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Coal was the fuel of the Industrial Revolution. Not only did it fuel the steam engines which ran the factories, it also powered the locomotives, and helped forge the iron which would be used to create the machinery which became the trademark of 18/ 19th century factories. Without coal, Britain would still be a little cottage industry nation, and we would still be in the middle ages.

Coal is a hydrocarbon, and is in fact long dead plants and animals. When these animals/plants died - their bodies were covered over by layers of sediment. They decomposed without oxygen through a process involving heat and pressure. Coal is easy to burn, and has been used as a fuel since prehistoric times.

The first recorded mining in Leicestershire was in the 13th century at Donnington-le-Heath, Swannington and Worthington. These early mines would have been surface workings, dug into the side of a hill of a valley.

These workings were adequate for the 13th century as wood was much more popular as a fuel. However, by the 16th century there was a greater need for fuel and woodland was disappearing. People turned to coal. This meant that the surface workings were no longer adequate and shafts were sunk to get to the deeper coal seems. Once a shaft had been sunk, they would dig outwards creating a bell shape. Hence, these mines were known as bell pits.

These mines were very dangerous as they had a habit of collapsing. By the 18 th century, modern multishaft, multilevel mines started to be dug.

Most mines were centred around Swannington and Measham. The town of Coalville was built to house the miners. The mines didn't just create Coalville. They left their mark in other ways. For example, the Swan n i ngton-Leicester railway, built by George Stephenson. It included the Swannington incline and the Glenfield Tunnel which is 179yds (1 mile) long, the longest in the world in its day.

The most famous mine in Leicestershire was Snibson near Coalville (at this time, the Coalville area was called "Long Lane'), and the Swannington Leicester line ran through this area.

The Snibston Colliery flourished. It had a connection to Leicester (and through that connection, the rest of the country). It also was developing a worker community in Coalville. In 1915, a second shaft was sunk and named The Stephenson Shaft".

The coal industry was nationalized in 1947 and Snibston was developed further in the 50s and 60s by the Coal Board (which, for a while, had its headquarters at Coloerton Hall). A drift mine was dug at Snibston in the 60s. This was a ramp leading to the coal seem, rather than a vertical shaft

Other improvements to the mine included connection to the Leicester South and Whitwick mines and a Coal Processing Plant. In 1983, the Snibston was closed followed by Leicester South and Whitwick in 1986.

There we other mines near Swannington and those included California, Califat and Calcutta collieries. The coal also led to the production of bricks and iron.

All collieries in Leicestershire have closed, leaving only quarries which take gravel and sand out of the Earth, but gradually these are also beginning to close.