Aerial photo of Domaniale and surroundings (Municipal Archives Kerkrade)

The Domaniale Mine is the oldest coal mine in the Netherlands. Its origins date back to the early Middle Ages, when people started to extract surface coal in the vicinity of Kerkrade, as traces is the Wurm valley show.
Kloosterrade Abbey was involved in this activity for a very long time: first as a landowner, then running the business itself from the 1740s.
This all changed when the French army arrived and seized the mines. Armies needed fuel.

The French occupation in 1794 along with the annexation of the Southern Netherlands and the principality of Liège to the French Republic in 1795 resulted in the possessions of the Kloosterrade Abbey being confiscated by the French state in 1796. In 1797, the
dienst der Domeinen (Domain Department) took over management of the mines. From that time on, they were called the ‘Mines Domaniales’ and then the Domaniale Mine.

The French stopped operating the former monastery mines at Rolduc in around 1800 due to their poor condition, after which mining shifted to the higher plain of Kerkrade.  This included digging shafts number 1, 2, Bonne Espérance, St. Philippe (not completed), and Bonaparte in the hamlet of Kerkrade/Holz, All these shafts were located near the later Domaniale Mine near the current Nummer II-straat.
Nummer II-straat was of strategic importance at the time, because it bordered the intersection of the highways from Aachen to Geilenkirchen (Nieuwstraat) and from Holz to Maastricht.

Government mines and private companies

In around 1800, private companies were involved in coal mining in the Nedermaas department, including Prickoul, alongside the government mines at the site of the old monastery mines. The private mines date back to the time when a landowner was free to dispose of the minerals under their land (Grundeigentümerbergbau).
In 1814, when the French occupier withdrew from Limburg, the following concessions existed: Prickoul/Neuprick, Bleijerheide, Bostrop/Pesch, and Nulland.
Nulland, stakeholders and landowners, were newcomers. Their concession application was refused in February 1808, but they were allowed to continue working in the existing works (shaft, etc.) until the administration of the domains had reimbursed their costs. In fact, according to the Mining Act of 1791, the landowners had priority down to a certain depth in a concession. In the end, Paris decided that this site belonged to the Domaniale.

Napoleon withdraws from the Limburg area in 1814

After the French occupation, the Netherlands took possession of the French government mines (Rolduc mines) in around 1815. These came under the administration of the ‘Houillères Domaniales de Rolduc’ at the Registration and Domains Department, making them the first Dutch state mines. The political situation during the period that immediately followed was completely unclear. During this time, the mine was run by the General Government of the Lower Rhine, which was governed on behalf of the Allies by the Prussian secret council J.A. Sack. This confusing situation continued until the Congress of Vienna redefined the national borders.
The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the Aachen Borders Treaty in 1816 established the border between Prussia and the Netherlands in such a way that the Domaniale Mine was located right on the new border. The old border was maintained underground, so part of the extraction field was under the Prussian surface.

The concession of the Domaniale mine was never recorded at that time; basically, everything belonged to the Domaniale mine unless an area was granted by a concession. In the second half of the nineteenth century, two mining companies were granted a concession:

  • the Bergwerkvereeniging; the predecessor of Willem Sophia,
  • and a predecessor of Laura & Vereniging.

The area covered by the granted concessions belonged to the Domaniale Mine.
In 1846, the Dutch state leased the Domaniale Mine to the Aachen-Maastricht Railway Company for a long period.
In 1852, Neuprick and Bleijerheide were the only coal concessions on Dutch soil where coal was extracted irregularly. These concessions merged a few years later. By 1876, the Neuprick mine had developed into a formidable competitor of the Domaniale Mine. It was the first mine to be closed in Limburg, back in 1904.
On 30 June 1925, the Domaniale Mijn Maatschappij company was founded. Almost all the shares came into the hands of the shipping company SSM in Rotterdam, the company of which Willem van der Vorm was owner-director, but which soon secretly became part of the SHV (Steenkolen Handelsvereniging – Coal Traders Association) of the Fentener van Vlissingen and Van Beuningen families.
In 1966, the Dutch state took over all shares of the Domaniale mining company, with the mine closing for good on 29 August 1969. The official demolition began in 1970, and lasted until June 1971.

Nulland shaft 1916. The winding tower of Nulland is the only visible above-ground remnant of the former Domaniale Mijn (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

“Nulland” shaft was part of the Domaniale and can still be visited today. Near the new road, Domaniale Mijnstraat 30, you can experience mining history at first hand:



Book “Domanialer Steinkohlenbergbau 1815-1996” by Paul Geilenkirchen. Pages 9,10,13,14,15,18,22,89,123,124,201
(ISBN 9789403623160).
RHCL Archiv Domanialbergwerk 17.04 Domanialbergwerk in Kerkrade 1797-1996: 
-History of the operators of the Domaniale in Kerkrade -Das Bergwerk als Staatsbetrieb: Link1  Link2
Adaptations/supplements to the above sources by historian Ben Gales. 

Child labour in the Domaniale mine, early 19th century

The work of children under the age of 10 in the mines had been forbidden since 1813 by an imperial decree, but was still common in the following years. In Kerkrade this was still normal until the 1820s.

At that time, when simple coal mining was still practised, the miners descended to the underground works by ladders during the day or were winched down into a winding tower. Most miners eked out a poor existence. Many had to beg, as did their wives and children. The haulers pulled the coal in baskets on sledges through the low, narrow corridors. Often it was boys aged 10 to 12 who did this hard work. One child pulled, the other pushed the sledge to the bottom of the shaft. From there, hanging on two ropes, the baskets were pulled up the shaft with a winch system.

By 1833, only the Grauweck and Neuland shafts were still in operation. Because of the limited height of the galleries, boys were employed in the mine as trenchers. In addition, boys aged about 12 were employed as pitmen in the mine. Underground, boys had to open and close the air doors to enable the transport of coal. Women and boys were among the lowest paid workers.

As industrialisation in the Netherlands only started around 1890, the worst excesses of child labour were avoided. In 1901, the Compulsory Education Act was passed. In 1911, children under the age of 14 were banned from working.

Twentieth century

The N.V. Brikettenfabriek Limburg in Simpelveld (founded in 1901 by the Aachen Maastrichtsche Spoorweg-Maatschappij), which was managed by the Domaniale mine but was an independent company, also had child labour. It employed 12 to 15 workers, often boys aged about 12. They had to crush the gravel with a hammer, which was then mixed with pitch at a high temperature. This was done in a mill driven by two steam engines. The work was hard and hazardous to health. The staff had to report regularly to the changing room to be checked for dust lung and skin diseases. The mash mass passed through an egg briquette press, which formed it under high pressure into egg coals, the so-called “Columbusjes”.

Before starting their shifts, the workers rubbed themselves with clay, which was provided by the mine management. In 1914, the families were destitute. Depending on their age, they earned between 8 and 15 guilders a week.


Book Paul Geilenkirchen : „Domaniale Zechen 1815-1996“. ISBN 9789403623160
Historisches Newsblad

Horses underground

Horse stable underground (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

In 1817, in the Bure de La Paix shaft, near today’s Veldkuilstraat,- they brought down

the first horses underground in a Dutch mine. The coal was brought up in baskets with the help of a horse-powered rotary mill.

To create the necessary space, the stone passages and galleries had to be widened and raised, and this had to be done at night so as not to bring production to a standstill. In 1867, the Domaniale started operating the first underground horse-drawn tramway at a height of 203 metres. At first the number of horses remained limited, but after 1900 their number increased to over 150. The mine used heavy Belgian workhorses underground, always geldings (castrated stallions), most of which were about five years old when purchased.

The horse stables underground were located near the lift. At the beginning of the shift, the horse boys came here to pick up their animal to bring it back after the shift. When the horses were about 14 years old, they were turned out. Worn-out horses were culled underground and sold to the butcher. If they were still usable, they were traded. That they were allowed to enjoy their twilight years on a pasture – which romanticised stories would have us believe – unfortunately did not correspond to reality.

Book “Domaniale Steenkolenmijnen 1815-1996” by Paul Geilenkirchen, Chapters 26, 30,                                                                                                                               107 en 109, ISBN 9789403623160
RHCL 17.04-2147: stukken over mijnpaarden 1926-1932.   

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