Open Day, Saturday 17th November 2018

Grey days and hidden beauty

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived on site bright and early on Saturday morning; unlike the less than sparkling cloud bank and damp air. Still, the crew were on site and ready to get on with a good days’s work, and at least it wasn’t raining.

After opening the gates, Site Manager Glen welcomed regular volunteers Chris and Paul, joined by Andy and Keith. Andy made a mark going litter-picking from Tingle Bridge level crossing up to the pit gates on Wath Road. 

Another fortnight of leaf-fall left another brown-and-golden trim of fallen leaves by the worn red brick of the boundry wall. Gle, Paul and Chris got straight to it, sweeping up and keeping the entrance to the colliery site clean and tidy. Before:

and after. It looks neat, and no danger of the pit itself falling victim to ‘the wrong kind of leaf’.

Doleful Damage

Even still, the pit continues to suffer from the wrong kind of visitor; further criminal damage to the outside wall was evident. As a site maintained by volunteers, the mindless damage is dispiriting, although ultimately it says rather more about the perpetrator than it does the positive contributions being made by the group. This issue will coninue oto be addressed as clearly we take site security, and the safety of structures very seriously. Equally the damage to heritage features such as the wall is something we are looking for assistance to address – bricklaying, stone work, any practical skills are most welcome on site!

Golden hues in the fading light

Thoughtlessness aside, the day was actually a very active and productive one, after cleaning up outside, the crew started tidying the ground in front of the winding engine house. Levelling the ground, backfilling small holes, and evening out  strip along the front of the building was a task we have been wanting to get back to for quite some time. Establishing clear and even pathways around the site is an important part of enabling and sutaining tours and accessibility on site. It also gave us chance to check the guttering added last winter, and prepare it for the wet weather in the winter ahead.  

After digging divets, shovelling and levelling the area in front of the winding engine house looked a lot neater. Pausing for a well-earned lunch, the crew discussed how the year had panned out; some exciting developments in hand for next year as we arrange a programme of activities and see what our friends ang local partners are planning for Christmas and the new year. Despite the greyness, the autumn sun strived to shine, and everyone’s eyes were raised upwards as the silhouettes of local birds swooped across the treeline. Over the valley to Hemingfield a large heron circled over a farmer’s field and delivered what could only be described as a bumper harvest from its canalside feeding. Not ones to be easily put-off, the Friends and volunteers returned undeterred to their sandwiches and flasks of hot tea.

Victuals consumed, the crew determined to continue efforts from previous weeks of filling in the trench at the rear of the winding engine house. In a neat effort to return to a working floor surface at the lower terrace, the barrows came to the fore as we returned the excavated earth and rubble from whence it came.

Pump house and headgear (Photo credit: Andrew Jones)

Winding engine house (Photo credit: Andrew Jones)

Open Day, Saturday 3rd November 2018

Notching up November

On Saturday morning the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery returned to work on another open day. The approach of winter hardens the ground and turns the air, so working out doors becomes harder and the days slightly shorter as the clocks fell back at the end of October. With the great sleep-in behind us, the Friends and regular volunteers were eager to face the ultimate challenge: shifting the Great Stump.

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Open Day, Saturday 6th October 2018

October mild

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived early on site, swinging the gates wide open and stepping into the pit yard. Expecting rain, but finding mostly dry terrain and pleasant working conditions in the mild autumnal air. Looking over across the valley over to Hemingfield proper, the sky was cloudy but blue, and the farmed fields in the distance contrasted with the dense and beautifully dis-colouring trees nearby. It is a turning point in the year when days shorten, clocks go back and woolly jumpers emerge.  American poet Robert Frost put it crisply:

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.

(From ‘October’, published in A Boy’s Will, 1913)

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Heritage Open Days 2018 Part 2 

Saturday 15th September 2018

The second and final Heritage Open Day of 2018 began with grey and cloudy skies, though without the unbroken rains that preceded the previous weekend. Friends Chair Steve and regular volunteers Keith and Chris were on site to welcome another series of visitors to the site and provide walking tours of the surviving buildings and machinery.

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Heritage Open Days 2018 Part 1

Saturday 8th September

After a Summer of unprecedented sunshine and near-uninterrupted heat, the first Heritage Open Day weekend of 2018 was almost guaranteed to be – let’s say English in its variability. Nevertheless it was not cold, and the rain, while wet, was not too persistent, so the Friends were pleased to be opening up the colliery, and taking a break from the working parties, to spend some time sharing their passion for the site, and guiding visitors around the remarkable surviving features.

 

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Open Day Saturday 25th August 2018

High times

True blue skies above greeted the Friends as they arrived at Hemingfield-sur-mer for another in the seemingly endless summery days of 2018. More heavy work was at hand, but some beautiful weather made it fun, and the company of regular volunteers Paul, John, Keith and Chris certainly kept the mood light with laughter drifting out over the canal and railway below the colliery.

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Open Day, Saturday 11th August 2018

And the heat goes on…

August, and the Indian Summer continued at Hemingfield. Site Manager Glen was joined by Friends Chair Steve in opening the site. Tales of summer holidays were in the air as regular volunteers John and Chris arrived. The Friends would also be delighted to receive a special group of visitors.

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Milton Gala 2018 and Milton Dig!

Milton Gala, Sunday 22nd July 2018

Arriving at the crest of an extraordinary heatwave, the 2018 Milton Gala was a scorcher! Organised and managed by the Mates of Milton community group, and held on the Milton Forge recreation grounds, the day was busy with food, fun, music, rides, displays, dancing, dogs (not dancing) and a great turnout from members of the local community in Hoyland, Elsecar and further afield.

Beneath striking blue sky and the direct sun, the day was glorious; the parched grass like straw, turned yellow-brown, encouraging picnics and sunbathing, as well as gentle conversation as the crowds gathered to join in the fun on the upper field. On the lower field, for the first time, a volunteer cordon for parking ensured no snarl ups, and encouraged everyone to enjoy the whole of the recreation ground.

Young and old, families and friends walked around the Gala grounds, stopping to admire the shops and stalls surrounding the performance and display area. Local community, volunteer and faith groups were out in force, including Holy Trinity Church Elsecar, Wentworth Castle Volunteers and others, as well as a strong presence from the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service, with a fire engine on site and a rolling series of demonstrations on the dangers of domestic fires – leading to some spectacular flames!

Amongst the stalls of books, plants, crafts, gifts and sweets, was the great group from Old Martha’s Yard Community Garden, just up Milton Road in Hoyland, tucked away behind the Belmont club, off West Street.

Also present was a joint stall hosted by the Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar team,  with Heritage Specialist Megan Clement, together with the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) officer Dr Tegwen Roberts; both are experienced commercial and community archaeologists with a passion for sharing their expertise.

Milton Dig

The Great Place WE and Elsecar HAZ teams were on site to share the progress of their Milton Dig project – a two week community archaeology project on the Milton Forge fields to investigate the history of the site and any remains of the former Milton Iron Works which occupied the site from c.1799-1885.

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#MiltonDig – a community archaeology project from 16th-28th July 2018.

Building on the findings of Historic England’s national Geophysics Team, who used a number of techniques to investigate the Milton Forge playing fields area, including caesium magnetometry and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR).

Linford, N.T., Linford, P.K., Payne, A. W., Elsecar, Barnsley: Report on Geophysical Survey, May 2017 (Report number: 62/2017), Historic England Research Report series ISSN  2059-4453  (Online).

The Milton Dig project, from 16th-28th July 2018 was designed to excavate a number of features identified by the geophysics, together with indications of structures from old Ordnance Survey maps, and some archival plans from Barnsley Archives, to determine what if anything remains of the original iron works and ancillary buildings.

Teamwork

The Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar team worked closely with ElsecarHAZ project officer Dr Tegwen Roberts to design a programme of archaeological and creative activities. The dig itself was delivered by an experienced team from Arc Heritage, supervised by Richard Jackson. It also provided an opportunity for young people in the area to be inspired by their heritage, and the Great Places WE team enlisted local writer and poet Michéle Beck to lead creative writing workshops with local children during the dig period.

The Heritage Action Zone for Elsecar is a 3 year project resourced by Heritage Lottery Fund monies and led by Historic England to undertake new research into the area to reveal its heritage and help develop future plans for its visitor economy. The Great Place WE scheme brings together work by Barnsley and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Councils with the resources and expertise of Arts Council England to engage and inspire young people locally with the creative opportunities of the heritage found at Wentworth and Elsecar, as well as arranging a series of fantastic events to remember in the two villages.

Local schools and members of the community were invited to come and see the dig and learn about the emerging finds as the work progressed. There were daily opportunities to volunteer on site, and many members of the local community, including families were quick to reserve a spot to get down in the trenches to see their history emerge first-hand.

Gala update

At Milton Gala, a highlight was a series of tours of the ongoing archaeology. Historic England Elsecar HAZ Project Officer, Dr Roberts led groups around the site, explaining the choice of excavation sites, and the emerging discoveries to date. The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were delighted to visit and learn more about the history of the area, and how interconnected the collieries and ironworks were through the years.

Elsecar HAZ Project Officer Dr Roberts explaining the context and understanding of one of the Milton Dig excavation trenches, showing the re-uses of the Milton iron works site in the late 19th through to the mid-twentieth centuries.

Trench 1 at Milton Sunday 22nd July 2018, Careful excavation showing the many different levels of material filling to the current surface – the layers (stratigraphy) of the trench and the discovery of features including elements of a stone building (top-centre).

Dr Roberts explaining the initial interpretations of Trench 1 in the Milton Dig excavations.

Context is everything

After explaining the progress of the Milton Dig to-date, Dr Roberts led visitors to the project cabin where the cleaned and sorted finds were bagged and tagged with individual labels, giving the trench and context numbers relating to where they were found.

Following the Dig #MiltonDig

In the week following the Gala, the Milton Dig concluded. The recording work will lead to a study of the findings and the results will be shared with the community in a report produced by Arc Heritage in the near future. To learn more about the exciting progress of the dig, and the many local people and professional archaeologists who got down in the trenches, or who visited to see the progress being made, please see the videos presented by Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar:

  • Introduction to the Milton Dig project, Megan Clement, Heritage Specialist, Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar.
  • Introduction – Richard Jackson (archaeological project supervisor, Arc Heritage)
  • Day 1 – Opening trenches, Megan Clement, Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar
  • Day 2 – Schools visit (Dr Tegwen Roberts, Elsecar HAZ officer)
  • Day 3 – Update (Richard Jackson from Arc Heritage)
  • Day 4 – Megan Clement Great PLace Wentworth and Elsecar Heritage Specialist
  • Day 5 – Michéle Beck, Freelance Author and Poet – creativity from shared heritage
  • Milton Dig and the Gala – For local people and their history, Dr John Tanner, Barnsley Museums
  • Day 7 – Richard Jackson, Arc Heritage
  • Day 8 – Richard Jackson, Arc Heritage
  • Day 10 – Drawing the Milton Dig to a close, Richard Jackson, Arc Heritage