Review of ‘Collieries, Canals, Tramways, Railways, Rivers & Revolution’, by Ralph Worthington

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 1st June 2009, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.


by Ralph Worthington
Published by Country Books/Ashridge Press
ISBN 9 781906 789107 (2009)

This title combines a chain of interlinked histories from our industrial past, enlivened with a wealth of personal memories. The author, Ralph Worthington, now living in Buxton, was born and brought up at Selston, at the heart of a district which holds a major role in this story of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire coalfield.

His researches have taken Ralph even beyond a time when the Peak Forest Canal, the Cromford & High Peak Railway and Cromford Canal - notably the Pinxton branch - were essential to activity in the Selston collieries. Not just that, but the annual Sunday School outing was a canal 'cruise' to Matlock, travelling at the walking pace of a horse. One of the many photographs shows a 1923 outing to the Derbyshire Dales by charabanc.

Homes across the Peak used to be kept warm by coal from the area covered in this book, 'delivered by the coal merchant in bags, then dropped directly into their cellar, or coal store' ... just as recalled by some of our older readers. Ralph describes with relish childhood contests of making coal gas on the kitchen range - 'the only gas we had in the house!' Furthermore, he reveals the true story of how one Derbyshire coal mine holds a fair claim to being the first oil refinery in the world.

Experiments to improve workers' safety were carried out at a Safety in Mines establishment at Buxton. Over the years, mining companies built Welfare Institutes, Community Centres, churches and low-rent housing. They provided a coal allowance for working miners and their widows, broth and milk for convalescing employees and in 1939 built the Derbyshire Miners' Association holiday camp at Skegness. Hence the affirmation of the 'pit village spirit', which will linger while ever there is a retired miner left to pass down his story.

Review by Julie Bunting

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