MEP supports campaign to save our industrial heritageAUGUST 2010: NICK Griffin has been contacted by a number of constituents from Leigh who are concerned for the future of a familiar landmark which is part of our industrial heritage.
The historic steel lattice headgear in the former pit village of Astley Green - the last one still standing in what was once the great Lancashire Coalfield - is in danger of collapse and has been placed on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk register.
The 120 ton, 98 feet tall headgear was erected by Head Wrightson and Co of Stockton on Tees in 1911 and is one of six left in the country and by far in the most original condition.
Although the pit site belongs to Wigan Council its upkeep is the responsibility of a volunteer operated organisation and a registered charity.
At present it hasn't got the £500,000 needed to fully restore the headgear but have protected the base steelwork up to a level within safe limits of working.
Astley Green became a coal mine as a last resort. The coal seam was deep down under under wet and unstable ground so the reserves there were ignored for centuries. It was only the enormous demand for coal in the early 1900s that made the project viable despite the cost of shaft sinking and establishing the large colliery plant.
On Thursday 7th May 1908 work started on sinking what was later to be known as Number 1 Shaft. For the first time in Britain a method called "drop shaft" was used and the work wasn't completed until 1912.
Once working over 8 tonnes of coal was brought to the surface every two minutes from a depth of 801 metres. The headgear for this shaft was an impressive lattice steel riveted structure with two large winding pulleys.
Reports in the 1950s gave Astley Green a very bright future, indeed it was something of a "show" pit with visits from royalty and heads of industry. However by the late 1960s production targets were becoming impossible to meet and eventually Astley Green was forced to close with the last coal wound up on 3rd April 1970. Demolition of the colliery underway by December of that year.
When the pit closed the National Coal Board had painted the headgear with bitumen but this has blistered and in places you can still see the red paint which was a feature of Manchester Collieries (successors to the Pilkington Colliery Co) who were the pit owners until nationalisation in 1947.
In a letter to those battling to save the headgear Nick Griffin wrote:
"Our coal mining industry was built on the toil and sacrifice of generations of mine workers, and landmarks such as the colliery headgear should be preserved as a testament to their dedication in providing energy for the nation.
"I wish you and your colleagues well in your admirable endeavours to preserve our heritage for the education and enjoyment of future generations."
Mr Griffin included a small donation from his English Fair Fund towards the appeal.