Old pits were once common all over the Bradford area but most are now concealed by subsequent development. Baildon Moor is remarkable for the numerous conical pits still visible, pits which indicate capped and partially collapsed vertical shafts. These shallow extraction pits may now be dry or water-containing. Pits are often surrounded by a raised perimeter of grey mine waste and some have associated platforms of the same material. The overall arrangement of the pits is most easily appreciated in aerial photography, the area being devoid of tree cover or buildings. On some parts of Baildon Moor the features are really only accessible to Google Earth. Try looking at 53° 51′ 40” N 1° 47′ 15” W and then exploring in all directions. In 1981 a GPS survey of the moor was undertaken by the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service which listed the position of no less than 845 features.
Although I know of no photographs of mining at Baildon there are images of small scale coal mining operations from other parts of the Bradford area. These pits are sometimes mistakenly called ‘Bell pits’. This early form of mining involved sinking a shaft down to a horizontal deposit which was then worked in all directions until lack of roof support or ventilation made additional mining unsafe. Small areas of the Baildon shafts do closely resemble the remains of Bell pits recognised elsewhere, but the vast majority of the shafts probably gave access to a system of galleries from which coal was mined. These features have not been accurately dated although coal miners have lived in Baildon since the seventeenth century. In the late nineteenth century three deep shaft mines were developed at Baildon although their locations are only known approximately. The last extractive industries there exploited fireclay and a tough siliceous rock called ganister. Nothing survived into the twentieth century.
Many of the modern moor track-ways were marked on the first OS map in the mid-nineteenth century and must reflect earlier industrial activity. Other track-ways are seemingly modern in origin and it is known that the whole area was used for tank training during the Second World War, which justifies a note of caution in interpreting visible features today. Can it be established how these Baildon pits were dug, operated and drained? Many of the shafts must have been simply for ventilation. Drainage must also have presented a problem. Perhaps a sough was created to drain the entire system, or shafts could have been excavated to create sumps from which water could be pumped.