Historic film shows mining town left with sinking feeling
SUBSIDENCE that plagued a Derbyshire mining town 50 years ago is still giving some residents a sinking feeling.
Schools, libraries and even entire streets were either propped up or knocked down as parts of Swadlincote slipped into disused pits.
The town's plight, a result of mining that had dominated the landscape, became a national embarrassment with the topic even being addressed in the House of Lords.
But, despite the last pit closing in the 1980s, some people living in the area are still suffering from the same problem, a new BBC investigation has found.
Paul Wain and partner Eleanor Banner, of George Street, Church Gresley, have been affected by the subsidence of a neighbouring property for the past three years, they told the BBC's Inside Out team, which has unearthed startling archive footage of the town's problems.
The couple live next to a disused property owned by South Derbyshire District Council. Mr Wain claims the house is forcing his to slope, causing cracks in the building, and has criticised the council for failing to address the problem.
The 48-year-old said: "The council moved the last tenant out about three years ago because of the subsidence.
"Since then, things have gone from bad to worse.
"It is now propped up inside with scaffolding and a fence has been put up outside. Not only is it unsightly but it is also impacting on my property. The issue needs to be solved."
The council says it has commissioned specialists to try to tackle the problem and it has also made a claim for compensation from the Coal Authority, which has so far rejected the case.
Records show that coal mining in Swadlincote dates back to the late 13th century but another 500 years passed before mining and clay extraction began to shape the town when potteries, specialising in both earthenware crockery and sewerage pipes, sprang up, among them Sharpe's Pottery and Bretby Pottery.
At the height of industrialisation in the town, 70 salt glazing kilns or chimneys could be seen on the skyline.
In 1823, the first of the deep pits were sunk with the rest following over the next 50 years.
The last pit at Cadley Hill closed in 1988, although opencast work continued there for another ten years.
As a result of the mining industry's legacy of subsidence, Swadlincote was specifically referred to in a House of Lords debate following the passing of the Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act of 1950.
Monica Hudson, 69, secretary of the Mining Preservation Group, remembers when the subsidence in the town was severe.
She said: "Several generations of my family, from my great-great grandfather to my husband, worked in the mines over more than 40 years.
"I remember my grandfather used to be able to grow roses in his garden at Christmas time because of the heat coming up from the former mine beneath his garden.
"Mining is a big part of Swadlincote's industrial heritage but it has left a legacy of subsidence. We still get shifts here and there where I live and I remember when many, many buildings were affected."
A spokeswoman at South Derbyshire District Council said of Mr Wain's problems: "We have received information from the British Geological Survey that suggests the potential primary cause of the movement could be old mine workings.
"We're very conscious of the situation of Mr Wain and a neighbour on the other side. As soon as we are in a position to have some definitive options we'll be in touch with Mr Wain to discuss them."
BBC1's Inside Out programme Sinking Swadlincote is on at 7.30pm tonight.
Programme producer Stuart Woodman said: "The archive film we uncovered was shocking.
"It shows a town where roads were buckled, houses were having to be torn down and sewers had been severed as mining took place under the town and the streets sank. It looks like the aftermath from an earthquake."