shaft so fast that eight of the fourteen workers on the shaft bottom were drowned. The six who survived were rescued by climbing the shaft sides to the hoist bucket.


Winding Shed, Shakespeare Colliery. 1898
Here workers show off the newly installed winding engine which raised and lowered the hoppit.

It was not until 1902 that a new process was adopted. Cast-iron tubes were used to line the shaft as it was dug and consequently the shaft would be sealed off from any water in the rocks. Using this method, the first coal seam was hit on 25 September 1903.


Shakespeare Colliery c.1900

By 1907 the colliery was producing about eight tonnes of coal a day. This still did not equal commerical success, as this was less than the colliery needed for its boilers and engines. In 1907, Leney's Phoenix Brewery in Dover purchased the first commercial coal from the pit and advertised their Dover Pale Ale as 'brewed by Kent Coal'. This was soon quietly dropped when the coal proved to be of a poor quality.


Shakespeare Colliery c. 1905
Clearly visible are the huge sections of 'tubbing'. These were used to line the shaft to stop water flooding it. It was a process rarely used in Britain called 'Kind-Chaudron'.

The colliery was closed in 1909 and placed in the hands of the receiver. Work commenced again in 1910 but it finally closed in 1915 and was sold for scrap in 1918.




Contact Us

Dover Museum
Market Square
Kent CT16 1PH

Tel: 01304 201066

Booking: vic@dover.gov.uk
General: museumenquiries@dover.gov.uk

Opening Hours

9.30-5.00  Monday to Saturday
10.00 - 3.00 Sunday until 1st October 2021