A little about the Cannock Chase Colliery Co. Ltd.
Throughout the 1800s the demand for coal increased with the growth of the industrial revolution. About halfway through the century, the Marquis of Anglesey, who was one of the largest land-owners in the district, having seen the increase in mining activity in the area, decided to explore the possibilities of opening up his own mines.
These were situated on the eastern side of Chasewater, below the dam and towards the present site of the rugby club. In the early days, the coal was moved from the pits to the canal side by a horse-drawn tramway – a cart on rails – and loaded into boats. After a while, the first steam loco was bought.
This is where a man called John Robinson McLean enters the story. He was the engineer responsible for building the railway between Wychnor (Burton-on-Trent) and Bescot, later more commonly known as the Lichfield to Walsall line.
Later, he and his partner, William Chawner, leased the pits from the Marquis of Anglesey and formed the Cannock Chase colliery Company.
McLean also leased the Lichfield – Walsall railway. Within a few years, the first pits were connected to the railway line, and so, as McLean owned the pits and the railway, all the coal was moved by rail, none being moved on the canal. The small colliery engines would take trucks full of coal to the local sidings, where they would be coupled to make long trains, and a bigger, more powerful, engine would collect them for delivery to power stations, factories, etc.
After about five years, McLean sold the railway to concentrate on the mining company and canal traffic was re-introduced. In all, the Cannock Chase Colliery Company ran ten pits in the Chasewater area, and coal from all of them could be moved by rail or canal.
During the 1900s more pits came to the end of their working lives and by the end of the 1950s only one pit was open (No.8).
With the closing of the pits, obviously there was no need for the colliery railways and the canals lost their traffic.
The Lichfield section of the Wyrley & Essington canal – at present undergoing restoration – was closed from the top of Ogley locks in the 1950s.
The railway was dismantled in the early 1960s.