Hood Family and Coal Mining

Coalmining - Longwall Mining

Pillar and Stoop Coal Mining

'Pillar and Stoop' was the term generally used in Scotland for this old method of mining in which only part of the coal is extracted and pillars of coal are left untouched to support the roof of the seam. It is also known by other names such as room and pillar, board and pillar, pillar and stall, stoop and room.
The coal was mined in a grid like pattern with the coalface being driven forward by tunnels or 'rooms'. When these had advanced forward a certain distance, coal was also extracted from tunnels dug at right angles eventually forming a grid pattern; the columns of coal left behind were known as pillars or stoops. The direction of the rooms or tunnels followed the natural fracture lines of the coal so where faults were present in the coal seam, the positions and sizes of the stoops and the direction of the tunnels altered to take into account the changing conditions.

plan showing pillar and stoop mineworking in prgress This illustration is based on a real plan and shows the rooms advancing forward and leaving behind pillars as the work progressed.
The pillars were left behind to support the roof. Making the pillars too small could have drastic consequences, so there were were very severe penalties for colliers who took coal away from pillars.

The amount of coal that could be taken out depended a lot on the depth of the seam and the hardness of the roof. When the roof was very hard and so less likely to collapse, or in shallow seams there was less pressure on the roof, the gaps between the pillars could be greater. At best about a third of the coal could be taken out. Sometimes the pillars were also removed later but this led to problems with subsidence.


Old pillar and stoop workings uncovered during opencast mining (P001520) This photo show old pillar and stoop coalworking uncovered by opencast mining at Blindwells, East Lothian. The two men give an idea of the size of the stoops left behind.
Photo © British Geological Survey
GeoScience Ref P001520 - Blindwells Opencast Site, Tranent, East Lothian.

© 2012   A Russell