Mining memories: Ex Manton Pit man recalls glory days and heartache of closure

Manton Colliery, electrifying No 2 winder from steam
Manton Colliery, electrifying No 2 winder from steam

Tony Booth worked at Manton Pit for 34 years. When he started there were 2,000 men employed there.

“In those days when you left school you either went down the pit or to work at the glassworks,” said Tony, of Hemmingfield Close, Worksop.

Manton Golf Society

Manton Golf Society

Aged just 15 he spent 16 weeks mining under ground as part of his training at Orgreave Colliery.

“That’s where all the lads who started at Manton went to train,” said Tony, now 74.

“We all used to chew tobacco down there. We thought if we kept the saliva flowing it would catch the coal dust and it wouldn’t go into our lungs.”

“But I was new to it. I didn’t know I was meant to spit out the tobacco juice. I was swallowing and it made me sick. The lads had to drag me out into the fresh air.”

Tony grew up in Manton. Both of his uncles had worked at the pit, one as a blacksmith the other as a welder.

After completing an apprenticeship he did several years as an engineer in the fitting shop on the surface, before going back to the coal face and later working as a methane plant superintendent. The conditions underground were horrible but you couldn’t ask to work with better men” he said.

“I used to love working and getting on with all the blokes. Manton was a great community. The whole village worked at the pit. And there was loads going on socially. I played cricket for Manton and was also in the golf society but there was also football, bowls, snooker - all based around Manton Club and the Miners’ Welfare.”

Keeping the miners fit, healthy and well-fed was in the coal company’s best interests.

So a baths building and canteen were built at the pithead in the 1930s and 40s. And a medical centre was also situated on site - an essential provision for treatment of common ailments and injuries suffered by the miners.

“I’ll never forget the taste of quinine. They gave it us for everything - colds, headaches, fevers, joint aches.” He also remembers the pit had its own water supply and energy was supplied by the huge dual fuel engines he was responsible for, running off methane from under the ground and producing 1.5 gigawatts of energy each.

Said Tony: “Manton was nearly entirely self sufficient in terms of electricity. At times they were making so much they would sell some back to the electricity board.”

During his career the company celebrated a landmark in terms of production at Manton - a million tonnes in a year. And the pit was still producing large amounts of coal just before it was forced to close in 1994.

Said Tony: “Manton had loads more coal available to dig than Welbeck. But we went on strike and they didn’t. That’s why they closed us.”

He remembers when the strike was in full swing and times were tough for miners and their families.
“We had no money. I spent our savings on paying the mortgage and even sold my car for half of what it was worth,” he said.

“I was looking round for ways I could make a bob or two. We weren’t supposed to because we were on strike but everyone was doing something.”

“I never had any problems with any of the picketers at Manton. There was no bad blood between anybody because we were all on strike.”

By the time Manton Pit closed in 1994 Tony had already moved onto another job. But it still hurt.

He said: “I didn’t like it when they shut the pit. I thought it was wrong.”