As a fossil fuel that took over 300 million years to come about, coal has played an important role in our early development. In fact, many of the mechanical inventions we have designed are the result of coal power that was introduced over two centuries ago. Read on as the Pearson Fuels team delve deep into the history of coal and piece together the fragments that lead to the way we use the fossil fuel today…

Early Years

Coal production is thought to have started as early as 371 BC where references to the use of coal in metalwork have been found in written works by Theophrastus. In addition to this, references to coal extraction in China that date back to 200 BC have also been found. Plus, in the 2nd Century AD, the Romans took advantage of Britain’s abundant coalfields and used them to heat public baths. After Roman Britain collapsed however, the use of coal was not recorded again for 10 centuries until trading agreements between Scotland, Northeast England and London were unearthed, dating back to the 12th century.

Important Milestones

Following this, coal became popular with artisanals in London which created a pollution problem and lead to a Royal Proclamation in 1306 which prohibited coal for artisanal use, forcing them to revert back to charcoal and wood. The 15th century is when coal was reintroduced as a domestic heating solution.

Two centuries later, the supply of wood was running out which means that coal became the go to alternative due to its abundance. In 1575, Sir George Bruce of Carnock opened one of the first coal mines in order to gather coal from underneath the Firth of Forth. His construction of a 40ft shaft was considered a wonder of the time.

The 17th century lead to further developments in mining technology and many mines started experimenting with timber supports in order to prevent the roof caving in. In addition to this, a steam engine that could pump 60 gallons per minute was developed in 1698, which made coal mining much easier.

As the 18th century drew to a close, the surface deposits of coal were exhausted and miners realised that they had to delve deeper to continue trading, leading to the development of deep shaft mining. In addition to this, 1815 also saw the coal output of Britain hit 16 million tonnes, which was an increase of 62.5% since 1780 when it was only 6 million tonnes. Just 15 years later, the figures hit 30 million tonnes!

Industrial Revolution

Thanks to the development of deep shaft mining, the coal industry was booming. It played a fundamental role in the industrial revolution. In fact, it was available in such abundance that it eventually became a cheaper source of power than wood or charcoal. With the development of factories, mills and steam engines, coal was the number one source of power on the market.

Here at Pearson Fuels, we know how much of an important role coal plays in our power production. In fact, many people still use it inside the home in order to generate heat. After all, with such a rich history, it is rather fitting that the fossil fuel has travelled full circle. If you’re looking for a reliable bituminous coal supplier, get in contact with the best coal merchants around today!