Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group / Word Lists /


abridged from W.E.Nicholson A Glossary of Terms used in the Coal Trade of Northumberland and Durham (Newcastle: Andrew Reid, 1888). Nicholson recognises and draws on a previous list of mining words, G.C.Greenwell's 1849 glossary with the same title.

"after-damp.—carbonic acid; stythe. the products of the combustion of fire-damp"
"after-damp.—carbonic acid; stythe. the products of the combustion of fire-damp"

"back-shift.—the second shift of hewers in each day. it commences about four hours after the pit begins to draw coals."
"baff saturday.—the day....when the men's work is made up, the wages being paid on the succeeding friday."
"baff week.—every alternate week; the week succeeding the pay week.
"bait.—food taken by a pitman to his work"
"bait-poke.—the bag in which a pitman carries his day's provisions."
"balk.—a piece of strong timber, usually used in rolley-ways or permanent passages to support the roof"
"bindings.—the time at which the yearly bond used to be signed, which was on the saturday previous to march 22nd"
"blast.—an explosion of fire-damp"
"brakesman.—.the engineman who attends to the winding machine"
"brattice.—a partition, generally of deal, placed in the shaft of a pit, or in a drift or other working of a colliery, for the purpose of ventilation. its use is to divide the place in which it is fixed into two avenues, the current of air entering by the one and returning by the other"
"broken.—pillar working, the removal of the pillars left in the first working for the support of the roof"

"cage.—a frame of iron which works between slides in a shaft, and in which the tubs of coal and workmen are lowered into the pit and brought to the surface"
"canch or caunch.—a part of the roof or thill to be removed for the purpose of making height"
"cannel coal.—a fine, compact desription of coal, with a conchoidal fracture; burns with a bright flame like a candle, whence its name"
"cavils. — lots; a periodical allotment of working places to the hewers and putters of a colliery, usually quarterly; each person having assigned to him, by lot, that place in which he is to work during the ensuing three months"
"chocks.-wooden pillars built up of oblong pieces of timber laid crosswise, two and two alternately"
"choke-damp.—the products of the combustion of fire-damp or carburetted hydrogen; called also after-damp"
"corf.—a basket made of hazel, with an iron bow by which it was attached to the winding rope; corves and trains were formerly used for the same purpose as tubs are now, viz.: for conveying coals from the working-places to the surface"
"crane .—formerly used to hoist the corves of coals from the tram to the rolley; the coals being put by the barrowmen from the working-places to the crane, and drawn thence by horses to the shaft. upon the introduction of tubs the crane was abolished"

"deputies.—a set of men employed in setting timber for the safety of the workmen; also in putting in brattice and brattice stoppings. They also draw the props from places where they are not required for further use"
"drive.—to excavate; to carry forward, as driving a drift, &c."

"fired.—exploded" [of a pit]
"fire-damp.—light carburetted hydrogen gas. it is found in most coal mines; being most abundant in the vicinity of slips and dykes"
"flat.—the station to which the putters take the full tubs, to be taken by the drivers to the engine plane or to the shaft"
"foal.—a little boy who was formerly employed to assist a stronger boy (called a headsman) to put; he pulled in front of the tub by a pair of ropes or traces called soams whilst the headsman pushed behind"
"fother.—a measure of coal, being one-third of a chaldron, or 17 2/3 cwts"

"gear.—work-tools, consisting of picks, drills, maul and wedge, shovel, cracket, &c."
"goaf.—the space from which the coal has been extracted. it is usually of dome-like form, resting upon the wreck which has fallen from the roof of the exhausted space"

"hack.—a heavy pick, 18 inches long, and weighing about 7 lbs., used in sinking or stonework"
"half-marrow.—one of two boys putting together. see "double tram."
"hand-putter or barrowman.—one who puts without the assistance of a pony"
"heapstead.—the elevated platform near the shaft above the surface upon which the tubs are landed and run to the screens"
"hedgehog.—the strand of a wire rope having, broken is carried along the rope by coming in contact with the sheaves or rollers and forms a ravelled mass or ruffle on the rope which is then said to be hedgehogged"
"hing-on or hang-on.-a call from the banksman to the onsetter after any stop (the cause of which has been at bank), meaning recommence coal work"
"hogger.—a wide leather pipe used to deliver water into a cistern"
"hoggers.—stockings without feet, chiefly used by the putters"
"hunkers.—sitting on the hunkers —sitting on the toes with the thighs resting on the calves of the legs, a manner of sitting peculiar to pitmen"

"in-bye.—in the workings, or in any direction away from the shaft"

"jowl.—a sort of "tattoo" beaten alternately upon the face of two places or drifts near holing, or intended to hole into each other, by a person in each place, for the purpose of ascertaining by the sound their relative positions"
"jud.—a portion of the seam, kirved, nicked, and ready for blasting; also, a portion of a pillar in course of being worked away in the broken mine"

"keeker.—inspector" [re pits]
"keel.—a vessel used to carry coals from the staithes on the tyne or wear, to ships lying about shields or sunderland. keels are broad, flat vessels, sharp at each end, and carry eight newcastle chaldrons"
"kenner.—an expression signifying time to give up work, shouted down the shaft by the banksman where practicable, and where not, signalled and conveyed into the workings from mouth to mouth or by further signalling"
"keps or keeps.-—movable frames or supports of iron, which, if left free, project about l ½ inches into the shaft top at each side, immediately beneath the level of the settle boards. Their use is to support the cage containing the tubs of coals when drawn to the surface, the cage rising between the keeps and forcing them back; but when the cage is drawn above the keeps they fall forward to their places, forming a rest for the cage until the full tubs are replaced by empty ones. the keeps are then drawn back by a lever by the banksman or shover-in and the cage allowed to return down the shaft"
"kibble.—a wooden tub, usually square, and of the capacity of about 20 gallons, used in conveying rubbish from one place to another: it is placed upon a tram"
kirving.—a wedge-shaped excavation, made by the hewer with his pick at the lower part of the seam previous to blasting"
"the deputies' kist is used to keep their tools, plate and brattice nails, &c., in"

"laid-in.—a pit that has ceased working for an indefinite period"
"landing. —a stopping place on the engine plane"
"led-tub.—a led tub means a spare one for the putter to leave empty with the hewer whilst the full one is being put to the flat; the empty one being filled by the hewer against the return of the putter with another empty one"
"limmers or limbers.—the shafts by which a horse or pony is attached to the tubs"

"master-shifter.—a person who has responsible charge of the mine during the night"
"meetings.—where the cages pass each other in the shaft, or where the full and empty sets pass each other on a self-acting incline"
"mistress or midgey. —an oblong box without a front, carried upright, the use of which is to carry a lighted candle or small lamp in a current of air; a kind of lantern"

"nicking.—a vertical cutting in the side or nook of a working-place"

"onsetters.—men who put the full tubs in and take the empty ones out of the cage at the shaft bottom"
"out-bye.-the direction in any part of a mine towards the shaft"
"overman—the person who has the daily supervision and responsible charge of the mine, under the direction of the manager or under-manage"

"pick.—a tool used by a hewer. it consists of an iron about 18 inches long, steeled and sharpened at each end, and weighing from 3 to 6 lbs. in the centre of the head is a hole or eye into which is fixed a shaft of ash about 2 1/2 feet long"
"pit cracket.—a low seat used by a coal-hewer"
"pony-putter.—a lad who brings the tubs from the working places to the flat with a pony"
"post.—sandstone" (in pit)
"putter.—a person who brings the full tubs from the hewer to the flat and takes the empty ones in to him"
"putting-hewer.—a young hewer who is liable to be called upon to put if necessary"

"ramble.—a thin stratum of shale, often found lying immediately above the seam of coal"
"rapper.—a lever placed at the top of a shaft or inclined plane, to one end of which a hammer is attached, and to the other a line, communicating with the bottom of the shaft or incline. its use is to give signals when everything is ready at the bottom for drawing away"
"rax.—to stretch; to strain"
"redding.—clearing away the stones produced by blasting, falls, &c."
"rolley.—a carriage used to carry corves along the horse-roads underground. the rolley was contrived as an improvement upon the tram, upon which a single corf was placed; a horse drawing one, two, or three corves at a time"
"rolleyway.—the horse road underground"

"sea coal.—coal worked from under the bed of the sea"
"shifters.—underground workmen employed at miscellaneous work, such as timbering rolleyways, taking up bottom stone or taking down top to make height where necessary, setting doors, building stoppings, redding falls, &c."
"shine a low.—to direct the light of a lamp or candle in a required direction"
"siping.—a very small feeder of water"
"sled or sledge.—a wooden frame upon which the corves were drawn previous to the introduction of wheels and rails, and still used occasionally in leading to a stow-board"
"stone-men.-men employed in driving stone drifts, taking up bottom, or taking down top stone to make height for horses, &c."
"stopping.—a wall built in any excavation for the purpose of conducting air further into the mine"
"stithe.—carbonic acid gas, often found in old workings, and evolved in most shallow mines"
"sweal.—to gutter, as a candle does in a current of air"
"swelly or swally.—a small basin or dish in the strata produced by undulation"

"thill.—the floor of a seam of coal"
"tram.—a wooden carriage upon which the corves used to be conveyed along a tramway. the term still applies to the part of a tub to which the box is bolted"
"trapper.—a little boy, whose employment consists in opening and shutting a trap-door when required for the passage of tubs"
"tub.—an open-topped box of wood or iron, bolted to a tram; used in conveying coals from the working places to the surface"

"upcast shaft.—the shaft by which the return air is discharged from the mine"

br "wagon-way.—the railway upon which the coals are taken away from the screens. the rolley-way is also called the wagon-way"
"whin or whinstone.—greenstone; an igneous rock; but the term is usually applied by borers and sinkers to any exceptionally hard rock that emits a sharp sound under the hammer or chisel; usually a greenstone or siliceous sandstone"
"win.—coal is won when it is proved and a position attained so that it can be worked and brought to bank"