Also known as Dover Colliery, Shakespeare was Kent's first coal mine. It was owned by Kent Coalfields Syndicate Ltd., formed in 1896 to take over the old Channel Tunnel workings at Shakespeare Cliff, and was opened with the sinking of the No 1 pit (The Brady) in June 1896, at the old Channel Tunnel workings at Shakespeare Cliff, where boreholes had proven the existence of coal. Two shafts were sunk, but No 1 hit water at 366ft and flooded.
Water was an unexpected problem in 1896 but was to become the chief problem of the Kent coalfield. Hidden in vast underground lakes, water could pour into a shaft at the rate of a million gallons per day.
Due to poor investment, all sinking was done with little money and the cost of installing pumps had not been allowed for. Two shafts were sunk but at a depth of 366 feet, the first hit water and flooded.
Still with no pumps installed, the second shaft (The Simpson) was started in November 1897 but again, at 303ft, hit water. It filled the shaft so fast that 8 of the 14 workers on the shaft bottom were drowned and the 6 who survived were rescued by climbing the shaft sides to the hoist bucket.
It wasn't until 1902 that a new process was adopted, using cast-iron tubes to line the shaft as it was dug, and seal it off from water in the rocks. Using this method the first coal seam was hit on 25 September 1903.
By 1907 the colliery was producing about 8 tons a day but this was less than the colliery used in its boilers and engines. In 1907, Leney's Phoenix Brewery in Dover purchased the first commercial coal from the pit and advertised their Dover Pale Ale as 'brewed by Kent Coal'. This was soon quietly dropped when the coal proved to be of a poor quality.
The colliery was closed in 1909 and placed in the hands of the receiver. Work commenced again in 1910 but it finally closed in 1915 and was sold for scrap in 1918.