Open Day and Working Party Weekend 30th April 2016

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Whether the weather be fine…

Beautiful bright sunshine smiled down on the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery as the crew arrived to open up our Victorian colliery site, and continue the work of unraveling a little more of its past with a spot of industrial archaeology.

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Meanwhile, down the road in Elsecar, Barnsley CAMRA and Elsecar Heritage Railway were holding a Beer Festival, which means even more steam engines passing by beneath the Friends as they set about their work. Fantastic!

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ELR Steam engine Birkenhead on the first of many Footplate Experience and passenger trips on Saturday

Site Director Glen opened up, with volunteers Alan, Nigel and John raring to continue the work from the last working party. Friends Chair Steve, and regular volunteer Chris arrived shortly afterwards, and after taking time to sign in, and catch up on what everyone had been up to, work recommenced on site.

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They were joined by a visitor, born and raised in Elsecar, who was given a tour of the site and was kindly providing the benefit of his own expertise to support the work of the Friends and the future conservation and restoration work on site.

Or whether the weather be not…

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Hail and hearty

This time, work continued on clearing out the concrete cable trenches which had been installed in the 1920s-30s when Hemingfield pumping station was electrified and power was supplied by the Yorkshire Electric Power Company Limited, and the original cables (now removed) were laid out from the switchgear building down to the winding house.

However, work came to a grinding halt with the first of several hailstone showers and dark skies taking over from the Spring sunshine.

 

We’ll weather the weather

Retreating into the switchgear building for shelter and further discussion, the Friends looked out across the headgear, out over the valley to Hemingfield village. This view is now much clearer than it has been for many years – at least 20 or 30 years to be exact, and the headgear has once more resumed its eye-catching status, an industrial landmark.

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(whatever the weather)

Refreshments partaken, and the cable trench cleared, the Friends and volunteers turned to the removal of the brick pathway which has now been fully recorded and measured. By removing the brick path, the whole excavation area can be brought down to the same yard surface, and so we can resolve some of the questions about the phases of use of the yard.

Bricks and barrows were the order of the day, with the bricks all being lifted, removed, sorted and stored – full bricks being stacked ready to be reused in future; named bricks, of which Hemingfield Colliery certainly has no shortage, are also stacked separately. Meanwhile brokens and halves are discarded on a rubble pile which will also help provide hardcore for making the site more accessible in the years ahead.

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Having lifted the bricks, the extent of bracken root growth and the extent of tree roots was revealed. The Friend are certainly no strangers to this as we have had to contend with this unwanted vegetation at each step along with way of clearing the site.

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All hands – the Friends and volunteers working together to shovel and barrow away the top layers of earth and roots under the brick path.

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Slowly but surely the barrow-loads add up and the excavated trench is now evened out and taken down to the same pit yard level – something evident from the colour of the layers in the earth and also the firmness of the surface.

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All done! The bricks and earth have been removed and the concrete steps now appear as islands proud of the yard surface. Tons of soil and bricks have been shifted by the group here.

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Whether we like it or not.

After all the work in digging and barrowing materials around site, the return of sunshine at the end of the day after the hail and downpours was more than a little welcome. A couple of the group seized the opportunity to go and explore the old mining features of the local area – the hidden and filled shafts which abound and which indicate the sheer scale of the coal mining and ironstone mining industry in the local area over the last 200 years and more.

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