Another weekend, another day to catch up on some of the time lost from the initial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery have been operating on a much-reduced closed-site basis with pre-arranged and socially distanced activities being undertaken by the regular volunteers.
The weather had been touch and go in the week proceeding Saturday 29th August 2020, but the forecast suggested hopes of at least a decent morning’s worth of work without rain, leading us into a very different kind of August Bank Holiday weekend.
Compared to 2020, 2019 looked quite different, with no pandemic, and Open Days bringing visitors and volunteers through the gates at Hemingfield.
Going for broke, the Friends and regular volunteers decided to try and get another weekend COVID-safe session in at Hemingfield Colliery. Hoping against hope that they would not be blown away or proceedings drowned out before further progress could be made on the rear retaining wall.
Cooler, but no less humid. Cloudy with no chance of downpours. But who trusts the forecasts? The Friends and volunteeers arrived for another COVID-catch-up session; safely-spaced and behind closed-gates to try and make good some of the lost weekends over the past few months that have cast such a long shadow over the country, and worldwide.
Bit warm again. Seeking to keep up the momentum from the last week’s efforts, the Friends and careful band of regular volunteers returned to Hemingfield Colliery once again for another early start to a day of repairs to the rear retaining wall behind the winding engine house. Still gently returning to the site and following COVID-19 secure guidance, the pit was working behind closed gates again for now.
Nothing but blue skies may be an optimistic note to strike in the midst of a global pandemic, but despite the darker clouds, the ups and downs, through the closings, reopenings and re-closings of recent days, the ability to safely distance and volunteer with others, carefully, outdoors, for a common cause – to protect and restore our common heritage – is something to celebrate. Saturday 1st August also had the distinction of being Yorkshire Day – so it was good to see the blue flags flying the white rose against a mostly blue sky.
Indeed, despite the widespread uncertainty and social and economic distress since the crisis began in March, it is heartening to see concrete steps being taken to support culture, the arts and heritage; most recently the announcement of the £88M Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage distributed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Historic England, following criteria from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This fund is part of the £1.57 billion rescue package from government to safeguard cultural and heritage organisations across the UK.
The Friends and regular volunteers returned to Hemingfield Colliery for another tentative and COVID-secure session maintaining the site as the country at large continues to open up following changes to government and Public Health England guidelines.
After a week of, well let’s say ‘changeable’ weather, the Friends and regular core volunteers were keen to recoup some of the time lost to site maintenance since March and the beginning of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this an extra Saturday when the weather looked set fair was seized on 11th July to continue the weeding, cleaning and tidying the site so that it is back in good order for what the future may bring as the world, or the UK at least, takes its first steps back towards a new normal.
At the end of the Nineteenth and beginning of the Twentieth Century, Hemingfield came under the local governance of Wombwell Urban District Council. The body oversaw most local services and reported on the health and welfare of the population, numbering an estimated 17,764 souls.
A hundred years ago today, on the 15th May 1920, the last corf load of coal was raised from Earl Fitzwilliam’s Hemingfield Colliery. It marked the end of an era for the pit, as silence fell, albeit temporarily, at the main winding shaft.