At the end of the last century, there were seven active pits on both sides of the valley, between Loveclough and the crest of the hill beyond the Clowbridge Reservoir.
The earliest pit was at Gambleside, which Court Rolls show was working in 1612. The mine shaft on this site was known as the Pumping Pit, and the pit head was originally level with the top of the bank which surrounds the modern pumphouse.
The Gambleside colliery had two main main shafts - Pumping Pit, located just below the settlement and a later shaft on the hillside to the south. Coal was drawn up the hillside from Pumping Pit by a continuous chain drive of tubs, then passed through a tunnel to Swinshaw Pit on the other side of the hill. From there, it was carried down to the coal staithe at the bottom of Goodshaw Lane in Crawshawbooth.
The Pumping Pit shaft was 122 feet deep and 8 feet in diameter. Men were lowered into the shaft in a tub attached by chains to the winding gear. As there were no guides along the sides of the shaft, the men had to stabilise the tub using sticks if it started to swing.
The 19th century pit head had a boiler house, engine house and winding house, together with an office, workshop and cabin where the men changed before going underground. The remains of the chimney to the boiler house are sited on the far bank of Clowbridge Reservoir.
Working conditions were very difficult, as the coal seam was often less than 2'6" high. Young boys called drawers, who were often as young as 6 years old, took the full tubs of coal from the collier to the underground haulage system. The colliers were employed on a piece work basis - when 20 tubs of coal were filled, they could go home, providing the workings had been fully propped.
Pumping Pit, as its name suggests, suffered from water seeping into the mine. It was abandoned early in the 20th century and allowed to become a sump for the rest of the mine. The water from the old workings is now pumped by North West Water, via the modern pumphouse, into the reservoir.
Gambleside Colliery ceased production in 1936 with the closure of its major customer, the Sunnyside Print Works, located opposite the Parish Church in Crawshawbooth. In the days before nationalisation each mine had its own customers.
|Gambleside Colliery (click on the thumbnail for an enlarged view)|