History of Chatterley Whitfield
Part Five: 1920s to 1947
Up to 1915, all the coal at Whitfield had to be hewn from the coal face without the aid of machinery. In that year, however, electrically-driven coal cutters and compressed air shaker conveyors were introduced to help remove some of the physical work required to mine and transport the coal from the face.
In 1920 an ex-army hut provided the colliery with its first canteen facilities and work began on a new lamproom to house the heavy electric lamps which were gradually being introduced and used in addition to the conventional oil safety lamps.
The late 1920s and early 1930s were difficult times for colliery owners and miners alike. During the general strike of 1926, convoys of motor lorries travelled to Whitfield from all over the country to buy the small coal that was stocked at the Colliery. In 1929 only 193 days were worked and during the Depression 300 Whitfield miners were made redundant. North Staffordshire collieries worked on a tonnage quota system during this period and when the monthly quota had been produced they had to stop work.
By 1932 all underground haulage had been mechanised and most pit ponies taken out of the pit. Steel supports began to replace the traditional timber pit props. These originally were not universally accepted because miners complained that whereas timber supports creaked when they began to break, which acted as a waring, steel supports did not. Eventually, however, steel supports were accepted. There were also technological advances with coal cutters and conveyors which were becoming increasingly necessary as tonnage began to increase.
In 1934 a modern office block was contructed to replace the old Head Offices of the Company in Pinnox Street in Tunstall and most staff were transferred to Whitfield. Those remaining at Pinnox Street dealt with the transfer of loaded and unloade trains to the North Staffordshire Railway in Tunstall. This also brought to an end the Saturday 'Pay Train' whereby the wages were taken from Pinnox Street to Whitfield for payment on Saturday afternoon. The Colliery pay week was from Wednesday to Tuesday.
At the same tiime, a new fitting and electric shop replaced the old one under the Middle Pit Power House which had become inadequate. In 1938 a new boiler house containing twelve Lancashire boilers fueled by pulverised coal and considered to be one of the best in Britain was brought into use. In the same year, the Pithead Baths, containing 3,817 'clean' and 3,817 'dirty' lockers, and canteen were brought into use.
The 1930s were momentous for Whitfield because not only were there over 4,000 men employed, but in 1937 it became the first colliery in Britain to mine one million saleable tons in one year, a feat it also achieved in 1938.
From 1938 onwards and during the Second World War, there was little change until the mines were Nationalised in 1947.