History of Chatterley Whitfield
Part Three: 1876 to 1884
As the output of coal at Whitfield increased, it became necessary to improve the coal transport system. Despite opposition from the North Staffordshire Railway, the company started to construct a private railway in 1873 to run from Whitfield to Pinnox where sidings were to join up with the lower Tunstall Branch of the NS Railway. The line was finally completed in 1878 and considerably reduced the cost of transporting coal from Whitfield to the blast funaces at Chatterley.
In 1876 the company ran into serious financial difficulties. The heavy capital expenditure of the earlier years and a recession in in trade began to take their effect. To overcome this, a policy of rigorous economy was introduced and numerous small pits were closed. This policy was strongly opposed by Mr C J Homer and he resigned over the issue. However, as the economies began to take effect and the output of coal increased, the company was able to weather the storm.
Unfortunately, just as the company was recovering, it was beset by further misfortunes. In 1880, the oil distillery at Chatterley was destroyed by fire and in Feruary 1881 there was a serious fire and explosion at Whitfield. The latter fire was caused by the misuse of an underground blacksmith's furnace which resulted in an explosion, killing 24 men.
The force of the explosion caused the collapse of the Laura Pit and the entire shaft and pit top were abandoned. At the same time the Institute shaft had to be partly filled, in an effort to extinguish the fire. Later, an enquiry into the explosion was held at the nearby Norton Arms, while at Staffords Assizes the Manager, Mr Thompson, defended himself against a charge of manslaughter and was acquitted.
In an effort to recover lost output, the Middle Pit shaft (formerly the Ragman) was deepened to the Hardmine seam in 1881, and a new upcast shaft to replaec the Laura was sunk to the Cockshead seam. The latter shaft was completed in 1883 and named the Platt Pit after one of the Directors of the Company. In 1884 the company was agin beset by heavy financial difficulties and an application was made to the Court for permission for its closure. The application was eventually withdrawn, the company's affairs being placed under the control of three liquidators. One of these was the previous Company Secretary, John Renshaw Wain. It was his son, Edwards Brownfield Wain, who was to lead the Company to its 'Goldern Age'.