Open Day and Working Party, 18th February 2017

All clear!

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were happy to see that the external scaffolding had gone from around the Victorian winding engine house. This could only mean one thing: the main phase of the roof restoration was over – the reroofing, new rafters, wall plates, fascias, battens, insulation and slating was in place, with flashings, and guttering looking clean and new as Friends Chair Steve and Site Manager Glen opened up the gates.

Restoration: saving the site

Since work started in October 2016, the Friends and volunteers have been eagerly watching the progress in restoring the winding engine house roof – the protective cover over this fascinating multi-phase building, dating from the earliest period of the colliery’s life in the 1840s, through to the end of coal working in 1920, when it began life as a pumping station for the South Yorkshire district – the function which preserved the site until the 1990s.

Looking up at the ridge stonework, the new guttering and the clean lines of the slate is a delightful sight, and we must acknowledge once again the help and support of the following bodies who made this work possible:

Subterranea Britannica

Subterranea Britannica

The Association for Industrial Archaeology

The Association for Industrial Archaeology

Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Together with the new rafters, weatherproof membrane, battens and slates, the restorative work included replacement of the broken and stolen cast iron guttering; here with heritage aluminium equivalents. We also took advantage of this rare opportunity to improve the thermal efficiency and comfort of the building – by insulating the rooves under repair – this will ensure a longer, warmer life for the roof, as well as providing a more comfortable workspace within for the activities of the Friends, volunteers and visitors in the years ahead.

New guttering and fall pipes

The finished roof work included some essential emergency repointing in order to prevent some parts of the structure from crumbling. To see more about the progress of the restoration, with photographs of the work in progress, please visit the Winding house restoration page.

Lower terrace of the pit – showing the new guttering and areas of repointing required in strengthening roof walls

Sycamore stumps? Never!

Meanwhile, elsewhere on site – the Friends and volunteers were getting stuck into a range of jobs as part of a working party. Glen and Steve had welcomed Alan, Nigel, John, Keith and Chris during the morning, and they continued the ongoing clearance of rubble, reclaiming bricks from the mounds of debris from the demolition of the old boundary wall onto Wath Road.

Volunteers hard at work

Amongst the mounds, unfortunately we hit another old friend – stumps – in this case a bigger-than-it-first-appeared sycamore. Before summoning the chainsaw in a future open day, the volunteer working party got stuck into digging out and clearing the smaller roots.

Sycamore exposed. After much digging, it’s ready for cutting out


During the day the Friends were delighted to be joined by visitors from Castleford and from Selby, including a former Kellingley Colliery worker. It is humbling and inspiring to hear that the work the Friends are engaged in receives such positive support and interest, and reminds us all of the importance of preserving the built heritage as well as capturing the voices and stories of mineworkers and their families.

Doing the tour – The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery are always delighted to welcome guests on to the site to explain the history, development, and our future plans.

Voices from the pit

Measured and marked – recording the enginehouse

In an ongoing series of insights into the people and passions of the Friends and volunteers, this time, we look at the work of a regular volunteer Nigel who brings with him a wealth of experience in recording industrial buildings and a number of publications concerning mining history.

Nigel at work recording the building

With measuring tape, chalk, pencil, paper and set square in hand, Nigel took the opportunity of the end of the roof restoration to press on with recording the dimensions and undertaking a measured drawing of the engine house building.

Marking out the measurements, prior to working up the plan

By carefully taking down the lengths, widths,  and heights of elevation, and then proceeding to consider the stone bonding, heights and shapes of dressed stone, the beginnings of a plan emerge.

Work in progress – measured drawings of the winding enginehouse elevations

Further observation, measurement and patience lead to an impressive result, and one which helps us to record and understand the building’s characteristics, connected with its original use – an enginehouse for a vertical cylinder beam engine which wound a drum and controlled the winding rope which raised and lowered men and coal from the Barnsley seam 150 yards beneath the surface.

Cobbled together, but never flagging

After a fruitful snap break for lunch, when the Friends and Volunteers discussed the progress on site, and the plans for the year ahead – not to mention hearing about the progress of our new friends over at the Barnsley Main Heritage Group, the afternoon shift of the working party included work on tidying up the collapsed wall on the lower terrace of the site.

Working party volunteers at work tidying up the wall on the lower level

Reclaiming loose and dislodged bricks for reuse, the team also began to clear away the mulch and soil which has built up on the lower level after decades of leaf fall and neglect.


Revealing the past – wonderful stonework paving under the soil.

In doing this, the crew uncovered a most unexpected floor surface – of stone blockwork, neat and tidy. This solid platform tops off the embankment from where coal would have been served down to the railway sidings, and also the canal staiths, from where Elsecar coal would be taken far and wide – out to the coast by boat, or down to London by rail, the transport and trade was domestic and international in scope, as the Dearne and Dove canal traffic slowly gave way to railway freight from the 1850s.

Stonework uncovered

After downing tools, and tidying up for the day, the Friends and Volunteers had another look around at the roof restoration work, and were pleased to see that the hours of effort being put in are seeing real results, including support from external organisations and local partners. The Friends are grateful for the support received, and hope to continue the work of saving the site and sharing its history with visitors and the local community.

Hereonin we can count on having a safe and dry space within the enginehouse to be able to continue work indoors as well as outside. Once again we must thank our supporters and look forward to reporting further progress in the year ahead.

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