Open Day and Working Party Weekend, 1st April 2017

Despite the forecast, we’re no fools. Sunshine and laughter filled the air as the Friends and crew returned to the colliery on a lively and productive day at the pit.

Site director Glen and Friends Chair Steve opened up the site, welcoming John, Ian, Chris, Phil, Frank, and Keith during the day.

Recording the past; safeguarding the future

The day began with a small contingent clearing up the collapsed wall on the lower terrace. Sadly the site has been subject to some unfriendly visitors of late, and so has meant some more immediate works were put in place to secure the lower level.

With the sturdy shovels, picks and spades, the earth and leaves on the lower terrace were peeled back, ready to create a firm footing for a new (and relatively temporary) fence.

With the minor inconvenience of a hardy hawthorn stump steadily sawn, chopped and wiggled out of the way, a clean line of construction was laid out. Blue string plumblines.

The task at hand was pleasant enough; removing the undergrowth, topsoil and rubble by the wall edge and preparing postholes for the temporary fence.

A number of small finds emerged as this work continued, including an capelled end of the old pit winding rope, and an assortment of odds and ends of metal, including a cold chisel, miscellaneous nuts, bolts, string etc.

Board-er controls

Unlike the divisive politics of Brexit, the regular Open Days at Hemingfield are truly inclusive; there’s a warm welcome to all visitors.

One such guest, from our friends at People and Mining dropped by to tell us about the forthcoming public unveiling of the Oaks Memorial statue, which will take place on Church Street in Barnsley on the 7th May 2017 at 1pm, see details below.

Going post-hole?

Out of hours, we do need to keep the site safe from harm, so the fencing should ensure the pit buildings and recently restored winding engine house are protected.

The wooden panels were lowered to the terrace from the headgear level, while the expert measuring (or at least repeated measuring) ensured a compact fit.

It’s great to get hands-on in small works on site as the Friends share experience and work together to make a real impact on the site.

(Lunch) breaking news…

After downing tools for some snap in the afternoon sunshine, Christine, Friends lead on Community Engagement brought the Friends and Volunteers present up to speed with the range of exciting news which has happened since the last Open Day, earlier in March.

1. Great Place Scheme – Elsecar and Wentworth

The Great Place Scheme is a joint initiative by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England, using funds raised from the National Lottery. They have announced 16 locations in the England which will receive funding to enable community and cultural groups to work more closely together, putting heritage at the heart of communities.

On 16th March 2017 it was announced that Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, working in partnership with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council had succeeded in securing £1,264,000 of funding for a new project:

Seamless: transforming communities through culture

The Boroughs of Barnsley and Rotherham are among the most deprived in England, but have the potential to become major visitor destinations and create economic growth and prosperity.

This is thanks to some immensely important heritage in the villages of Elsecar and Wentworth, and the National Lottery-funded Cooper Gallery in Barnsley and Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham.

The Great Place funding will allow the boroughs to work together with deprived communities who were hit hard by the decline in traditional industries; increasing engagement with cultural activities, tackling social issues and using heritage stories to reignite a sense of local pride and ambition.

2. Heritage Action Zone – Elsecar

On 20th March 2017 Historic England announced that Elsecar had been awarded Heritage Action Zone status, one of only ten areas to receive the HAZ designation.

As Barnsley Council announced:

Its status as a Heritage Action Zone means that Elsecar will be supported with resources and funding that will begin to realise the village’s potential.

Elsecar Heritage Centre, which already attracts more than 400,000 visitors per year, includes extensive remains of ironworks, collieries and workshops, which were built to serve local industry and the Wentworth Woodhouse estate. Through joint-working, grant funding and sharing their skills, Historic England will work with the council and the heritage centre to unlock Elsecar’s potential by improving understanding of the village’s rich heritage, bringing historic buildings back into use, and encouraging local people and community groups to get involved in the village’s development.

The bid for the HAZ status was put together by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council’s Barnsley Museums service, working with local partners. The three-year status will support a new project officer, who will work closely with Historic England’s own specialist advisers on the initiative.

Heritage Action Zones aim to achieve economic growth, using the historic environment as a catalyst and providing Historic England expertise and support to respond to the economic, social and environmental needs of the area.

Both schemes are key measures in the government’s Culture White Paper from March 2016 which aims to bring arts and cultural activities to the widest audiences and to realise the economic potential of heritage, including bringing buildings into new community uses and engaging new audiences.

These developments are a fantastic opportunity for Elsecar, Hemingfield and the surrounding area. Spearheaded by the careful planning and enthusiasm of the dedicated team at Barnsley council, this is a great opportunity for every member of the local community, young and old, to get involved in new possibilities for driving cultural activities and stimulating more visitors and employment openings in the area, linking the industrial heritage to the lives of local people today.

Coming together with the completion of the purchase of Wentworth Woodhouse by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust on 24th March 2017, these developments mark the beginning a huge new opportunity for community, creative, voluntary and heritage groups in the area to work more closely together and transform the available community and visitor attractions and activities.

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery stand ready to seize the new opportunity and make a positive impact on the area.

Sentinel Gala

And finally, since our last open day, our friends at the Elsecar Heritage Railway held their Sentinel Gala, celebrating the unique collection of Sentinel Waggon Works steam engines and waggons.

As well as offering these great special events, there are regular Footplate Experience courses giving individuals the chance to handle a steam engine up close.

As an example, this Open day saw the footplate particpants start the day at Elsecar’s Rockingham station, shoveling that rarity – coal (not from Hemingfield pit sadly but then again the last coal sold did leave our shaft some 97 years ago!).

Photo credit: Elsecar Heritage Railway (Facebook)

Running down the Coalfield Memorial Line, the engine, Gervase passed by the pit, in the shadow of the winding shaft headgear, it looked fantastic in the sunshine, with the canal close by.

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