Mining Industry is Born

Mid 1700s

The industry that led to the enhanced development of Castlecomer begins

Deerpark mines castlecomer

Castlecomer’s vast mining industry sprang up from the accidental discovery of coal during early iron ore extraction works

In the mid 1700s, the discovery of iron ore led to huge swathes of native oak forest being cleared to fuel smelting furnaces. During this period, rich deposits of coal were discovered under the shale exposed by this deforestation. The mining of these deposits was to become the engine of the local economy for the next 300 years. The Wandesforde family expanded the coal mining operations to several more seams including The Old Three Foot Seam, The Jarrow Seam and The Skehana Seam.

Castlecomer Mines
The coalmines of Castlecomer

The coal mined in and around Castlecomer was hard coal (anthracite) of excellent quality and in high demand for its long burning and (relatively) low smoke emissions. Originally transported by horse and cart, the coal mining industry was a major factor in bringing the railway to the town.

Mining Technology

Castlecomer was the birthplace of several notable mining technology advancements. In the latter part of the 19th century, Richard Sutcliffe, a manager at the local mines invented the world’s first coal cutting machine. He also developed a conveyor system for transporting coal in Castlecomer. The Sutcliffe conveyor is still manufactured to this day in Wakefield, England.

Mining ropeway at Deerpark
Mining ropeway at Deerpark

In order to speed up the transport of the coal from the pits, a 4.5km long aerial steel ropeway was constructed by the British Ropeway Engineering Company. The 200 buckets attached to the looped steel cable were each capable of carry 8cwt at a speed of 140 yards per minute. The huge volumes of coal emptied into vast screens to be sorted before being loaded into railway wagons.

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