World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

National Coal Board

The National Coal Board (NCB) was the statutory corporation created to run the nationalised coal mining industry in the United Kingdom. Set up under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, it took over the mines on "vesting day", 1 January 1947. In 1987 the NCB was renamed the British Coal Corporation, and its assets were subsequently privatised.


  • Background 1
  • Formation and organisation 2
  • History 3
  • Other activities 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Coal mines were taken under government control during the First and Second World Wars. The Sankey Commission in 1919 gave R.H. Tawney, Sidney Webb and Sir Leo Chiozza Money the opportunity to advocate nationalisation, but it was rejected as a solution.[1]

Coal reserves were nationalised in 1942 and placed under the control of the Coal Commission, but the mining industry remained in private hands. Many coal companies were very small, although some consolidation was underway in the years before nationalisation.

Formation and organisation

The NCB was one of a number of public corporations created by Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government to run nationalised industries. The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act received the Royal Assent on 12 July 1946 and the NCB was formally constituted on 15 July, with Lord Hyndley as chairman.[2] On 1 January 1947 a notice posted at every colliery in the country read, "This colliery is now managed by the National Coal Board on behalf of the people". Open cast operations were taken over on 1 April 1952.[3]

The NCB acquired 958 collieries, the property of about 800 companies. Compensation of £164,660,000 was paid to the owners for the collieries and £78,457,000 to former owners and for other assets such as 55 coke ovens, 85 brickworks and 20 smokeless fuel plants.[3] The board also took over power stations at some collieries and railway sidings. It managed more than 140,000 houses and more than 200,000 acres of farmland. At its inception the NCB employed nearly 800,000 workers which was four percent of Britain's total workforce.[4] The headquarters of the Board were established in Hobart House, London.

The collieries it had acquired varied considerably in size and output. Coal seams varied from 20 to 200 inches thick and the average pit produced 245,000 tons annually. More than a third of collieries produced less than 100,000 tons and 50 collieries produced more than 700,000 tons. The coal board divided the country into divisions corresponding to the major coalfields and each division was divided into areas with an output of approximately 4 million tons.[4][5]


In 1947 about half the collieries were in need of immediate attention[6] and a development programme was begun. Between 1947 and 1956 the NCB spent more than £550 million on major improvements and new sinkings, much of it to mechanise the coal getting process underground and by 1957 Britain's collieries were producing cheaper coal than anywhere in Europe. The Plan for Coal produced in 1950 aimed at increasing output from 184 million to 250 million tons by 1970. Competition in the form of cheap oil imports arrived in the late 1950s and from 1957 the coal industry began to shrink. Colliery closures between 1958 and 1959 numbered 85. From 700,000 men producing 207 million tons of coal in 1956, output was 133 million tons produced by fewer than 290,000 workers at 292 collieries in 1971.[7][8]

As competition from oil increased, the government stopped subsidising the industry in the mid-1960s and pits closed as uneconomic. When

  • National Coal Mining Museum for England
  • Durham Mining Museum list of pits in Northern England
  • North Staffs pics
  • Scottish Mining Museum
  • Big Pit: National Coal Museum - Wales

External links


  1. ^
  2. ^ Whitaker's Almanack 1948
  3. ^ a b Hill 2001, p. 36
  4. ^ a b Hill 2001, p. 37
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hill 2001, p. 40
  7. ^ Hill 2001, p. 43
  8. ^
  9. ^ Hill 2001, p. 44
  10. ^ Hill 2001, p. 45
  11. ^ Hill 2001, p. 47
  12. ^ Hill 2001, p. 48
  13. ^ Hill 2001, p. 50
  14. ^ Hill 2001, p. 51
  15. ^



See also

In 1952 the NCB established a film unit. The board was keen to train its staff and new recruits and initiated a scheme to produce technical films as well as commissioning films from outside companies. More than 900 films were made before the unit closed in 1984.[15]

NCB subsidiaries managed coal-based chemical products (Coal Products Division) and the production of helmets and other mining equipment (Tredomen Engineering Ltd). In the mid-1970s, the activities of Coal Products Division were transferred to two new companies; National Smokeless Fuels Ltd and Thomas Ness Ltd, although they remained wholly owned by the NCB.

The NCB's research establishment at Stoke Orchard in Gloucestershire was founded in 1950 with Jacob Bronowski as Director of Research. It closed following privatisation of the coal mining industry. The Stoke Orchard library was safeguarded after closure and is now held by the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.

The NCB operated extensive industrial railways at its collieries, employing steam traction until the late 1970s/early 1980s.

No 29 ready for duty at Philadelphia NCB shed

Other activities

With the passing of the Coal Industry Act 1994, the industry-wide administrative functions of British Coal were transferred to a new Coal Authority. Its economic assets were privatised, the English mining operations being merged with RJB Mining to form UK Coal plc. By the time of privatisation, only 15 pits remained in production.

In 1984 it was alleged that the NCB had a list of collieries earmarked for closure and the chairman, Ian MacGregor indicated that the board was looking to reduce output by 4 million tons, a factor in the 1984-85 miners' strike. The strike was one of the longest and most bitter in history and cost more than £7 billion of tax-payer's money.[13] During the strike the NCB had lost markets and 23 collieries closed before the end of 1985. On 5 March 1987 the Coal Industry Act 1987 received Royal Assent signalling the end of the NCB and the formation of its successor, the British Coal Corporation. The industry was run down further after the privatisation of the electricity suppliers in the late-1980s and an increase in imports of cheap foreign coal. Just 51 collieries remained in 1992 when 31 pits were earmarked for closure.[14]

The 1974 Plan of Coal produced in the aftermath of the 1972 miners' strike envisaged that the coal industry would replace 40 million tons of obsolete capacity and ageing pits while maintaining its output.[11] By 1983 the NCB would invest £3,000 million on developing new collieries.[12]


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.