On Saturday 25th a team of students from the Sheffield School of Architecture hosted a community engagement event at Elsecar Heritage Centre.
Presenting an impressive array of interactive mapping, scale models, colourful history boards and striking sketch proposals, the Live Project team were active throughout the day from 11am to 4pm to explain and discuss their work so far, and to invite feedback from members of the local community and visitors alike as to the future development of the Hemingfield Colliery site. Outdoors and, when the weather turned, inside the centre, the group guided visitors around a series of displays, including:-
In a striking set of sketch design proposals, the team assembled a thought-provoking selection of future uses for the site.
From landmark lighting of the headgear, to an outdoor cinema; from a viewing platform across the valley, to a community garden or cafe, the ideas were intriguing, bringing life back to the site and suggesting a range of options for the short, mid and long-term future of the site,
Through timelines, flashcards and family trees, the group told the story of the Earls Fitzwilliam and the landed estate which established and guided the development of the Elsecar collieries, including the Hemingfield site, but the wider area and the canal and railway connections.
Connecting the colliery site with the wider valley and surrounding towns is a key factor in developing sustainable uses and visitor flows to the area. Understanding road and rail access, and exploring the walking and cycle route possibilities is an important factor in determining a viable vision for the pit. The mapping work encouraged visitors to add their own ideas for what the area needs; signposting the existing amenities and connections, visitors could add their own markers and literally draw over the laser-etched mapping on perspex screens with transparent overlays. Understanding what people want and need in and around the area is important to guiding development proposals that are relevant as well as achievable for the pit.
A large scale model of the Hemingfield Colliery site, including the Pit Row houses behind, and the listed canal basin and heritage railway line below, really brought the background studies and proposals together and provided a wonderful talking point for visitors to discuss the whole project.
This included features of the area currently hidden by vegetation; the importance of the basin and railway line to the working of the colliery in the past, and the possibilities this might suggest for the future.
The Friends were delighted with the ideas and energy of the Live Project team – including students from a number of countries and engaged in a mixture of conservation-based as well as purely architectural courses. We are excited to follow the Live Project team as they complete their work and present proposals.
Making new friends and discoveries
In addition to the engagement event itself, the day also provided a number of wonderful opportunities for the Friends and the students alike to learn more about the Elsecar Heritage Railway as well as the work of the Heritage Centre itself.
Thanks to the kindness of the Railway, we were given a fascinating tour of Rockingham Station. The history of the line and its recent extensions – through Hemingfield, over Tingle bridge and down to the former Cortonwood Colliery site – were also explained. Whilst at the station, which stands on part of the old Elsecar ironworks site, we were also shown through to the mining museum displays held in the General Utility Van. The photographs and memorabilia prompted further discussion of the stories of miners and coal mining from the Victorian era through to the end of the NCB after the Miners Strike in 1984-5.
Alongside a busy annual schedule of events and footplate experience opportunities, the railway has plans to develop its identity as the ‘Coalfield Memorial Line’, carrying passengers back and forth from Elsecar to Cortonwood where a mining memorial park is already being developed. The extension works continue apace, but more help is required – please see their ballast appeal.
Elsecar’s Newcomen type engine
Later in the day Dr John Tanner, Museum and Heritage Project Manager from Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, came over to visit the Hemingfield project display. He also generously offered to guide a group of the Friends and students around the site.
He outlined the history of the site, the canal, ironworks, pits and railway, and explained the exciting Heritage Lottery Fund project to restore the Newcomen engine – a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1972 and now of worldwide significance as the only Newcomen engine still in situ on its original site. See the Industry & Innovation project blog for further details.
Dr Tanner also discussed the work underway to provide new interpretations for the engine, the heritage centre and for Elsecar village more widely. All of those present were fascinated by the story of the site, and particularly in the specialist work involved in restoring the Newcomen engine and engine house.
– All-in-all a most interesting and rewarding day!