Big Pit in Hinckley

The Big Pit in Hinckley was home to Hudsons Brick Company Ltd and later Hinckley Dye Works.

1887 map showing the Big Pit
1887 map showing the Big Pit

1887 Ordinance Survey map shows a large clay pit along with a smaller pit and 'Jackson and Co. Brick Works' just off the Ashby Road.

17th October 1913 Records show the owners of the Brick Works as 'Hudsons Brick, Tile and Terra Cotta Company Ltd.' and that £150 was paid to Mrs Hudson for the purchase of a new 'Steam Cart' to run along the rails that took the clay from the pit to the kilns. Eventually four pits existed; The Big Pit, The Middle Pit (on the site where Asda is now built) and the Little Pit which still exists. The fourth pit was on Barrie Road, but was filled in during the 1960s.

7th October 1920 Mrs Hudson bought 'Hudsons Brick, Tile and Terra Cotta Company Ltd' for £375.

21st January 1930 'Hudsons Brick, Tile and Terra Cotta Company Ltd' had a name change to 'Hudson Brick Company Ltd.

A once little boy called Ron used to fish great crested newts from the Barrie Road Pit, he is 85 years old now (during 2015). Initially the site was not built on due to the ground being too unstable, it was given to the council who put a playground on it. Eventually the ground settled and some Police Houses were built on the site. Today you can see the two newer houses on the right-hand side as you go down Barrie Road from Ashby Road.

Work on the Big Pit stopped at a depth of 13 metres, this was said to be due to the water ingress.

Next to the Big Pit was the Mineral Baths built during the Victorian period for the local people to wash and take the waters. As bathrooms became more popular the Mineral Baths fell out of use and a Pub was built on the site that was initially called 'The Mineral Baths'. The Pub would later became 'The Kiwi' and eventually the 'The Ashby Tavern'. The North-East of this area was farmland, one of the farms was called 'Loll Farm' and was owned by Mr Perkins during the 1950s. He claimed that if you walked between the Mineral Baths and his farm late at night you would see a ghost. No other record of this ghost is noted, but Mr Perkins did like a drink late at night at the 'Mineral Baths' prior to his walk home; maybe the spirits he saw were somewhat less ethereal ...

Hudson Brick Company Ltd
Hudson Brick Company Ltd

1927 Hinckley Dye Works was built opposite the Big Pit, this later became Trinity Dye Works. Pipes were laid between the Big Pit and the Dye Works, as vast amounts of water were used in the dyeing process.

A fishing club was run by Trinity Dye Works based at the Big Pit and a number of leisure activities took place such as little boys swimming in the pit.

1950’s The swimming in the pit was stopped as there was an outbreak of polio and the location of the pit meant that there was also concern about the run off water from the adjacent Ashby Road Cemetery. Policemen used to patrol around to stop the little boys from going in the water, but little boys being what they are they continued to swim in the pit. Mrs Simmonds who lived locally during the 1950s became so distressed she threw herself into the pit and drowned.

1971 Three pits remained in place until the second was filled in. Asda was built on the site, the kilns were knocked down and the car park constructed over the place it used to be. The entrance was made as a large house was knocked down to give access. Asda opened its doors in January 1972.

1976 The year of the great drought in the UK. Vast lakes dried out, rivers became roads and the UK ground was baked and parched with cracks appearing everywhere. The Big Pit did not dry out, it remained with people playing and fishing in and around it.

Hinckley Dye Works Ltd c.1940
Hinckley Dye Works Ltd c.1940

Trinity Dye Works continued to have the fishing club and the dye working remained. The pit was owned by Ernie Taylor who married the boss’s daughter. Ernie was a well know character in Hinckley and was noted for always wearing a suit and a homber hat and being a bit of charmer. Ernie called his female workers “girls”, no matter what age and was always polite and respectful. Anyone who knew Ernie mentions his name with a smile.

One of these workers, Cath, recalls the twilight shift in the early 1980s. She remembers the pipes running still between the pit and the works and the huge rats that ran down them “big as cats” she says. She remembers the male workers dipping their chips in poison to give to the rats. She remembers a notable day when she was cleaning the rollers above the cold dye vats and was supposed to have her friend watching over her to keep her safe. Her friend got chatting to one of the “blokes” who worked at the factory and stopped paying attention, she doesn’t mention why this girl was so distracted but she does recall going over the roller and head first into the dye vat and being covered head to foot in green-blue dye, she didn’t say how long it took to remove the dye but her fingers still show the colour more than 30 years later. She tells many other stories, a stag do held on the site during the shift where the groom became so intoxicated he opened the lift doors didn’t notice there was no lift and fell down the shaft but, in the true tradition of the worshippers of Bacchus escaped with no injuries and made it to his wedding the following day with only a headache.

During the early 1980’s Ernie grew old and retired (last known living in King Richard Road). He sold the Dye Works and the Pit to two sock manufacturers who were local lads called Terry Poulton and Rod Gretton, they continued to work the dye works for a couple of years and then closed it.

The Big Pit
The Big Pit

1990 The dye works was knocked down and Ashby Court Sheltered Housing was built on the site. Fishing initially carried on in the Big Pit and was run by Barwell and Shilton Fishing Club (this is remembered by Robert who used to repair the fences as well as do some handy work) but after a short period Terry and Rod stopped this, almost all leisure activities were stopped with a few keys being issued to a select few. However little boys continued to get through and fish, also couples continued to walk around.

2008 A local couple got permission to dive, they put a boat on the waters of the Big Pit and measured the depth at 13 metres, cleaned a path around it and dived. As they swam around the edge a sudden drop in temperature was felt, about 5 meters down there was cold water that entered the pit in at least 2 places that indicates the presence of springs. Although the experts say the springs do not exist, the word springs is used over and over by all the people who lived and worked on the site.

2014 The Big Pit Resistance Group was created and had its first meeting in the Ashby Tavern, Ashby Road, that attracted around a 100 local residents.

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