1. Why use this guide?
The National Archives does not hold mining or quarrying personnel records. Information about individual miners and other staff, if it survives, is more likely to be found in records deposited in local record offices.
This guide will direct you to the most appropriate records for researching government involvement in the mining industry up to and including the 21st century. The guide includes information on records relating to nationalisation, welfare, accidents, labour relations and general policy and administration.
2. Searching for relevant records
The National Archives has so many files relating to the mining industry that this research guide can only highlight particular record series that may be useful. If you can use Discovery, our catalogue, to search by keywords and dates you will find many more useful documents than we can list here.
Keywords such as 'mine' or 'mining' combined with 'research', 'compensation', 'accident' or 'plans' (for example) will produce useful results especially if you restrict your search to specific dates and government departments.
You may find it useful to watch the video guide on how to search our catalogue before you begin your research.
3. Essential information
Government departments that have had responsibility for the coal industry are listed below.
- Home Office: Mines Inspectorate 1843-1920
- Board of Trade: Mines Department, 1920-1942
- Ministry of Fuel and Power 1942-1957
- Ministry of Power 1957-1969
- Ministry of Technology 1969-1970
- Department of Trade and Industry, 1970-1974
- Department of Energy 1974-1992
- Department of Trade and Industry 1992 to date
Other departments have exercised a variety of specific powers:
- Board of Inland Revenue - collected mineral rights duties
- Board of Trade and the Ministry of Works - retained responsibility for the quarrying of certain materials
- Ministry of Labour - handled questions relating to industrial relations and to health, safety and welfare
- Ministry of National Insurance - assessed and allocated compensation for industrial diseases
Other bodies within the industry have been responsible for day-to-day executive functions:
- Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission 1930-1936
- Coal Commission 1938-1947
- National Coal Board (NCB) 1946-1986
- British Coal Corporation (commonly called simply 'British Coal') 1987-1997
- Coal Authority 1994 to date
4. Records before 1850
Many mines and quarries were on land owned by the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall. The National Archives holds records of these as well as some privately owned mines and quarries.
Search our catalogue using keywords such as 'mine' and/or 'mining'. Narrow down your results by specifying relevant dates and/or a relevant department code such as those shown below.
References to mines are often made within the body of a document and are not obvious from the description in the catalogue. Some of the key record series where this is the case are shown below.
4.1 Exchequer records
The following record series may have useful material within them.
- E 101 accounts various (particularly on the stannaries of Devon and Cornwall). Search within E101 using keywords such as 'mine'
- E 317 parliamentary surveys
- E 372 pipe rolls
- E 364 foreign accounts
- E363/4 - Devon stannaries
- E36/53 - crown tenants and tinners in stannaries of Foweymoor
- List and Index XI has a section on documents relating to mines in E372, E352 (Chancellor's Roll) and E364
- C197/18 Draft letters patent of the Steward of the duchy of Cornwall, warden and vice warden of the stannaries
4.2 Land Revenue Record Office (LRRO)
In 1554, the Auditors of the Land Revenues took over from the Court of Augmentations the responsibility for managing the Crown lands. From 1625 they worked in conjunction with the Surveyor General of Land Revenues, whose task it was to survey and value royal estates.
Between 1810 and 1924 these functions were carried out by the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues, and subsequently by the Commissioners of Crown Lands (1925-1956) and the Crown Estate Commissioners.
The record series listed below may be useful.
- LR 6 and LR 12 receivers' accounts (indexes in IND 1/7655 and IND 1/7656)
- LR 1 enrolment books of grants and leases (indexes in IND 1/7629- 7649)
- LR 5 accounts, vouchers
- MPE 1 maps and plans orignally in LRRO 1
- LRRO 3 accounts various
- LRRO 5 deeds and evidences
- LRRO 12 rentals
- LRRO 37 miscellanea
It is worth noting that rentals relating to mines (including iron, tin and fireclay mines, and stone quarries) are accounted separately. LRRO 3/84, for example, is a set of accounts relating to Yorkshire lead mines 1697-1831.
4.3 Crown Estate Commissioners (CRES)
4.4 State Papers (SP), Home Office (HO) and Treasury (T)
Browse our catalogue for relevant files within State Papers Domestic (SP), early Home Office (HO) and Treasury Board (T 1).
For all these series of records you can identify relevant papers by using the indexes to the printed Calendars in The National Archives in Kew. The calendars of documents for State Papers can be searched using State Papers Online and British History Online, available on the public computers at The National Archives.
F 17 contains material on ironstone mining and stone quarrying in the Forest of Dean.
4.6 Palatinates of Durham (DURH)
References to mining may be found in:
- DURH 3 Cursitor's Records
- PL 2 Close rolls
- PL 3 Chancery warrants
- PL 4 Inquisitions post mortem
- PL 5 Commissions and inquisitions of lunacy
4.7 Duchy of Lancaster (DL)
References to mining may be found in:
5. The First World War
During the First World War the government increased its control over mines and mineral resources.
Search our catalogue using keywords such as 'mine' and/or 'mining'. To focus your search enter relevant dates and/or search specifically within the departments shown below.
- Ministry of Munitions (MUN)
- Ministry of Power (POWE) - particularly POWE 10, POWE 22 and POWE 26. Papers from the Coal Division in POWE 16 are arranged into numbered subdivisions with records from the First World War numbered 13. To search within POWE 16 for these files use the key word '13'.
- Board of Trade (BT) - particularly BT 189 Coal Controller's Advisory Council, BT 62 Controller of Trading Accounts and BT 55/46 Non-Ferrous Metals Committee
- Ministry of Reconstruction (RECO) - particularly records of the Central Materials Supply Committee in RECO 1/357 to RECO 1/409 and records from the Mining Sub-Committee of the Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee in LCO 3/34 to LCO 3/39.
6. Between the wars
6.1 The Mines Department
The Mines Department was created in 1920. Search our catalogue within department code POWE. In particular try searching for records from the Production Division and Labour Division in POWE 16, POWE 20, POWE 22 and POWE 26.
6.2 Mineral commodities
After the First World War, authority over the exploitation and supply of certain mineral commodities was divided among a number of government departments. Search our catalogue using the names of specific commodities as keywords to identify relevant documents. In particular, search within BT 11 using keyword '3f' to find files on commodities.
6.3 Records from other departments
Search our catalogue using keywords and specifying a date range to find relevant records. In particular try searching the record series below:
- BT 64 Board of Trade Industries and Manufactures Division
- SUPP 14 Ministry of Supply
- T 161 Treasury supply files
- T 228 Treasury Trade and Industry Division files
- CAB 27/453 Mines Department Organisation Committee (1931)
- POWE 26 and POWE 22 Metalliferous Mining Industry Advisory Committee, 1921-32. Search our catalogue using keywords '7' or 'metalliferous mining'
6.4 Regulation and legislation
In 1925, the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry (or the Samuel Commission) recommended the amalgamation of small mines. The Coal Mines Act of 1930 created the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission to try and achieve this, but colliery owners blocked the scheme and the Commission was dissolved in 1936.
The Coal Act of 1938 nationalised coal deposits and created the Coal Commission to take over the role of the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, but the outbreak of war in 1939 prevented any progress being made.
Search our catalogue using keywords such as 'royal commission' or 'coal mines reorganisation' within the department code COAL. The record series listed below are particularly relevant:
7. The Second World War
7.1 Key sources
The following sources are particularly useful for research covering the Second World War:
- Board of Trade Official History (available in The National Archives library)
- Eric Lyde Hargreaves and Margaret Mary Gowing, Civil industry and trade (London, 1952)
- J Hurstfield, The Control of Raw Materials (London, 1953)
- Copies of documents extracted from registered files by the official historians in the course of their work in BT 131
7.2 Ministry of Fuel and Power (POWE)
Prior to the Second World War, responsibilities for sources of power and energy had been split between several government departments. In June 1942 these were brought together under the new Ministry of Fuel and Power to manage the demand for energy supplies. Search our catalogue within department codes COAL and/or POWE using keywords and dates to identify relevant records. The following record series may be particularly useful:
- COAL 4 minute books of the War Emergency Committee on Coal Mines 1939 -1946
- POWE 6 solid fuel control and rationing 1939-1959
- POWE 7 and POWE 10 records of the Mines Inspectorate
- POWE 8, POWE 10 and POWE 25 health and safety in mines
- POWE 16 wartime emergency measures and production policy files. Search our catalogue within POWE 16 using the keyword '13' to find records from the war years and keyword '2' for files on Coal Bunkering
- POWE 17 emergency services 1941-1946
- POWE 20 regulated labour relations
- POWE 21 control of supplies of coal and coal products
7.3 Cabinet Office (CAB)
Try searching our catalogue within department code 'CAB' using keywords and dates to identify relevant records. The following record series may be particularly useful:
- CAB 87/92 and CAB 87/93 War Cabinet Committees on Reconstruction
- CAB 117/243 War Cabinet Reconstruction Secretariat
- CAB 123/33 Office of the Lord President of the Council
- CAB 124/704-45 Offices of the Minister of Reconstruction, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Science
7.4 Other departments
Other departments worth searching in our catalogue include:
- Treasury Solicitor (TS) - particularly TS 49 with files relating to the regulation of coal and other fuels during and after the Second World War
- Ministry of Transport (MT) - particularly MT 39 with information on stone, slag and lime quarries.
- Board of Trade (BT) - particularly BT 96 Industrial Supplies Department and BT 161 Ministry of Materials
8. After the Second World War
Search the catalogue using keywords and specifying a post-war date range. To narrow your results search within specific departments or topics such as those mentioned below.
- Mineral Development Committee - set up in 1946 to investigate mineral resources in the United Kingdom and to recommend how they might be exploited
- Town and Country Planning Act 1947 - introduced new controls over the extraction of minerals. Existing workings were subject to review and planning and permission was made compulsory for new workings
- Housing and Local Government (HLG) - in particular HLG 71 correspondence and papers, HLG 79 files documenting dealings with local authorities, HLG 89 Minerals Divisions, HLG 98 Central Land Board, HLG 104 planning and redevelopment, HLG 107 regional office files, HLG 132 records relating to applications for payments from the Ironstone Restoration Fund
- Cabinet Office (CAB) - in particular CAB 129/36, CAB 128/16 and CAB 134/498
- Ministry of Power (POWE) - records of the Coal Division in POWE 16 may be particularly useful
- Board of Trade - in particular record series BT 177 which contains records on mineral workings in development areas
9. Records of the National Coal Board, British Coal and the Coal Authority
Search our catalogue within the department code COAL to identify relevant records held at The National Archives. Also see section 19 of this research guide, 'Records held elsewhere'.
Reports from the National Coal Board can be found on the Parliamentary Papers website (free to access onsite at The National Archives in Kew).
10. Labour relations and disputes
The National Archives holds a considerable amount of material on industrial relations in the coal industry.
Search our catalogue using keywords and dates. You can narrow your results by searching specifically within records from the departments listed below.
Ministry of Labour (LAB)
- LAB 2 general correspondence files
- LAB 3/35 trade disputes record books
- LAB 8 Employment Department files
- LAB 10 industrial relations files
- LAB 27 coal-mining industry dispute and general strike
- LAB 34 record books of trade disputes
Cabinet Office (CAB)
Ministry of Fuel and Power (POWE)
- POWE 8 labour and trade unions (search within POWE 8 using keyword '9')
- POWE 16 labour relations (search within POWE 16 using keyword '9')
- POWE 20 Coal Division correspondence and papers
- POWE 22 production and labour relations (search within POWE 22 using keyword '5')
- POWE 26 records of the Coal Division, 'A' series files,
- POWE 37 records of the Coal Division, 'B' series files
National Coal Board (COAL)
11. Records about individual collieries, mines and quarries
Local archives are the best source of information about individual mines and quarries. The National Archives does hold some information but it is not the best place to start.
Try searching our catalogue using keywords such as the name of the colliery or mining company, or using the keyword 'mine' and a geographical area. To narrow your results try searching within specific department codes such as those listed below.
11.1 Home Office (HO) and Ministry of Power (POWE)
The record series below include some references to individual mines and quarries.
- HO 42 general registers, registered papers, warrant and entry books and correspondence 1782-1820
- HO 44 domestic correspondence 1820-1861
- HO 45 registered papers 1841 onwards (including reports on explosions and accidents)
- POWE 4 Home Office out-letters relating to mines and quarries 1873-1920
- POWE 6 registered files on mines and quarries 1887-1920
- J 75 and POWE 22 papers relating to decisions by Railway and Canal Commissioners to grant permission to search for and to mine minerals
11.2 Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946
The following record series may be particularly useful:
- BT 31 and BT 41 records from colliery companies dissolved before nationalisation. Use our catalogue to search by company name for relevant files. The files normally contain items such as articles of incorporation and lists of shareholders rather than records of the companies themselves.
- J 13 High Court files relating to the winding up of companies. Search by company name in our catalogue
- POWE 35 and POWE 36 papers relating to 32 sample companies showing how company assets were settled and compensation awarded at the time of nationalisation
- COAL 34 papers relating to the registration of assets, estimates of value and statements of interest
- POWE 42 records of the Central Valuation Board, which settled and apportioned compensation
11.3 Other sources
- AN 210 records from the British Transport Commission and the British Railways Board relating to Meldon quarry
- MT 6 Board of Trade papers about branch lines to collieries
- HLG 89 a very few Ministry of Town and Country Planning files on NCB applications to mine in specific locations
- RAIL 1057 British Transport Historical Records (BTHR) include references to mines, mineral workings, statistics, mining accident reports and the provision of transport for mines. A card index is available at The National Archives, giving references under the headings 'Mines' and 'Minerals'
- The Mines Department published lists of all quarries and mines in the United Kingdom, their owners, and the metals or other substances they produced. Copies of these lists for 1937-1938 are available in The National Archives' library
- ADM 75, ADM 79 and ADM 169 Greenwich Hospital records which include references to mines in Cumberland, Northumberland and County Durham - land forfeited by Lord Derwentwater and added to the endowments of the Hospital in 1716
12. Plans of mines and quarries
12.1 The Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act 1872
The 1872 Act required owners to deposit plans of abandoned mines with the Home Secretary.
This requirement applied to mines of all description except coal (for which legal obligation already existed under the Coal Mines Inspection Act 1850), stratified ironstone, shale, salt and firestone.
Catalogues of the plans deposited under the 1872 Act were published in the 1920s by HMSO. The Home Office files in HO 45 include a few plans of abandoned mines.
12.2 Mines and Quarries Act 1954
The Mines and Quarries Act required working mines to deposit plans with the Mining Record Office. Plans deposited under this and earlier statutes were distributed to local record offices in the 1990s. Enquiries concerning them should now be directed to the appropriate local record office.
The National Archives holds many maps from before 1954, when working mines became legally obliged to provide them. Early examples include 16th century maps showing open-cast mines.
Search our catalogue using keywords such as 'map' with a geographical area. Restrict your search to specific departments such as those listed below to narrow down your results.
13.1 National Coal Board (NCB)
The following record series from the National Coal Board contain maps:
- COAL 40 maps relating to the registration of assets. Registers are in COAL 39
- COAL 10 coal seam surveys (1957-1967)
- COAL 38 plans of some collieries
- COAL 4 Coal Mines Act 1930: Central Coal Mines Scheme and District Coal Mines Scheme
- COAL 12 Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission
- COAL 17 Coal Commission administrative files
- COAL 29 National Coal Board and British Coal Corporation: Production Department
13.2 Other sources
- Tithe maps (IR) - some tithe maps in IR 30 show pits and shafts, but it is usually only the surface entrance which is shown, not the underground workings. Roger J P Kain, The Tithe Maps of England and Wales: A Cartographic Analysis and County-by-County Catalogue (Cambridge, 1995) lists tithe maps where this is the case
- Crown Estates (CRES) - search our catalogue using keywords such as mine or map within the CRES record series
- Land Revenue Office (LRRO) - particularly LRRO 1. Many of the maps have been removed from their original files so they can be stored appropriately. Where this is the case there is a link to the new reference
- Mines Inspectorate - maps of several counties dated 1895 are in POWE 6/85
14. Health and safety, industrial diseases and accidents
14.1 Health and Safety
Search our catalogue using keywords such as 'mine' or 'mining' with 'accident' or 'industrial disease'. Narrow your search by entering a date range or specific government department codes such as those listed below.
- Home Office (HO) - particularly HO 34 letters to government departments, HO 45 explosions and accidents, HO 81 and HO 95 inspections
- Ministry of Power (POWE) - particularly POWE 4 and POWE 6 mines and quarries, POWE 25 Safety in Mines Research Board (search POWE 25 using keyword '4'), POWE 75 Safety and Health Division
- Mines inspectorate - particularly HO 87 out-letters from inspectors, HO 87/53 and POWE 7 inspectors reports, POWE 8 (search POWE 8 using keyword '11'), POWE 10 (search POWE 10 using keyword '7' and '12'), Parliamentary Papers include many reports of inspections (free access at The National Archives)
- Health and Safety Commission and Executive - particularly EF 2 and EF 4 Explosives Inspectorate
- Ministry of Labour (LAB) - particularly LAB 104 Occupational Safety and Health, LAB 96 Committee on Safety and Health at Work (Robens Committee), LAB 15/22 to LAB 15/25 mines inspectors and the Mines Department
Compensation for industrial diseases was administered by the Home Office until 1947 and then by the Ministry of National Insurance (PIN) and its successors. Relevant files series are shown below.
- Ministry of National Insurance (PIN) - particularly PIN 12, PIN 20 and PIN 900 compensation schemes and industrial diseases, PIN 21 industrial injuries, PIN 11 workmen's compensation, PIN 39 Medical Department
- Ministry of Power (POWE) - particularly POWE 26 workmen's compensation schemes and industrial diseases
- Home Office (HO) - particularly HO 157 workmen's compensation entry books
- Ministry of Labour (LAB) - particularly LAB 56 registers of industrial diseases
- Coal Board (COAL) - particularly COAL 26
- Lord Chancellor's Office (LCO) - particularly LCO 2/1934 -LCO 2/1952 Workmen's Compensation Regulations
The National Archives has a number of files relating to the Aberfan disaster of 1966. Search our catalogue using the keyword 'Aberfan' and to narrow your results search within files from the Welsh Office (BD), the National Coal Board (NCB), the Treasury Solicitor (TS) or the Ministry of Power (POWE). The records below may be of particular use.
- The report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Aberfan disaster in BD 52/154
- PIN 21 contains a file concerning injury benefit claims made by rescue workers at the Aberfan disaster, 1966
- COAL 73 correspondence to the Chairman of the National Coal Board on the subject of the Aberfan disaster and subsequent events
Reports on many major mining disasters have been printed as Parliamentary Papers (online access is free at The National Archives). Other useful record series are shown below.
- POWE 8 - accidents and accident prevention and papers on the Royal Commission on Safety in Coal-mines (search using keyword '8')
- POWE 6 includes files on accidents from 1889 to 1919
- COAL 27 subseries 'Litigation and Arbitration' of the Legal Department files
- EF 2 and EF 4 Health and Safety Commission Explosives Inspectorate
- EF 7 Health and Safety Commission's policy on various matters
- HO 45 records on explosions and accidents in the 19th century
- COAL 43 National Coal Board Headquarters' Medical Department
14.4 Miners' Welfare
The Miners' Welfare Fund was extablished in 1920 and was administered successively by the Miners' Welfare Commission, the Miners' Welfare Committee and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.
Search our catalogue, particularly within files from the Ministry of Power (POWE) and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (BX), using keywords such as 'miners' and 'welfare' together. The record series listed below may particularly useful.
15. Policy, administration and finance
There are many policy, administration and finance files relating to mining at The National Archives. Search our catalogue using keywords and dates to find relevant files (some very recent records are already available). Narrow down your results by searching within records from specific departments such as those listed below.
- Ministry of Power (POWE) - browse the POWE record series to find relevant files
- Prime Minister's Office (PREM) - browse the PREM record series to find relevant files
- Department of Industry (PV) - particularly PV 14 Regional Support and Inward Investment Division and PV 15 Iron and Steel Division and Minerals and Metals Division
- Department of Energy (EG) - particularly EG 16 Energy Technology Division, EG 2 Sizewell B Inquiry and EG 4 Hinkley Point C Inquiry
- Home Office (HO) - particularly HO 42, HO 44 and HO 45 domestic correspondence including general registers, registered papers, warrant and entry books and HO 87 factory and mines entry books
- Cabinet Office (CAB) - particularly CAB 27 policy files, CAB 27/597- 598 Committee on the Reorganisation of the Coal Industry 1935-1938, CAB 134/62 and CAB 134/523-524 files relating to the post-nationalised coal industry
- Coal Board (COAL) - browse the COAL record series to find relevant files
- Coal Authority (KD) - browse the KD record series to find relevant files
- Treasury (T) - particularly T 228 Trade and Industry Division, T 230 Economic Advisory Section, T 233 Home Finance Division, T 319 Public Enterprises Division, T 370 Public Enterprises Group
- Lands Tribunal (LT) - particularly LT 8, specimen case files including Wombwell Foundry and Engineering and National Coal Board
- Treasury Solicitor (TS) - particularly TS 49, Treasury Solicitor's outstation at the Department of Energy
Search our catalogue using keywords to identify records relating to overseas mining. Alternatively, browse the specific record series shown below.
- POWE 41 import and export of coal and coal products in the post war period
- PJ 5 Export Projects and Export Policy Divisions 1979-1987
- BT 241 files from the Commercial Relations and Export Division 1934-1987
- COAL 95 correspondence, minutes and reports relating to all aspects of the International Department's work 1949-1995
- FO, CO and FCO records are rich in material relating to the exploitation of minerals overseas such as bauxite in South America, gold in West Africa and diamonds in South Africa. For more guidance on using the records of the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office, see Foreign and Commonwealth Office research guide
- PRO 30/76, ED 26 and ED 121 records of the Imperial Institute relating to mineral resources in British possessions overseas
17.1 Crown involvement in mining
From the middle ages the Crown was entitled not only to gold and silver mines, but also to any other mines where gold and silver were found - such as those producing copper, tin, iron or lead.
The Royal Mines Act 1688 revoked royal rights to these other mines, but duties on the ores produced there continued to be levied.
The Exchequer, and subsequently the Auditors of Land Revenues and the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues, administered the revenues from royal mines and quarries, and their records are rich in relevant references.
17.2 State involvement in mining
The direct involvement of the State with mines and quarries began in 1842 with the Mines Act, under which inspectors were appointed to regulate employment conditions in mines. The inspectors' responsibilities were extended by a succession of statutes:
- Ironstone mines (Mines Act 1860)
- Metalliferous mines (Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act 1872)
- Stratified ironstone mines (Stratified Ironstone Mines (Gunpowder) Act 1881)
- Slate mines (Slate Mines (Gunpowder) Act 1882)
- Quarries (Quarries Act 1894)
Following the Quarries Act 1894, mines inspectors were given responsibility for all quarries, whereas previously factory inspectors had been responsible for quarries using steam power.
From the end of the 19th century, the Board of Trade was concerned with both the industrial and the economic aspects of mines and quarries, and in 1920 the first state organisation exclusively concerned with them, the Mines Department, was set up as a department of that Board.
Since then, a long succession of government departments has exercised general responsibility for mines and quarries and related matters.
19. Records held elsewhere
The pre-nationalisation records of colliery companies operating in 1946 are deemed to be public records but are usually held in local authority record offices along with any surviving deeds and evidences of the companies. Some records of the National Coal Board and British Coal are also held in local authority record offices. Search our catalogue and click on the record creators tab within your search results for details.
The Coal Authority Mining Records Office holds records including all the coal-mine abandonment plans. These show areas of coal extraction, the extent of coaling operations and locations of mine entrances.