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Dudley miners' 1952 prize dinner at Dorchester Hotel

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: September 04, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Miners at James Round Ltd with the cup for best small mine 1952. Mine-owner Philip Round wears a white coat, Reg Corbett holds the cup and on the back row, on Reg's right, is Stan Corbett

  • Reg Corbett, working by hand

  • Reg and Pat Corbett at the New Commerical, Brockmoor

  • Reg's younger brother Stan Corbett

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WE took a look back at one of the last mines in the Black Country in our August 21 edition, with pictures of the Simms Lane pit in Netherton from John Cooper of Kingswinford. Now, we have more memories of mining in the 1950s, courtesy of Clive Corbett or Kingswinford

Some of the collieries in the Black Country were very old and had been worked for decades. This meant that in some pits it was impossible to install modern equipment and power and the miners worked in conditions that were basically unchanged since Victorian days. Yet despite this, Black Country miners were still among the most productive in the country and the miners of one small pit were recognised for this at a special ceremony in London.

Clive writes, "On Tuesday, July 15, 1952, my grandfather, Reg Corbett, was one of five men representing the mineworkers of James Round Ltd. at a national event sponsored by the News of the World in the Dorchester Hotel.

"These men worked the seams running from Baptist End to Brierley Hill and their London visit was reported three days later in the Wolverhampton Chronicle:

"'Five well groomed men in smart suits stepped into London's luxurious Dorchester Hotel as guests of a national Sunday newspaper. They came from the Midlands to receive the acclaim of leading figures in the coal mining industry for efficiency in working a small mine here in the Black Country. The Midlanders came away richer by a cheque for 250 guineas and a silver plaque.' (It was in fact a silver trophy).

"Without them knowing, the secretary of the Small Mines Association had entered them in the Small Mines contest. They beat Dent Main Colliery (near Sheffield) and Ripley Lane (Matlock) in a competition judged by James Griffiths (MP for Llanelli), Harold Neal (MP for Bolsover) and John Hunter (mining engineer).

"Down shafts 45 yards deep and in passages lit only by candles and using picks and no electrical devices, the men were praised for attaining weekly outputs of between 250 and 350 tons a week.

"Workers mentioned in the article were Shadrack Smith, Joe Billingham (at 61 the oldest miner there), Charlie Wills (only 49 but already a miner for 35 years), Tom Booth (pony driver), William Fellows, Joe Jones, Norman Pearson, Harold Bloomer, Arthur Lock, and Stan Corbett, my granddad's younger brother.

"The prizes were presented by fuel minister Geoffrey Lloyd to Philip Round, who ran the firm that bore his grandfather's name. Mr Round said that his men had put no special effort into winning the competition, and assured all that the 250 guineas would be split amongst the men. There was talk of the men meeting Prime Minister Winston Churchill, but I do not know if this ever happened.

"My granddad later went on to run the Mitre in Brierley Hill, the Old Commercial and New Commercial in Brockmoor, before becoming in 1966, with brother Stan, the first superintendent of Brierley Hill flats.

"For a fuller read on old mines of our area, may I recommend Black Country Pits by A.J.R. Hickling."

Clive has also sent us the menu from the awards dinner, which gives some details of who attended. As well as the members of parliament that Clive has already mentioned, the dinner was presided over by William Carr, chairman of the News of the World, and son of its celebrated editor Emsley Carr. Also there was Sir Will Lawther, President of the National Union of Miners, 1945-54, and Sir Hubert Houldsworth, Chairman of the National Coal Board, 1951-56. Clive's grandfather and the mining bigwigs sat down to a meal of Scottish salmon followed by Aylesbury duckling.

Do you recognise any of the miners mentioned or in the photographs? Have you any pictures or memories of mining in the Black Country? Please contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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