This map excerpt is of an Ordnance Survey map dating from the 1890’s and clearly shows a tramway linking quarries at Bury Hill, near Yate Rocks, and limekilns adjacent to the former Midland Railway Bristol to Gloucester line. The route of the tramway is still clearly visible and I have included some photographs on the next page. Where the line use to cross the straight north to south road, the modern day Limekiln Lane, there is a definite hump in the road. Also, but unrelated to the ‘tramway’, if you look carefully at the south-west corner of the map, the remains of a former spur off the Midland line can be seen just north of Tanhouse Lane Bridge. This fed a former coal mine. This is where a quick study of local mining and quarrying history is useful.
This part of South Gloucestershire was in the northern part of the Bristol and Somersetshire Coalfield. The last local colliery at Frog Lane, just south of Yate did not close until 1949. It’s no coincidence that two of the local communities are called Iron Acton and Coalpit Heath. A few miles from ‘my’ tramway a standard gauge mineral line existed in the late 19th century that ran from the former Midland Thornbury branch at Iron Acton to an ironstone mine at Frampton Cotterill, just to the east of Frampton Cotterill parish church. Despite having a valuable seam of haematite ironstone, ‘second to none in the kingdom’ (according to the Bath Chronicle of the day), mining only lasted for about 5 years due to flooding of the mine. Until about 1930 drinking water was pumped from the mine.
So often we think of places like the South Wales Valleys, Cornwall and Durham as being the only mineral related areas. What we should remember is that important minerals and rock are found all over the British Isles, often in places which today we regard as ‘rural’ or simply urban conerbations. It is not the purpose of this website to give detailed information on the geology of the area that the Tramway is located, but it is fair to say is that Bristol is sat on top of a large coalfield, and whilst most of the most economic beds have been mined there are still numerous seams of coal waiting to be mined. The newest and last mine in the area was at Harry Stoke, near the present day Bristol Parkway Station. It was a drift mine, opening in 1952 and closing in 1963.
Useful local history sources include:
Collieries of Somerset & Bristol, by John Cornwell (Landmark Collector’s Library, 2005, ISBN 1-84306-170-8).
The Yate to Thornbury Branch, by Colin G.Maggs (Oakwood Press, 2002, ISBN 0 85361 585 3).
The Bristol and Gloucester Railway and the Avon and Gloucestershire Railway, by Colin G. Maggs (Oakwood Press, 1992, ISNB 0 85361 435 0).
Coal and the Dramway, Ian S. Bishop (I.S.Bishop, 1999, ISBN 0 95264 9 454).
The Bristol Coalfield, by John Cornwell ( Landmark Collector’s Library, 2003, ISBN 1 84306 094 9)
The Coal Fields of Gloucestershire and Somersetshire, 1873, by John Anstie (Kingsmead Reprints, Facsimile 1969, First Published 1873)