The Albion Pit and Day Level Sough
Research Contributor: Malcolm Peel (Granville Colliery Miner 1958-1979)
It is not known when the Albion Pit was in production but it did, at some time, produce coal, fireclay and ironstone. It also played a major part in the operation of the “Day Level”. A “level” was the local name for a “sough”, (pronounced “suff”) and called “Day Level” because the out-flow end appeared at the surface, unlike the others which were totally underground. Basically, a level is a very small roadway driven underground to drain water from pits and underground workings.
The Lilleshall Company maintained a number of “water pits”, often remote from its active colliery sites, to assist in underground drainage or provide essential water supplies to its activities. Even more were maintained to provide access and ventilation to the Company’s extensive Day Level drainage sough.
The Day Level was a tunnel driven from the low-lying area around Donnington in the north into the hill around Wrockwardine Wood and St Georges and then on to Randlay. It is not known when the driving of the level was started, but in records of the Charlton estate, it mentions a new sough in the St Georges area in 1730-1735. The Lilleshall Company were paying royalties on their mines in 1838 to William Charlton and so it is possible that this was the start of the Day Level. There are records of earlier pits in Donnington and Wrockwardine, draining into the sough.
On a plan of Donnington Wood Colliery in 1788 there is recorded “a tunnel…….to bring the water from the engine…….to the sough.” There is also a mention in a lease of 1781 of the possibility of “the driving of a sough drain…… not less than 2·5ft diameter”. Soughs were driven over a long period of time, being extended or having branches added as required and this was the situation with the Day Level.
The first positive mention of the Day Level is found in the Lilleshall Company’s Sinking Account Book in 1826, where Isaac Shepherd & Co. was hired to repair a section of the Day Level and to drive the Day Level across the measures (mining term for through the layers of strata) to drain the water from near the Old Lodge Mansion. The Lodge was home to the Levesons from 1645 to about 1764. It was eventually buried under pit waste from Lodgebank Pit and is the source of the names for several furnaces and pits. (See plan).
The sough was constructed by sinking shafts about 150yds apart and then headings (tunnels) driven between these. No standard diameter was used as it depended on the strata and the purpose for the tunnel. All the work was carried out by hand; there was little blasting done. The tunnels were supported by circular brick arching in soft ground but unsupported in solid ground.
The actual position of most of the shafts on the Day Level are not known. The principle shaft is on the Albion Mound opposite the Albion Inn. To the north of this shaft, which is still open but capped with concrete, is the Nabb and Cockshutt Piece. (Since writing this article, I have located the positions of two further shafts on the Cockshutt). There is a shaft at the bottom of the inclined plane off the Cockshutt Piece near to the old Wrockwardine Wood Primitive Methodist Chapel, which is filled in, and another one on Oakengates Road near the Four Ways junction. The level runs parallel to Queen’s Road and turns to the left near the junction with School Road. It outflows within the Central Ordnance Depot. The water eventually ends up in the Humber Brook.
The Day Level was extended southwards from the Albion Pit in about 1850. It connected with Dark Lane and Stafford Pits and also Pudley Hill which was near the foot bridge to the railway station. Pudley Hill pumped water to the Lilleshall Company’s ironworks at Priorslee. There is also strong evidence that the level terminated at Randlay Pit which was in the area between Queen Elizabeth and Stirchley Avenues, in the Randlay Woods near the town centre. This was over four miles long and, with the branches being three or four miles long, the total distance the level drained would be over seven or eight miles.
The Day Level was inspected regularly, which was known as “level creeping”. From a 1914 estate plan for the area of the Central Ordnance Depot, we can see a sough mouth cabin near an outflow. This would be where the “creepers” could have a wash, a change of clothing, and some food. The inspection was difficult and dangerous. The level contained flowing water and was less than 3½ft high in places. The Lilleshall Company paid for an annual dinner for the creepers and, the inspection became annual (usually on New Year’s Day) and continued until 1920.
Since 1939, the sough has caused many problems due to it collapsing and damming the flow. This causes water levels to rise and create flooding on the surface. The water is ochreous in colour and can cause a serious nuisance on roads and in gardens.
After 1947, the National Coal Board realised the importance of the level and instructions were given that no shaft on the line of the Day Level was to be filled but, instead, they were to be capped with concrete. Only shafts to the north of the Albion were treated in this manner. On the Albion Mound, there were three shafts; two were filled and one capped. In this shaft in 1960, the water level was 280ft down and its position is marked by an iron post.
In the 1970s, the Telford Development Corporation continued with this policy of maintaining the shafts and water flow.
The Day Level is still in operation today and evidence of ochre-coloured water still appears on the surface in the Donnington area.
- Brown, I. ‘Below!’, Shropshire Caving and Mining Club Magazine
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