Castedge Colliery/The Little Mine is centred SK 005 743.

(from PDMHS Newsletter #114 Apr 05)

The remains of a second small colliery in a side valley off the main Goyt Valley, exist further upstream near the ruins of Errwood Hall. This mine was already open when Farey published his list of mines in 1811 and did not close until 1933 (Coal Mining Around Whaley Bridge, Leach, 1992); while only ever employing a small number of men, a large area of coal was extracted over many years. South-west of the hall, a short overgrown track leaves the access drive to the hall’s demolished outbuildings at Castedge. By the stream there is a small ruined colliery building, while on the other side of the stream, hidden behind bushes, a run-in adit approach has drystone-walled sides (SK 0065 7465). This was the main roadway into the mine in its last phases of use and was something like 1km long, with coal being extracted updip to the west. Further upstream, south of Castedge, there is the site of a second, earlier adit, later used as a return airway. Here there is a short hollow at the site of a tramway,hidden in a clump of Rhododendron bushes, to a hillock above the stream (SK 0050 7456). To the west there are 4-7 small early shaft hillocks (centred SK 004 747). To the south-west, up Shooter’s Clough, there are two further clusters of surface remains -1-4 early shaft hillocks and a track to a run-in early adit (centred SK 003 742), and 5 early shaft mounds (centred SK 002 740).

HEWITTS ‘THE COAL MINE’ CASTEDGE (extract from ‘Goyt Valley Romance‘ by Gerald Hancock)

The coal mine of Errwood was worked by the Hewitt family. They came to live at Shooters Clough cottage vacated by one of the gamekeepers who left to live up near the Cat and Fiddle inn. The cottage was situated at the little known corner of Castedge, which is at the top of the cobbled drive to the rear of the Hall below the cemetery hill. There was a large farm here too which had its own small cottage. This area of Castedge nestling at the head of a hanging valley is a very picturesque place with a few old oak trees and pines stretching out to the distant hills. A walk from here leads up to the Catholic shrine to St. Joseph, while another some two miles to the west winds up and over to the Cat and Fiddle where in the 1920s youngsters of the valley would attend dances at the inn, returning down the steep moonlit track during the early hours. Errwood Hall’s kitchen garden was set here at Castedge where there remains a single stump from the orchard, choked by the encircling bracken in summer months. Here too were the greenhouses which had to supply the Hall throughout the year. In this area were the tennis courts while further upstream was the private swimming pool.

The coal mine was very important, for not only did it supply the Hall, but the whole of the Errwood estate and farms. It was particularly favoured by local blacksmiths as it was a good ‘caking’ coal for forge work. In fact it was said that people came with their horse and carts from far and wide for the coal, but little money changed hands. They were usually paid in kind, cheese, meat or eggs, or something.

The Hewitt family, Mary and Jack, with sons Leonard and Joe, daughters Phyllis and Brenda who was later born at the cottage, came to re-open the Errwood mine.

Previous to their arrival the mine had been neglected for a while, and the coal needed for the Hall had to be transported from Whaley Bridge, and was not a satisfactory arrangement. So the Hewitts were welcomed to Errwood, especially as it was known father Jack Hewitt was a trained mining engineer. But as Joe Hewitt described years later there was much work to be done to open the mine and it took some eight weeks to complete the task. Three wooden tubs were made amongst other things, then the mine had to be passed by a mining surveyor-inspector called John Mort, who came from Manchester.

The coal mine actually extended some 1,700 to 1,800 yards into the hillside, being only four feet high at the highest point. The Hewitt family were helped by two other miners, Johnny Lowe, and Fred Bagshaw. Joe said they would extract between four and six tubs of coal a day, but time meant little in those days, a bell they called the ‘angelus’ was rung at the Hall 6, 9, 12 was for lunch, 4 to 4.30 was tea, then 6 and 10 o’clock in the evening. Often said Joe, they wouldn’t start till 10.00am, ‘then do a stint’. The huge fireplace at the Hall would take a few hundredweights of coal and when they went they would get a jug of beer, so they always made sure the coal place was well and truly stacked up. When the young gentry came to visit the Hall they would ask to visit the mine, and would be pushed in a tub deep inside for a piece of coal which they would wrap in a handkerchief to show their friends. Joe said they would get a ‘pound’ so they always eagerly looked forward to their visits.

Joe remembered on Saturdays, when he wasn’t helping his father at the mine, he would help at the Hall. This would include mopping passages, filling oil lamps, cleaning all the ladies’ shoes, and helping to polish the silver. For these chores he would get 3/6d (about 22p), which was a vast sum in those days, especially when it included lunch. Also when he was asked, while still at school, to act as footman on the Grimshawe carriage, to either Buxton or Whaley Bridge, he was fitted out with the beige coloured uniform and boots, but the black peaked cap had to be packed with newspaper. As Joe often said it was a ‘wonderful life’.

Christmas at Errwood was always a special time, especially for the children, a time when it always seemed to snow. If you could imagine, the pine trees, their branches laden with the weight of snow, stretching to the distant moonlit horizon.

The Hall, with every room brightly lit with oil lamps, shone out a great welcome to all, at this lovely festive time. There would be about fifty people from the estate with some tradesmen who lived in surrounding villages, all arriving for the party at six o’clock, when the ‘angelus’ bell was rung. The owners who in the 1920s were the Hon. Mrs Preston. and Mr & Mrs Gosselin Grimshawe. were waiting on the steps outside the Hall to welcome each and every family, as they arrived. People would move excitedly inside to see the great Christmas tree, the centre of attraction for the children, who each had a present. After the greetings, everyone would move into the great hall, where the billiard table was laden with all the Christmas fayre, turkeys, pork, beef with cakes, trifles, and plum puddings. All prepared by the French chef, with plenty of wine and punch to follow. Then eventually into the great room known as the servants hall, where everyone sat around the sides of the room for dancing, for many the highlight of the evening. At about 10 o’clock or so the ladies of the house would appear and be taken around the room in the Spanish custom of dancing by Mr. Oyarzabal and always had a great time. After midnight Mass, given by the resident priest, everyone wished a happy Christmas to each other, then every family was given a hamper and had hot whisky punch, brought round in silver bowls by the servants. All assembled then outside in the cold night air to sing carols, with the owners and their guests listening on the steps. Yes, said Joe, it was a wonderful time and a ‘wonderful life’.

The Hewitts lived later at the tea rooms at the bottom of Sandy Lane, still working the coal mine. Joe had a little hut near the Goyt’s Bridge and in summertime sold sweets, drinks and ice cream. To make the ice-cream he had to carry huge blocks of ice from Buxton on the pillion of his motorcycle. Many was the time sister Brenda had a lift on the ice from Buxton to save the long walk home. ‘Ice-cream’, she said, ‘always left her with a lasting impression’.

Further reading – ‘Goyt Valley Miner – Errwood Hall & Castedge Pit’ by Kevin Dranfield