The History of the Clay Cross Company

Taken from varies sources.

Coal was mined in the Clay Cross area on a small scale prior to the arrival of Stephenson's Derby to Leeds railway in the middle of the 1830's. What was needed was an injection of cash into the area and better transportation which the railway was to provide, the Clay Cross tunnel operations also opened up several seams of coal which helped the company realist the potential of this area.

The driving and completion of the tunnel through Clay Cross Hill began the growth and development of Clay Cross. At the time, Clay Cross consisted of a group of stone houses located at a cross road. Work commenced on the tunnel on 2 February 1837. Six shafts were sunk along the tunnel route where the stone houses were located. The shafts provided 12 faces for the labourers to tunnel. Work quickly established that the hill contained wet coal seams; the workings acted as a large drain for water from the coal measures and had to be pumped away. Additionally, a large fire was placed at each shaft to provide ventilation and allow hundreds of workers to work during the night.

The Clay Cross Company was founded in 1837 by George Stephenson the railway pioneer to produce coal, iron ore and iron and limestone. The original company being named after him Members of the board of directorship were, George and Robert Stephenson, George Carr (Lord Wolverton), Sir William Jackson J.P., Sir Joshua Walmsley (Member of Parliament for Leicester). His son-in-law Charles Binns (Stephenson's private secretary), who was the works manager, George Hudson, Sir Samuel Morton Peto, M.P., Joseph Sanders and E.L. Betts were the financial backers who were with William Jackson and Morton Peto partners in the firm of Peto, Brassey, Betts and Jackson contractors for and builders of The Canadian Grand Trunk Railway a link between the Clay Cross company and the North Midland Railway company.

George Stephenson and Company had built houses for the tunnel navvies and later, as they sank colliery workings, for the miners and their families. Nearly 400 houses were built, and by 1846 the population of the area had reached almost 1500. The company produced their own bricks, with the brickworks originally at the works, but they moved near to the railway station using modern kilns with a capacity of 5,000,000 bricks per year.

When George Stephenson died in 1848 his son Robert who was by now an M.P. succeeded his father as the largest shareholder in the company. The company by now was concentrating on the production of iron as by 1846 the price per ton of coal had fallen drastically and as a result there was a glut of coal on the market, however, the companies four pits remained open Robert later sold his shares in the company to Peto, Walmsley and Jackson over a disagreement about a contract to supply coal to London by the London and North West Railway. Stephenson claimed that the contract to transport 60,000 tens of coal from Clay Cross to London was unprofitable for the railway company. (In 1870 one tenth of all the coal reaching London was from Clay Cross, 385,632 tons in all). See List of Collieries

Between 1839 and 1903, some 280 Bee-hive coke ovens were in operation near the blast furnaces. These were replaced in 1903 by 50 Simplex By-Product coke ovens.

By 1871 Sir William Jackson had purchased all of the companies interests and became the sole proprietor of the company which he made into a limited company in 1913. The whole of the directorship were Jackson's. On the centenary of the company the Parkhouse, number seven or 'catty' pit was working two seams, the Tupton and Threequarter. Also at this time, the company comprised of brickworks, three blast furnaces, a foundry, coke ovens and gas plant, seven collieries, a lime works, a limestone quarry and ironstone mines. Further collieries were purchased in 1920, one being Wingfield Manor colliery near Alfreton and in 1924, Bonds Main colliery at Temple Normanton.

The company acquisition of the Overton Estate at Ashover in 1919 was for its valuable, and largely unexploited, mineral deposits. Far sighted as ever the Clay Cross Company board realised that without a railway connection the Overton Estate would not be viable and they secured agreement to build a rail link across the adjacent Ogston Hall land before completing the Purchase for £33,075 on 4th January 1919. The plan was to build a railway to the Overton Estate would also give nearby Ashover a rail connection. See Ashover Light Railway

When the collieries were nationalise in 1946, the company was under the control of Colonel Humphrey Jackson and his brother Captain Guy Jackson. This lead to the lost of the companies collieries and gas works, most of which were sited on the iron works site. In 1951, they brought a gravel company  at Croxden in Staffordshire, which only became profitable in the 1960's.

Due to the changes in manufacturing processes and the reduced need for pig-iron, the blast furnaces were demolished in 1959. This created space for expansion and 2 hot-blast cupolas then enabled the company to design a flow line for ductile iron pipes.

The company became a public company in 1966 after Captain Guy's death. After Colonel Humphrey's death in 1969, it was in the control of Stephen de Bartolomé (chairman). In 1974, the company was brought by RMC (Ready Mixed Concrete) mainly for its quarries, and the last Jackson family member on the board, vice Chairman John retired ending 120 years of the family involvement. In 1985 after RMC changed ownership a number of times, the company was brought by the Biwater Group.

The death of the company came in 1998 when it was brought by Stanton and was closed within 6 months, leaving Stanton the only producers of spun pipes. The land once occupied by the company being turned into light  industrial units.



© Neil Wilson 2012 -
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