Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

Cliviger Landmark to Cease Work

Burnley Express of 4 February 1939

Cliviger Colliery Pumphouse

The pumphouse, showing the tub in which the engineers descended to inspect the pumps.

Insert: Mr Dawson (right) and Mr Cryer

For over 70 years the Hole House plant at Cliviger has pumped water from the Arley seam of the Cliviger Coal Company, and during that time three generations of the Dawson family have been its engineers. Now the company have decided to close it down. Its giant flywheel has already ceased to turn, soon its boiler fires will be cold, its machinery dismantled, and then the working days of another Cliviger landmark will have passed into history.

The exact date when the pump-house was built is not known, but its two boilers were built and installed in 1865 an 1868, and it is thought that the house would be erected early in 1860. The boilers were made by Messrs. Layfield and Calverley, of Grimshaw Street, Burnley, and are of the hand-riveted type. They have been passed as fit for further service - a fine tribute to the craftsmanship of their makers. During bad weather, which sometimes necessitated a 24-hour day being worked as much as six tons of coal were shovelled every day into each boiler.

Long Service Boiler

The machinery pumped water from the seam 106 yards below, and when working at its best, lifted as much as 720 gallons per minute.

Mr Thomas Dawson was the last engineer, and his father and maternal grandfather have also served in the same capacity. Mr Dawson who is 54, is the brother of Mr Jerry Dawson, the former Burnley footballer. His grandfather, Mr Jeremiah Procter, was the first engineer. Mr Procter tended the machinery between 20 and 30 years, until ill-health compelled him to retire, when his son-in-law, Mr Thomas Dawson (senior), took over the work. For 33 years the elder Mr Dawson held the position, and when he retired passed it on to his son, who would have completed 13 years there in the coming June.

Another who has had a long connection with the pump-house is Mr Thomas A. Cryer, who worked there as a boy with Mr Dawson senior, and has continued there during the absence of the younger Mr Dawson and during busy periods.

The engine room and the giant flywheel which worked the pumps

During all its 70 years the machinery has had only two major breakdowns. The first was in Mr Dawson, senior's time, when the driving wheel shaft broke. The second breakdown was more recently - last December. Then a clack (a type of valve) in the pump went wrong, and as a result the mine was flooded. The company had to send to Liverpool for divers to install a new clack, so deep did the water become.

"Hole House is to be closed because the company's Arley seam is practically worked-out" said Mr Dawson, "but the plant is rare good stuff. Now, of course, it is a real old-timer, and probably unique in the district."