Raising the roof
There was excitement in the air, alongside the welcome warmth of the September sunshine, as the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and their regular volunteers gathered on site to kick start another busy day’s work and open the gates to visitors.
Friends Chair Steve, and Directors Glen, Ian, and Christine were all on site during the day to share the latest news on developments on site and some exciting plans for the coming year.
Earlier in the week the Friends were able to announce the fantastic news that thanks to the tremendous support of the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, The Association for Industrial Archaeology, and Subterranea Britannica, the group had been able to secure funds to completely reconstruct the roof of the 1846 winding engine house.
Huge thanks to our supporters
The funding support from these groups comes at a vital time for the Hemingfield Colliery site as the existing roof of the winding engine house has suffered a long slow period of decay since the site was last actively in use, in the mid-to-late 1980s.
The 1846 winding engine house is a rare survival, containing the remains of two winders, including the modified original winding drum, and remaining features of the original vertical cylinder beam engine which first drew coal from the working of the 8-9ft thick Barnsley Seam, 150 yards beneath Hemingfield and the surrounding area.
Conserving the Past
The funding will enable the existing slate roof to be completely removed, so that the stone walls, and woodwork of the engine house roof itself can be restored and renewed, preventing further decay and structural decline. In addition, the old rain guttering and drain system has now almost completely rusted or rotten, and collapsed or been robbed away. The reconstruction scheme will enable the fabrication of heritage-approved fixtures and fittings to restore the roofline and drainage, ensuring water ingress and further damage will be halted.
The task ahead
As we approach October, contractors will be on site, installing scaffolding to enable the safe removal of the existing slate roof. The materials will be retained for reuse wherever possible, whilst new, weather-seasoned wood will be used to replace rotten timberwork.
Of course the Friends will be recording and document this work as it proceeds, revealing the details of the building and providing insights into the history and development of this remarkable survival of Victorian mining engineering.
The Friends’ work on site has always been focused on retaining and enhancing any original features, and reusing any discarded original materials. Such will be our aim in the roof work ahead.
Transforming our work
Over 30 years of neglect and vandalism have left many scars on the buildings on site, not least the criminal theft and fire damage to the electrical switchgear building nearest Wath Road. However, over the last two years the dedicated work of the Friends, volunteers and our supporters have enabled us to get a grip on the decay and with this new funding, seize an opportunity to bring new life to the site, protecting the heritage buildings and surviving features, and providing a safe and weatherproof working space for volunteers and visitors all year round.
Externally the extent of the decay may not perhaps be immediately evident, internally, however the state of the timberwork, rafter and battens shows many areas of concern:
The Friends are absolutely delighted to receive support from a range of local and national groups and partners, demonstrating their commitment to conserving the remains of our region’s industrial heritage, but also recognising the national importance and rarity of the Hemingfield Colliery vertical winding engine house remaining on its original location, by its original pit shaft.
Working together, we hope to transform the fortunes of the winding engine house, and seek to provide many more opportunities to explore and explain this piece of industrial heritage, explaining its role in the story of Hemingfield Colliery, and the working life of the local community and the wider valley as part of Earl Fitzwilliam’s Elsecar Collieries, and later as a pumping station, helping to keep active mining dry and safe as coal working moved further east and deeper underground between the 1920s-1980s.
Neat and Tidy
With the great news regarding the winding engine house roof, the Friends and volunteers were getting stuck in preparing the site to receive the contractors and scaffold construction. Tidying the winding engine house building and its surroundings kept the group busy most of the day.
Friends Director and Site Manager Glen got stuck in with the strimmer, tidying the ground all around the winding engine house.
Meanwhile Friends Chair Steve an regular volunteers John and Chris assisted in clearing old materials away from the lower entrance to the winding engine house. In order to enable the contractors to access all-around the winding engine house, the team also unbolted and moved a heavy section of security fencing, thus opening up the building to support the conservation work and scaffold build space.
Under one particular obstacle the Friends encountered an unexpected guest – a common toad. After thanking him for his dedicated watch over the winding house, the guest was moved to safety, so the tidying could continue.
The Inside Story
As well as the strimming and heavy lifting going on outside, the Friends were also making significant preparations inside the sandstone winding engine house, clearing the way for the work to come which will require internal as well as external scaffolding.
Friends Chair Steve has been hard at work inside the engine house, clearing the old 1840s beam engine space which was converted into a workshop by the South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Committee in the late 1930s. Years of muck of all descriptions has built up in their, so with appropriate equipment and shovels and barrows, a quiet transformation of the space has taken place.
3rd September – Before
The work continued this week, with the floor itself being cleared:
A Pause for Thought
As another busy working party weekend drew to a close, the Friends and volunteers were tired, but very satisfied with the work that has been done over the last two years and more of effort on site.
With the support of volunteers, local partners, funders and others we have made good, steady progress in securing and opening up the site: clearing around 70 trees and cutting back decades of neglect, the group have begun to rediscover the colliery site and to research its history, engaging the wider community.
As we prepare for the important work on the reconstruction of the winding engine roof, we are grateful for all of the support and information provided; all of the hours of voluntary work and steady planning which have enabled the site to be saved. We look forward to sharing the next chapter in the site’s history, and t opening up many new and exciting possibilities for Hemingfield Colliery as work gets underway.