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Kingswood Miners

Kingswood Chase was around 3,400 acres covering four Parishes; St. Philip and Jacob, Bitton, Stapleton and Mangotsfield.

From the beginning of the 18th Century the Chase was divided into four private 'liberties' (the royal claim to rights on the area had become a total anachronism). These 'liberties' were controlled by four powerful families; the Chesters, the Berkleys, the Newtons and the Players. These families leased out the coal mining rights to master colliers - sometimes called 'adventurers of the coal mines'.

The miners of Kingswood had a collective identity and were culturally isolated from the towns and cities. Their isolation and shared occupations and dangers drew them together with a resolution and collective consciousness which was to play an important role in part in opposition to the control of their coal's prices and to the establishment of toll gates.

Bristol was practically totally dependent on the area for its coal supplies. Kingswood's coal fueled the early industrial successes of the City including, Brass and Copper, Glass, Potteries, Distilleries and Sugar Refineries.

By 1700 there were around 70 pits working, most of them small in scale and paying one eighth to one fifth of the value of the coal mined to their lord. The Chase had about 300-500 houses on it with practically all the population involved in the mining or transportation of coal. The coal being transported to Bristol along roads to the east of Bristol. The population started to grow quickly with people attracted to the industrial activity in the area and also the opportunities for common grazing on the greatly cleared land in the Chase. From 1667 there were complaints about the arrival of squatter-inhabitants of the Chase who set up in the area without any official sanction. Indeed it was not until 1750 that there was a Church of any type in the area. The inhabitants were independent and fierce in their conviction of their right to exercise their rights as equals to the people of the city.

Kingswood Miners - Protests against Toll Gates

1726-27 Wiltshire Weavers came to Kingswood to ask the miners to give them assistance in their industrial dispute.
1727, April Twelve roads from Bristol were allowed to levy tolls. Six of these roads ran through or near to Kingswood. Every horse and mule was liable to pay a penny, while horses carrying coal had to pay a half penny. The trustees of the Toll gates also obtain rights of use of materials from the commons on Kingswood.
1727, June Kingswood and Brislington miners (numbering up to 1,000) pull down and burn four turnpikes. They then continue to destroy them for a week. Kingswood miners march through Bristol carrying staves and clubs.
1727 July Troops capture four colliers as they tear down a gate. Their fellow miners threaten to pull down the jail. The city's perimeter is patrolled by citizens of Bristol.
1727 Late July - August The gates in Bristol are not replaced. The colliers attack gates further afield.
June 1731 New gates start to be erected outside of East Bristol. Many are pulled down and destroyed a number of times.
1735 Resurgence of protest during the summer months.

As a general rule the trustees gave up any real idea of maintaining the roads and their turnpikes thereon - the roads to the East of Bristol in the 1730s remained in much the same condition as the had in the 1720s.

1738 Major industrial dispute in the Kingswood mining community
1740 and 1753 The miners rise up against the price of grain.
1753 The miners go to Bristol!
1770 The effects of Methodism seem to have taken effect to some extent with a decline in the rebelliousness of the population. The parish Church of St. George had been built in the 1750s. Bristol had begun to spread further and further eastwards. Kingswood was becoming less isolated from its surrounding districts. The authority of magistrates and clerics was starting to hold sway in the minds and the affairs of the Kingswood population.