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Kent Coal

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Kent Coal is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The Pall Mall Gazette on 26 february 1914.



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Kent Coal

The Pall Mall Gazette (26 february 1914, p. 4)

"COMING TRIUMPH."

A DEFENCE.

By Sir A. Conan Doyle.

(We have frequently criticised the finance of the Kent Coal enterprise, but, in accordance with our usual readiness to give fair hearing to the other side, we print the following remarkable article by Sir A. Conan Doyle, whose faith in the scheme is unbounded and whose sincerity and ability are equally unquestionable. — Ed. P.M.G.)

Tilmanstone Coal Mine. — February 7, 2,450 tons.

Tilmanstone Coal Mine. — February 14, 2,550 tons.

Such announcements these recurring every week, always with the same upward tendency, are not vouchsafed a line in the financial column of the ordinary journal, which has little space after it has coped with the tin mines of Timbuctoo or Consols, which are guaranteed by whatever pronunciamiento Government happens to be in office in some tiger-cat Latin Republic. And yet these humble figures do most certainly, to those who have eyes to see, represent a stupendous movement which destined to revolutionise the most historical corner of England, to shift the centre of gravity of British industrial interests, and, incidentally, as I believe, to make Kent magnates, in the future even as there were Rand magnates in the past. We may deplore it or we may encourage it, but the facts work most inexorably to that end. Let me indicate what those facts are from the point of view of one who has followed them closely for some years, and has also (lest I assume a false air of impartiality) given solid hostages for the faith that is in him.

Where is Tilmanstone? Tilmanstone within a few miles of Dover. And Tilmanstone, with its machinery only partly erected, turns out its steady 2,500 tons a week. Experts tell me that more than that will come in a single day in a few short months, when all is normal. But let us argue on actual accomplished fact. Only the other day we were assured — have I not a score of Press cuttings to prove it? — that coal could never be raised in commercial quantities in Kent. And now here are 2,500 tons a week from Tilmanstone, all sold before they can get it to the surface. 2,500 is a very small output. True. And yet comes on at 125,000 tons a year, which has a more substantial sound.

But now look across the valley. There is another chimney and another winding gear. That is Snowdown. But Snowdown is down on the same seams. It has actually reached them. For the moment it only turns up 750 tons a week, because two shifts are spent in development and one in raising coal. But at any time it can turn out as much as Tilmanstone if it chooses to work its exposed seams. Here then is another potential 2,500 tons a week ready for the world's demand. But beyond are yet other mines, all in different stages of development, all sinking down to the same ascertained seams, and all absolute certainties for the immediate future. There is Guildford, which is within few feet of the coal measures. There are Wingham and Woodnesboro' beyond. Beyond this again is a French company at Stonehall, which is sinking night and day upon the seam. And outside all this lies a vast estate, sixty thousand acres in all, owned or leased by the Kent Coal Concessions group of companies which controls the mines already mentioned. There is room in it for at least a more great collieries. Then beyond these there are other companies, some with hopes and some with certainties, all working the same end. Now, do you not see what the modest announcement with which have prefaced this article does really mean? It is certain that what Tilmanstone has done to-day every mine within the Kent concessions area, and possibly several beyond it, will assuredly do. It means a great rich active coal field in the historical Cinque port corner of Kent.

But this is only a bare statement of the first effect. Let us look further. Ironstone pervades the neighbouring districts. The old iron industry of the South, which have Queen Bess her cannon and St. Paul's its railings, will be revived again. Fireclay is there in great quantities, and a pottery industry will be established. Electricity works will be instituted close to the coal mines, and they in turn will give cheap power and attract, industries from London. From all over England there will be a migration to East Kent of miners, iron men, potters, and artisans. The population will increase manyfold, and utterly alter its character. And a great port will arise which will carry all this traffic to London on the one side and to the world on the other. This port may be Dover or it may be Sandwich; or some new, more energetic competitor may arise, but assuredly a city of the first order — a Cardiff at the least — will rise in the south-east. All these things are as certain to come to pass as to-morrow's sun to rise. Nothing can prevent it.

As to the coal industry itself, the production of which by next year will be counted by the million of tons, its future is colossal. There are no mines nearer than the Midlands, and Kent should supply not only all the towns which line the coast from Ramsgate to Brighton, but also have the greater share of London. Within a few miles lies Dover, where they can feed the British Fleet with he smokeless coal which is one of their many products. There is hardly a limit to the prospects of these coal mines. One danger there is, one only, but it is a most deadly one. it is that, while journalists and financiers in this country are finding fault over details old misunderstandings, personalities, or mistakes, and while the public hesitates as to what is truth, the foreign investor may have bought up the whole of this glorious heritage. It is a very real danger. Already four slices have been acquired by French and Belgian capitalists, which will, it is true, pay royalties to the concessions company, but which will naturally keep the profits for themselves. It would be a grievous thing if the investing public allowed such an asset to pass away from the land in which it lies. It will very rapidly mature, and it will be a dower to one's children. If I have seemed to write strongly on the point, it is that I feel strongly, and I have said nothing which I have not myself tested to the extent of traversing the district and descending the two producing mines. The coal is inexhaustible in quantity; it is admirable in quality, improving as the scams go deeper ; it is easily won ; and it is unique as regards its situation for a market. Let us beware lest such riches pass entirely into the hands of the foreigner.


Kent Coal (extract from Herne Bay Press)

Herne Bay Press
(7 march 1914, p. 3)


SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE'S ARTICLE.

An article on Kent Coal, written by Sir Conan Doyle, appeared in the "Pall Mall Gazette" last week.

Speaking of the amount of coal that Tilmanstone is raising (over 2,500 tons a week), Sir Conan Doyle says:

« It is certain that what Tilmanstone has done to-day every mine within the Kent Concessions area, and possibly several beyond it, will assuredly do. It means a great rich active coal field in the historical Cinque port corner of Kent.

« But this is only a bare statement of the first effect. Let us look further. Iron-stone pervades the neighbouring districts. The old iron industry of the South, which gave Queen Bess her cannon and St. Paul's its railings, will be revived again. Fireclay is there in great quantities, and a pottery industry will be established. Electricity works will be instituted close to the coal mines, and they in turn will give cheap power and attract industries from London. From all over England there will be a migration to East Kent of miners, iron men, potters, and artisans. The population will increase many-fold, and will utterly alter its character. And a great port will arise which will carry all this traffic to London on the one side, and to the world on the other. This port may be Dover or it may be Sandwich, or some new, more energetic competitor may arise, but assuredly a city of the first order — a Cardiff at the least — will rise in the south-east. All these things are as certain to come to pass as to-morrow's sun to rise. Nothing can prevent it. »








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