An area of East Ravenstone, Snibston is located in North West Leicestershire which is a part of the English Midland area. Snibston was mainly a rural area until a part of it was transformed into a coal mining village by the Snibston Colliery Company. This happened in the early 1830s. After that, this part of the area has seen much development and has been converted into a town named Coalville. But till date, there are many parts in the area that are still rural except for Coalville. The rural areas comprise of parts of Ravenstone with Snibston and Hugglescote along with Donnington le Heath. There is a 13th century Church of St Mary in the Snibston area. This is the smallest church in the whole England which is still in use till date. Regular prayers and worship is performed here. The main Snibston Colliery faced its doom in 1831 and after that, the colliery area was transformed into a park called Snibston Discovery Park and it has also a museum named Snibston Discovery Museum. The museum however, is closed now. The population of the total area is included in the civil parish of Ravenstone with Snibston.
History of Snibston and Snibston Colliery
George Stephenson, who was a pioneer in railway engineering, and his son Robert Stephenson came to the area in the late part of the 1820s. They were involved with the Leicester and Swannington Railway. This railway was being built in order to transport coal from the area to the Leicester. The area had a great potential and they were very fast to appreciate this and they selected the northern side of the railway for establishing the coal mine. Though the choice of the area was probably not a wise one since it was full of hard rocks and there was also problem with water. They were also confused as to what name to be given to the Snibston No.1 Colliery.
The Snibston estate was owned by Leonard Forbrooke of Ravenstone Hall and Snibston Grange. He died in 1830 and shortly after his death, the entire estate along with an uncompleted colliery with a new Boulton and Watt type steam engine and colliery equipment were sold to the Stephensons and the completion of the Snibston No 2 colliery took place. They were financially backed by the Liverpool merchants who helped them in establishing miners’ cottages. The colliery that exists today is this one. It has faced many changes from the beginning and currently known as the Snibston Colliery.
Snibston was described as a ‘hamlet in Packington parish, Leicester; near the Swannington railway, 4½ miles SE of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Pop., 595. Houses, 110. The manor belongs to Lady Edith Hastings. Coal is extensively worked. There is a very old chapel of ease.’ in John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1872).
The sinking of the Snibston collieries helped to form the town of Coalville. The current Snibston as we know it today, is mainly just a district of Coalville. But the buildings and the headstocks of Snibston No 2 colliery stand apart among others, along with the Snibston Country Park which is located within the National Forest.
The Snibston Colliery Company’s third venture was Snibston No 3 Collier which was situated about half a mile to the north of Colliery No 2. This was established in the year 1950 and was short lived. The Colliery was abandoned in 1895.
Among all these three, Snibston No 2 was the longest living of all. It produced coal starting from 1833 to up until 1983. Many buildings were erected during this time and they bring testimony to the vastness of the colliery company. Many of these ancient buildings are now considered to heritage buildings by the Government. The site was finally closed in 1985 and Leicester County Council. They thought of converting this into a museum of science and working life and as a result of this, the Discovery Park was opened in the year 1992.
Snibston Colliery was one of the earliest to every built a railway in Britain. Robert Stephenson was the architect of this and this was built during the period 1833-1836. The railway connected the colliery with Leicester and the Swannington Railway connected the East side of the town. After the demise of the colliery company, the railway track faced many changes and till date, the line between the mine and the center of Coalville was restored between 1998 and 2001.
Snibston Discovery Museum
The now closed Snibston Discovery Museum was actually a part of the Discovery Park. This was built on the site of the former Snibston Colliery No 2 and was an award winning interactive museum. This was managed by Leicester County Council and the effort was supported by Next and the National Forest. The museum finally closed in 2012 and is currently Heritage Lottery funded.
The Leicester County Council announced in 2015 that the museum and the land was to be sold and the museum was finally closed on 31st July of 2015. The demolition process of the main hall began in early March 2016 and was completed by April 2016.
Another attraction of Snibston is the Century Theater which is also called the ‘Blue Box’. This one is a portable theater and was built on a number of ex-RAF trailers back in 1952. The designer, John Ridley was known for his ingenuity and it was his idea to build a portable theater on an aluminum superstructure that can be folded and moved wherever you want them.
The opening took place in 1952 and since then, the portable theater traveled all along Britain and stayed only a few weeks at a place. The tour continued till 1974 and from 1974 to 1997, the Century theater was used as the town theater of Keswick, Cumbria. The theater is currently at its home location in Leicestershire.
The theater was exclusively operated its own company and its view was to stage quality drama to the communities. It helped a great deal in reconstructing the post-war culture. The actors who acted in the theater also contributed greatly to the society and culture of Britain by their marvelous work.