It is thought that the Romans mined coal in the Nettlebridge area,
close to the Fosse Way. The third-century writer Solinus even makes
a somewhat cryptic reference to the temple at Bath which suggests
that coal was burned there.
Post Medieval times
Coal mining only really began in earnest during the 1600s. The first
pits exploited surface outcrops, but by the 1790s, shafts up to
150 m deep were being sunk. The arrival of the railways in the mid
to late 1800s caused some expansion, but most of the mines served
local markets and could not compete with other coalfields. Demand
for coal was at its peak during the early decades of the 20th century.
Gradually demand fell for coal and the mines in the region closed
one by one, especially after Nationalisation in 1947. The narrow
seams, coupled with mine gas problems made production expensive,
and many smaller pits were closed. The larger pits survived into
the 1960s when reduced national demand together with competition
from more economical coalfields led to the closure of the last remaining
pit in 1973.
There are numerous surface remains of medieval coal working in the
Nettlebridge valley, especially around Benter where there is an extensive
area of earthworks associated with early coal mining. Medieval coal
working also exist in Harridge Wood where at least 52 bell pits (small
shafts sunk along the surface outcrop of a coal seam) lie scattered
through the wood, together with a number of deeper shafts and 16
adits (horizontal mines for access and drainage).