(A) ORIGINAL Rothbury Estates as controlled by the Estate Trustees.
(B) NSW State Government commandeered Rothbury Colliery on Friday 19th November 1929. The State Government discontinued its operations there on Thursday 19th June 1930. The mine was returned to its owners, Rothbury Estates, who then worked the colliery until December 1931.
(C) James Ruttley leased Rothbury Colliery on Tuesday 23rd February 1932. He renamed the mine "Branxton Colliery". James Ruttley died on Friday 2nd August 1935 as the result of a motor car accident at his Branxton Colliery entrance gates.
(D) Following James Ruttley's death, Robert W. Miller, on Wednesday 3rd July 1935, leased the southern part of the Rothbury Colliery lease with the condition, that he could use the old Rothbury Colliery pit-top, its mine facilities and its rail sidings, for the purpose of screening and loading all coal produced on his lease. The Rothbury Colliery, (renamed Branxton Colliery by James Ruttley), on Friday 26th June 1936 had a further change of name to "Ayrfield No. 3 Colliery". This name alteration was made by R.W. Miller and Company.


(A) Record Tracing No.: R.T. 279.
(B) Northern Collieries Lease Books: Register: Book 2 No. 44.
(C) Papers: 1914/6335; 1930/967.


(A) Rothbury Colliery was situated on James Mitchell's original grant, which he had called "Rothbury Estate". This estate overlapped parishes of Branxton and Rothbury.

(B) Its main entry tunnel headings were on - Portion 26 Parish of Branxton.

(C) Relation to neighbouring mines:

(i) The later Maitland Extended Collieries, Nos. 1 to 6, were to the south, in a direct line of some five miles length.
(ii) Nearest other coal mines were to the east, the Greta Village mines, namely – Anvil Creek Colliery, Greta Colliery, Central Greta Colliery, Whitburn Colliery, New Greta, etc.

(D) Rothbury Colliery was on the west side of Highway No. 82. Its entrance access gates were nearly at the centre of North Rothbury Village.


(A) Rothbury Colliery was 17 miles 50 chains (28.2 km) distant by road from Maitland Post Office.

(B) It was 12 miles 45 chains (20.1 km) distant by road from Cessnock Post Office.

(C) It was 2 miles 15 chains (3.5 km) distant by road from Branxton Post Office.

(D) The colliery was 36 miles 29 chains (58.18 km) distant by rail from Newcastle.

(E) The "Branch Railway" from Branxton Railway Station to Rothbury Colliery screens was 1 mile 71 chains (3.02 km) in length.


Various sized areas have been shown as the extent of Rothbury Colliery lease holding.

William Humble, an earlier Mines Department inspector, in an article on Rothbury Colliery published in the April 1922 issue of "Chemical, Engineering and Mining Review" shows the lease as being 5,012 acres, of which 4,688 acres were the Estate's freehold, 318 acres leased from private persons, and 6 acres under a mining lease from the Crown.

The Mines Department in its 1925 Annual Report in an article on an explosion in Rothbury Colliery states "the colliery holding comprises 10,600 acres, the whole of which is freehold, except for roughly 100 acres under railways and roads running across the property carrying Crown Coal".


T.W. Edgeworth David, (later Professor), accompanied by Reginald Wyndham of "Leconfield" on Saturday 11th September 1886 journeyed to Black Creek to inspect an outcrop of a coal seam. Local Branxton town people for many years had been aware of this outcrop, and that its coal had been used for various purposes in their neighbourhood. Edgeworth David obtained the permission of the land owner, David Scott Mitchell, and the lessee at the time, E.V.C. Maine, to sink a small shaft. Edgeworth David's observations and comments on this outcrop and his shaft were published on page 147 of the Mines Department 1887 Annual Report. Subsequently Professor T.W. Edgeworth David gave a further detailed description of this small shaft on page 139 of his "Memoirs" published in 1907. This is shown thus:



Depth to






Conglomerate with pebbles





Fine gritty sandstone





Perished coal




Band - grey clay shale




Firm bituminous coal




Clayey coal





Dull black bituminous coal




Inferior clayey coal




Band - black splintery coal




Dull black clayey coal




Black stony coal




Bituminous coal




Clayey coal




Softer bituminous coal




Harder laminated coal




Bright black bituminous coal





Shale floor.

The Greta Seam at Rothbury Colliery is split into 3 parts, (top, middle and bottom). These parts are separated from each other by approximately 50 feet to 60 feet of strata, consisting chiefly of conglomerate. The top seam part averages from 6 feet to 7 feet in thickness, the middle seam part from 8 feet to 15 feet in thickness; and the bottom seam part from 6 feet to 8 feet thick. The middle seam was worked in Rothbury Colliery.

From its outcrop at Rothbury Colliery, the Greta Seam dipped in a south south-west direction, the incline perceptibly increasing in depth as the seam moved south. In driving the tunnel heading in Rothbury Colliery, the seam incline for the first 200 yards was at 16; and in the next 200 yards this incline had increased to 23. At the end of the next 400 yards, the seam incline reached almost 40.

Mr Richard Thomas (Junior), Rothbury Colliery manager, in a letter to the trustees, E.A.M. Merewether and H.A.M. Merewether, dated April 1922, advised that the dip of the seam varied from 16 at the northern end of the mine to 45 at the southern end of the colliery.

A major faulting, the "Greta Fault", ran in a north-east direction at the northern tip of the Rothbury Colliery lease, across Samuel Clift land, Portion 23 Parish of Branxton, on the Cessnock side of Branxton Railway Station. Another major faulting influencing the Rothbury Colliery lease was the "west branch of the Elderslee Fault". This ran in a north to south direction, 4,860 yards from the east boundary edge of the mine lease. The seam at this fault was at a depth of 2,500 feet.

After the main Rothbury Colliery haulage heading had reached a depth of 200 yards, an analysis test of the coal at this point was made on Wednesday 29th May 1912 by Mr Basil Turner, a coal chemist at Newcastle. These were his findings and report:

Hygroscopic Moisture 2.35%

Volatile Carbon 40.7%

Fixed Carbon 51.11%

Ash 5.8%

Mr Turner found the sample's "Calorific Value" as being 12,924 British thermal units.

Coke 56.91%

Mr Turner described the coke as fairly swollen; firm and lustrous; ash-grey in colour; semi-granular.

Sulphur 0.694%

Specific Gravity 1.290

One pound of coal converted 13 pounds of water to steam.

Summing up, Mr Basil Turner said:

"The coal is most suitable for gas-making, as no clinker is formed on the grate. It is eminently adapted for both steaming and house-hold purposes. The coal is semi-bituminous and is hard. It yields only a minor percentage of small coal. It handles well, and is not easily broken by attrition and therefore makes a good coal for shipment".


Evidently the publishing of Professor T.W. Edgeworth David's "Memoirs" in 1907, in which he referred to his inspection 20 years earlier of a Black Creek outcrop on David Scott Mitchell's property had stirred interest in a possible coal venture. David Scott Mitchell's brother-in-law, Edward C. Merewether, had been superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company for quite a long period. With the association of Burwood Estate, the Merewether family had grown up with much experience in mining ventures. David Scott Mitchell died in 1907 and left the bulk of his property and business interests to his sister, Augusta Maria Merewether less the bequest of his personal library and an amount of 70,000-0-0 ($140,000.00) to the NSW State Library. Maria's two sons, Edward Alworth Mitchell Merewether and Henry Alfred Mitchell Merewether became the trustees for the Rothbury and Merewether Estates.

In early 1908 these two brothers arranged for bores and shafts to be sunk along the possible line of the outcrop to further prove the coal potential. Professor T.W. Edgeworth David had directed and nominated locations for such tests, and he had requested that trenching, tunnelling, boring and shaft sinking be made to make fair estimates of depth and to gauge values. A shaft was sunk on the bank of Rothbury Creek on Portion 19 Parish of Rothbury. This proved a strong seam with a cover of 10 feet. Some 75 yards south-west of this shaft, a higher seam outcrop was found in the same Rothbury Creek bank. A short tunnel, only 26 yards in length was driven into this higher seam at a point just north of the access road to Rothbury Estate homestead. This tunnel showed this higher seam to be 6 feet 2 inches thick, dipping at about a fifty degrees incline. At a point on Black Creek bank opposite the south boundary of Portion 44, Parish of Rothbury, a shaft was sunk. This met the Greta lower seam at a depth of 8 feet. The Greta Top Seam also outcropped about 30 yards direct west of this trial shaft. Finally a small shaft was sunk in a gully (or depression) on Portion 26 Parish of Branxton, just below the present Rothbury Colliery dam wall. The seam was met at a depth of 9 feet and it was 12 feet 9 inches thick including some small bands and partings. Here the seam inclined north 58 degrees west at a dip of 18 degrees. It was decided that this was the best place to make entry into the seam.

In late October 1910 the trustees of Rothbury Estate, Messrs E.A.M. Merewether and H.A.M. Merewether appointed Mr D. Morgan to be colliery manager of a new mine working about to be commenced. On Tuesday 29th November 1910, Mr D. Morgan notified the Mines Department that 9 men were engaged in driving a tunnel into the seam on Portion 26 Parish of Branxton (see Mines Department's 1910 Annual Report at page 173).

During the early part of 1910, Messrs E.A.M. and H.A.M. Merewether had negotiated with the Trust of NSW Public Library that the bequest of 70,000-0-0 ($140,000.00) should be treated as a loan to the Rothbury Estate for a period of 5 years. After the first 12 months of this arrangement, Rothbury Estate Balance Sheet shows in the liabilities, thus:

"Debt to NSW Public Library 58,521-0-0 ($117,042.00), and outstanding interest 940-1-0 ($1,880.10)".

Two tunnels, 80 yards apart, were driven into the seam, and were connected by a cross heading at the main heading's 180 yards depth mark. This development produced about 90 tons a day, and which at first was stacked in a heap to await the completion of the short branch railway from the junction to the NSW Government Railway at Branxton rail station. On Wednesday 12th July 1911 the tunnel heading had reached 100 yards from the surface. On Wednesday 20th September 1911 Richard Thomas (Junior), and experienced mine manager, was appointed to Rothbury Colliery. By the end of February 1912, 18 miners were engaged, 6 on each of the 3 shifts, (day, afternoon and back shift). At this date there were a total of 40 men employed at the mine.

First haulage was provided on the northern (No. 2) heading. This was an 18 H.P. steam driven winch, which had two cylinders, each 8 inches in diameter with a 12 inches stroke. It had 2 drums, which operated by clutches. A set of 4 skips was raised or lowered in the heading. Steam was provided by a second-hand Cornish boiler. This boiler was 24 feet long and 5 feet 6 inches in diameter. It had a steel chimney stack, 40 feet high and 2 feet 6 inches diameter, and it was wire stayed. The steam winch and second-hand boiler had been supplied by Cameron and Sutherland of Pitt Street Sydney. The winch had cost 112-12-0 ($225.20) and the boiler had cost 250-0-0 ($500.00). Coal production appears to have been emptied direct from the skip via a timber chute into a dray. A horse pulled the dray to a holding heap to await the railway construction.

Ventilation in this first working was by natural means.

John Reid, coal sales agent of Watt Street, Newcastle, was evidently enthusiastic to handle Rothbury Colliery coal production. His advertisement in the 1912 Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Almanac lists Rothbury Colliery as one of his clients, but added a notation that the mine was in the "course of development".

Partly as a means of raising funds for a "cash flow", and partly to provide areas for accommodation close to their miners' employment, North Rothbury Village was sub-divided in early 1912 into building allotments. First block was sold in mid 1912. Average "block" price at a public auction sale held on Saturday 19th October 1912 was 33-0-0 ($66.00) per allotment.

During 1912 a number of mining ancillary activities were started. In mid 1912 a dam with capacity to hold 4,000,000 gallons of water was constructed close to the new entry tunnel. The contract price for this dam was 465-0-0 ($930.00). In April 1913 the overflow wall was raised a further 18 inches to increase the capacity by another 750,000 gallons. A brickyard was commenced in March 1912 to make bricks for boiler foundations, a new chimney stack, and other pit-top requirements. These bricks were tested by the Sydney University, which reported they were a good class of hand made bricks. In April 1912 work was commenced on a branch railway construction to link the colliery to the NSW Government Railways. This was only a short track, 1 mile 71 chains (3.02 km). My research has failed to reveal if a contractor was engaged for this project. Amongst Rothbury Estate's correspondence, I found a short letter stating that "130 men were employed on track construction". A.B. Espley of Hamilton in May 1912 submitted a tender to supply squared hardwood sleepers at 4 shillings and 2 pence ($0.42) each. Ballast for the rail track, (including chitter, pit rubbish, stone and unsaleable small coal) was purchased from Whitburn Colliery, Greta. Cost of such ballast averaged three shillings ($0.30) per ton delivered to Rothbury Colliery in "N.C.M." coal hopper wagons. (Author's note: "N.C.M." stands for Newcastle Coal Mining Company). On Tuesday 15th October 1912, Keith Brook of Watt Street, Newcastle supplied 128 rail sleepers to Rothbury Colliery at a cost of 3 shillings 4 pence ($0.34) per sleeper. The rail track was completed in mid February 1913. First train of Rothbury Colliery coal was despatched on Monday 10th March 1913.

In December 1912 specifications were prepared for the construction of a pit-top building to house the screens, picking-belts, etc. The colliery manager had estimated that the materials, timber, roofing iron, etc., would cost 750-0-0 ($1,500.00) and erection costs should be 500-0-0 ($1,000.00). On Friday 21st march 1913, the contract for construction of the pit-top (labour only) was given to R. Thompson of "Hillside", Lawson, Blue Mountains, for his quote of 453-0-0 ($906.00).

An order was placed in July 1912 on Ferrier and Dickinson of Sydney for 3 large boilers for use as the permanent steam supply. These overseas manufactured "John Thompson" boilers arrived at Rothbury Colliery on Monday 11th November 1912. This firm supplied a "Weir" boiler feed pump on Friday 17th January 1913 at a cost of 198-0-0 ($396.00). This pump was to bring water from the dam to the boilers.

A 20 kW British Westinghouse belt driven dynamo was installed 2nd October 1912 to generate 240 volts direct current electricity. The steam engine for this dynamo was a Westinghouse "standard" unit, which had a 7 inches diameter cylinder with a 7 inches stroke. Following the dynamo installation, a Gould pump was supplied in late October 1912 by Noyes Limited of Sydney, and was placed in the southern (No. 2) heading. This was a 3 inches diameter pump with a 4 inches stroke, and was capable of lifting 2000 gallons per hour the 200 feet to the surface. Its cost was 86-0-0 ($172.00). The pump was driven by a 5 H.P. 240 volts British Westinghouse electric motor, which had cost 130-0-0 ($260.00).

By Wednesday 10th September 1913, the southern (No. 2) tunnel, which was planned to be the main haulage, had reached a depth of 400 yards. No. 1 north and No. 1 south levels had commenced to be driven. Ventilation was still being made by natural means, through a shaft, 5 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep. Assistance for other mine ventilation was made by a small furnace placed near the southern tunnel entry. Plans were being made for a 30 inches diameter Sirocco fan to be installed on a drift from the surface.

Also by this date, (10-9-1913), the 3 Lancashire boilers manufactured by John Thompson and Company of Wolverhampton, England, had been placed on their foundations and bricked in. The square brick chimney stack, 90 feet high was also nearing completion. Whilst the early small steam winch was still meeting the then production and haulage needs, foundations were being laid for the permanent haulage engine, recently manufactured by Morison and Bearby of Newcastle. The pit-top structure erected by Mr R. Thompson of Lawson had just been completed, and was being fitted with the shaker screens, picking belts, etc. The colliery rail sidings yard was completed in June 1913. Rothbury Colliery had acquired 70 ten tons capacity wooden hopper rail wagons to convey its coal production away. The western side of its branch railway was fenced to the property boundary.

Rothbury Colliery was very much in readiness to become a coal producing mine.


Merewether's "family records" or their Rothbury Colliery show that there were two tunnel entrances and a fan drift into the Greta middle seam, and a tunnel into the Greta bottom seam. The two main entrances were 80 yards apart, and the fan drift roughly in the middle. These records also inform that underground there were two stone drifts running from the Greta middle seam to the Greta bottom seam; one from No. 2 level, the second from No. 3 level. Also underground a shaft at No. 2 level connects the Greta middle seam with the Greta top seam. Further a stone drift rose from No. 3 level to connect the Greta middle seam to the Greta top seam

Subsequent Rothbury Colliery records found in Ayrfield No. 3 possession provided the date of completion of two stone drifts to the bottom seam. "No. 2 Level" stone drive was completed on Thursday 8th August 1918. "No. 4 Level" stone drive was completed on Monday 5th February 1923.

The two tunnel entry headings were driven in at a direct "west" direction.

Mines Department's 1920 Annual Report at page 92 gives the following details for the entrances at Rothbury Colliery, thus:

Two "down-cast" entrance headings - 12 feet wide by 7 feet high,

One "up-cast" square shaft - 10 feet long, 10 feet wide and 12 feet deep.

In the Mines Department's report of the Rothbury Colliery 1925 explosion, published in its Annual Report at page 60, gives the details of the mine's entrances, thus:

"The colliery is operated by three tunnels from the out-crop – two in the middle seam, and one in the bottom seam. The two tunnels in the middle seam are used as intakes, and that in the bottom seam as a return".

Later in the report, it states:

"The middle and bottom seams are connected at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 levels by means of stone drives from the middle seam. (Note: the stone drift connecting No. 4 Level to the bottom seam was about 60 yards north of the southern haulage heading). The Greta top seam is connected to the Greta middle seam at No. 3 Level by means of a stone drift. An underground 'staple' shaft, 60 feet deep, at No. 2 Level connects the Greta top seam to the Greta middle seam".

The southern heading was the main haulage tunnel. For the first 200 yards, it ran in at a sixteen degrees incline. In the next 200 yards the seam slope had increased to twenty-three degrees. By the next 400 yards the incline was at about forty degrees. This southern heading finally ran in a total distance of 1,030 yards to a depth of 1287 feet. At No. 4 Level a distance in of about 800 yards, the depth from surface was 946 feet.

The northern heading was the travelling tunnel. It ran in about 875 yards.

Two companion headings run down the mine parallel to the "main" haulage tunnel. These do not reach the surface. Each companion heading is 25 yards distant from the main haulage tunnel. One serves as a "return airway", the other as a connecting travelling heading.

"Levels" are turned away in north and south directions about every 200 yards along the main haulage heading. In Rothbury Colliery's final years, there were a total of 5 levels. The longest "level" running towards the south was just over 1,400 yards. The longest level running towards the north was just under 1,400 yards in length.

The southern haulage heading and the northern travelling heading were linked by nine cross headings. The levels running north and south, were connected at the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 8th cross headings.


Rothbury Colliery, although a steep seam, was worked on a type of "bord and pillar" method. As outlined in the "Entry" section at page 1293 (above), levels were driven off to the north and to the south from the entrance headings, which ran below at a direct west direction. Levels were made about every 200 yards.

Jig headings were driven upwards from the levels to rise almost to the next level. Jig-headings were made 18 feet wide and 15 feet high. Bord headings were driven off parallel to the levels, from man-holes previously made in the driving of the jig headings. In the very first level jig heading, a total of 10 bord headings were made. Bord headings were driven 8 yards wide, and heights varied with the slope of the seam. At the coal face all work was hand mining and hand boring. Here the wheeler also loaded the skip by shovelling. The Rothbury Estate's Trustees had considered that 14 chains in a bord would be the maximum and economic distance for the wheeler filler to push or to shoulder shunt the skips. In actual fact this haulage distance rarely exceeded 12 chains, and the bord floor was slightly raised away from the jig heading to assist the skip wheeling.

The jig heading itself held two skip tracks. One to carry a tunnel cage for a single skip; the second to carry a "dummy" trolley loaded with scrap iron and steel to counter-balance the skip cage. A young lad, known as the jig-boy operated a single drum fitted with a brake to exchange empty and loaded skips at the appropriate position. The drum had marks to assist in indicating the bord heading floor level. A very old North Rothbury resident informed me, that, about 1916, in his days as a jig-boy, the wheeler alerted the jig-boy by pulling a warning signal rope. During early 1918 a "rapper" signalling device appears to have been installed. When the area being worked was finished, the tunnel cage and dummy trolley were exchanged and reversed to allow a similar number of bord headings to be driven in at the opposite direction on the other side of the jig heading. Again the extent of these bords appears to have been limited to a "12 chains" wheeling distance.

By December 1913, the first jig heading and its bord headings had been made from the No. 1 North Level. Coal was raised in the northern haulage heading in sets of 4 skips by the 18 H.P. steam winch. This small production of this time was just sufficient to fulfil the Railway Commissioner's "locomotive coal" contract of 22,000 tons. By this time the south travelling heading had reached a depth of 400 yards, and the north haulage heading was just beyond No. 1 Level. Further development driving in both these headings was temporarily suspended whilst the No. 1 Levels, North and South, had been extended to allow more jig headings to be driven upwards from No. 1 Level on both sides of the entry headings.

Each jig heading was about 300 yards apart. This allowed each jig heading to service a section. Each such section had a boundary pillar of coal surrounding it, similar to the "panel" (or section) working of the flatter seams on other Greta Seam fields. Each section was given its own name. Perhaps the manager at the time of the naming of the sections had a sense of humour. The first "jig" section formed, (that from No. 1 North Level), was named "Maiden". The next section formed was from No. 1 South Level and it was named "Model". Later section names sometimes shows a World War I influence, such as "Anzac", "Gallipoli", "Victory", "Anzac Extended", "Empire" and "Canberra". Flower and plant names were also used. This is a list of various section names appearing on the mine plan:

No. 1 North Level


Maiden, Maiden Extended, Gallipoli.

No. 2 North Level


Lily, Lily Extended, Empire and Empire Extended.

No. 3 North Level


Anzac, Anzac Extended, Wattle and Myrtle.

No. 4 North Level


Rosebud, Thistle, Shamrock, and Shamrock Extended.

No. 1 South Level


Model, Violet, Violet Extended

No. 2 South Level


Primrose, Daisy, Pansy, Blossom

Note: "Blossom" continued upward from No. 2 Level past "Violet Extended" into solid coal beyond No. 1 Level.

No. 3 South Level


Canberra, Victory, Waratah and Waratah Extended.

No. 4 South Level


Only one jig heading, "Bluebell".

Whilst No. 5 Level was partially driven off, both North and South directions, no jig heading was made during the Rothbury Colliery era.

It does appear that the pillar thicknesses in the various jig sections from Level No. 1 and Level No. 2 were 8 yards thick. From Level 3 pillar thickness in the jig sections was increased to 12 yards. From level 4 pillar thickness was further increased to 14 yards. Pillar lengths were varied by staggered cut-throughs driven generally between the bord headings, and occasionally from the Levels. Such cut-throughs were placed to assist colliery ventilation and the travelling movements of the miners. As a typical example of cut-through placement, this was the situation in the "Maiden" jig workings:

Maiden No. 1 Bord - 1 cut-through
Maiden No. 2 Bord - 3 cut-throughs
Maiden No. 3 Bord - 2 cut-throughs
Maiden No. 4 Bord - 1 cut-through
Maiden No. 5 Bord - 3 cut-throughs
Maiden No. 6 Bord - 2 cut-throughs
Maiden No. 7 Bord - 1 cut-through
Maiden No. 8 Bord - 2 cut-throughs
Maiden No. 9 Bord - 1 cut-through
Maiden No. 10 Bord - 1 cut-through.

Again as an example, the two cut-throughs on No. 8 bord were at 30 yards and 176 yards from the jig heading. The single cut-through on No. 9 bord was 55 yards from the jig heading. The single cut-through on No. 10 bord was 143 yards from the jig heading.

As indicated in the "Entry" section, the north haulage heading, and the south travelling or "walk" heading were linked by nine cross headings. Skip movements from the jig headings and sections on the four levels to the haulage heading were made via the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 8th cross heading.

Early in Rothbury Colliery operation, coal in skips was hauled to the surface by an 18 H.P. steam winch on the "north" haulage heading. Skips were raised in sets of four skips, and were tipped in end tumblers onto fixed screens. The coal which had been heaped earlier whilst awaiting the branch railway construction. This heap was near the southern (No. 1) travelling heading. This coal was brought in skips up a gantry to an end tumbler to be loaded into rail wagons and despatched as "unscreened" coal.

On Tuesday 16th March 1915, after the completion of the pit-top structure, which included shaker screens bought from Gibson Battle and Company for 149-0-0 ($298.00), and, also two picking belts purchased form Gibson Battle and Company for 265-0-0 ($530.00), a new larger haulage engine was installed on the north haulage heading. This was an endless rope system, designed, manufactured and installed by Morison and Bearby of Newcastle. This system operated on two tracks in the haulage heading. As one looked down the mine, the left-hand side track was used to bring up a loaded skip as a "single" set. On the right-hand side track, empty skips were returned below in sets of two skips. An early problem of "runaway" skips was overcome when the clip was redesigned. The original clip had been made and supplied by A. Goninan and Company of Newcastle at a cost of 17 shillings and 6 pence ($1.76) each. The earlier 18 H.P. steam winch was transferred to the southern (No. 1) travelling tunnel, and was utilised to bring coal up from the developmental work at No. 3 level, and to lower pit timber down the mine.

In 1914, a shaft 5 feet in diameter and about 20 feet deep was sunk 27 yards north of the haulage heading entry. This was made from the surface to break into No. 10 bord heading of the "Maiden" jig workings. For much of this year, this provided the "natural ventilation" for the mine, assisted by an enlarged furnace located near the haulage heading entry. A skip of coal was emptied close to the furnace as its fuel supply. Whilst a 30 inches diameter Sirocco fan was on site, it was not installed on the air shaft until October 1914, because the Rothbury Estate trustees did not wish to have the unnecessary expense of a man in attendance for the fan. During 1914 following the installation of the 20 kW direct current British Westinghouse dynamo, two 10 inches diameter Sirocco fans direct coupled to electric motors were placed to provide about 2,250 cubic feet of fresh air per hour in the new jig headings being driven. In February 1916 a larger 98 inches diameter, double inlet, Sirocco fan and its steam engine was installed in a new building adjoining the main power and haulage engine house. The fan was driven by a James Howden and Company steam engine. A new fan drift about midway between and parallel to the two tunnel headings and driven in to intersect the main return airway. This drift was 60 yards long. By 1924, 7 auxiliary Sirocco fans, ranging in sizes from 10 inches to 12 inches diameter and driven by 3 H.P. open type electric motors at 240 volts direct current, provided ventilation in the jig heading rises. Also 6 portable electric blowers ventilated the cut-throughs.

A 120 kW Ashworth Parker electricity generator was installed in the main engine house and commenced operations in early August 1915.

Similar to many mines, small coal at Rothbury Colliery appears to have been a problem for the immediate market. An elevated timber small coal holding box was erected during late 1915 and early 1916. Conveyor belts powered by the new 120 kW generator, could take small coal to the wooden hopper wagons for rail loading or to a second conveyor to place in the holding box. The steel conveyor belts were supplied by Gibson Battle and Company at a cost of 125-0-0 ($250.00) each. Later in October 1919 Gibson Battle and Company installed a third conveyor belt to take small coal from the screens to the boilers. The small coal holding box was so constructed over three rail sidings, that 24 wagons, 8 on each siding, could be loaded at the same time. There were two underneath doors to each wagon.

During the driving of the northern haulage tunnel underground water had presented some difficulties. Bailing by a tank skip failed to beat the water. A Gould pump placed in the haulage heading in late October 1912, following the installation of the 20 kW dynamo overcame this problem. In late 1913 this Gould pump was transferred and repositioned at the face in the haulage heading. It pumped to a sump at No. 1 Level, and a second Gould pump lifted the underground water to the surface. When the northern haulage heading reached the No. 3 Level, the original Gould was transferred to this point and another new Gould pump was placed at No. 2 Level. In 1920 a Mather and Platt turbine set was installed at a larger sump adjacent to the No. 2 Level to pump to the surface. By 1925 underground water was pumped from:

No. 5 to No. 4 Level,
No. 4 to No. 3 Level,
No. 3 to No. 2 Level sump,
No. 2 to surface.

The Mather and Platt turbine set was then (1925) driven by a 50 H.P. open type electric motor. This had a capacity of 9,000 gallons per hour to a head of 650 feet.

Pit-horses were utilised to haul on the Levels, commencing in mid 1914, soon after the installation of the larger steam haulage. The pit-horse hauled a set of ten skips. A Rothbury Colliery record dated October 1915 records that 5 pit-horses were working, and temporary stables had been erected. Crossing skip loop shunts allowed the haulage to be made without unnecessary delays. On Level No. 4, 9 skips formed the set. An interesting point should be stressed. At Rothbury Colliery, the employee moving the skips in the bord headings were classified as the "wheelers". On the Levels, the employee hauling the skips with a horse were classified as "horseman". During 1918 and 1919 pit-horses were kept in individual stalls on Level No. 4 for their overnight rest, and were only brought out to the surface for weekends.

Early mining production appears to have been made on two shifts. In July 1914 the abolition of afternoon shift markedly dropped the daily output. In its first ten years of operation, Rothbury Colliery won 1,298,343 tons of coal. During 1915 over 200,000 tons of coal was raised to the surface. A colliery record shows that during 1921 with a total of 274 mine employees, 160,277 tons of coal was brought up, and just over 5,000 tons of dirt and stone came up in skips, and was emptied without going over the screens. In this same year, 2,585 tons of refuse and chitter was picked out off the belt.

Two stone drifts from No. 2 Level and No. 3 Level to the bottom seam were completed during 1919. Records show that only some 20 acres of the bottom seam was ever worked to obtain coal. Coal so produced appears to have been brought by pit-horses to the endless rope haulage for raising to the surface. My research has not revealed by documentation the actual methods utilised. However examining the mine plans prepared following the explosion in 1925, it would appear that from the No. 4 Level, the colliery's intention was to win the Greta Bottom Seam coal by jig headings operation methods. By deduction it does seem reasonable to assume that in the small areas worked in the bottom seam from Levels No. 2 and No. 3 were also by jig headings methods.

On Monday 21st July 1925 at 12.45 a.m. an explosion occurred in the bottom seam off No. 4 Level, resulted in the death of one person, Deputy William Crisp. A fairly long stoppage followed this incident as the Rothbury Lodge sought to have safety battery lamps replace the naked lights. Mines Department's 1928 Annual Report shows 152 safety lamps in use at Rothbury Colliery.

A fourth new "John Thompson" boiler was purchased by Rothbury Colliery in England. It was positioned and became operative in February 1922. During 1924 another 120 kW Ashworth Parker generator was added to the electricity generation plant, situated in the main engine house.

Patrick Shanahan, a Rothbury Colliery miner, told me that in early 1926 he had worked in the "Blossom" jig workings section from No. 2 Level, and later in the "Waratah-Extended" jig section from No. 3 Level. Both these sections had been towards the southern end of the colliery. Here the Greta Middle Seam was split by a wide band of mudstone. Coal from the floor was about 8 feet thick. Above this coal was a 9 feet thick band of mudstone. Then above the band, the coal seam was again 10 feet thick. In these jig bords, the bottom coal in the split was taken first for the bord's 12 chains length. The skip rail track was lifted. The mudstone band was dropped by boring and shooting to make a fresh floor. The skip rail track was re-laid as required. The coal split above was then won. Whilst working this particularly twisted area of the seam, the horseman had to use up to 8 sprags to control the set on the Levels. Frequently many pit-horses were injured by poor judgement in the use of sprags. Patrick Shanahan said in the No. 4 Level jigs, with its larger pillars, miners frequently won additional coal by stripping or robbing pillars.

No mining machines were ever used in Rothbury Colliery. Miners put up their own timbering, props and baulks. If the work was very heavy, then sometimes assistance was given. The miners came out of the mine, very weary, after working in this steep seam. Valuable assistance was given by Rothbury Colliery, when it installed a "mans transport" in the "travelling" or "walk" tunnel. One of the early mines to render this type of aid. Trolleys were provided, on which miners rode back to back. The haulage was provided by the early 18 H.P. steam winch.

Rothbury Colliery had good quality coal. Mr John Marcus Baddeley, member for Cessnock and Minister for Mines took a sample of Rothbury coal to America for testing. Under this test, the Rothbury coal was found to be amongst the world's best.

After coal rose in skips in the north haulage heading, it ran up the gantry to the pit-top. An Avery's colliery weighbridge, with a capacity of 2 tons, was one of the first items of equipment installed. From there the skip ran forward to either of two circular side tipping tumblers. These tumblers had been purchased from Morison and Bearby of Newcastle at a cost of 98-0-0 ($196.00) each. Coal poured from the tumbler onto a shaker screen. Each screen was 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. The shaker screens had been supplied by Gibson Battle and Company at a cost of 149-0-0 ($298.00) each. The screens were perforated plates with 2 inches by inch holes. (Note: Only one tumbler and one shaker screen was used at the one time, in daily use, the other was ready and available as the spare for an emergency). Large coal was shaken onto two picking belts. Each belt was 40 feet long and 4 feet wide. Ten men or youths were employed on the picking belts. These belts were supplied and installed by Gibson Battle and Company and had cost 265-0-0 ($530.00) each. Large coal ran from the picking belt via a timber chute into wooden hopper rail coal wagons.

In a report dated Wednesday 10th September 1913 made by the manager, Richard Thomas (Junior), to H.A.M. Merewether, Esquire of Sydney, states:

"We have 70 ten tons hopper wagons running, which were constructed by Messrs Morison and Bearby to Government specifications, and which are all in good order".

In a similar style report to Mr H.A.M. Merewether, (dated October 1915), Mr Thomas records:

"The sidings have now accommodation for 220 wagons on the "empty vehicles" side. Further additional standage for loaded vehicles has been extended by a curve to steady gravitating wagons".

An additional Rothbury Colliery record made by Mr Richard Thomas on Tuesday 14th December 1915 shows the mine had acquired 145 second-hand rail wagons built in 1906 by A. Goninan and Company. Of these 120 vehicles had solid buffers, and 25 had spring buffers. These "Goninan" wagons had been purchased for 107-10-0 ($215.00) each.

Mention was made earlier in this "Method of Working" section of the small coal holding box completed late in 1915. Gibson Battle and Company had supplied double-beaded "Flyght" conveyor belts to carry coal from a small timber "hopper shaped" holding box built under the shaker screens. One conveyor could carry coal for loading into the rail hopper wagons. Or alternatively onto a second conveyor to carry small coal for storage in the 2000 tons capacity elevated bin. A third conveyor was installed in October 1919 by Gibson Battle and Company to take small coal as fuel to the boiler coal bin.

When the pit-top was constructed, the gantry from the haulage heading was split on the surface close to the work deck on pit-top, so that emptied skips could be gravitated to skip holding shunts to await return below. During my research on the early supply of skips for Rothbury Colliery, there was little documentation on skip numbers. William Adams and Company of Sydney in March 1915 made a quotation of 1-17-6 ($3.76) each for a miller chilled iron set of wheels and axle. A stock-take of previous Rothbury Colliery equipment, machinery, etc., dated 31st December 1931 lists 397 skips valued at 1-0-0 ($2.00) each, and 383 skip clips valued at two shillings ($0.20) each. On Thursday 16th October 1913 Australian Metal Company of 40 Clarence Street, Sydney made a quote to supply skip rails in 6 feet lengths, each rail weighing 32 pounds for 9-7-6 ($18.76) per ton in a minimum of 10 ton lots. It is of interest that the December 1931 stock-take lists a total of 450 tons in skip rail lengths on hand at a value of 5-10-0 ($11.00) per ton.

It is a fact that when the NSW State Government commandeered Rothbury Colliery in early December 1929, the Government placed non-union labour (scabs) to operate this mine. This very important aspect will be fully outlined in the "History" section, (see page 1322). Some early Rothbury miners, who "weathered" this industrial blot at their colliery, tell me that the "import labourers" were mostly foreigners, who could speak very little English, and they certainly were very unskilled. The manager at the time, Mr Richard Thomas (Junior) is reported as saying that he had great problems in getting this non-union labour to even carry out normal routine pit requirements. These unskilled labourers worked close to the surface, and appear to have mainly taken "tops coal". No attempt was made during this period to work in virgin or solid coal in this very difficult strata.

During the period that the NSW State Government had commandeered Rothbury Colliery, (from December 1929 to June 1930), the non-union "scab" labour had produced a total of 38,084 tons. First train of coal produced had been despatched on Wednesday 18th December 1929. The Rothbury Colliery resumed mining operations with pit employees from the local Rothbury Colliery Lodge on Thursday 3rd July 1930.

A total of 32,689 tons of coal was produced by Rothbury Colliery in the 189 days worked under its own administration during the balance of the 1930 year. No doubt there was a fair degree of friction, animosity and resentment displayed by the members of Rothbury Colliery Miners Lodge members. This was strongly emphasised by a greatly reduced output per man. General resumption of work by the miners in industry had resulted from their Federation's acceptance of reduced wage rates and other cuts in conditions. In addition Rothbury Colliery was embarrassed by the serious decline in the coal sales market. Rothbury Colliery struggled to win sales. It was assisted by some Government Departmental purchases for use at the Hume Reservoir, State Dockyard, barges, dredges, – "Juno", "Jupiter" and "Warawee", and ships – S.S. Uki, S.S. Jap, etc. During 1931 only 94 days were worked, producing 34,956 tons. Industrial conflicts "nailed the coffin" on the continuance of Rothbury Colliery production. The services of all employees including the manager, Richard Thomas (Junior) were terminated on Friday 18th December 1931.


First haulage utilised at Rothbury Colliery was an 18 H.P. steam winch placed in the southern haulage heading. This steam winch had two cylinders, each 8 inches in diameter and having a 12 inches stroke. This engine had two drums, 3 feet in diameter and 15 inches wide, and was geared to a ratio of 5 to 1. Steam power was supplied by a second-hand Cornish boiler. This boiler was 24 feet long and had a diameter of 5 feet 6 inches. It was fitted with five "Galloway" tubes. This winch in this period had capacity to haul sets of 4 skips, whether loaded or empty. The coal production was unloaded by two end tipplers onto fixed iron rail screens.

Early jig headings were made from No. 1 North Level and No. 1 South Levels. These jig headings, similar to those of later dates, had two skip tracks. A jig drum was positioned at the top of the heading. A skip cage carried a single empty skip from the "Level" to the appropriate bord heading, where it was exchanged with a loaded skip. On the other jig heading track a "dummy" trolley loaded with scrap steel and iron acted as a counter-balance. A jig-boy, (mine employee), operated a brake clutch on the jig drum to effect the movement required. The weight of the "dummy" trolley was sufficient to raise the empty skip. The loaded skip, when it was allowed to gravitate down the jig heading, easily raised the "dummy" trolley. This type of jig working was continued throughout the life of Rothbury Colliery.

Whilst the jig heading was being driven, man-holes were made at the positions, where it was proposed to make the bord heading. Whilst the bord was being worked, the floor was inclined slightly upwards to assist the wheeling of the loaded skip. When the empty skip on the jig cage reached the bord heading, the wheeler pushed the skip off the cage into the bord, and coped it over, (Author's note: "tipped it onto its side), towards the seam's higher side. The wheeler then pushed the loaded skip he had standing on the bord's skip rail track onto the jig cage. The wheeler "rapped" a signal to the jig-boy, that all was ready for the loaded skip's descent. A "porous cell circuit" was placed at the jig top to provide the small electrical power required. There is an early colliery record indicating that a warning rope signal was used to alert the jig-boy. Back in the bord heading, with the skip track empty, the wheeler re-railed his "coped" skip, and "shouldered" or pushed this skip to the coal face. Here, he (the wheeler) was required to shovel the coal, previously dropped by the miner. The maximum "wheeling" distance made by the wheelers at Rothbury Colliery was about 12 chains (250 metres). The wheeler and the miner were required to erect timbers, where needed in the bord. Another of their joint responsibilities was the laying of the skip rails in the bord heading's track. These rails were positioned on short round bush timbers.

Initially the driving of the Levels, and the extension of the main entry headings was made as "specials" work.

Once the Levels had exceeded the "maximum" 12 chains haulage distance, pit-horses were placed down the mine to carry out this wheeling. It is of interest, that generally in all pits, the man working with the pit-horse carrying out the haulage of skips was known as the wheeler. However in Rothbury Colliery, the wheeler was the man in the bord workings shoulder shunting the skips. At Rothbury Colliery the man controlling the pit-horse in its work of haulage on the Levels was known as the "horseman". Pit-horse haulage appears to have commenced in mid 1914. Crossing skip shunt loops along the Levels' tracks permitted a number of horses to be utilised on a level. Rothbury Colliery's correspondence dated October 1915 reveals at that date, the mine was using a pool of 5 pit-horses, and that temporary stables had been erected.

On Friday 16th March 1915 a large endless rope haulage system was introduced in the haulage (southern) heading. This rope was driven by a twin cylinder engine manufactured by Morison and Bearby of Newcastle. Each cylinder was 22 inches in diameter and had a 40 inches stroke. It had a 7 feet 6 inches diameter drum, geared at 8 to 1. This engine had cost 396-0-0 ($792.00). It was housed in a find large brick building 80 feet long by 40 feet wide. Rothbury Colliery manager had estimated the cost of construction and materials for the engine house at 370-0-0 ($740.00). This building ran north-south, and had a hip roof.

The endless rope was a single piece (1,600 yards) length of 3 inches circumference of improved plough-steel wire purchased from J. Shaw, 445 Kent Street, Sydney, on Tuesday 3rd March 1915. It was styled a 6 strands - 7 wires Langlay rope, and it was priced at 1-15-6 ($3.56) per hundredweight. As one looked down into the pit, the left-hand side skip track was used to bring up a loaded skip as a "single" skip. Empty skips were returned below on the right-hand side track in sets of 2 skips.

The new endless rope haulage was powered by three Lancashire boilers manufactured by John Thompson Limited of Wolverhampton, England. The boilers were 30 feet long, 8 feet 3 inches diameter and working at a pressure of 120 pounds per square inch. The boilers were factory numbered – No. 4238, No. 4239 and No. 4240. They were supplied to Rothbury Colliery by Ferrier and Dickinson of Sydney at a cost of 760-0-0 ($1,520.00) each, and arrived at the mine on Monday 11th November 1912. A "Weir" boiler feed pump was also supplied by Ferrier and Dickinson on Friday 17th January 1913. This pump had cost 198-0-0 ($396.00). Water was pumped from the colliery dam. The boilers were housed by an open type structure, mainly a long hip style corrugated galvanised iron roof running east-west, supported on timber framed poles. Again the Rothbury Colliery manager had estimated the cost of materials and erection would be 150-0-0 ($300.00). A brick colliery chimney stack, 90 feet high, was erected adjoining the boilers. Bricks used for this stack's construction were made on the Rothbury Estate property. The stack was of a tapering inwards square design, being 20 feet square at the base, and 12 feet square at its top. A brick coping about one foot from the top protruded out in the masonry to enhance the bricklayers' work. A fourth John Thompson boiler was added to the bank of boilers in February 1922. This boiler, also from Wolverhampton, had cost 2,300-0-0 ($4,600.00).

The early 18 H.P. steam winch was transferred to the travelling or "walk" (northern) heading. Initially in this location it handled the skips, working the development of the travelling heading and No. 3 Level.

Mention was made in the "Method of Working" section that the endless rope haulage brought out the single loaded skips to the pit-top to the Avery's Scales weighbridge, thence to one of the two circular side-tipping tumblers. Further that coal from the tumbler tipped onto the steam driven shaker screens, with the large coal moving to picking belts. These separate items of equipment, tippler-tumbler, two shaker screens and two picking belts, were all driven by a steam engine manufactured by Morison and Bearby of Newcastle. This engine had two cylinders, each of 12 inches diameter and with a 20 inches stroke. As outlined earlier in the "Method of Working" section only one tumbler and one screen was used at the one time. The other tumbler and screens was on standby, always available as the "spare". This steam engine had been purchased for 325-0-0 ($650.00).

Rothbury Colliery never had its own pit yard locomotive for shunting or marshalling its rail hopper wagons in its colliery sidings. Within these sidings, the tracks were so inclined that hopper wagon shunting was performed by gravitation, or assisted by a pit-horse where necessary. Haulage over the short branch railway to the main Government Railways at Branxton, and the rail transport to Port Waratah was performed by the State Railways locomotive.

During the early 1920's Rothbury Colliery installed a "mans transport" in the travelling or walk heading to render a valuable assistance to the weary mine employees working in this steep seam operation. My research failed to reveal the actual date of installation or colliery documentation on this aspect. Some old Rothbury Colliery miners informed me that the mans transport consisted of a number of trolleys on which the men sat back to back. Haulage for the mans transport was provided by the early 18 H.P. steam winch.

The timbering generally was carried out by the miner and the wheeler in their bord heading. Again my research has failed to find colliery documentation as to actual mine timbering. An early pit record informs that there was little suitable timber on the real mining area, but timber was available and was being cut at reasonable rates on the Rothbury Estates at some 5 miles away. Pit timber (props, baulks, etc.) was taken below on trolleys. A stock list of equipment made in December 1931, when Rothbury Colliery ceased its own mining operations, shows that 24 timber trolleys were used.


As outlined in earlier sections, pit-horses were only utilised to haul skips on the Levels. The introduction of the pit-horses to Rothbury Colliery was made in mid 1914. Pit-horses hauled sets of 10 skips on the levels. Skip crossing loop shunts on the skip rail tracks along the levels, permitted a number of horses to be working on that level at the one time. On Level No. 4, the set consisted of 9 skips only. During my research, I was unable to find documentation for the reason for this number reduction. I have assumed that because pillar sizes had been increased to 14 yards, there was a lesser number of bord headings in the jig panels or sections between Level 4 and Level 3. Like the miners, pit-horses went in and out of Rothbury Colliery via the travelling or walk (southern) heading. During 1918 and 1919, pit-horses were kept below in individual stalls for their overnight rest, and were brought to the surface for the weekends. In 1915 provisions had been made for temporary stables for the first team of 5 pit-horses. Later, on 12th October 1923, a galvanised corrugated iron roofed stable and a corrugated galvanised shed were constructed in what was known as the "horse paddock". My research revealed that these later stables were a single line of stalls with dirt floors. This building had a flat skillion sloping roof, of galvanised corrugated iron, supported on bush sapling poles and rafters. Nearby the stables, a timber framed building, clad and roofed with corrugated galvanised iron was utilised as the feed shed. A Rothbury Colliery record dated 31st March 1924 informs that this shed was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and 30 feet high. Rothbury Colliery valued this building at 360-0-0 ($720.00), when it was taken over by R.W. Miller and Company.

In June 1930, when Rothbury Colliery again took over the running of its mine, 16 pit-horses were being utilised. One pit-horse, named "Bullswool", died in November 1931. The list of machinery, equipment, etc., on hand at the mine's closure in December 1931, includes the pit-horses thus:




Bay horse
























































Brown horse.

Mr James Ruttley leased Rothbury Colliery in early January 1932 as a going concern. Mr Ruttley's intention was to operate on a very reduced scale. Included in his lease were 5 pit-horses. Mr Ruttley chose "Nelson", "Sailor", "Star", "Rusty" and "Dick".

All remaining Rothbury Colliery pit-horses (10) were sold on Thursday 11th January 1932 for a total amount of 183-0-0 ($366.00).


Mr D. Morgan, first mine manager at Rothbury Colliery, on Tuesday 29th November 1910 notified the Mines Department, that 9 men were engaged in driving a tunnel into the outcrop on Portion 26, Parish of Branxton. On Wednesday 12th July 1911, the tunnel heading had reached 100 yards from the surface, following the seam down. The Mines Department's 1911 Annual Report informs of the driving of the prospecting tunnels, and that "Ventilation" was being made by natural means. During 1912 a small furnace was placed near the mouth of No. 2 tunnel (northern) to assist the ventilation. A shaft, 5 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep, was sunk in the latter part of 1912 to serve as an up-cast from the "Maiden" jig workings.

On Friday 24th January 1913, Ferrier and Dickinson Ltd. supplied a 30 inches diameter Sirocco fan, belt driven to force fresh air underground via the recently sunk 5 feet diameter shaft. This firm also supplied a "Tangey" steam horizontal "Class E" engine to drive the Sirocco fan. This Tangey engine had an 8 inches diameter cylinder with a 12 inches stroke. It had a disc crank, an extended 3 inches diameter shaft, and a heavy fly wheel, 4 feet 6 inches in diameter and 6 inches thick. The fan was estimated to have a capacity with its 600 revolutions per minute to push some 25,000 cubic feet of fresh air per minute down the mine. On Friday 12th September 1913 the then manager, Mr Richard Thomas (Junior) advised Mr H.A.M. Merewether, Rothbury Estate's trustee, that whilst the Sirocco fan was connected and ready to operate, this ventilation had not commenced. The reason for the delay, was because once it started the Coal Mines Regulations Act demanded that a man be in attendance at weekends and holidays. The manager thought this to be an unnecessary expense at that time. The Mines Department's 1914 Annual Report informs that the fan was introduced early in 1914.

A 20 kW British Westinghouse belt driven dynamo was installed on Wednesday 2nd October 1912 to generate 240 volts direct current electricity. Mines Department inspector T. Bates in his 1913 Annual Report informed that as a result of the provision of this direct current electricity, a small electric ventilation fan and one underground electric light had been installed in early 1913. Rothbury Colliery records show that this was a 10 inches diameter Sirocco fan, coupled to an electric motor running at 1370 revolutions per minute, giving a capacity of 2,250 cubic feet per minute. This small fan was used for providing ventilation in the driving of a new jig heading. When this fan proved successful for this method of working, other similar Sirocco fans were obtained. A 1924 Rothbury Colliery record shows at that date, some 7 auxiliary Sirocco fans were being utilised. These fans varied in size from 10 inches to 12 inches and were driven by a 3 H.P. open type 240 volts electric motors. This record informs that 6 portable electric blowers operated to assist in the ventilation of the cut-throughs.

Whilst the 30 inches diameter Sirocco fan was still giving sufficient air below, in late December 1915 with the increasing growth of Rothbury Colliery, Messrs E.A.M. and H.A.M. Merewether purchased from Ferrier and Dickinson of Sydney, a 98 inches diameter, double inlet type Sirocco fan. This fan had very heavy lubricated ring bearings. It had a capacity of 200,000 cubic feet of air per minute at a 2 inches water gauge, and ran at 173 revolutions per minute. The fan was connected to a drift, 60 yards long, 6 yards wide and 10 feet high. This drift was made midway between the haulage and travelling entry headings and parallel to these headings. Underground the fan drift intersected the main return airway cross heading. The fan was driven by being direct coupled to a "James Howden" steam engine. This steam engine was manufactured by James Howden and Company of Glasgow. It had a single cylinder, which was 19 inches in diameter and had a stroke of 11 inches. The 98 inches diameter Sirocco fan and the James Howden steam engine had cost 1,547-0-0 ($3,094.00). The Mines Department 1916 Annual Report informs the new Sirocco fan was installed in February 1916.

The fan and "Howden" engine were housed in a new brick building, which was erected alongside and joined to the main engine and electricity generation house. My research has failed to reveal details as to size, roof style, etc.


The first electricity utilised at Rothbury Colliery was provided by 20 kW British Westinghouse belt driven dynamo. A small Westinghouse steam engine drove this dynamo. This steam engine had a 7 inches diameter cylinder with a 7 inches stroke. Mines Department records advise that this direct current electricity powered a Gould pump to remove underground pit water, a 10 inches diameter auxiliary Sirocco fan to force ventilation into jig workings, and one underground light. This British Westinghouse dynamo was installed on Wednesday 2nd October 1912.

In early August 1915, a 120 kW Ashworth-Parker electricity generator was installed. This steam driven generator, together with the earlier 20 kW British Westinghouse dynamo, were housed in the main brick engine house. Initially the main purpose for the increased electric power was to drive the conveyors taking small coal from the screens to the "recently built" elevated timber coal holding box. The box had been completed just prior to August 1915.

Rothbury Colliery saw a need for increased steam power in the early 1920's. A fourth John Thompson boiler was positioned in the boilerhouse in February 1922. At this period of Rothbury Colliery mining operation, (1922), 267 men were employed, and in that year produced 171,375 tons of coal. This progress required additional small Sirocco fans to ventilate the bord headings in the jig workings. To meet the increased electricity demands, a second 120 kW Ashworth-Parker generator was installed in early 1924. Following this additional generator installation, underground electric light numbers were doubled. Mines Department 1924 Annual Report shows 60 underground electric lights. The 1925 Annual Report informs 120 underground lights.

Following the 1925 Rothbury Colliery explosion, safety lamps for miners' use were introduced. Mines Department Annual Reports inform:

1926 - 152 safety lamps
1927 - 211 safety lamps
1929 - 318 safety lamps.

A lamp cabin was constructed on Friday 6th November 1925 to house the "charger" for the batteries of the safety lamps. My research has failed to reveal details as to brand of charger, or type of lamps, etc. Description of the lamp cabin and its location are also vague. Amongst the list of buildings at Rothbury Colliery taken over by R.W. Miller and Company in 1936, the following item appears:

"A building having brick walls, and roof or iron, known as the Ambulance Room - Lamp Cabin valued at 250-0-0 ($500.00)".

When Rothbury Colliery ceased its own mining operations in December 1931, and James Ruttley leased the pit, the electricity generation remained and was maintained. In May 1935 following some discussions between James Ruttley and the trustees of Rothbury Estate, on alternative methods of operating Rothbury Colliery, the early 20 kW British Westinghouse dynamo and its Westinghouse steam engine were sold to Newbolds Silica Limited of Mayfield. This dynamo and its additional gear was sold for 268-10-0 ($537.00). When R.W. Miller and Company took over Rothbury Colliery lease following James Ruttley's death, the two 120 kW Ashworth Parker generators were included on the list of machinery and equipment lease. Total value of the generators was shown as 2,560-0-0 ($5,120.00).


Underground pit water does seem to have presented a problem, whilst the early entry headings were being made. In these "first days" water was removed by bailing, and the water carried up in a tank in a skip. In early 1912 the headings had reached some 200 yards from the surface. By July 1912 underground pit water had stopped further driving of the entry headings, because bailing could not lower the water sufficiently. In October 1912 after the 20 kW British Westinghouse dynamo installation, a Gould three-throw pump, 3 inches diameter with a 4 inches stroke pumped the pit water to the surface. This pump was driven by a 5 B.H.P. electric motor.

By early September 1913 all underground water was gravitated to the coal face in the haulage heading. The first Gould pump and its 5 B.H.P. electric motor were transferred to this location. This pumped to a sump just below the No. 1 Level. A second Gould three-throw pump, 4 inches diameter with a 6 inches stroke had the capacity to lift 2,000 gallons per hour. This second pump was directly coupled through spur gearing to a 5 B.H.P. electric motor. By this stage it was found that the new pump only needed to be worked five hours a day to easily raise the 6,000 gallons a day estimated underground water flow.

When the "entry" headings had passed the No. 3 Level, a third Gould pump was placed at this location. Early in 1915 an underground feeder stream was met in the No. 2 Level. This gave a much increased flow of underground pit water. However the new pump more than met these difficulties when the stream flow eased.

A Mather and Platt turbine pumping set was installed during 1920 on the sump constructed at No. 2 Level, to replace a Gould pump previously utilised there. This Mather and Platt pump was shown on the list of equipment and machinery remaining, when the Rothbury Colliery ceased operations in December 1931.


My research of Rothbury Colliery papers, Mines Department records, various newspaper issues had failed to reveal details or information of an air compressor operating at Rothbury Colliery.

However in the "plan of workings of No. 4 Level bottom seam" prepared after the 1925 explosion at Rothbury Colliery by the Mines Department, a small air compressor motor and an air receiver were shown. Purpose of the use of the air compressor is not documented.


A branch railway, being 1 mile 71 chains (3.02 km) in length from catch points at the colliery to catch points at the main railway line, was laid to link Rothbury Colliery to the NSW Government Railway. The colliery sidings extended for 822 yards (0.74 km) from the colliery catch points to the nest of "dead-end" sidings close to the Cessnock to Branxton main road (Highway No. 82). It does appear that Rothbury Estates did not use a contractor to construct this track, but relied on its colliery manager to supervise the laying of the railway and the colliery yard sidings.

The topography between the two areas was reasonably level. The railway track makes a huge arc, (or magnet shape), in this short run. It was built to the standard gauge, 4 feet 8 inches. Railway construction work commenced during April 1912, and was completed during February 1913. A Rothbury Colliery record informs, that up to 130 men were employed.

The greater part of the ballast for the track base was purchased by Rothbury Colliery from Whitburn Colliery. It consisted of stone, pit rubbish, pit dirt and unsaleable small coal. This was delivered in Newcastle Coal Mining Company wooden hopper rail wagons to the location required on the new railway track. Cost of these materials including transport and delivery averaged 3 shillings ($0.30) per ton. In October 1912, the colliery manager, Mr Richard Thomas (Junior) advised the Estate Trustees, the Merewether Brothers, that although constructed in a wet and rainy period, the base and different embankments had stood well with very little settlement.

A.B. Espley of Hamilton in May 1912 submitted a tender to supply squared hardwood sleepers for 4 shillings and 2 pence ($0.42) each. On Tuesday 15th October 1912, Keith Brooks of Watt Street, Newcastle supplied 128 sleepers, which cost 3 shillings and 4 pence ($0.34) each.

On Friday 1st November 1912, New Redhead Colliery supplied some second-hand railway materials. This consisted of 21 crossings at 5-0-0 ($10.00) each, together with 12 sets of points at 5-0-0 ($10.00) each. On Thursday 24th January 1915 Rothbury Colliery purchased from William Thornley and Sons, Bolton Street, Marrickville, 8 sets of switches and crossings to add some further extensions to the colliery sidings. This material had cost 27-0-0 ($54.00) per set.

A railway "party line" telephone circuit was erected on Thursday 3rd October 1912 along bush poles adjoining the rail track. There was a small steel phone box located at the colliery catch points, a telephone was placed in the colliery office and a telephone in the Branxton Railway signal box. The two telephones supplied by the Railway Department to Rothbury Colliery for use on its property had cost 1-18-6 ($3.86).

During November and December 1912, a boundary fence was erected along the western side of the rail track. The railway was completed in February 1913 at a cost of 15,109-14-9 ($30,219.49). First train of coal was despatched to Port Waratah shipping at Newcastle on Monday 10th March 1913.

The railway safe working method used on this Branch Railway was "ordinary train staff working on a single track". The staff utilised was round in shape, and it was painted red. When not in use, it was kept in a locked box in Branxton Railway signal box. The colliery catch points were operated by a single lever interlocking frame locked in position by an Annette lock. ("Annette Lock" is a railway term to describe the mechanical device used in "safe working" interlocking. It is used as part of the Mackenzie & Holland interlocking points and signalling frame to prevent signals on the maim line to be cleared to alllow the passage of movement of an engine or train. When all was in the correct position the "Annette Key" could be removed and allow the operation of a subsidiary small interlocking frame, points and signals situate a small distance from the main signal box.) This lever was released by an Annette key, which formed part of the "train staff". On the arrival of the down train at the colliery, the firemen using the staff key released the lever, designated "E", and closed the catch points. The train then drew forward into the colliery running road, and came to a stand, whilst the guard re-opened the catch points. The guard recovered the staff key from the Annette lock and walked it to the driver. The colliery shunter then took over and carried out the necessary shunting to place the inwards load of empty vehicles, returning the locomotive to the loaded vehicles standage sidings to lift its outward train. When the train was marshalled, the guard was responsible to open and close the catch points, and returned the staff key to the locomotive driver as his authority to proceed to Branxton signal box.

The colliery running road ran on the southern side of the pit-top structures towards the empty vehicles standage sidings. Within these sidings there were 6 rail tracks. With the use of throwover points the inwards train could be placed in any available track and the locomotive conveniently reversed. Later, with connecting tracks, throwover or ball points, the empty vehicles could be gravitated by the colliery shunter to any of the three loading tracks. All of these tracks ran under the small coal holding box and to the loading points on pit-top. Three sidings formed the loaded vehicles standage on the other side of the pit-top. A set of ball points on the colliery running road were situated in such a position to give the locomotive access to the loaded vehicles sidings clear of the catch points.

A short dead-end siding, really an extension of the loaded vehicles sidings was used as a holding siding for wagons loaded with chitter or stone from the picking area to await an opportune time for unloading at a suitable track location. Another short dead-end siding diverted to the south from the running road. Entry was made by hand held ball points. This short siding appears to have been a holding siding for defective vehicles awaiting attention by wagon repairers.


The first rail coal wagons used at Rothbury Colliery were 70 ten tons capacity wooden hoppers constructed by Morison and Bearby of Newcastle. These wagons had been available from early 1913.

On Tuesday 14th September 1915, Rothbury Colliery manager Richard Thomas (Junior) reported to the Rothbury Estate trustees, Messrs E.A.M. Merewether and H.A.M. Merewether that he had recently acquired 145 second-hand rail hopper wagons at a cost of 107-10-0 ($215.00) each. These wagons had been built by A. Goninan and company in 1906. Of these wagons 120 had solid buffers and 25 spring casing buffers.

A Rothbury Colliery balance sheet dated Friday 1st October 1915 prepared by Alexander Jobson, A.I.A., of Challis House, Martin Place, Sydney, shows amongst the mine assets, a "coal hopper A/c" totalling 17,854-0-0 ($35,708.00).

Rothbury Colliery wooden hopper rail coal wagons all appear to have been of 10 tons carrying capacity. A Rothbury Colliery "1920 year" record describes the vehicles as having timber frames and timber headstocks. A fair proportion of the company's vehicles fleet had been re-equipped with steel spring buffers and casings. This report went on further to inform that the average wagon was 21 feet 6 inches long and 7 feet 9 inches wide. Both sole-bars and headstocks were 12 inches by 3 inches.

Workman, Arbuckle and Mackinnon of Buchan Street, Glasgow, on Thursday 26th June 1913 wrote to the Merewether Brothers, trustees of Rothbury Estate, seeking advice to their "coal wagon" requirements, in order to be able to submit a quotation. This Scottish company does not appear to have been successful in obtaining a contract.

All Rothbury Collieries own wagons had been branded with the word "Rothbury" painted on each side. The hopper, painted a dark red colour, had the word "Rothbury" overpainted in white letters along the third top sideboard. The letters were 8 inches high and 1 inches wide. The hopper number was shown on each side of the wagon on the fourth top sideboard to the left-hand side. Only the appropriate hopper number appeared on the frame's sole-bar side.

When Rothbury Colliery had insufficient of its own hopper wagons to meet the demands of its coal sales trade, it hired hoppers for short periods from various agents. For such hirings, Rothbury Colliery paid a royalty of sixpence ($0.06) a ton for the trip (or trips) used. Amongst the Rothbury mine records over a lengthy period of years, the following agents have been listed as supplying wagons for hire:

H.R. Poutney,
Coal Wagon Company,
Gillam and Company,
Kirkton and Earnshaw.

From these same records, Rothbury Colliery appears to have utilised the services of the Port Waratah wagon repairing firm, E.P. Hill, for such vehicles requiring attention away from Rothbury Colliery itself.

John Reid, coal sales and shipping agent, of Watt Street, Newcastle, appears to have been the only agent to handle Rothbury Colliery coal, right from its commencement. The following is a list of some ships utilised:

"S.S. Wear"
"Balls Head",
"Iron Crown",
"Iron Monarch,

(Note: These last 3 ships, Iron Crown, Iron Monarch and Echunga, belonged to William Scott Fell's fleet (Interstate Shipping Line)).

After Rothbury Colliery ceased its coal production, the last Rothbury coal shipped at Port Waratah was to the ship "S.S. Wear", on Tuesday 1st March 1932.

When James Ruttley leased Rothbury Colliery in early 1932, and renamed it Branxton Colliery, he appears to have leased Rothbury Colliery's wooden hoppers. The first train despatched by James Ruttley appears to have been 29 Rothbury hoppers on Friday 4th March 1932. Amongst the Rothbury Estate's papers and accounts, I found one record, indicating that James Ruttley on Friday 30th June 1933, paid an amount of 185-3-0 ($370.30) for wagon hire. Rothbury Estate had raised a charge of sixpence ($0.06) per ton on wagon hire use.

Rothbury Estates, after Rothbury Colliery had ceased its coal production in December 1931, had hired out its wooden hopper wagons for varying periods to various coal companies. Such companies found in Rothbury Estates papers during my research, were:

Hebburn Collieries Limited,
BHP-Elrington Colliery,
Central Greta Colliery,
Newcastle Coal Mining Company.

Again the charge made was sixpence ($0.06) per ton for wagon hire.

John Reid of Watt Street, Newcastle, coal sales and shipping agent, on Friday 25th August 1944 was appointed the sole agent for hiring out the previous Rothbury coal hopper wagons.

My research has failed to find further details on Rothbury Colliery coal hopper wagons beyond this date, (25-8-1944). If these vehicles continued to be used, they would certainly have been withdrawn in 1973, when NSW Government Railways prohibited the use of such vehicles on its tracks.


(1) PIT-TOP:

In early 1913 the trustees of the Rothbury Estates, Messrs Merewether brothers called tenders for the construction of a permanent tipping and screening building. From September 1912 as the entry tunnel headings were being driven and followed the seam down from the outcrop the coal produced was heaped to await later rail transport. The colliery manager, Mr Richard Thomas (Junior), had estimated that a new pit-top building would cost 750-0-0 ($1,500.00) for materials and 500-0-0 ($1,000.00) for labour.

The specifications set out that the new structure should have its "upright" timbers bolted to concrete piers or foundations. There were 60 uprights required. Each was to be 30 feet in length; 12 inches by 12 inches at its base, 10 inches by 10 inches at its top. All roof plates and girders were to be of 6 inches by 4 inches timbers, and the roof rafters 3 inches by 3 inches. A hip roof was to be clad with corrugated iron. The hip was to be formed by 18 inches wide ridge capping. A skip gantry to the haulage entry heading was to be erected, to have a fall of 1 foot in 5 feet. Uprights in this gantry were to be of 10 inches by 10 inches timbers. All joists in the gantry to be 8 inches by 8 inches timbers. The building structure was to be painted a dark red colour.

The contract for construction of this pit-top was made on Friday 21st March 1913 to Mr R. Thompson of "Hillside", Lawson, Blue Mountains. His tender for labour only had been 453-0-0 ($906.00). The pit-top structure was completed about the end of September 1913. A photograph taken in December 1913 shows the skeleton of this roofed pit-top. A later 1917 photograph displays the pit-top partly enclosed by the elevated timber coal holding box, and other pit-top wall areas clad with corrugated galvanised iron. A Rothbury Colliery surface employee of the 1926 era, described the Rothbury Colliery pit-top as being a two deck structure, some 70 feet long, 40 feet wide and 40 feet high. By this time, the structure had a mixed style roof, being hip, flat and skillion sections.


This box was 200 feet long, 45 feet wide and 60 feet high. Its solid sawn timber uprights were 8 inches by 8 inches, and were set in concrete foundations. Heavy sawn timber 8 inches by 3 inches planks, placed crossways inside the uprights formed the walls. The box bottom was flat, and also of heavy timbers. The elevated box was built in two sections. The east portion nearest the pit-top was constructed during February and March 1915. The second portion extending the box length was completed in November and December 1915. When it was built, the box had a capacity to hold 2000 tons.

This holding box sat over 3 sets of rail tracks. It was possible to load 24 wagons, 8 on each track at the same time. There were two underneath doors to each wagon. The holding box had a flat bottom, and was not roofed. When coal did not run freely into the wagons, a man with a shovel worked inside the box to assist the coal load. (Author's note: A colliery "folklore" story purports, that one such pit-top labourer named Ray Hatfield, twice fell through the loading bay bottom door. Ray had a reputation of being accident prone, and had not heeded the instruction and warning which bay door was to be opened. Ray did not get injured either time, but once was partially covered with coal in the hopper wagon).

Rothbury Colliery manager, Mr Richard Thomas (Junior) reported to the Rothbury Estates trustees, Messrs Merewether brothers in October 1915, that the Ashworth-Parker 120 kW electricity generator had been installed in August 1915 for the principal purpose of supplying electrical power to drive the conveyors taking small coal from the screens to the holding box and tests had proved very satisfactory. A small timber box had been constructed under the screens to catch the small coal. This could be loaded direct into the coal hopper wagons, or by merely closing one door and opening another small coal could be taken to the elevated box.

The conveyor and its motor had been supplied and installed by Gibson Battle and Company.

When Rothbury Colliery ceased its mining operations in December 1931, this elevated holding box was allowed to remain standing. Later this box played an important role in R.W. Miller and company's workings of its Ayrfield No. 3 Colliery, (previously Rothbury Colliery).


A. Under-Manager's House:

The Rothbury Colliery's Balance Sheet, dated 1st October 1915 and prepared by Alex Jobson of Sydney, lists in the assets – "an under-manager's cottage cost 590-3-4 ($1,180.34)".

B. Manager's House:

Mr Richard Thomas (Junior), Rothbury Colliery Manager, in a report dated October 1915 to the Rothbury Estate's trustees, Messrs E.A.M. Merewether and H.A.M. Merewether, advised that:

"Cottages have been erected for the manager and under-manager, in close proximity to the colliery so that your principal officials now reside on the job".


Rothbury Colliery records reveal that on Friday 17th June 1921, Morison and Bearby sold a small vertical breaking down saw (sawmill equipment gear) to Rothbury Colliery for 169-0-0 ($338.00). My research has failed to reveal if Rothbury Colliery had a separate sawmill, or whether the above "saw" was used in the fitters' shop or carpenters' workshops.

However, in late 1935, after the death of James Ruttley, (lessee of Rothbury Colliery), Morison and Bearby re-purchased back the "breaking-down saw" from Rothbury Estate at an undisclosed price.


During early 1912 Rothbury Estates in anticipation of the development of a "full-blown" coal mine, had a brickyard built. My research has failed to reveal the actual location. However with a brickyard's need of clay and similar materials, it does seem reasonable to assume that it would be adjacent to Black Creek.

The brickyard supplied all the bricks used in the construction of the colliery chimney stack, for the erection of all brick buildings, laying of foundations for the boilers, etc. The colliery also supplied bricks used in house chimneys, piers, etc. in North Rothbury Village.

Bricks were of very good quality. Sample bricks were given compression tests at Sydney University, and were found to have a high rating.

In 1914 with a good supply of bricks on hand the brickyard was closed. However when this supply had been used, the brickyard was re-opened in November 1915. It was closed finally in June 1917.


Rothbury Colliery records show that a blacksmiths' shop, a fitters' shop and a stores building were erected in August 1913.

Over the years, Rothbury Colliery appears to have had a well equipped workshops. This was a timber framed building clad and roofed with corrugated galvanised iron. It was 100 feet long, 40 feet wide and 30 feet high. Its hip roof ran lengthways. Amongst the gear were T lathes, vices, drills, screwing machine, shaping machine, anvils, winches, forges, etc. In early 1936, Morison and Bearby of Newcastle purchased the 13 feet long centre lathe for 250-0-0 ($500.00).


This brick building was constructed by Rothbury Colliery employees, (bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, etc.). It was completed on Friday 17th September 1921. The office was 12 yards long by 12 yards wide with 10 feet high walls. In addition it had a 6 feet wide verandah, running around its eastern, northern and western sides. The building contained 4 rooms. A hip roof running east-west extended out to the verandah's width, and was clad with galvanised corrugated iron. This office was some 150 yards directly south of the main haulage heading.

On Monday 10th July 1922 trustees of Rothbury Estates purchased new tables and linen blinds for all office rooms at a total cost of 25-5-0 ($50.50).


After R.W. Miller and Company took over the Rothbury Colliery coal lease, following the death of the previous lessee, James Ruttley, Mr B. Drew, trustee for Rothbury Estate, on Tuesday 8th June 1937, wrote to the R.W. Miller and Company clarifying some aspects and setting our various other details of the lease agreement. In his letter, Mr B. Drew listed a number of Rothbury Colliery buildings and machinery still standing and on which Rothbury Estates required R.W. Miller and Company to pay "insurance premiums".

The list reads:


. s . d

$ . c .


Office building and furniture




Pit-top screening building, including electric wiring and fittings, built of timber, iron roof.




Pit-top machinery in use, all gear including, steam, water, pipes, and fittings (not including boilers), scales, tipping machines, two shaking machines, two picking belts, small coal conveyor. Shafting, belting, pulleys and like.




Stables and feed house built of timber, clad and roofed with iron.




Main haulage engine house including electric wiring and fittings, built of brick, iron roof.




Electric generators and plant.




Boilerhouse, including electric wiring and fittings built of timber, clad and roofed with iron.




Storeroom, including electric wiring and fittings built of timber, clad and roofed with iron.




Coal box, unroofed, including electric wiring and fittings built of timber.




Workshops, built of timber, clad and roofed with iron.




Ambulance Room - Lamp Cabin.




David Morgan was appointed 3rd December 1910. He was replaced on 20th September 1911, by the only other manager, Richard Thomas (Junior) to control Rothbury Colliery.


W. Williams was appointed 12th June 1913.


John Reid, Watt Street, Newcastle.

(Mr J. Reid appears to have been Rothbury Colliery's first and only shipping agent).


Bowman and Mackenzie,
275 George Street, Sydney.


Alex Jobson, A.I.A.,
Moore Street, Sydney.


London Bank of Australia.


Doctor James Mitchell, an ex-British Army surgeon of the 48th Regiment at Foot, about 1822 served firstly as an assistant surgeon and later as surgeon at Sydney Hospital. In August 1833 Dr James Mitchell, then in private medical practice, married Augusta Maria Scott. They had 3 children. Augusta Maria Mitchell born 1834 (later married Edward Christopher Merewether); David Scott Mitchell born 1836; and Margaret Scott Mitchell born 1840. Dr James Mitchell became a director of the Bank of Australia.

During 1840 Dr James Mitchell acquired land title to areas in Black Creek Valley. In all, more than 100 Portions. Further, he acquired 20 Portions along Rothbury Creek, (a tributary of Black Creek), in the name of his infant son, David Scott Mitchell. Dr James Mitchell's plan was to cut up his own and his son's land into farming lots, and thereby to pay off the purchase price by rents received. This same farming and pastoral activity continued up until David Scott Mitchell's death.

Edward C. Merewether was in the public service when he married Augusta Maria Mitchell in 1860. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company. Edward and Augusta Merewether had 10 children. Their two elder sons were Edward Alworth Mitchell Merewether and Henry Alfred Mitchell Merewether. Dr James Mitchell died in Sydney on Monday 1st February 1869. David Scott Mitchell entrusted the management of the Mitchell estate at Rothbury and at Burwood (Newcastle) to his brother-in-law, Edward C. Merewether. He, (David Scott Mitchell) devoted his life to scholarship and study. David Scott Mitchell died on Wednesday 24th July 1907. In his will, David Scott Mitchell bequeathed his library and its entire collection of books, plus a legacy of 70,000-0-0 ($140,000.00). Originally this had been an amount of 30,000-0-0 ($60,000.00). On Tuesday 3rd October 1905, David Scott Mitchell had increased this amount by a codicil to the 70,000-0-0 ($140,000.00). The bulk of his property and other business interests had been left to his sister Augusta Maria Merewether. Her two eldest sons, Edward A.M. Merewether and Henry A.M. Merewether, became the trustees for the Rothbury Estate (27,624 acres) and the Merewether Estate.

Professor T.W. Edgeworth David on Saturday 11th September 1886, in company with Mr Reginald Wyndham of Leconfield, had inspected the outcrop of a coal seam in Black Creek. For some years, coal from this outcrop point had been utilised by a number of Branxton people. Professor Edgeworth David had obtained permission from the land owner, David Scott Mitchell to sink a small prospecting shaft. Subsequently, Professor Edgeworth David published his findings and observations at page 139 of his "Memoirs". It does appear that Professor David's "Memoirs" had a great influence on the Merewether Brothers' thinking. In early 1908 the Merewether Brothers arranged for bores and shafts along the outcrop on the Rothbury Estate to prove its potential. This prospecting is described on page 1288 of this history. Finally the Merewether Brothers decided to commence a mine on Portion 26 Parish of Branxton. They appointed Mr D. Morgan to be the colliery manager.

Merewether Brothers persuaded the trustees of NSW Public Library, that David Scott Mitchell's bequest money could only be found by the disposal of the Rothbury Estate, or alternatively by some development. In the light of the shafts and bores prospecting, the Library Trustees agreed to consider the payment of the 70,000-0-0 ($140,000.00) as a five year loan to the Rothbury Estate. This was covered by mortgages appearing in the Registrar-General's records in Book 896 Numbers 941, 942 and 943 dated Friday 13th August 1909. Further, the Government Savings Bank lent an additional 30,000-0-0 ($60,000.00). When Rothbury Colliery became a going concern in late 1914, the mortgage to the NSW Public Library Trustees was repaid by further bank loans.

As mentioned on page 1290, Merewether Brothers, the trustees for Rothbury Estate, made a sub-division from these lands to form North Rothbury Village. This was firstly to raise money for a cash flow, and secondly to encourage their work force to reside close to the mine. Their surveyor laid out streets and house allotments. An auction sale of 116 allotments was held by Grainger and Faulkner at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday 19th October 1912. The lithograph informed would-be purchasers that 10% of price was to be paid at the sale as a deposit; a further 10% was to be paid in one month balance of purchase price to be paid in equal quarterly payments over a 5 years period. The advertisement stated that "Mitchell's drag will meet all trains at Branxton Station".

"Singleton Argus" newspaper in the issue dated 25th October 1912 stated – "Competition was brisk. All blocks were sold at highly satisfactory prices". It listed these sales:

In Section "A" Block 3 was purchased for 85-0-0 ($170.00) by Castlemaine Brewers. Block 4 was purchased for 85-0-0 ($170.00) by Woods Brothers and Company. The other 17 blocks in this section averaged between 26-0-0 ($52.00) to 45-0-0 ($90.00).

In Section "B" Blocks 3 and 4 sold for 82-0-0 ($164.00) each. The other 17 blocks averaged between 24-0-0 ($48.00) to 41-0-0 ($82.00).

In Section "C" 14 blocks averaged between 25-0-0 ($50.00) and 47-0-0 ($94.00).

In Section "D" 28 blocks averaged between 23-0-0 ($46.00) to 54-0-0 ($108.00).

In Section "E" 20 blocks averaged between 24-0-0 ($48.00) to 37-0-0 ($74.00).

In Section "F" 10 blocks averaged 25-0-0 ($50.00) to 33-0-0 ($66.00).

In Section "G" 10 blocks averaged 25-0-0 ($50.00) to 31-0-0 ($62.00).

During mid 1913 Messrs Edward A.M. Merewether and Henry A.M. Merewether had engaged two well-known mining personalities, Mr Harry J. Thomas, mining engineer, manager of Newcastle Coal Mining Company's collieries, and Mr Richard Thomas (Senior), mining engineer, manager of the Australian Agricultural Company's "New Winning Colliery", Newcastle, to prepare two separate reports on the potential of the coal leases on the Rothbury Estates. One report dealt with the South Rothbury Estate mineral property. The second report dealt with the Rothbury Colliery coal property on the northern portion of Rothbury Estates.

A proposal was prepared by the Merewether Brothers, which outlined the formation of a company with a capital of 250,000 shares of 1-0-0 ($2.00) each. Such a company to take over as a going concern the recently established North Rothbury Colliery, including all plant, the machinery, the branch railway, and coal wagons, together with mining leases, coal contracts, etc. Messrs Merewether Brothers considered that their then present undertaking at North Rothbury had reached a dimension too large to be continued as a partnership. The proposal outlined that the Merewether Brothers would accept 50,000-0-0 ($100,000.00) in fully paid up shares in consideration of the transfer of its new mine, plus 50,000-0-0 ($100,000.00) in cash. Further a lease for 99 years on about 4000 acres of freehold land was available. The Merewether Brothers required sixpence ($0.06) per ton royalty on coal production, which would include way leave charges on the branch railway.

During my research amongst the Rothbury Estate papers, I saw several rough draft prospectus, including one prepared in pencil. A final draft listed a suggested "Provisional Board of Directors". This list was:

1. Henry A.M. Merewether of Sydney, (as Managing Director),

2. David Hunter of Sydney, (Managing Director of McIlwraith McEacharn and Company – steamship owners),

3. William Appleton (Junior) of Melbourne, (Manager of Huddart Parker Limited),

4. D.Y. Syme (Junior) of Melbourne, (joint manager of Melbourne Steamship Coy),

5. Henry Masterton of Melbourne, (Managing Director of James Paterson & Company),

6. John C. Reid of Newcastle, Coal Handling and Shipping Agent.

It does appear that no printed draft of a prospectus was ever prepared. Perhaps this was due to World War I and associated restrictions of coal exports to the Pacific Ocean area. It does seem that no company was ever formed. This situation more or less forced the Merewether Brothers to continue the expansion and development of their Rothbury mine with limited finance.

The development of the Rothbury Colliery has been outlined under the various headings. Perhaps attention here to only a few important aspects needs to be outlined:

A. The installation of 3 large boilers in November 1912 (see page 1291),

B. The construction of the pit-top by R. Thompson of "Hillside", Lawson, during March 1913, (see page 1290),

C. Pit-horses commenced working underground in mid 1914 (see page 1302).

D. The introduction of an endless rope haulage on 16th March 1915 (see page 1302).

E. The installation of a larger (120 kW) Ashworth-Parker electricity generator in August 1915 (see page 1306).

The mine continued its development until four levels had been driven, both north and south from the main entrance headings, with the most distant level at about 880 yards from the surface. It does appear that the lack of finance restricted and delayed progress. As an example, in a colliery report dated Friday 30th September 1921, Richard Thomas (Junior), the colliery manager, made this comment:

"We have nothing to spare as far as boiler power is concerned, and our three boilers are in constant use. It has got to a stage, when it is vital that we should have at least one more boiler, of course two would be better. But no doubt, the second can wait until the price of boilers may become easier".

Production showed a serious downward trend from year 1923.



it was

171,375 tons


100,917 tons


90,610 tons


37,547 tons

At a meeting of the beneficiaries of the Rothbury Estate held in July 1927, the then Trustees, William David Mitchell Merewether and Edward Robert Hickson Merewether (last named was the son of Edward Alworth Mitchell Merewether) told the gathering that:

"Rothbury Colliery is and always has been under-capitalised, and it has to meet annual interest payments amounting to 5,400-0-0 ($10,800.00) before a profit's struck. Further the position and outlook in the coal trade has never been so serious, and the mine is only averaging 3 days production per fortnight".

Harry Cockerill, a well known Miners Federation personality, and who had worked for quite some years at early Rothbury Colliery, gave me this information during our discussions. In the late 1920's Rothbury Colliery owners, the Rothbury Estate, were insisting that their contract miners should accept two pence ($0.02) per ton less than the normal contract rate for dropping "tops coal". This situation was not acceptable to the Rothbury Miners Lodge, and as a result, there were persistent stoppages and continuing strikes taking place. Pat Shanahan, who became President of Rothbury Miners Lodge in early 1927, told me during our several discussions, that Rothbury Colliery over the two years period prior to the Rothbury Riot, had only worked on the average 3 to 4 days a fortnight. When the Rothbury Estates had sought reduction in wage rates, the Merewether family had thought that because of the "lean" times at the pit, the Rothbury miners, with the family assurances, would accept the "offered terms" with the prospect of increased work time.

The Northern Collieries Association was formed in early 1929. This was a body of the larger mine owners. On Thursday 14th February 1929 this new organisation gave their 9,750 employees 14 days notice, that they (the miners) should accept the following new conditions:

"A wage reduction of 12 per cent on the contract rates, one shilling ($0.10) a day on the "day wage" rate; all Lodges must give the colliery managers the right to hire and fire without regard to seniority; all Lodges must agree to discontinue pit-top meetings and pit stoppages".

As a result of the miners' refusal to accept these terms, on Saturday 2nd March 1929, all miners were "locked out" of their employment.

The mine owners retained the services of the "safety men". Under ordinary conditions when a mine had a "day stoppage", or even for periods and duration of longer strikes, the Miners Federation allowed men to work, who kept the mines free of fire and water, and who maintained the ventilation equipment in good repair. Such mine workers became known as the "safety men". In addition those collieries, whose owners were not members of the Northern Collieries Association continued to operate. Such collieries on the Maitland field were Millfield-Greta, Greta Main, Ayrfield Nos. 1 and 2, Glen Ayr Collieries, plus a few small pits like Hillend Mine, etc.

Meetings of miners were held to formulate moves to press for the end of the "lock out". As months passed some officials of the Miners Federation sought to extend the dispute to the NSW Southern and Western Mining Districts. Militants of the Northern Mining District "picketed" various mines within their own district with a view to "bring out" the safety men.

As the "lock out" time extended month after month, some miners aided their meagre fare by fishing at Lake Macquarie, by hunting rabbits and by growing vegetables. The Miners Federation had asked its members still working at mines not involved in the dispute, plus its members in the southern and western mining districts in NSW, and in the other states, together with their kindred miners in New Zealand, to give voluntarily a "12% levy" of their wages to their suffering fellow members in the Northern District. From this money raised, the Miners Federation issued "Federation Dockets" to its "locked out" members. These Federation Dockets for the adult miner were to the value of 15 shillings ($1.50) a week plus three shillings ($0.30) for each dependent child. A single man's Docket was valued at eight shillings ($0.80) per week. The Miners Federation honoured all its dockets to the storekeepers. The local Co-operative Societies also had extended credit for basic foods. The hospitals and doctors agreed to provide full services. To these organisations, the Miners Federation promised to pay double contributions to catch up after the lock out. The miners and their families formed groups, to mend boots and shoes, to cut hair, to distribute food surpluses and food donations. Other groups organised dances, concerts and various other entertainments. Soup kitchens were conducted twice a week at most schools in an endeavour to give a plate of soup, and a piece of dry bread to the miners' children.

As coal stocks lessened, in early September 1929, arrangements were made to lift coal standing in wagons at idle collieries on South Maitland field. Such coal had been declared "black" by the Miners Federation. In true unionistic principles, when South Maitland Railway employees were directed to lift such trains, to a man they refused, and all were dismissed. South Maitland Railway employees were out of work for nine months till the pits resumed in June 1930. As a result of this action all rail traffic ceased. This included the passenger trains running. Thus saw the inauguration of motor bus transport between Cessnock and Maitland. This included Rover Motors limited. Also those collieries outside the Northern Collieries Association, that up to that date had been working, lost their rail transport. Alternative motor lorry transport was provided. Hillend Colliery, Cessnock, transported its coal production for reloading into coal rail wagons at Allandale Railway Station. Ayrfield Nos. 1 and 2 transported its coal production to Rutherford Station. Millfield Greta Colliery coal also went to Rutherford. By the end of October 1929, R.W. Miller and Company had arranged with Merewether Brothers for the Millfield Greta Colliery coal to be loaded into wagons at Rothbury Colliery. (See page 1205 for more details in Millfield Greta Colliery "Brief History"). (Author's comment: It would appear that this relationship was the influence that resulted in R.W. Miller and company taking over the Rothbury Colliery lease in 1935).

The miners' determination not to accept the Northern Collieries Association's proposal, despite the hardships and hunger by the loss of their wages, the militancy and defiance of the "miner" pickets, forced the Nationalist Party Government and its Premier Bavin on behalf of the colliery owners to seek new steps of aggression. This was clearly demonstrated in the paragraph above in the lifting of the "black" coal. In addition in September 1929, NSW State parliament introduced an "Unlawful Assembly Act", which authorised police to break up any groups gathered. This was especially designed for the miners' conflict. Under this Act, additional outside police, in vans containing up to eight policemen, were placed along various coalfields main streets and roads to intimidate and harass miners and their families. (Author's comment: "Outside" indicating policemen not normally stationed at a local police station).

When endless conferences had failed to alter the miners' views and their Federation's policies, even up to and including the first weeks of December 1929, Nationalist Party Premier T.R. Bavin announced that his government intended to secure coal supplies for Government instrumentalities by opening up three Northern mines and working them at reduced rates of pay. The collieries selected were Pelton, Neath and Rothbury Collieries. H.J. Connell, State Member for Kahibah during Parliamentary question time in early December 1929 asked Premier Bavin, which mine he intended to open. Bavin's veiled reply appeared to indicate that Rothbury Colliery was selected to be the first.

A letter dated 2nd December 1929, hand-written by William David Mitchell Merewether, on Usher's "Metropolitan Hotel" letterhead to B.E. Drew. By this date both William D.M. Merewether and B.E. Drew had become the trustees of Rothbury Estates. This letter was couched in these terms:

Usher's Metropolitan Hotel

2nd Dec. 1929

Dear Drew,

The Government are going to commandeer Rothbury and work it. The financial details I will tell you on Saturday morning.

The present staff will run the mine, but the Government will advertise for the men. Thomas however will have the selection of them, when (and if) they apply in answer to the Government's advertisements. Tell Thomas to obey instructions of accredited Government officers, unless he is of the opinion that the instructions would endanger the mine or be uneconomical, as he will retain all the powers and responsibility of Manager.

IF I wire you tomorrow to the Newcastle Office –"Get ship ready Wednesday next", it will mean that you must go straight to Rothbury and get the pit ready for work as soon as possible (Wednesday if you can). Do nothing about the men, the Government will do that. I am sending this to my office to make sure that you get it by the first post. If you don't get the wire, do nothing.


W.D.M. Merewether.

On Thursday 12th December 1929, an advertisement was placed in the "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper by Mr R.W.D. Weaver, Minister of Mines calling for "experienced miners" to work in Rothbury Colliery. Applicants were to contact the National Employment Office, 148 George Street (north), Circular Quay for an interview between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Mr Weaver stated in an article in the "Newcastle Morning Herald" newspaper that more than 100 volunteers had been signed on. These recruits appear to have been all unskilled non union labourers.

At 7.30 a.m. on Friday 13th December 1929, a special train, transporting about 40 "free labourers" and 40 policemen arrived at Rothbury Colliery. A body of Newcastle Police at 6.15 a.m. had joined this train at Broadmeadow Station. The train was in charge of railway inspector D.J. Eagleton. The train conveyed camping equipment, stretchers, cooking utensils, tools and a quantity of foodstuff. There were also three galvanised iron tanks and a truck of water. The Rothbury Colliery horse feed shed, (galvanised iron clad), was used as a storeroom). Colonel Beardmore of Sydney was in charge of setting up the camp at Rothbury Colliery. A total of 18 large tents and 5 marquees were erected in bushland near the colliery dam. Inspector J.H. Boland was in charge of the police group. The police were housed in tents in a bush area south of the colliery manager's house. The "top brass" police officers were quartered in the manager's house. Both the police and the "volunteer" (scab) labourers used the colliery bath-house facilities.

It would appear that Police Superintendent A. Beattie in preparing the police protection at Rothbury Colliery had raised an arsenal. Press reports and later Parliamentary records show that Superintendent Beattie had ordered and received 100 rifles and 5000 rounds of ammunition. The rifles were hired from the National Riflemen's Association. A press report states that the "Police Stores" had considered it was not necessary to send bayonets with the rifles. In acknowledging receipt of the firearms, etc., Superintendent Beattie noted that the "supplies" would be placed in safe keeping, where they would be easily available should the necessity arise. During Monday morning (16-12-29), the police ammunition ran short. (Author's note: 5000 rounds fired?). Inspector Jeffries of Newcastle Police brought a fresh supply.

On Friday 13th December 1929, a Rothbury Miners Lodge met at 2.15 p.m. in the Picture Palace at Branxton with Pat Shanahan presiding. As well as Rothbury miners, there was a good attendance from Cessnock, Kurri and Greta, estimated to total 300 miners. Newspaper reporters were excluded from the meeting, and were asked to retire. The miners refused to disclose the business of the meeting, stating it was rowdy following the arrival of the "free labourers". Meanwhile a Miners Federation District Conference, which for 3 days had been deliberating in Newcastle, completed their discussions at 5 p.m. Friday 13th December, 1929. This conference decided a comprehensive system of mass "picketing" was to be made. The conference expected 5000 miners to be at Rothbury Colliery on Monday morning (16th) to make a peaceful but strong protest against the Government.

The inflammatory action by the State Government in bringing in these "scab" labourers incensed the body of miners. Miners Federation officials organised large numbers to journey to the Rothbury Colliery entrance gates. This was intended by their large massed presence for the miners to formally make their protest against the Government. The planned demonstration for Rothbury Colliery entrance gates had commenced from two points namely Cessnock and Kurri miners and their wives had met in the Strand Theatre, Cessnock, on Sunday night and were addressed by militant Federation leaders. Afterwards at Cessnock School of Arts corner, some 2000 men from Paxton, Bellbird, Pelton, Kitchener, Kearsley and Cessnock, gathered for them was almost to be a night of festivity with singing, yarning, telling ditties, etc. Farewelled by their wives and sweethearts, they set off for Rothbury by foot, bicycle, truck and bus along the Cessnock to Branxton gravel road. Some had packed sandwiches in their pit crib cans and had taken their pit water bottles. Advance groups set up on the hill opposite Rothbury Colliery entrance gates, and lit camp fires because the night was cool, and a stiff breeze blew. As the men waited around the bonfires, they were entertained by mouth organs, bagpipes and other musical instruments. They cheered the arrival of each fresh contingent. Mr Frank Mattocks, the then Cessnock correspondent for the "Newcastle Morning Herald" newspaper, described the sight as unique. It resembled a huge picnic accumulation of humanity. There were no disturbances. The best of good humour prevailed.

At 1.55 a.m. Monday 16th December 1929, Superintendent Beattie rang Police Commissioner Childs at his Sydney residence advising him that a large number of miners were congregating in the vicinity of Rothbury Colliery.

Meanwhile at Kurri on the Sunday night, similar preparations had taken place. Miners, their wives and their friends from Abermain, Weston, Pelaw Main, Heddon Greta, Stanford Merthyr and Kurri gathered near the band rotunda, (opposite the present Kurri Workers Club). A mass meeting was chaired by the President of Pelaw Main Colliery Lodge. Early in the night, two lines of "outside" policemen, part of Premier Bavin's unlawful assembly squad, came down the Kurri main street, bashing with their batons at both men and women. Finally a provocative arrest of one "Norman Appleton" made the crowd unruly and trouble looked like brewing. Even a Salvation Army Officer who had walked into the area, was jostled. Kurri "local" police were much embarrassed, and asked the "outside" police to retire.

Late in the night at Kurri, after several prominent miners had spoken, the meeting agreed that the men should go to Rothbury to join the mass demonstration at the entrance gates. Frank Sheridan, Bill Carmichael, the Shannon Brothers, Jack Osmay and Woodruff Thomas headed out the marchers, led off by Kurri Bagpipe Band, playing the "Cock of the North". The Kurri contingent, like the Cessnock group, had prepared themselves with sandwiches in their crib cans and had their pit water bottles. As they marched along, they sang World War I popular songs. When they reached Greta, a "spell" was called. The local hotel keeper was awakened, but he refused to serve beer after hours. One of the marchers told me that he thought quite a few of the large unit had served themselves.

At daylight, approximately 5 a.m., in the early morning (Monday 16-12-29), as the sun was rising blood red, the long stretched out line of the Kurri contingent marchers, arrived at the Rothbury Colliery entrance gates in a column of dust. The Cessnock men rose, as the pipe band led in the Kurri group with the loud tramping of feet. The two units combined at the entrance gates. A meeting began, and speakers, Lodge leaders and others, addressed the men.

At both the Cessnock and Kurri earlier pre-mass meetings, Lodge officials had outlined rules of conduct to be carried out at the mass demonstration at Rothbury Colliery entrance gates. All speakers had stressed that this was to be an orderly peaceful protest. Shortly after this combined meeting began at Rothbury, the younger element of the demonstrators grew restive. They started some horse-play about the fence, and other young men made a dash over the road at an un-fenced part of Rothbury Colliery property. At first wiser heads of the older men ran to expostulate with the younger men. Suddenly with wild cries of:

"Let's all go in"

"Let's get rid of the 'scabby' bastards",

and armed with "courage only", there was a surge, and a break onto the mine land. Hidden policemen emerged from bushes wielding batons, bashing men insensible with vicious blows. The crowd of miners armed themselves with stones and sapling sticks to try and ward off the police onslaught. Just by their sheer weight of miners' numbers, the fight looked serious. A police signal was given allegedly to fire shots into the air or into the ground.

Wally Woods told me himself, that he was standing just outside the entrance gate, when a policeman stepped from behind bushes, took deliberate aim and shooting at Wally Woods, putting a bullet in his throat. Not far from him, just alongside the road, David "Jackson" Brown was amongst a group who turned to enter at the gate. Another policeman aimed at this group. "Jackson" Brown received two bullets in his spine. David "Jackson" Brown never walked again, confined to a wheelchair forever.

The crowd of miners were gradually forced back off the property by the hammering of the batons and the wounding by gunfire. Responsible people, miners like Henry Scanlon, Harry Cockerill, etc., personally told me that other police continued to fire at the crowd. Many miners were wounded, far more than those actually recorded. Henry Scanlon said he saw Robert Cameron, of Congewai Street, Aberdare, a friend of Henry's father and a man in his late "fifties", stumbled as he neared the fence.

Henry went to help him over the fence out of the mine property. Again a policeman stepped out of the bush, deliberately aimed at point-blank range wounding Cameron as the bullet creased his forehead. Once outside the fence, Cameron threw down his hat, and loudly called out, – "Now have a go at me". A number of young miners inside the property near the rail wagons, saw a policeman bash to the ground with his baton an elderly man. When this group of four young men went to the old man's aid, the policeman speedily retreated to the support of other police. The young men carried the unconscious old man back to the road.

Norm Brown was on the Maitland side of the main road about 50 yards from the fence. He was shot in the back, and the bullet came right through out his stomach. Men near Norm Brown could see that he was hurt bad. Some miner leaders who came to Brown, knew he was dying. Mick Scanlon, (Henry Scanlon's brother), accompanied Norm Brown on the ambulance journey to Maitland Hospital. Brown died on this journey, shortly after leaving Rothbury.

Wally Woods told me that a passing motorist held up by the melee and fracas, saw Wally Woods bleeding badly from his throat wounds. The motorist wrapped his scarf around Wally's neck, and took him to Branxton Ambulance Station. David "Jackson" Brown was already there, and both were taken to Maitland Hospital.

Ernie Junor, who lived at Abermain at the Rothbury Riot time, and who later resided at 55 Braye Street Mayfield, told me that about 8.30 a.m. on this Monday (16-12-29), he, his brother "Garn" and a group of miners, whilst the larger body of men were attending a meeting to decide the next course of action, had decided to take a more positive course. This group had decided to remove some rails from the Branch Railway, and if they could find a suitable culvert to blow it up. Such actions would block transport of any coal production made by the "scab" labourers. Just a few rails had been removed, when a policeman spotted the "rail interference" and called for other police assistance. When this assistance arrived and more shots were fired, the group thought discretion was the better part of valour, and all decamped in different directions. Some crossed Black Creek and hid if they could. About 25 men were arrested and were later charged.

At about 8 a.m. Monday (16th) a meeting of the repelled miners was conducted opposite the colliery entrance to plan and decide immediate future action. A local fowl house was used as the podium or the platform. Speakers were:

Mr Bill Crooks, President of Richmond Main Lodge,
Mr Bill McBlane, Secretary of Richmond Main Lodge,
Mr J. Mills, President of Hebburn No. 2 Lodge,
Mr Arthur Teece, Treasurer of Miners Federation Northern District.

A resolution was made, but because the miners were still in too angry a mood, it was decided not to proceed with the resolution, and the meeting closed.

Just at this point of time, about 9.30 a.m., a motor car arrived at the colliery entrance. In contained Inspector R.P. Jack and Inspector J. Hay from the Mines Department. During the earlier disturbance the gate had been knocked down and blocked the way. A rumour circulated amongst the miners, still angry and rebellious, that this was Mr R.W.D. Weaver, Minister of Mines. There was a nasty scene when Mines Inspector Hay got out of the car to move the gate. With the serious outlook, Mines Inspector Hay made a hasty retreat back to the car. The born blowing attracted the police attention. With its windows smashed and its tyres punctured, the car limped to the colliery office. In this second surge, the approaching police were met with a shower of stones and sticks. Again the police fired shots at the car attackers, and a further number of miners received minor wounds and injuries. Once more the miners returned to a point across the road from the entrance gates.

At about 11 a.m. (Monday 16-12-29), Arthur Teece, Miners Federation Northern District Treasurer returned to the remaining miners near Rothbury entrance gates, with the advice that Justice Beeby had convened a compulsory conference on condition that the "pickets" left Rothbury. By this time only about 500 miners remained at the site. Mr R. Crockett, President of New Greta Colliery Miners Lodge, told these 500 men that they should return to their homes. The miners took his advice. A "Newcastle Morning Herald" newspaper in its issue dated Tuesday 17th December 1929 informs that following the advice of the compulsory conference, the miners dispersed and "quietness" was restored. This conference before Justice Beeby was held in Sydney on Wednesday 18th December 1929, but it failed to find an acceptable agreement or solution.

One sometimes wonders about fate, or perhaps "divine intervention". When one thinks of the inept planning by both sides in this debacle. Serious as it was, with the loss of a life and the many injuries received, it could have had more deeper consequences. Just only one hour after the miners had left, a second special train arrived conveying 79 policemen and 150 "free labourers" (scabs). One ponders what might have happened, if such fuel had been added, when the angry mob of miners had been in attendance.

This blot on Australian coal mining history had its serious cost in human injuries. One miner, Norman Brown was killed. Two miners were on the critical list for weeks. Seven other miners required hospital treatment. Edgar Ross, author of the "History of the Miners Federation", estimated that about 40 miners received gunshot wounds. and numerous others were injured by baton-bashing.

Injuries amongst the police were confined to cuts, (very likely from stones), abrasions and the like. Newspaper reports the following day, lists the names of six policemen as official casualties.

"Newcastle Morning Herald" newspaper in its issue dated Tuesday 17th December 1929, gives the following list:

Miners Casualties


Norman Brown, aged 26 years, of Lewis Street, Greta.
Shot in the back.


Walter Keith Woods, aged 23 years, of Alexander St., Kurri.
Shot in the throat.

David "Jackson" Brown, of Aberdare Road, Cessnock.
Shot in the spine.

Robert Hunter, aged 35 years, of Millfield Street, Spion Kop.
Bullet wound in right shoulder.

William Harrison, of Kurri Kurri.
Bullet wound in left thigh.

George Lindsay, of Maitland Street, Kurri.
Bullet wound in left thigh.

Thomas Elliott, of Cessnock.
Bullet wound in left shoulder.

David Walton, of Cessnock.
Bullet wound in left wrist.

William Gorton, of Aberdare.
Bullet wound in right wrist.

Robert Cameron, of Congewai Street, Aberdare.
Bullet gash on left forehead.

Police Casualties


Sergeant W. Moore, of Broadmeadow – sent home.
Six stitches to lacerations on right scalp.

Sergeant Ryan, of Newcastle.
Various bruises about his body – sent home.

Sergeant W. Both, of Cessnock – sent home.
Wound on cheek bone and discoloured eye.

Constable Sweeney, of Tighes Hill.
Various bruises about his body – still on duty.

Sergeant Monday, of Newcastle – still on duty.
Probable fracture of the wrist.

Constable Woodlands, of Mayfield – sent home.
Abrasions on the face, loss of one tooth, and injuries to mouth.

What a story of "David and Goliath". Or to use a newspaper's summing up of that day –

"Shots were fired and blood flowed".

Reliable witnesses, both from the Miners Federation and newspaper reporters, all state that no miner was armed with a gun.

More than 6000 grim-faced miners, led by Kurri Pipe Band left from Norm Brown's home in Lewis Street, Greta on Thursday 19th December 1929 to accompany his body to Greta Cemetery. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr G.M. Long to pay the miners' last respects to a fallen comrade. Piper J. Gow played "Maggie Tosh's Lament" at the graveside.

An interesting point was made to me by Wally Woods. At Maitland Hospital Wally asked for and received the bullet taken from his throat during an operation. The bullet was bright and shiny. Later the police came and took away the bullet for use as evidence. In court, the bullet then had a definite scratch mark. This the police prosecutor stated certainly indicated that the bullet had ricocheted off a stone on the ground.

Kurri miners won a minor revenge on Friday 21st December 1929. A mass meeting was held at Kurri Band Rotunda. Following this meeting, the miners' group marched supposedly again heading for Rothbury Colliery. When this procession reached Majors Lane, Sawyers Gully, it was halted and returned to Kurri. Meanwhile Wallsend miners had marched to Ashtonfield Colliery, which had been manned to be worked by non union labour. Kurri miners' meeting and march had created a "smoke screen". Wallsend miners intended to harass the "scabs". However the mine had received a "tip-off" and no "free volunteers" were found at the mine.

From September 1929 to June 1930, additional "outside" police in vans, containing up to 8 policemen patrolled various main streets and roads in the towns and villages of the northern district coalfield. After the December flare-ups at Rothbury and Ashtonfield, this patrolling was intensified to monitor the "Unlawful Assembly Act" introduced by the Bavin Government to break up miners' groups. "Imported police" (not the local force) were engaged in threatening and intimidating the mining communities. At Kurri, it is reported that even school children received some unnecessary jostling. Far from being browbeaten, these patrol activities only increased the miners' determination, and there were further demonstrations. Both Jim Comerford, (a Miners Federation Personality) and Mick Frame, (later a Deputy Mayor of Cessnock), told me of just one particular conflict, amongst a number of incidents. This occasion was when a group of miners were marching from Weston to Kearsley to make a peaceful protest, a large policeman said to have been Inspector Mackay, (later to become Police Commissioner), stopped his car near the procession, and called out to the patrolling vans, – "Bash them – Break them up". Near Abermain Colliery, the police charged the miners with their batons. Many miners were knocked out and left laying on the road. One such miner was Frank Griffen, the Lodge President, who had planned to chair the meeting outside the colliery gates.

It is an interesting fact that in late December 1929, and for the following few weeks, the Army carried out field training and camped in a bivouac, where the Cessnock High School was later sited.

On Monday 20th January 1930, before Mr D.W. Reed, Police Magistrate, a court hearing was held at Maitland to determine charges against miners arrested at Rothbury on Monday 16th December 1929 of knowingly being involved in an "unlawful assembly". Mr W.A. Rogers of the Crown Law Office in Sydney represented the Crown, and asked that all cases be heard together, as there was only one set of circumstances. Mr T.A. Bray appeared for some of these men, and stated that the information did not disclose any offence for which the men were charged. Mr J. Clancy appeared for the balance of the miners. Mr Clancy said this "Unlawful Assembly Act" was the most ill-worded piece of legislation, he had ever seen. Mr Clancy asked that the case against Edwin Aubin be held first. The magistrate, Mr Reed, held the offences were sufficiently described in the information, and agreed to hear the case against Edward Aubin first.

The list of miners charged and appearing at Maitland Court were:

Edwin Aubin - Weston
James Stevenson - Aberdare
Richard McDonald - Cessnock
Ernest C. Ford - Cessnock
John William Evans - Cessnock
George Dunicliffe - Bellbird
James Sheehan - Cessnock
Ernest Junor - Abermain
Garnet Junor - Abermain
Edward Junor - Abermain
Thomas Sharrock - Abermain
Paul Dillon Riley - Weston
Mick Scanlon - Cessnock
William Crick - Heddon Greta
Frank Edwards - Cessnock
Joseph Shakespeare - Cessnock
Thomas Hayes - Cessnock
James Hayes - Cessnock
George Gill - Kitchener
James Gordon - Cessnock
Arthur Croft - Cessnock
William Duffin - Cessnock
Thomas Parker - East Cessnock
Glen Dawson - Cessnock
George Parkinson - Cessnock
George Filby - South Cessnock
James Maybury - Weston
David Walton - Cessnock
Edward Rutherford - Weston
Harold Richardson - Cessnock
Timothy Paterson - Cessnock.

Edward Aubin was charged that on Monday 16th December 1929 at or near Branxton, he was armed with something, which used as a weapon, was likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm, to wit – a stick, and that he was a member of an unlawful assembly. Edwin Aubin, check-weighman lived at Weston, and that he was president of Kurri Hospital Board. Fifteen years earlier he had been run over by a coal train, and had used a walking stick ever since. The prosecutor said he now had been instructed that Aubin was not carrying his stick as a weapon of offence, and that Aubin should now be re-charged as knowingly been a part of an unlawful assembly. After an all day hearing of evidence and argument, Edwin Aubin was fined 5-0-0 ($10.00) and 8 shillings ($0.80) costs.

All other cases were stood over until Wednesday 22nd January 1930. When fines of 20-0-0 to 30-0-0 ($40.00 to $60.00) totalling an amount of 380-0-0 ($760.00) were levied plus two shillings ($0.20) for each case. One case received special mention, this was that against Mick Scanlon. Police had charged that he was part of a group, who had trespassed on Rothbury Colliery with intent to damage the railway. M. Scanlon's solicitor submitted evidence that at the time of this charge, Mick Scanlon was caring for Norman Brown. The prosecutor withdrew this information, and Mick Scanlon was re-charged that he had been part of an unlawful assembly. For this offence Mick Scanlon was fined 10-0-0 ($20.00) plus 2 shillings ($0.20) court costs.

At Rothbury Colliery, the "free labourers" (scabs) had been put to work immediately. Their first train of coal produced was despatched on Wednesday 18th December 1929. The colliery manager, Richard Thomas (Junior), is reported as saying that he had great problems in getting this non union unskilled labourers to carry out even the normal routine mine requirements. From later parliamentary reports, about 200 labourers and 100 policemen were camped at Rothbury during periods that the State Government commandeered the colliery. The Auditor-General's report showed a daily combine of policemen and labourers being 300. Mess charges for both police and labourers was 1-5-0 ($2.50) per week. A loss of 3,228-3-4 ($6,456.34) occurred for the catering. Xmas Dinner and New Year's Day menu cost 192-15-9 ($385.59). Total recreation expenses amounted to 56-9-2 ($112.92). This recreation was mainly supplied by hiring wireless sets.

As well as protecting the "scab" labour camp, the police provided surveillance of the branch railway track.

Cost of setting up and dismantling the labour camp had cost 3,923-10-6 ($7,847.06). Total expenditure to the State Government for the full period was 71,156-18-2 ($142,313.82).

The "scab" labourers in the period 16th December 1929 to 18th June 1930, won a total coal output of 38,058 tons. This was all disposed to the State Railways for a total value of 30,898-8-1 ($61,796.81). The State Government ceased its mining operations at Rothbury Colliery on Wednesday 18th June 1930, and coal produced on this last day was also despatched this same last day.

Rothbury Estates received an amount of 2,668-11-1 ($5,337.11) as royalty payments on coal produced during the period that the State Government had commandeered Rothbury Colliery.

Paddy Murphy, Treasurer of the Miners Relief Committee on Wednesday 19th March 1930 told fellow delegates:

"Distress exists more so now than earlier. One can realise what it is like, when one thinks that no new clothes have come into the houses for 12 months and more. The children have nothing but dry bread and dripping to eat. This situation beggars description".

The near starvation conditions, the constant harassment by police, each had helped and gradually attained the Northern Collieries Owners Association's ambition. During May 1930 following several conferences, the Miners Federation finally accepted the 12 per cent reduction in pay and returned back to normal work in June 1930. The State Government withdrew its "free labourers" (scabs) on Wednesday 18th June 1930 and returned Rothbury Colliery to its owners. At this date 110 men, (non union labourers) still were working at Rothbury.

Rothbury Colliery resumed mining operations with its own pit employees from the local Rothbury Lodge on Thursday 3rd July 1930. It does appear that there was a strong feeling of resentment displayed by the Lodge members. During the remainder of 1930, in the 189 days worked, the regular Rothbury Colliery miners produced only 32,689 tons or coal, or almost 6,000 tons less than the "scab" labour produced in a similar time. The position deteriorated further in 1931. Only 94 days were worked in the year, the production was only 34,956 tons.

"Newcastle Morning Herald" newspaper in its issue dated Saturday 19th December 1931 reports that on Thursday 17th December 1931, all Rothbury Colliery employees including the manager, Richard Thomas (Junior), a total of 150 persons were given 14 days notice. The newspaper went on further to inform that James Ruttley had leased Rothbury Colliery. Mr James Ruttley previously had been the owner of Shortland Colliery Adamstown.


Rothbury Colliery ceased its coal mining operations under Rothbury Estate administration on Thursday 31st December 1931.

James Ruttley of Adamstown leased Rothbury Colliery, and renamed it "Branxton Colliery".

Subsequently Rothbury Colliery coal lease was taken over on Wednesday 3rd July 1935 by Robert W. Miller. He also renamed the mine "Ayrfield No. 3 Colliery".


Back to top of page

Home | The Mines | The Maps | Sponsors | Oral History

Newcastle Regional Museum
787 Hunter Street,
Newcastle West NSW 2302

Phone: 61 2 4974 1415
       61 2 4974 1400

Fax:   61 2 4974 1405

Email: nrmuseum@ncc.nsw.gov.au

This web site is designed,
built and maintained by IMCG Pty Ltd