Mining Gallery, Benwell
6 Sept 2021
Evidence for early coal mining was identifed during excavations at Sunnybank Avenue, Benwell. Two possible bell pits (HER 16262) and extensive drift mining galleries were revealed dating to the medieval and/or early post-medieval period. The galleries had been excavated in a north-west/south-east grid pattern following the pillar and stall method of extraction. This is an early form of mining which exploited rich coal seams closer to the surface before the introduction of deep coal mining in the late 16th century. The workings were an interconnected network of galleries extracting coal from a seam up to 2m thick. The galleries varied in width from 1-1.7m. Some of the galleries terminated abruptly, despite the presence of further coal deposits beyond which may indicate the presence of an estate boundary. There was no evidence of pit props, shoring or flooring.
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