Works in Progress
Saturday was a busy day at Hemingfield, ushering in the first working party in November. Following a week filled with US election drama and the sombre reflections of remembrance day, Site Manager Glen opened the pit gates, joined by Directors Ian and Christine. Chairman Steve and regular volunteers John and Chris were also on hand as the Friends welcomed a number of new visitors to the site, all eager to see the progress in the winding engine house roof, and to discuss some exciting opportunities throughout the valley.
The genuine article
Early on Saturday morning the Friends were pleased to meet local reporter Oliver Dyson from the Barnsley Chronicle. Directors Ian, Christine and Glen conducted a tour of the buildings and ran through the history of the site. They also described the origins of the Friends group, the process of saving the site in 2014, and showed some examples of the progress being made in safeguarding it for the future. After a quick photograph by the main headgear, it was on to the next business of the day.
Following the initial external scaffolding, contractors Harris and Taylor constructed a number of internal platforms ready for roofing contractors – Martin Brooks Roofing – to begin their work on Monday 7th November. The focus, to carefully remove the existing roof of the buildings, ridge tiles, slates and all, and to assess the state of the timberwork, the rafters, slats and wallplates.
Friends Director Ian Hately joined the roofing team on Friday 11th November to get a first-hand view of the work in progress, as seen below:
A clean slate
By Saturday 12th November, the roof of the brick-built side of the engine house had been removed. All of the re-usable slates being neatly stacked on the scaffold, and the rotten wooden slats, broken slates and rubbish being gathered ready for disposal.
From the ground looking up at the work, the distinctive blue cover covering the exposed timberwork could clearly be seen. The state of the timber is being assessed, ready to decide what to replace and what can be used again. The greatest amount of damage had occurred on the near side of the roof where the roof of the brick building abutted against the older sandstone engine house. Decades of poor drainage had weakened the woodwork and caused the slates to slump into the building. Removing the roof here is an important step in ensuring no further decay in the roof timbers, and also helps to prevent further water damage to the insides and the external stone work.
After pausing for lunch, the Friends were extremely pleased to welcome our friends from Elsecar Heritage Railway to the site. EHR Chair Andrew Earl and Stuart Palmer from AES visited the site and discussed recent developments, such as the SSoA Live Project for the railway which suggested some wonderful design ideas for new stations at Cortonwood and Hemingfield – some impressive work.
Friends Chair, Steve, Site Manager Glen and Director of Community Engagement Christine toured the site and visited the railway to learn more about the EHR and its dedicated group of volunteers.
The railway continues its successful programme of events throughout the year and is making excellent progress in extending the heritage railway line down to Cortonwood. Look out for the Winter Warmer services during November, and the Santa Specials during December.
The Friends and the EHR discussed some future plans and both agree on the importance of close collaboration with all partners throughout the local area in order to add interest to the attractions and activities available from Elsecar down to Cortonwood.
Steady as it goes
Between the visits and meetings, the Friends and volunteers continued the usual work of clearing the site, and reclaiming materials, whether firewood or building materials for future use.
Seeing things differently: shedding new light on the past
Finishing off the day, the Friends closed the pit gates and adjourned to visit artist Iain Nicholls who has begun work on an impressive virtual reality recreation of what life was like underground at Hemingfield in the Victorian period.
Iain is working to create a Virtual Reality experience of what a nineteenth century coal mine would have been like. This work is based around how Hemingfield colliery would have appeared in the 1850s. Using clue from historical documents, photographs and volunteer research, the VR experience takes the viewer on a journey into the past.
From meticulous 3D modelling, to immersive textured environments, through this Virtual Reality experience users will have a new and unique experience of the sights and sounds of the mining conditions of those days in a way which is much more powerful than any static images or old film recordings can convey.