Hill Top Mine

© Craven & Pendle Geological Society

Entrance to the mine(April 2002)

Fossiliferous Coal Ball Concretion

Bivalve: Aviculopecten plicatus

Greens Clough.  The last large coal mine, extracting from the Lower Mountain Mine is at Hill Top Colliery in Greens Clough. Though closed in 1968, as you can see form the photograph to the right, the mine is still currently active be it in a small way.

To reduce the distance of underground drawing of coal in the Deerplay workings, in 1946, Brooks & Brooks (the successors of Brooks & Pickup) drove a drift into the far end of the Union Mine in Cliviger where it outcropped at the top of Greens Clough, near an ancient shooting lodge of the Towneley’s known as Hill Top.

An access road was taken from the Todmorden - Bacup road at Sharneyford over the top of Greens Clough to the mine. With nationalisation in 1947 Moorfield Colliery, Accrington was closed down, and the miners from this colliery bussed daily to Hill Top. The miners extracted 400 tons of coal a week for 20 years before this valuable Union Seam was exhausted in 1966. An interesting feature of the last two mines was the use of electrical power taken from their own overhead transmission lines. This enabled powerful pumps, running night and day, to be installed, and so as not to deprive the Irwell Vale of its natural water supply. The water at a a rate of 250 gallons per minute from Hill Top Colliery was piped over the watershed of Heald Moor into the Irwell Valley rather than the much cheaper alternative of pouring it down Greens Clough into the Yorkshire Calder.

The  photograph of the concretion is interesting for many reasons:

a) Firstly, this was one of the reasons why the local coal pits closed down.  The machinery installed in the pits failed because of the growing number of solid 'coal balls'.

b)  The waste tips of old were an excellent source of coal balls and fossil collectors reaped their reward!  Mind you a normal geology hammer was useless and eye protection was essential.

c)  Dr. Marie Stopes visited Hill Top Mine to collect fossils from the spoil heaps.  Her interest in trees and plants (flora) would have made these 'coal balls' a prime target because of the excellent preservation potential.  Marie Stopes was perhaps better known for her pioneering work on Family Planning and Birth Control.