the edge of Chat Moss, in an area once full of collieries, lies
the picturesque village of Astley Green. In the heart of the village
stands Astley Green Colliery Museum which, but for the foresight
of Lancashire County Council and several leading figures within
the community, would have suffered the same fate as the other
collieries in the area, total demolition. It was the uniqueness
of the 3,300 hp twin tandem compound steam winding engine that
brought the demolition to a halt. As the result of the intervention,
the museum houses Lancashire's only surviving headgear and engine
house, both of which now have listed building status.
The museum occupies some fifteen acres of
the Astley Green Colliery site. To the south lies the Bridgewater
Canal and Astley Moss, an important mossland site. The low-lying
landscape ensures that the museum's 98ft high lattice steel headgear
can be seen for many miles, a fitting memorial to days now past.
Apart from the steam winding engine and headgear
the museum houses many exhibits, not least of which is the collection
of 28 colliery locomotives, the largest collection of its type
in the United Kingdom.
The colliery began its life in 1908 to exploit
coal reserves in the south Lancashire Coalfield. Had it not been
for the increasing demand for coal, at that time, the project
would not have been viable. The coal seams at Astley Green are
very deep and overlain by 100 feet of wet and unstable ground.
These factors made the sinking of the shaft a very expensive proposition.
The novelty of many of the requirements tested the ingenuity of
the engineers during the construction, so much so that a paper,
on the sinking of the shaft, was presented to the Institute of
Mining Engineers. The colliery had a lifespan of only 62 years,
finally closing its gates in 1970. Because of its short and relatively
recent history, a considerable number of written and photographic
records have survived. This has enabled a detailed study to be
made of the construction of the colliery and its subsequent operation.
The museum is now run and maintained, on
behalf of the community, by the Red Rose Steam Society Limited,
a registered charity based in Lancashire.