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• Large coal with 'fools gold' veins running through, called 'Derby Brights', a beautiful burning coal for open grates; some lumps were 12 ins square and were painful to carry.
• 'Coal nuts' which were smaller and used on small kitchen ranges.
• 'Sunbright singles' (small coke about 25mm) and 'Sunbright doubles' (approx 50mm) for larger boilers.
• 'Anthracite', the most expensive boiler fuel; 'Welsh Nuts' which were similar looking to Anthacite, but duller and a cheaper boiler fuel; 'Phurnicite', egg shaped lumps, which were very good for boilers, because they burnt to dust, with no clinker left after burning (but very expensive)
• 'Coalite' and 'Cleanglow' which were both excellent for burning, producing less smoke than coal and much easier on the shoulder for carrying.
When I was young in the 1940s, coal was so widely used for heating and gas production, that depots for receiving, storing, and delivering it were common sights.
In the 1940s goods were almost entirely transported by rail - as they had been since the development of the railways around 1840. Coal was no exception, and it was quite common to see goods trains loaded with coal passing at a station or snaking round the countryside. Coal trains were always much longer than passenger trains, as it was presumably most cost-effective to move coal in bulk. Sometimes, as a child, while standing on a station platform, I wonder whether a coal train would ever end.
So, for reasons of transportation, coal yards were located at or close to railway stations.
In Edgware, where I grew up, the coal yard was next to what was known locally as the 'steam station', so as not to confuse it with Edgware tube station. Both were in Station Road. The steam station was the further south of the two on a site now occupied by a Sainsburys.
The steam station was part of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) railway company, which was primarily a passenger station, although it closed for passengers just after the outbreak of World War Two. I never knew it as a passenger station. It continued as a goods station until 1964, although I only remember the coal yard in the 1940s. The call for coal declined with the advent of cheap imported oil and north sea gas.
The shire horses in the Upper Holloway coal yard used to parade at the Lord Mayor of London's show each year. My grandmother used to clean their horse brasses, polish their harnesses and make their plumes.
As one entered the site, the steam station was on the left across what seemed to me to be quite a large expanse of tarmac, and the office of the coal yard, where we ordered our coal, was closer to the entrance on the right.
To me all coal looked fairly similar. However coal yards sold a range of different sizes, types and grades of coal which they kept in large heaps in separate bunkers.
Surviving delivery notes from 1938 and 1939 show that my parents preferred coal called Derby Brights for the open fire and coke for the boiler. (These bills are from the Co-op London office which my parents patronised because the Co-op paid dividend. Presumably during the rationing of World War Two, they either thought it best to register with a local coal merchant, were required by law to do so, or the Co-op stopped dealing in coal.)
If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.
Coal yards are a rare sight today, so when I saw one in a rural area, I stopped to photograph it.
Each coal yard probably delivered to quite a large area.