Glossary of coal mining terminology

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This is a partial glossary of coal mining terminology commonly used in the coalfields of the United Kingdom. Some words were in use throughout the coalfields, some are historic and some are local to the different British coalfields.



An adit is an underground level or tunnel to the surface for access or drainage purposes.[1]


Afterdamp is a mixture of carbon monoxide and chokedamp which replaces atmospheric air after an explosion.[1]


Bank, pit bank or pit brow

The bank, pit bank or pit brow is the area at the top of the shaft.[2]

Banksman or banker

A banksman or banker works at the pit bank to dispatch the coals, and organise the workforce. He is in charge of loading or unloading the cage, drawing full tubs from the cages and replacing them with empty ones.[1]

Bevin Boys

Bevin Boys were men conscripted to work in the collieries during World War II in a scheme introduced by Ernest Bevin.[3]

Bell pit

Bell pit in Middleton Park, Leeds
A bell pit was a type of coal mine in which coal found close to the surface was extracted by sinking a shaft and removing coal from around it until the roof became unstable. It was then abandoned and left to subside.[4]

Bituminous coal

Bituminous coal is a type of coal found in the most coalfields. It is laid down in seams and varies in constituency and quality. It was used to produce town gas or coke, raise steam in industrial boilers or locomotives, to fuel power stations or for domestic heating.


Blackdamp is the name given to a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.[1]


Brattice, strong canvas sheeting coated in tar to make it air-tight, is used to make partitions to deflect air into particular areas of a colliery or divide a shaft to improve ventilation and dilute flammable or noxious gases.[5]

Butterfly A butterfly is a safety link or detaching hook above the cage attached to the winding rope to prevent the cage from being over wound. It was invented by Edward Ormerod.[6]



The cage is the iron framework in which men and coal tubs are wound up and down the shaft.[7] It could have one or more decks to increase its capacity.[8]



Damp is gas, it derives from the German word dampf meaning vapour.[9]


A dataller, day wage man or day-man was paid on a daily basis for work done as required. Datallers' work included building and repairing roadways.[10]

Davy lamp

A Davy lamp is an early type of safety lamp named after its inventor, Sir Humphry Davy. A similar lamp was designed by George Stephenson.[9]


A drawer, putter (Northumberland), hurrier (Yorkshire), or waggoner is a person, usually a boy or young man who pushes tubs of coal from the coal face to the pit eye.[9][10] Before 1842 woman did this type of work in some coalfields.

Downcast, downcast shaft

The downcast is the shaft by which fresh air descends into the mine.[9] After a disaster at Hartley Colliery in 1862, legislation decreed that collieries should have two means of entering the coal workings. In effect this meant two shafts which aided ventilation.


Eye or pit-eye

The eye or pit-eye is the area at the bottom of the shaft.


Face or coal face

The coal face is the place where coal is cut from the coal seam either manually by hewers or mechanically by machine.[9]


Firedamp is explosive, flammable gas consisting predominantly of methane.[1]

Furnace, furnace pit

Furnaces were used in the 19th century instead of fans for ventilation. The furnace was usually at the bottom of the upcast shaft which acted as a chimney, creating airflow throughout the workings.[9]



Gannister is siliceus fireclay which can be used to make firebricks.[11]


A gate is a tunnel serving the coal face, the maingate is where fresh air enters and the tailgate is where spent air exits.[11]

Goaf, gove or gob

The goaf, gove or gob is the void from which all the coal in a seam has been extracted and where the roof is allowed to collapse in a controlled manner.[1][11]


Headframe, headstocks or headgear

The headframe, headstocks or headgear is the framework holding the winding wheel over the shaft.[12]


A hewer is a coal face worker who digs coal, loosening the coal with a pick.

Hurrier, putter, drawer or waggoner

A hurrier (Yorkshire), putter (Northumberland), waggoner or drawer (Lancashire) was the historic local term for the person who brought empty coal tubs up to the coal face and took loaded tubs to the pit bottom.[10]



Inbye means going away from the pit shaft towards the coal face (Opposite of outbye).[1][11]


Judd and Jenkin

Judd and Jenkin refers to the block of coal undercut cut by the hewer at the coal face ready to be got down.[9]


Koepe winding

Koepe is a system of winding, using the friction between the winding ropes and the drive pulley. It was developed in Germany and introduced to England by the National Coal Board.


Longwall face

A longwall face is a coal face of considerable length between the gates from which the coal is removed.[1]


Main gate

The main gate is the intake airway and the conveyor belt road to move coal from the face to the shaft.[9]



Nacods is an abbreviation for the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers.



Outbye means going towards the pit shaft from the coal face. (opposite of inbye).[1]


An outcrop is where the coal seam is exposed at the surface.[9]



A pillar is a section of unworked coal supporting the roof. Unworked pillars of coal are left to prevent subsidence to surface features such as churches, motorways, mills and town centres. The shaft pillar is left to prevent damage to the shafts from the workings.[1]

Pit brow lasses

Pit brow (pit broo) lasses were women who worked at the coal screens on the pit top up to the mid-1960s, mainly in the Lancashire and Cumberland coalfields.[9]

Props or pit props

Props or pit props are timber or hydraulic supports holding up the roof.[9]


A putter (Northumberland), hurrier (Yorkshire), waggoner or drawer (Lancashire) was the local term for the person who brought empty coal tubs up to the coal face and took loaded tubs to the pit bottom.[10]


Ripper, Ripping

Rippers are men who remove the rock above the coal seam and set rings (arches) to raise the height of the gate or road as the coal face advances.[9]



A shaft is a vertical or near-vertical tunnel that gives access to a coal mine accommodating the cage and providing ventilation.


A sinker specialises in creating new mine shafts.


A sough is a drainage tunnel to take water from coal mines without the need to pump it to the surface.[1] An example is the Great Haigh Sough.

Snap or bait

Snap or bait is food taken to eat part way through the shift and often carried in a snap tin.[13]

Spoil tip

Gin Pit Colliery's old spoil tip or rucks
A spoil tip is a pile built of accumulated spoil - the overburden or other waste rock removed during coal and ore mining.



A trapper was a child employed (before 1842) to open and close doors in roadways along which the coal tubs were transported.[10]


Tubs or coal tubs are wooden or iron vessels to carry coal.[9]


Upcast, upcast shaft

The upcast is the shaft by which the spent air is expelled after ventilating the mine workings. It may be considered a type of chimney.[9]



A term used from the 18th century, the viewer was the agent or surveyor appointed by the owner to manage the colliery.[9]



Whitedamp is another name for a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.[9]


The winder is either the winding engine that raises or lowers the cages in a shaft or the man who operates it.[7]

X Y Z[edit]


Yard could refer to the pit top and its surroundings or the name of a coal seam.[9]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hayes 2000, p. 30
  2. ^ "A Glossary of Mining Terms". The Coalmining History Resource Centre. Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Bevin Boys, BBC, retrieved 9 June 2014 
  4. ^ Hayes 2000, p. 5
  5. ^ Hill 2001, p. 1
  6. ^ Davies 2009, p. 52.
  7. ^ a b Hayes 2000, p. 17
  8. ^ Hill 2001, p. 6
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Pit Terminology,, retrieved 9 June 2014 
  10. ^ a b c d e Mining Words (pdf), National Coal Mining Museum for England, retrieved 5 August 2014 
  11. ^ a b c d Hill 2001, p. 7
  12. ^ Hayes 2000, p. 16
  13. ^ Miner's 'snap' tin made by Acme, BBC, retrieved 9 June 2014 


  • Davies, Alan (2009), Atherton Collieries, Amberley, ISBN 978-1-84868-489-8 
  • Hayes, Geoffrey (2000), Coal Mining, Shire Publications, ISBN 0-7478-0434-6 
  • Hill, Alan (2001), The South Yorkshire Coalfield A history and Development, Tempus Publishing, ISBN 0-7524-1747-9 

External links[edit]