Home page

Urban Common

Geology and
      Heritage Trail

Fossil finds


Wind Power


New contacts


Archaeological evidence on the moor is largely Industrial archaeology, showing how the moor has been exploited in the past for the resources underground. Evidence of coal mining and clay extraction is still visible, but it is uncertain how early the first coal was being taken from the moor.

There were coal seams outcropping across the moor. Farmers and local householders would have taken this easy coal and started the first shallow drift mines into the hillsides. They would have also taken peat for fuel and there is evidence of peat cutting at Clough Head.

Volunteer surveyors:

The extensive evidence of coal mines was surveyed in 2012 by TMRT using techniques we were taught by the "resident" archaeologist who was mentoring the "Riches of the Earth" programme as part of the Watershed Landscapes Project.

Field work

Evidence on the ground

The mine depressions in the moorland surface, marked as Trial Holes on OS maps, identify where coal was found underground. They appear as conical depressions surrounded by a circle or arc of spoil that forms an “apron” feature above the natural moorland levels. These “aprons” often have a wide flat rim around a section of the top. The holes appear to be from 0.5 to 3m deep, and the largest surveyed so far is 8m across.

The depressions have re-vegetated and it is uncertain how deep they are or what their purpose was - possible early bell-pits, possible shafts, ventilation?  Even after the surveys, a more complete picture is still to emerge.

Large conical depression

Large conical depression

Even without excavation the early drift mine entrances can be identified as linear depressions up to 5m across and now often filled with deep vegetation. 

The later 19th century coal exploitation on the moor was intense and blocked mine entrances and holes are very numerous. Two of these entrances still show some of the brick side walls standing.

Blocked mine entrance still visible

Blocked mine entrance still visible.

There is another sort of hole that MUST be avoided.


We did not conduct a ground survey of the extensive collapsed workings beside the old tramway.

This is a dangerous area.  At any time new holes can appear where the roof of the drift is collapsing. The holes go straight down for an unknown depth. Lack of spoil that would indicate excavation sets these holes apart from the “Trial Holes” mentioned above.

Our survey of this area used Google Earth photos and our own aerial photo surveying technique.  Patterns of collapse emerged which may reflect  the underground pillar and stall workings.

The entrance to this mine, and several of the collapses close by, have been filled with stone by the Coal Authority to protect the public.

Collapsed drift mine

This aerial photo shows the line of the collapsed drift mine and also two
circular mine depressions close to the bottom of the picture.

Clay workings:

Good quality Fire Clay from the clay-shales above and below the coal seams was exploited if it was practical to do so. Industry grew up along the Bacup Road for brick making and ceramic pipes.

The Temperley brothers had three sites on the Bacup Road, locally known as Top, Middle, and Bottom Shop. The photograph is of Middle Shop, now the home of the Amateur Astronomy Centre. In the early 1960s this works was taken over by Hepworth Ceramic Holdings and run down when that company also acquired Top Shop. By the mid 1970s Middle Shop was semi-derelict and Hepworths formally wound up the business in 1981.

Bricks, possibly from the kilns, can be found on the surface of the moor near one of the 19th century mine entrances. These show evidence of intense heat and are sometimes fused together.

As there would be no reason to have kilns at that level, we can surmise that the bricks were transported on to the moor as hardcore for an access road, or simply dumped there.

Sander Clough

Saunder Clough works

Temperley’s clay pipe works (known as Middle Shop), Bacup Road, in the 1940s.  Stacks of pipes of various descriptions can be seen near the left hand edge of the picture.  Only the farmhouse in the top right hand corner survives.