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Bell pits

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Author Topic: Bell pits  (Read 1305 times)
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« on: April 16, 2008, 08:00:36 pm »

I have been enlightened recently with some of the history of the Featherstone bell pits. For those that do not know what one is a bell pit is an early form of mining. What people did was simply dig down a shaft and then start digging outwards in the shape of a bell. The pits varied in size. Some were entered by a ladder and some had an A frame above and donkey to pull a rope up and down. The pits were in no way safe and regularly collapsed, killing many.
In this area it is believed that as early as the 13th centaury bell pits scattered the landscape. Monks probably from Nostel priory were the main miners. The scale was massive so much so a view can be imagined. If you stand at All Saintís church and look towards Nostel imagine all that you could see was spoil heaps and shaft tops with many people at work with a small fire at the head of each pit. For miles around this is all you would see.
When the out crop was open cast (fields behind the No1 club) many tunnels were found as they dug down. By the looks of things some of these holes were 50 foot plus deep. Amongst the tunnels they found what is believed to be railway sleepers. This was only believed because the sleepers were only about 3 foot wide. Also small trolleys were found with small wooden wheels. There must have been some sort of infrastructure to support the pits and were probably the beginnings of the town today other than the Neolithic visitors we have had. My favourite find was what is believed to be a number of alters. As the monks dug they created shrines. A number of wooden crucifixes are said to have been found.
Some of the pit sites can still be seen. A good example is off park lane. As you drive out of Featherstone towards Pontefract look left on the bad corner as the houses finish towards the farm in the distance. On the right hand side of the road to the farm you will see 3 mounds. They are spoil heaps. The farmer does not plough them and has left them for historyís sake.
What I have heard is very interesting and I am sure there are plenty of missing facts. Please fill them in.
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