Lectures on Popular and Scientific Subjects by Earl of Caithness John Sutherland Sinclair

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Page 1






There are few subjects of more importance, and few less known or thought
about, than our coal-mines. Coal is one of our greatest blessings, and
certainly one originating cause of England's greatness and wealth. It
has given us a power over other nations, and vast sums of money are
yearly brought to our country from abroad in exchange for the coal we

at the various places of consumption. The capital invested in our
coal-mining trade, apart from the value of the mines themselves,

from the earth is over 70,000,000 of tons. Taking the calculation of a
working miner--J. Ellwood, Moss Pit, near Whitehaven--we may state, that
if 68,000,000 tons were excavated from a mining gallery 6 feet high and
12 feet wide, that gallery would be not less than 5128 miles, 1090
yards, in length; or, if this amount of coal were erected in a pyramid,
its square base would extend over 40 acres, and the height would be 3356

There are grounds for believing that the produce of the various
coal-fields of the world does not at present much exceed 100,000,000 of
tons annually, and therefore our own country contributes more than
three-fifths of the total amount. If we divide the coal-yielding
counties of Britain into four classes, so as to make nearly equal
amounts of produce, we find that Durham and Northumberland yield rather
more every year than seven other counties, including Yorkshire.
Derbyshire, again, produces more than eight other counties, and nearly
as much as the whole of North and South Wales, Scotland, and
Ireland--the yield of the latter being about 17,000,000 of tons, and
that of the two first-named about 16,000,000 of tons.

In 1773 there were only 13 collieries on the Tyne, and these had
increased to upwards of 30 in 1800. The number of collieries in 1828 had
increased to 41 on the Tyne, and 18 on the Wear, in all 59, producing
5,887,552 tons of coal. The out-put of coal in Northumberland and Durham
in 1854 was no less than 15,420,615 tons, and now in these two counties
there are 283 collieries. Mining began on the Tyne and continued on the
Wear, where the industry has been largely developed. There are in all
about 57 different seams in the Great Northern coal-field, varying in
thickness from 1 inch to 5 feet 5 inches and 6 feet, and these seams
comprise an aggregate of nearly 76 feet of coal. Taking the area of this
field to be 750 square miles--a most probable estimate--we may classify
the contents as household coal, steam coal, or those employed in
steam-engine boilers, and coking coal, employed for making coke and gas.
Of household coal there is only 96 square miles out of the total 750,
all the remainder being steam or coking and gas coal. The greater part
even of this 96 square miles has been worked out on the Tyne, and the
supply is rapidly decreasing also on the Wear, where the largest bulk
of the household coal lies. The collieries of the Tees possess but six
square miles out of the 96, as far as we at present know. Turning,
however, to that part of the coal-field regarded as precarious, and
consisting of first, second, and third-rate household coal, we have for
future use 300 square miles. London was formerly supplied from the pits
east of Tyne Bridge, where is the famous Wallsend Colliery, which gave
the name to the best coal. That mine is now drowned out, and, like the
great Roman Wall, at the termination of which it was sunk, and from
which it derived its name, is now an antiquity. There is now no Wallsend
coal, and the principal part of the present so-called coal comes from
the Wear, but the seam which supplied that famous pit is continued into
Durham, and that seam, or its equivalent, sends a million or two of tons
every year into London. The supply, however, in this district is rapidly
decreasing. Careful calculations have been made as to the probable
duration of this coal, of which the following is a summary. The workable
quantity of coal remaining in the ten principal seams of this coal-field
is estimated at 1,876,848,756 Newcastle chaldrons (each 35 cwt.).
Deducting losses and underground and surface waste, the total
merchantable round or good-sized coal will be 1,251,232,507 Newcastle
chaldrons. Proceeding on this estimate, formed by Mr. Grunwith in 1846,
we may arrive at the probable duration of the supplies: taking the
future annual average of coal raised from these seams to be 10,000,000
of tons--and this is under the present rate--the whole will be exhausted
in 331 years. A still later estimate was made by Mr. T.G. Hall in 1854,
and he reckoned the quantity of coal left for future use at
5,121,888,956 tons; dividing this by 14,000,000 of tons as the annual
consumption, the result would be 365 years; and should the annual demand
arrive at 20,000,000 of tons, the future supply of this famous
coal-field would continue for 256 years. The total available coal (1871)
in the British coal-fields, at depths not exceeding 4000 feet, and in
seams not less than 1 foot thick, is 90,207,285,398 tons, and taking
into account seams which may yet become available, lying under the
Permian, New Red Sandstone, and other superincumbent strata, this
estimate is increased to 146,480,000,000 of tons. This quantity, at the
present annual rate of production throughout the country--namely,
123,500,000 tons--would last 1186 years. Other estimates of various
kinds relative to our coal supply have been put forth: some have
asserted that, owing to increasing population and increasing consumption
in manufactures, it will be exhausted in 100 years, and between this
extreme and that of 1186 years there are many other conjectures and

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Wed 26th Jan 2022, 20:44