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Millions of years later, humans found that coal could be burned and it was gathered to give heat and energy. At first it was dug from cliff faces or shallow trenches, but as more was needed the gatherers burrowed into the hillsides or deeper into the ground. Another name for the coal layer is the coal seam. When the diggers follow the seam into a hillside it is called a drift mine.
Early miners dug down into the earth until they found a coal seam near to the surface. When they reached coal they would dig outwards in all directions, creating a cave. They soon found out that if they went too far from the shaft the workings collapsed and they were trapped, so they would leave that pit and begin another not too far away. Because of their shape these came to be known as bell pits.
For more information about Bell Pits go to www.pitwork.net/history1.htm
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01-Aug-2007 © North Tyneside Libraries 2007-8