Fit For Purpose

Dirty work boot laying on its side with worn down soles

Leather worn through at the toes, broken laces, and soles coming apart. These boots were worn to the bitter end and seemed to serve their wearer well. But were they fit for purpose? Worn by a miner at the Stockton Borehole Colliery, at Teralba, Lake Macquarie, where coal was mined from 1901, boots like these […]

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A Necessary Invention

The proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is possibly never more apt than when applied to the portable mine gas detector. Throughout mining history, countless miners have lost their lives in explosions caused by the inflammable methane gas that accumulates underground through the transformation of ancient plant material into coal. But from the 1950s, […]

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Industry Connections

Rectangular tray of rusty, assorted drill bits.

At this point, the history of Newcastle, located on Awabakal and Worimi country, is enmeshed with coal mining – but this was not always the case. Though these twentieth-century drills bits may have seen use in one of the many coal mines in the region, they are actually typical of those used for woodworking or […]

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Safety in Numbers

Imagine spending hours underground every day, working in a dark, damp, confined space, and breathing powdered coal dust that also coats your hair, skin and clothing. Add to that a constant, risk of physical injury, cave-ins, and the threat of explosions caused by any burning substance coming into contact with the methane gas seeping out […]

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Giants of Wire

N. Greenings and Sons was the oldest and largest British wire company in its heyday. The company was founded in 1805 by Nathaniel Greenings in Warrington and would go on to internationally export precision industrial products well into the twentieth century. One of the items produced by Greenings was the laboratory sieve, a tool used […]

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Pretty But Practical

This day dress and petticoat were owned and worn by Mrs Ann Chellew nee Milburn (1872-1948) when a young woman around the turn of the twentieth century. Ann was the daughter of Janet Miller and James Milburn, who migrated to Australia from Scotland and England.  Arriving with her family (in 1852) Janet was a baby, […]

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Table Heirlooms

These napkin rings belonged to the Wilson family of Berry.  James C Wilson (1834-1901) emigrated to Australia in 1857 and found work on the Berry Estate, before co-founding Wilson and Co. Store, establishing other business interests that included coal mining, and becoming Berry’s first Mayor.  Around 1880, with wife Robina nee Tait (1849-1918), the Wilsons […]

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Rocky Beginnings

They said the new mine shaft was so free of projecting rocks that you could not hang your hat on any part of it. It was March 1887, and two hundred guests were gathered for a bush banquet at the new Young Wallsend Colliery, near Teralba. They toasted the future success of the new mine […]

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No Dough Needed

Richard Sneddon drove his horse and cart to the back door of the bakery of the West Wallsend Cooperative Society and filled his baskets with fresh loaves, which had been baked and neatly stacked on trollies the previous afternoon. Around the town, Richard left bread at the houses of co-op members, and collected the small […]

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Waiting to Happen

In the Aberdare Extended colliery pit where 34-year-old Thomas Brunskill was mining, it was dark, dusty, muddy, and noisy. About 1.30pm, without warning, several large chunks of the prized dense black coal detached from the roof of the confined space and struck Thomas, badly injuring his neck and shoulder. The year was 1927 and he […]

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