Open Day, Saturday 29th May 2017

Shall we compare thee to a Summer’s day?

All was bright and sunny as the Friends and regular volunteers arrived for this weekend’s open day, marking a great start to the long Bank Holiday weekend.

Director and Site Manager Glen opened the gates to regular volunteers, Keith, Alan, and Nigel, later being joined by Chris. The group caught up on developments since the last open day and determined to continue a mixture of activities, including site clean-up and some archaeology on the lower terrace.

Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade?

Hatchet or axe? How best to remove the awkward stumps without disturbing too much of the archaeology of the site is a challenge that the working parties of the Friends often face, and this weekend was no different. Taking advantage of the shade of the lower terrace, Keith, Alan and Nigel set to the simultaneous challenges of peeling back the top layers of the earth behind the winding engine house, and got stuck into the removal of a stubborn Hawthorn stump which has long resisted the less-than-subtle hints of the crew to encourage it to leave the site.

Shovels, picks and large axes…clearing the site 

Marking time and sending a flurry of cheers across the working party, our Friends from Elsecar Heritage Railway were in full steam passing by the Hemingfield basin and carrying another eager crew of footplate experience participants up and down the line, from Elsecar Rockingham Station down to the Tingle Bridge crossroads. Birkenhead was resplendent in the sunshine, a bright green engine passing through the valley amidst the lush foliage.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And then, and then…the darkness…

Not-so-far from the gathering storm: clouds over Hemingfield

Heads turned at the rumble. A HGV passing by. It couldn’t be thunder, surely? Unfortunately it could, and it was. On the cusp of starting the strim the grass, the Heavens deigned it was not to be and truly torrential rains descended on the pit yard.

Torrential rain over the headgear

Dashing for cover, by the headgear, and then in the old switchgear building, the team watched the hailstones and puddles and ominous clouds for the next twenty minutes.

And then. And then, the summertide turned.

Made glorious summer by this sun of York

Drip-drying, but in sunshine once more, work continues. Stumping time again. With the mighty winch on scene, the volunteers struck out to clear the way on the lower terrace. With choicest verbal encouragements to the immoveable objects, each one was moved in turn, opening our the space and allowing us to get back to uncovering the layers beneath the neglected and overgrown surface.

Minimal damage. A clean stumping!


Two more in progress


After the heavy lifting (courtesy of the winch), the Friends reviewed the programme of activities for the Summer ahead. We’re excited to have a working party day on Friday 9th June coming up. Junior soldiers from The Army Foundation College, in Harrogate will be joining us from the contingent doing voluntary work along the railway. We are extremely grateful for their contribution and hope to share some of the history and developments at the colliery, as well as show how the colliery ad the railway will be working more closely together in future.

A parting shot? How about the now-lighter clouds in the skies above the headgear.

Elsecar  – digging up the past

On the evening of Wednesday 24th May members of the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were pleased to attend the visitors centre at Elsecar Heritage Centre where Dr John Tanner from Barnsley Museums was hosting a presentation on Elsecar – digging up the past, a briefing on the latest developments in and around Elsecar, following the award of Heritage Action Zone status. HAZ status brings in the resources and expertise of Historic England who will, over the next few years be engaged in a detailed area study on Elsecar, including a significant amount of original archaeological investigation.

Dr Tanner outline some of the known gems of Elsecar, but also revealed areas which have been previously neglected, buildings and sites of industrial and historical interest which the HAZ team will be addressing.

Introducing Dr Jayne Rimmer, Architectural investigator from Historic England, Dr Tanner informed the attendees, including many members of the local community in Elsecar, about the exciting plans for the next few years. The memories, knowledge and interest from local people will be essential to ensuring the HAZ status is able to uncover the stories of Elsecar, as well as providing opportunities for hands-on archaeology and learning events for all ages.

As a taster of the work which is just beginning, Dr Tanner also introduced Historic England’s National Geophysics Team, including Neil Linford, Paul Linford, and Andy Payne. The Geophys team had been out-and-about in and around Elsecar earlier in the week – and right up until the presentation, and stopped by to tell those present about the data sensing techniques which the team are able to use – everything from handheld probes to buggy-drawn ground penetrating radar units. Bringing examples from sites all around England, the team pointed t the challenges and insights which archaeological science can bring to our understanding of the built and buried remains of industrial and other sites.

Fascinating presentation on archaeological geophysics from Historic England national geophys team (photo credit: Christine Cameron)

After the talk, many of the attendees stayed around to discuss their own knowledge and interests in the history of Elsecar and its surroundings. Getting right into the history of the canals, collieries and ironworks around Elsecar, several new discussions were started, including the unique memories of a 90 year old lady having gone down a footrill, to family connections to some of the historic sites. The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery are delighted to be making their own contribution to the investigations and look forward to seeing the results of the fascinating architectural and archaeological investigations being headed by Historic England.

Exciting times in Elsecar. Local people pleased to share their knowledge in discussion with John Tanner from Barnsley Museums after the HAZ presentation

In discussion; attendees in conversation after the presentation on the future work on Elsecar under its HAZ status

Virtual Reality

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery, supported by the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership are excited to announce the debut of Iain Nicholls’ virtual reality experience and recreation of Hemingfield Colliery at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

Introducing the VR experience, getting to grips with the controls

Discussing the background to, and process of making the VR experience at the recent Exploring Digital Futures conference in Scarborough, hosted at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Iain also premiered the experience in a demonstration on Friday 26th May 2017.

Iain Nicholls, artist and creator of the Hemingfield Colliery VR experience

Scarborough News spoke to the artist, and collaborator and Barnsley poet Ian McMillan who lends his voice and words to the project.

We’re excited to announce the first full public demonstration will take place next Sunday, 4th June, at the Visitors Centre, Elsecar Heritage Centre.

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