In September 1891 Richard Thomas
& Co. Ltd. were applying to the Severn & Wye for permission to
construct sidings near the Waterloo Mill. These sidings were to be in connection
with a new pit which Thomas intended sinking near the Pludds on the Pluds'
gale, which formed part of the Lydbrook Deep Level Colliery. On the
8th July 1892 Thomas was advertising for tenders for sinking a shaft details
of which could be obtained from E. Worthy, mining engineer, Cinderford.
It was noted in November 1892 that the shaft at Pluds', known as 'New Pit' had reached a depth of 38 yards. Work was also in hand on a self-acting incline which was to link the pit, situated on the top of the hill, to the sidings in the valley. The colliery tramway incline was to be built on an embankment down the hillside and at one point crossed a forest ride, used only for hauling pit timber and by walkers, by means of a bridge.
Permission for the construction of the sidings was given in February 1893. Thomas was to provide the sidings themselves at his own cost and he probably used some second hand materials from two sidings at Upper Lydbrook previously used by the Lydbrook Deep Level Colliery Co. Thomas was also to provide a bridge over the main line to carry the tramway to the screens, again at his own cost. The sidings were to be laid on land belonging to the Severn & Wye who were to provide the necessary junctions with the sidings.
In 1897 Richard Thomas entered into one of his many disputes with the railway when on the 18th May the chain which attached the trams to the rope on the incline broke, allowing a number of trams to run away. Although the incline was provided with catch points, which in this case operated correctly, the trams continued 'at a great speed down the hill and fell over the side of the colliery line bridge, which crosses the Joint Railway, on to the main line, breaking one of the chairs in the permanent way'. It was also stated that a similar mishap had occured on this spot in August 1896, after which it was understood that sufficient arrangements had been made so as to prevent a recurrence. The Joint Committee now asked their Engineer to report on the matter and in October 1897 a minute notes that the agreement under which the bridge was erected did not authorise the Committee to require the construction of any special works for safe-guarding the line. It was thought, however, that an injunction restraining the colliery company from using the bridge might be obtained upon proof being given that the safety of the railway was endangered. It was stated that the works recommended by the Engineer had not been completed and that the colliery company should be urged to proceed with any further precautionary measures and as a result of this the Joint Committees solicitors were considering what further steps to take. By April, Thomas was still refusing to do any work and the railway decided that the only course it could take would be to apply for the intervention of the Board of Trade. It was not in fact until 1906 that Thomas finally agreed to strengthen the earthworks at the foot of the incline to protect the S&W, after yet another runaway on the 12th September. In this incident the errant trams damaged a telegraph post and the wires thereby upsetting the single line tablet instruments. The accident happened at 1.40pm and a pilotman had to be used for the rest of the day.
The area around the shaft at New Pit was comparitively small with few buildings. From plans it would appear that there were only a winding engine house, a boiler room, and some fitting shops. The incline to the screens began virtually at the edge of the shaft. The shaft itself reached a depth of 410 feet, hitting the Coleford High Delf seam at around 390 feet where the coal had a thickness of about 4 feet. The only other seam of any note hit in the shaft was the Yorkley with a thickness of 1' 10" at a depth of 144 feet. Also at the pit-head was a pond whose water was used to feed the boilers. The water for this pond was, until 1912, pumped from the bottom of the hill and for this purpose Thomas sub-let Waterloo Mill, once a corn mill, from Mr. Russell. The waterwheel was now used to provide power to pump the water up the hillside, via a wooden conduit, to the pond. After 1912, however, water pumped out of the shaft was used for the boilers. At this time it is likely that apart from the pump only a ventilating fan and its attendant engine was being worked. This had been installed in August 1909.
It was in February 1911 that coal winding had stopped at Pluds'. The reasons given were that there was a great thickness of 'clod' (earth and clay, of between 7 and 9 feet, overlying the coal which was itself only 3 feet thick, faulty and yielding only small coal. A recent prolonged spell of wet weather had hit the Forest coalfield badly, bringing Norchard and Wallsend collieries to a stand and seriously hampering Cannop and Foxes Bridge. At Lydbrook it had loosened the clod and this made it difficult to keep the roof up. It was also stated that the coal face was a long way from the bottom of the shaft thereby making for high haulage costs. Conditions had obviously been difficult for some time as it had been announced as early as February 1906 that the surrender of the Pluds' gale was being contemplated.
Richard Thomas & Co. fell foul of the Crown in 1910, or perhaps it should be said that the Crown fell into the hands of Thomas! The Office of Woods had decided that all areas of tip ground should be fenced but then they decided that the tip itself formed a sufficient barrier. The original decision, however, had been communicated to Thomas, but no other colliery owner, and a Crown memo states;- 'It is unfortunate that the proposal to insist on this (the fencing) should be with Messrs. Richard Thomas & Co. as they are probably the most difficult galees to get to do anything of this nature when other people similarly situated in the Forest have not done so'!
In February 1912 Thomas sublet the Lydbrook Colliery to John Morris but in August it was reported that the British Red Ash Collieries Co. Ltd., of Dock Street, Newport, Monmouthshire, were negotiating to purchase the concern and a completion date of the 19th September was fixed although in the event it was not completed until October. In August 1913 the Crown were suggesting that as the colliery was nearly worked out British Red Ash might like to take out a 7 year lease rather than for the normal 21 years, eventually the period settled upon was for 14 years. In October it was reported that work was in hand opening up the Lydbrook Deep Level which suggests that the Pluds' shaft was not to be used by the new owners, a fact bourne out in May 1914 when British Red Ash did not think it necessary to fence the Pluds' shaft 'as it is in the middle of the woods'. The Crown however, felt differently.
The sidings at Waterloo Mill were removed in 1916 and the land on which they stood reverted back to the railway in 1917. All traffic from the sidings, about 300 tons daily in 1908, went to Upper Lydbrook for marshalling as the only connection was in the 'down' direction. The 1894 Severn & Wye working appendix states that:-
'At Waterloo, no sorting or shunting of wagons must take place on the Main Line. This Siding is worked specially from Upper Lydbrook Station. The empty Wagons are simply to be delivered from Upper Lydbrook into the empty Wagon Siding, and the loaded Wagons taken out of the loaded Wagon Siding to Upper Lydbrook.'
As for the Pluds' gale it was surrendered to the Crown by July 1918 as in that month it was regranted to William Smith and others who in turn assigned it to the Forest Syndicate Co. Ltd. of Coleman St., London. In 1919 a company called the Premier Briquette Co. was formed as part of the Forest Syndicate to work coal in Dean and to manufacture compressed coal briquettes. Unfortunately it is unknown whether they commenced work but it is believed to be unlikely as on the 27th June 1923 the Forest Syndicate, registered owners of Pludds No.2 and Woodside No.2 gales, informed the Crown that they wished to forfiet them as from the 31st December.