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)

Steady improvements

Regular volunteer Paul assisted Friends Chair Steve at the rear of the winding engine house. Paul and Steve got stuck in to the stump of destiny for a while before starting some overdue clearance work: shovelling up the surface muck and ochrous deposits from the far end of the lower terrace, just below the main headgear. They were joined a little later by regular volunteer Chris and the shovelling continued!

Pausing for lunch, the troops were grateful for a break; the shovel and pick-work taking their toll as barrows without end whipped back and forth and the surface cleared. Prandial exchanges over sandwiches and a tasty-looking Norwegian bun from Billy’s Hill Farm Fine Foods included engine houses, headgears, concrete, mining, geology, caving, volunteering, heritage and holidays. Did we mention the bun?

When a weary task you’ll find it…

Attempts to secure the site from vandalism did not go unpunished with a return visit from less-than-wellwishers damaging the patched repair in the front wall, and removing additional bricks. Given the force used, it is to be hoped those concerned didn’t injure themselves; we know our heritage is precious, but really efforts would be better spent digging on site; such damage is petty, wasteful and criminal. Nuff sed.

Remembrance and Respect

As we approach the end of 2018, our thoughts are cast back to 100 years ago, in remembrance of the First World War. Referred to at the time as the Great War, its impact on local communities stole away a whole generation. The loss, and costs of such sacrifice echo down the years. We think of the casualties, the volunteer battalions, like the Barnsley Pals, raised from industrial areas, and later conscripts. We remember them, but also the service of those who returned home, to lives after conflict and a peace which would be broken once more.  

Elsecar and Hemingfield, like many villages up and down the country is taking an active part in commemorative activities, engaging all ages with a series of events which are well worthy of notice. 

Home from the Front

Our friends at the Elsecar Heritage Railway are hosting a remarkable living history event. Supported by Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar, and with support from University Campus Barnsley, and Barnsley College, student actors are are helping to stage “Home from the Front” between 31st Oct and 11th November. A former main line steam locomotive, Great Western Railway no.813 from 1901, will be visiting Elsecar for the occasion to recreate the return trip of demobilizing soldiers, coming home from the war between 1918 and 1920. Tickets are selling fast for this unique local experience, see:

https://www.elsecarrailway.co.uk/index.php/what-s-on/events-timetable/230-home-from-the-front

See the promotional video:

https://www.facebook.com/homefromthefront/videos/494406061039495/

Poppies revealed

Elsecar Holy Trinity Church, supported by Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar has arranged a wonderful tribute of large poppies to record the casualties of Elsecar’s war. As part of the Elsecar Poppy Project 72 large poppies will be affixed to lampposts on the streets nearest to where local soldiers were from. This street-level tribute will bring the stories of those individuals back to local people. For further details, please see the letter which has been delivered to local people to explain the scheme:

Letter sent to local residents, courtesy of Elsecar Holy Trinity Church and Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar

Envoi

After a day of hefty work, the Friends and volunteers were tired but satisfied with the visual difference made to the lower level, now several tonnes clearer, the space opened up and one or two lumps and bumps revealed beneath the muck for future tidying. 

Open Day, Saturday 22nd September 2018

Grey Days and Silver Linings

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived bright and early on site, under a grey sky at Hemingfield. Regular volunteers Keith, John and Chris were on hand to get to work on the first undoubtedly Autumnal day of 2018.

Picking up in the Fall

First the bad news. It wasn’t just leaves on the ground. Unfortunately that perennially deciduous beast (mixing metaphors muchly?) the boundary wall had lost a few more of its own parts, with bricks on the ground again.

Vandalism and criminal damage are not unknown to the area; like many post-industrial communities with pockets of deprivation, it can experience anti-social behaviour, restlessness, and sometimes a loss of hope. Thankfully the area is also blessed with generous, hopeful and good-humoured people. Just down the road, the Wath, West Melton & Brampton Litter Pickers are a great example. In the face of flytipping and thoughtlessness, they venture out every day keeping the area, their area, tidy. Whether it is while out walkng the dog, or joining neighbours, near and far in trying to reclaim neglected greenspaces, they are a group of individuals making a difference, little-by-little, every day.

And so it was very much in this spirit, and with the privilege of safeguarding Hemingfield Colliery, that the volunteers set about picking up the bricks and mending wall with a fence. Perhaps a patch-work for now, but important to protect our shared heritage, as we continue to work on repairing other parts of the site and plan for the longer term.

Incidentally, if anyone reading has skills or experience they are willing to share, whether building, repairing, or are simply interested in the historical and mechanical aspects of our site, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you. We feel strongly that heritage is a community asset, and the value comes from sharing it; equally, the fun comes from sharing that interest and enthusiasm with others.

Bricks done, it was time for a quick sweep-up. The sudden shifts of hot to cold weather, from dry to wet, are leaving their mark on the leaves. As the breeze picks up, and the treetops sway and shake, a crisp carpet of Sycamore seeds helicopter downwards, floating away from the trunk into the road. Closer by the leaves tumble down and gather, green and golden, brown and fawn. With barrow standing by, rake in hand and brush and shovel at the ready, the first full leaf-fall was swept away. 

Root and branch

After a hearty lunch, work continued around the back of the engine house. Removing the large stump continued, and with hatchets, axes, saws and sheer determination, the afternoon went by in a slow assault on the remaining roots. The power of nature continues to impress, as whole stone blocks were enveloped by the tree as it grew, and prizing it away is quite a challenge.

After a good slog, a halt was called to proceedings for this working day – a busy one again, as the Friends look towards winter and start planning for the 2019 season.

Landscapes of wonder

Hemingfield Colliery is a small part of a larger landscape. Much has changed in the last 200-odd years in and around the former estates of Earl Fitzwilliam. Earlier in the week a unique opportunity presented itself to discover a little more about that landscape in the form of a tour around the Fitzwilliam Wentworth estates to consider the influence of Humphry Repton (1752-1818).

Repton reviewed the estate at Wentworth, and made recommendations for alterations. In a somewhat modern parallel to before and after shots, Repton presented proposals to his clients in so-called ‘Red Books’, red Maroc leather-bound books of paintings of the grounds, with flaps or ‘slides’ which would be lifted to reveal the transformations he offered to his wealthy patrons. Wentworth’s own Red Books include three sets of proposals for alternations to the landscape of the Park around Wentworth. 

The changes, and Repton’s other work in Yorkshire which followed his work at Wentworth are detailed in an intriguing book by Patrick Eyres and Karen Lynch, On The Spot: The Yorkshire Red Books of Humphry Repton, Landscape Gardener, recently published by New Arcadian Press.

Spatial Affects

From the serene beauty of the Rockingham monument, known locally as the Mausoleum, erected by Earl Fitzwilliam to the memory of the second Marquis of Rockingham, who had passed the estate on to him.

On to the serpentine lakes and cascading waters down to the restored ‘Red Bridge’ – really a dam – Repton sought to change the appearance of dry and hilly terrain.

Thanks to the careful stewardship of the Fitzwilliam Wentworth Estates, the ravages of times are being put right; after the despoiliation of the park after the war by Opencast mining, it might have been thought that the Reptonian planting, landscaping and use of water would be lost to history, but recent work is ensuring that this beautiful planned landscape is recaptured for modern day visitors to enjoy.

Of course, the jewel in the crown of the Park, is Wentworth Woodhouse itself. Taken into the ownership of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation  Trust in 2017, the mansion is receiving urgent repairs to its formidably large roof. Assisted by the National Trust, the WWPT are making progress with a masterplan for the house to ensure its survival and gradual restoration.

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

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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