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Betteshanger Colliery

Betteshanger Colliery 1933
Betteshanger Colliery 1933
Betteshanger was Kent's biggest colliery. Note the aptly named Circular Road on the right originally built to house deputies only. Most of the men lived three miles away at Mill Hill. The road was the length of a dog racing circuit and was apparently used by miners to race their whippets.

Coal was found in the Lydden valley near Deal on December 12th, 1912 at 1476ft. After WW1, Dorman Long & Co purchased mineral rights to large areas of land in the Deal area. Kent coal burned very hot, making it suitable for the Steel Industry and the company wanted their own supply. Shortly after, they joined forces with another company, Messrs. S. Pearson & Sons (who had built the Admiralty Harbour at Dover), to form Pearson & Dorman Long Ltd. This company had a controlling interest in the Channel Steel Company which had proved the existence of 100 million tons of iron ore near Dover.

They built a railway line to the site of their new Colliery, and the first shaft was cut on May 19th, 1924. It was planned to sink collieries at Wingham, Fleet, Woodnesborough, Stodmarsh and Deal.

Betteshanger was the biggest Kent mine, with shafts of 24ft (7.3 metres) diameter. It flooded twice during sinking, but using the cementation process to seal the shaft sides, the pit progressed quickly and reached coal in 1927.

Shaft Sinking
Shaft Sinking, Betteshanger Colliery. 1927
Note the water in the pit bottom and the waterproofs being worn by the men.

The first coal. Betteshanger Colliery. 1927
The first coal. Betteshanger Colliery. 1927
The first hoppit of coal being brought to the surface.


Virtually over night, 1500 miners and their families came down to live in Deal, the closest town to the pit. Deal was then a genteel seaside resort and the arrival of these 'rough and dirty men with unintelligible accents' horrified many of the residents. Lodging houses, cafes and pubs soon had signs up saying 'no miners' while butchers and grocers sold the worst quality goods as cheap miner's specials.

End of shift, 1960s
End of shift, 1960’s


As part of the Mining Industry Act of 1926, a Government run Mines Welfare Committee was set up, and this made grants to provide better welfare facilities for Colliers. Due to this, pithead baths at Betteshanger were opened in April 1934, allowing the Colliers to return home reasonably clean.

Deputies' houses were built close to the pit but it wasn't until 1929 that the farmlands of Mill Hill on the outskirts of Deal were acquired for a new colliery estate.

Betteshanger attracted a lot of the hard-line union men blacklisted in their home areas after the General Strike of 1926. Consequently, the Betteshanger miners were often regarded as the most militant in Kent.

In 1938 a strike was called when some of the pit boys refused to accept the behaviour of the two deputies responsible for their supervision. Later in the day, the rest of the pit boys, and all the Colliers joined them, mainly because the pit could not run properly without the pit boys. Work was only resumed after agreement was given to hold a public enquiry.

Betteshanger was the only pit to strike during the Second World War, over allowances for working a difficult seam, where the conditions changed from week to week. This resulted in three union officials being imprisoned and over 1000 men being given the option of a fine or hard labour. There was danger that the strike would spread to other mines and the Government couldn’t afford a strike in the middle of a war. All but nine refused to pay and in the face of having to find prison spaces for 1000 men, the government decided to take no action and also to release the three imprisoned officials.


Miners wives at a London rally during the 1972 strike
Miners wives at a London rally during the 1972 strike

end of the stay down strike 1984
End of a brief occupation of the pit during the 1984 strike. Those involved were dismissed for trespass. After the national strike was over the miners fought a local dispute to get them reinstated, making Betteshanger the last pit in Britain back to work in 1985. The men were not reinstated.


Betteshanger was never really allowed to develop to it’s full potential with restricted quotas and markets holding back production.

Betteshanger was the last colliery in Kent, closing in 1989.