What's in a name

In 1875 the Checklands Company sank a new pit in Coleorton at the end of Pitt Lane on Coleorton Moor. Twin shafts, downcast and upcast, were sunk to a depth of 105 yards. As the name Pitt Lane suggests this was an area that had already been the subject of earlier workings and at first little coal was found to remain until the 1880s when considerable new reserves were located and ensured the success of the venture. Coleorton Colliery No. 3 or Checkland’s Colliery to give it its official titles is remembered locally by the curious nickname of the Bug n’ Wink. But, this was not always the case. Canon William Beresford Beaumont, Rector of Coleorton 1864-1901, records in his notebook that it was at first called the ‘Finger and Thumb’, but later on the name changed to ‘Humbug Pit’. Whilst the first name may refer to the diameters of the twin shafts the second name suggest that there was a certain amount of distrust of management by the men. Eventually the name evolved into its most recent nickname of the Bug n’ Wink. It seems likely that the Bug n’ Wink may derive from the miners belief that the owners were humbugging and hoodwinking the men when it came to calculating their wages based on the coal produced by each ‘butty’ team. According to a later Rector of Coleorton Alexander Eveleigh Eager writing in 1949 the colliery was also known as ‘The Bread and Herring’ on account of the poor wages.

The Bug n’ Wink continued to be a major employer in the village until July 25th 1933 when a notice was posted at the pit gate ‘All men are to fetch their tools out of the pit to-morrow (Wednesday). The terms of service of employment with this company cease at midnight tonight’ Newspaper reports state that between 5-600 men were employed at the time, which must have been a terrible shock to the community. The closed mine was purchased by the Leicestershire Colliery and Pipe Company (owners of New Lount Colliery), but any plans they had for its future were pre-empted when the shafts collapsed some months afterwards.

Coleorton Colliery was not the only pit in the area to rejoice in a colourful name. New Lount enjoyed the nickname of ‘Clash’ because there was always so much non-stop activity, noise and rush. Also may be mentioned, the optimistically named California pit named when it was sunk after the California gold rush of 1849 or Califat named after the lifting of the Russian siege of Calafat in 1854 during the Crimean War (but note the changed spelling). Finally in the distant recesses of the author’s mind is a recollection of the picturesquely named ‘Strip and at It’ pit, but its location I no longer recall.

Compiled by: Terry Ward

Published in Community Voice magazine February 2023.

The Bug & Wink colliery

The "Bug & Wink" colliery