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Tyne and Wear HER(5002): Fencehouses, Lumley to Penshaw Waggonway, Bourn Moor Branch - Details

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Fencehouses, Lumley to Penshaw Waggonway, Bourn Moor Branch






Post Medieval


Documentary Evidence

In August 1995 the remains of a wooden wagonway (approximately centred on NZ 319 511) were uncovered. The waggonway was open by 1787 making it one of the earliest colliery wagonways to have been excavated in the country. Bournmoor D Pit (HER 4998) was sunk c1791 and worked on and off for the next 32 years. By 1823 the colliery was 'laid in' and the engine was pumping water from the abandoned shaft. The wagonway remains were buried under some 2m of well-compacted coal and coke dust. The two phases of wagonway excavation revealed a complex of ten tracks with at least five sets of points, a boiler house and other pithead features. The tracks were wholly constructed of wood to a gauge of 1.30m. Two tracks had been abandoned and cut off by removing a set of points within the period of wagonway use. The rails, made of oak or fir, were cut from tree boles and varied in length from 1.25m - 3.30m. Where relatively unworn they were 12-13cm square, and showed no evidence of having had doubled or top rails. All the rails were drilled and pegged to the sleepers with wooden dowels. There were two sections of guide rail, intended to prevent the chaldron wagons from straying onto the wrong track at points or drifting sideways on curved or elevated sections. The sleepers were mostly made from untrimmed sections of oak tree branch, usually between 1.7m and 2m long laid in a shallow trench and ballasted with gash stone, ash, coal and crushed brick and stone. Many of the sleepers were acutley bowed upwards, presenting an uneven track bed and casting some doubt on the practicality of the chaldron wagons having been pulled by horses walking in the centre of the track as is usually assumed. Five sets of points were identified on the excavated sections of wagonway. Two of these had sufficient timberwork surviving to clearly show that there had never been any moving parts. A groove worn in the surface of one of the 'through' or main flangeway rails showed that wagons had simply bumped over the main line onto the branch, possibly assisted by movable blocking pieces and/or levers. Close to the pithead, where most of the tracks appeared to terminate, were 'platforms' of brick. At first it was thought that these platforms were for dumping mined coal from the pithead to be shovelled into waiting wagons. It now seems more likely that the platforms were for unloading fuel for the boilerhouse at a time when the pit was laid in, possibly after 1823, when the D Pit engine seems to have been used for pumping the abandoned shaft. Of the pithead buildings, all that remained was the foundation of a boilerhouse. The first building was of stone, with ashpits for two boilers serviced from a brick-paved alleyway, and a chimney in the centre of the east side. Subsequently its capacity had been increased by a brick extension to the east containing two or more boilers also served from a brick alley. At least five of the tracks appeared to have served this building at different times, presumably bringing in fuel to the boilers. The few finds associated with the construction and use of the wagonway could only be broadly dated to the late 18th century or early C19. It is presumed however that the wagonway would have gone out of use with the adoption of standard gauge in 1840 if not before.




<< HER 5002 >> Lancaster University, 1999, Lambton Cokeworks, Sunderland J. Nolan & A. Durkin 1995, A Wooden Colliery Wagonway at the former Bournmoor D Pit, Sunderland I. Ayris, J. Nolan & A. Durkin, 1998, The Archaeological Excavation of Wooden Waggonway remains at Lambton Cokeworks, Industrial Archaeology Review, Vol XX, 1998, p 5-22 I. M. Ayris, 1998, Wooden Wagonway Remains at the former Lambton D Pit, Fencehouses, Internatonal Mining & Minerals, May 1998, Vol 1, No 5 Northern Archaeological Associates, 2001, Sunderland Central Route, Multi Modal Study, Cultural Heritage Chapter PLB Consulting Ltd, 1998, Wooden Wagonway at Lambton Cokeworks Bullen Consultants, 2003, Lambton Coke Works, Archaeological Assessment; Alan Williams Archaeology, 2013, Waggonways to the South Bank of the River Tyne and to the River Wear; Turnbull, L, 2012, Railways Before George Stephenson (entry 84e) p163 and 172

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