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Coal Mining terms. Definition of Banks, Banksman

As with many coal mining terms, the word bank can have a number of meanings, some related. The most common meaning, is the one used in the North of England: Bank is the top of the shaft, or the entrance to the mine. A Banksman is a man who works at the Bank, and typically that means he receives the coal and transfers it to screens or to some form of transport. In later years, the Banksman's primary role was to ensure that activity at the top of the sahft (e.g. getting men in and out of cages) was done safely; since the Windermen normally cannot see what is happening at the Bank, they are dependant on the Banksman for knowlegde as to when the cage should descend and so on. The Banksman also has to communicate with the pit bottom; the communication was normally done with signals transmitted by a bell and rope, later by electrical signals, and later still by telephone and other apparatus. The Banksman is therefore a crucial man of the pit and held a position of some responsibility. In Cornwall the Banksman was known as the Lander, owing to his job in early times of getting ore clear of the shaft and onto land. The term is not as widely used as Banksman. The term Bank had another meaning in Cornwall: confusingly, it was the innermost part of the mine: the place at which the ore or coal was bieng extracted. One can well see confusion arising should a Cornishman go to work in a Newcastle colliery, since the statement "I'm going to Bank" would have the opposite meaning to the one intended.
The terms Bank, Lander and Banksman are recorded in the English mining glossaries:


A glossary of Terms used in the Coal Trade of Northumberland and Durham, W. E. Nicholson, 1888:


Aboveground; the surface

Bank Men

Men employed on the surface.

Bank Out

To teem the coals into the screens or into a heap as they are drawn.


A man who withdraws the full tubs from the cages at the surface and replaces them with empty ones

English and Foreign Mining Glossary, Mining Journal 1871.


Cornwall term: Man who attends at mouth of shaft to receive the kibble in which ores, rubbish etc., are brought to the surface.

Bank or Benk

Derbyshire term: The face of the (coal) works or place where the miners are turning out the coal, sometimes called benk face.


Newcastle term: The surface or top of the pit.


Newcastle term: The man who lands the coals at the top of the pit.


South Staffordshire term: The banksman receiving the loaded skip at surface.

A Glossary of Mining and Metallurgiacal Terms, R. W. Raymond, 1881 (America)


1. (Derbyshire or Benk) the face of the coal at which miners are working. 2. An ore deposit or coal bed worked by surface excavations or drifts above water level. 3. Eng. The ground at the top of the shaft. Ores are brought "to bank", i.e. "to grass".


(Newcastle term) Identical to Lander. (Cornwall). The man at the shaft mouth who receives the kibble.

Quotes concerning Bank and Banksman

As late as 1837 a landsale colliery was in operation at Brandon, at which the coals were drawn by a gin, in which a bull was harnessed instead of a horse. About the same time a similar colliery was in existence at Witton-le-Wear, where the coals were drawn by an ass, and were banked out and sold by an old woman.
The dialogue is taken up by the viewer, who recommends the owner “to buy in a stock of able, strong horses” to draw his coals “to bank.”...
The labours of the “barrow-men or coal-putters” are also described. “These persons take the hewed coals from the hewers as they work them, or as fast as they can, and filling the corves with these wrought coals, put or pull away the full corves of coals upon a sledge of wood, and so halled all along the barrow-way to the pit-shaft by two or three persons, one before and the other behind the corfe, where they hook it by the corfe-bow to the cable, which, with the horses, is drawn up to the top, or to day, as it is in their phrase, where the bank’s-man, or he that guides the sledge-horse, has an empty sledge to set the loaden corfe on, as he takes it out of the hook on the pit-rope, and then immediately hooking on an empty corfe, he leads his sledge-horse away with the loaden corfe to what place of the pit-heap he pleases.” If the day’s work does not reach the stipulated amount “that abatement is taken notice of by the bank’s-man, and is made good another time, or else at the general pay.” The banksman takes “strict notice” of the filling of the corves; “otherwise both the hewers and barrow-men will confederate under-ground, and if the coals be hewed or wrought pretty round and large coals, they will be sometimes so roguish as to set those coals so hollow at the corfe bottom, and cover them with small coals at the top, and make it look like a full corfe,” when in reality it is not more than half full. When such an attempt at fraud is discovered the banksman “do not empty that false corfe, but setting it by as it is, when shaken in, lets (sic) it stand on the coal-heap till the offender comes to bank,” when he is “reprimanded publickly.” The penalty for such an offence is “to give another full corfe,” or “at the general pay” to forfeit 6d. The banksman who “takes care of the quantities wrought, and of the bad filling of the corves,” is called the Over-man of the Tree, and receives 16d. a day as wages, the second banksman, or sledder, receiving only 14d.
From Comprehensive Guide to the County of Durham, by J. R. Boyle, F. S. A.. Read the article here
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