Reporter 441, 25 October 1999


125 years of Mining education at the University of Leeds

"The establishment of the Yorkshire College of Science fifty years ago may be regarded as the first material step in the foundation of Leeds University. It is said that when the College first opened its doors a solitary student, a coal-miner, appeared on the first day. He continued in splendid isolation for 48 hours when, much, I imagine, to his relief, he was joined by a second. This may truly be termed a modest beginning"

* The Duke of York addressing a Leeds meeting in aid of the University Appeal Fund in 1924.

October 1999 marks 125 years of mining education at the University of Leeds. The first student to enrol in the Yorkshire College of Science when it opened its doors on 26th October 1874 was Shadrach Stephenson, a mining student. The three foundation departments of the College, each with a foundation chair, were Physics and Mathematics, Chemistry, and Geology and Mining. The purpose of the College, in terms of its constitution, was "to supply instruction in those sciences which are applicable to the Manufactures, Engineering, Mining and Agriculture of the County of York; also in such Arts and Languages as are cognate to the foregoing purpose".

The first Professor of Geology and Mining was Alexander Henry Green, MA who eventually went from Leeds to the Chair of Geology at Oxford and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. A separate Department of Coal Mining was established in 1877 and the first appointment to the separate Chair in Mining was Arnold Lupton, FGS. In 1887 the Yorkshire College was admitted to the Victoria University which, in addition, comprised Owens College, Manchester and University College, Liverpool. On 25th April 1904, the Yorkshire College became, by Royal Charter, the University of Leeds.

From the very beginning, Mining played a pivotal role in the establishment and development of the College and the University. Sir Michael Sadler, in a paper written in 1924 to celebrate the Jubilee of the Yorkshire College, acknowledged the contribution of the three foundation professors by writing "it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these first appointments. The subsequent history of the College might have been entirely different if the promoters had not made such a wise choice of men who were not only of high attainment in their subjects, but also possessed of a broad vision of the purpose of education."

This 125th anniversary coincides with a number of major changes and developments within the Department of Mining and Mineral Engineering at Leeds including the rehousing of the Department in new accommodation within the Houldsworth Building, the recent creation of the School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering of which the Department is a member and the newly established Centre for Particle and Colloid Engineering (PACE)

The Department of Mining and Mineral Engineering at Leeds is planning a year of celebration starting with the week 14-20 November. Events planned for the week include: the official openings of the PACE Centre and the AMCO plc Conference Room, a dinner, an Open Day, a special anniversary edition of the LUMA (Leeds University Mining Association) Journal, Professor Richard Williams' inaugural lecture and a schools' day.

For the record, Shadrach Stephenson was born in Methley near Leeds on the 6th July 1850. He left school when about ten years of age to work on the family small-holding. At age 16, he went down the local pit with his father with whom, by the age of 19, he was jointly supervising gangs of miners. Over the next five years he saved enough money to enrol for two year's study at the Yorkshire College. After completing his first year at the College he interrupted his studies to get married and to accumulate additional funds by taking up a post as Under Manager at Fleackingley Beck Colliery, part of T. and R.W. Bowers Allerton Main Collieries. He returned to his studies in 1876-77 and completed them in 1878. During his career he worked at Brown Moor Colliery in Whitkirk, Bowers Pit in Swillington and at Rawmarsh, Denaby and Cadeby Collieries. In addition to his mining activities, he was also a farmer, a local Methodist preacher, gave weekday evening lectures on geology to men's classes, taught at Sunday School and at the Men's Bible Class and fathered ten children. He died at Mapperly near Nottingham on 10th June 1913 a few days after his leg had been amputated (in the house!) - the eventual result of a fracture sustained twelve years earlier in an underground accident at Cadeby Colliery near Doncaster.

Professor P A Dowd, FREng

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