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

Barnsley History Day, 2018

Saturday 30th June

As the June heatwave continued, the Friends headed out to Barnsley. Gleaming under a dazzling cloudless sky, the beautiful Town Hall welcomed visitors to Barnsley History Day, the grand finale to a great week of activities. The impressive 1930s building houses Experience Barnsley – the museum and discovery centre currently celebrating its 5th anniversary in the Experience Barnsley Festival.

Experience Barnsley Festival (5th anniversary of Experience Barnsley)

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End of June 2018 – Celebrations

The End of June 2018 was marked by a series of fascinating and impressive events, part of the Experience Barnsley Festival, arranged to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the opening of Experience Barnsley, museum and discovery centre which has really transformed how local people access and experience the cultural heritage of Barnsley.

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Open Day Saturday 9th June 2018

The beginning of June 2018 was marked by unrelenting sunshine, blue skies and the reluctant admission that yes, Summer is indeed here.

Dazzling sunshine; seeking shade under the headgear

Site Manager Glen opened the gates to regular volunteers Alan, John, Keith and Chris. Friends chair Steve was also present and catch up with the results of recent working parties.

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Open Day, 26th May 2018

Far and away in May

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

Heading to the colliery on foot from the green hills beyond the village of Hemingfield itself, the pit first appears as a wooded hollow.

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

The huddle of cottages at Pit Row guide the eye to the right level, on the far side of the canal bank, at the foot of a densely wooden hillside – really the landscaped spoil heap of Hemingfield’s younger sibling, Elsecar Main Colliery.

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

Standing proudly over the canal and railway line is the main headgear, its concrete geometry contrasting with the lush green leaves swaying in the breeze.

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

Standing in the distinctive lines of its shadow, the Friends and regular volunteers collected tools and headed out around the site to get to work.

Keep it clean

A big part of the Friends’ work is taking pride in looking after the pit; taking care of this remarkable survival of the Victorian age is a privilege, and as a survivor, the site has been no stranger to the effects of neglect and vandalism. Stepping out of the gates, and grabbing a brush, shovel and take, it is good to keep the gateway to the site clean and tidy.

Before

After: looking smart.

Elsewhere around the yard, Site Manager Glen powered up the strimmer and got to grips with the long grass, whilst regular volunteer Chris raked up the cuttings and cleared the lower level by the pumping shaft.

Feeling Hot

The sun was fierce on Saturday, but the working party on site were still a little cooler than the firemen on the footplate of the steam engine racing by on the Elsecar Heritage Railway line below.

Boiling away: William looking great in the lush vegetation

A Hole New World

Keeping cool in the moderate shade of the winding engine house were ‘the crew’ – regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John and Keith returned to the fray, excavating the pit feature which is now two metres down from where we once stood a couple of years ago.

As features emerge, trowel work takes the place of the shovels of demolition rubble, as we seek to assess and interpret what the pit was used for, and record it’s features including compacted coal, and the tantalising drainage feature which suggests we have hit the bottom.

Trowels and tribulations, carefully excavating compacted coal, possibly a pile for a boiler?

Pausing for lunch before rounding off the digging, strumming, raking, sweeping, narrowing and brick chipping. The Friends returned home to a well earned glass of water/pop/juice/beer [delete as applicable]. All pleased with another pleasant day spent on site at Hemingfield under blue skies with hopefully none-too-reddening necks!

Open Day Saturday 12th May 2018

Settling back into the routine of normal Open Days as the good weather continued, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery welcomed a good group of volunteers and visitors to the site. Site Director Glen, and Friends Chair Steve opened the gates to regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John, Paul, Keith, together with our Peak district friends John, Chris and Phil. It was a full house, and with effort to spare, the team continued work on excavating the pit at the rear of the winding engine house.

Hive of activity

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May Days

Wheelie good times

Tour de Yorkshire Barnsley hotspots May 2018

May 2018 was one to remember. Le Tour de Yorkshire passed through South Yorkshire on 4th May. Barnsley was busy and buzzing with one of the stages starting in the town, before heading out throughout the borough. Hoyland, Wentworth and Elsecar were all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the men’s and women’s races during the day – with crowds of all ages, street decorations and special celebrations arranged all around the route.

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Open Day, Saturday 21st April 2018

Hot, bright sunshine shone down across the valley from Elsecar on Saturday as the Friends and regular volunteers arrived at the pit for the final Open Day in April. 2018 has truly flown by!

With Site Manager Glen out on assignment, regular volunteer Keith opened up the gates. He was joined by a good band of volunteers, Paul, John, Mike and Barrie. A fair array of brimmed headwear was on show, most sporting baseball caps, before the arrival of Chris, who was seeking deep cover under a cricket hat.

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Saturday 7th April 2018

Time Travellers

On Saturday 7th April the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery hosted a special open day visit from members of the Sheffield-based Time Travellers group of archaeology enthusiasts. The group had arranged a day trip to the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone area, being hosted by Dr Tegwen Roberts (Elsecar Heritage Action Zone officer), and filled a busy day visiting the Newcomen beam engine, exploring the buildings of the Heritage Centre, stopping by the Elsecar Heritage Railway and reviewing the archaeological research underway in the area and supported by Historic England.

 

ELR Loco William passes the pit

 

In the afternoon, Dr Roberts led the group of around 25 members down from Elsecar to visit Hemingfield Colliery, guiding the visitors along the Dearne and Dove canal towpath, past the Hemingfield Colliery basin and on to Tingle Bridge with its surviving lock-side public house, the Elephant and Castle.

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Open Day, 24th March 2018

The end of March 2018 was a wonderfully busy day on site with Friends Chair Steve, and Directors Glen and Christine welcoming regular volunteers Alan, Nigel, Paul, Keith and Chris during the morning.

The focus of the day was to finishing up excavation work at the rear of the winding engine house, continuing recording work on progress to date, and also permitting the working party to move on to other tasks on site as the Friends (and the country at large!) embrace warmer weather and the coming season of public events.

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