Barnsley History Day, Sunday 18th June 2017

Bright sunshine and beautiful blue skies, it must be Barnsley!

Sunday 18th June was a scorcher. As the longest day drew near, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery gathered their display materials, leaflets, booklets and badges and headed in to Barnsley town centre. The destination, the beautiful 1933 listed town hall building, whose white Portland stone facade was resplendent against the bright blue sky.

On arriving, the Friends headed up to the reception rooms, where they found Darfield artist Iain Nicholls already getting his Virtual Reality kit ready for another day of VR Hemingfield Colliery experiences.

Official opening

Just after 11a.m., the Mayor of Barnsley, Cllr Jeff Ennis welcomed visitors to the day and emphasized the pride local people take in sharing the heritage of their area, and the work of history groups in researching the past.

The Mayor of Barnsley officially opening proceedings at Barnsley History Day 2017

A good number of visitors arrived at the Council reception rooms ready to hear the Mayor’s speech.

Representing Hemingfield

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were pleased to have a display at the event, with Directors Glen and Christine and regular volunteer Chris on hand to greet visitors and share the history and activities of the Friends group, as well as meeting fellow heritage volunteers and local history groups from around the region.

Friends Directors Glen and Christine welcoming visitors and sharing the story of the pit and the aims of the Friends

On such a warm day the Friends were fortunate to have a balcony window position with a gentle breeze and a great view out of the front of the town hall, across to the war memorial and down on the gardens.

The Friends were kept busy during the day from 11am-3pm as visitors attended the public talks in the Council Chamber, and walked across to the reception rooms to discover more about Barnsley’s history.

Volunteer Chris and Site Manager Chris discussing local history and mining with visitors (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery table included a mixture of photographs, maps, leaflets and books, including a booklet on the 1852 mining disaster which is now on sale, with verse from Ian McMillan.

Providing a modern twist on our heritage, the Friends directed visitors to the virtual reality experience next to the FoHC table.

Visitors try out the VR experience whilst guests look at the monitor to see the field of vision the user sees when exploring the virtual reality world.

Young and old took advantage of the opportunity to don the headset, headphones and controllers and to be taken back to a serene day at the pit in 1902.

VR experience with monitor in background

Great to share the VR experience with all kinds of people interested in local history

Sharing stories

The Friends took time to greet fellow heritage groups and learn more about the great range of voluntary groups dedicated to researching and recording the past. In particular, we were pleased to see our friends from the Barnsley Main Heritage Group who had brought their wonderful new display boards and materials, supported by the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.

Our friends from Barnsley Main Heritage Group with their excellent new display boards

We also took time out to talk to members of the Cawthorne Victoria Jubilee Museum, the South Yorkshire Industrial History Society and the Hunter Archaeological Society, and our near neighbours, the Wombwell Heritage Group, amongst others.

View of tables down the reception room

Pride in prose and virtue in verse

At the end of the day, the Friends were delighted to meet Barnsley poet, journalist and playwright Ian McMillan, and thank him for his support for Hemingfield Colliery, both through his poem printed in our booklet on the 1852 Hemingfield Colliery disaster, and also on his wonderful narration on life and work underground as part of our virtual reality experience. 

Our booklet on the 1852 disaster

Ian is a busy writer and regular broadcaster, currently helming BBC Radio 3 show The Verb. Having written and performed many poems relating to Yorkshire. His last prose book Neither Nowt Nor Summat: In Search of the Meaning of Yorkshire is a celebration of our region, from his native village of Darfield, to the county’s great cities of Leeds, Bradford and York. 

The bottom end of the reception room full of history tables, with Barnsley poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan sharing his passion for local history

As 3pm came around, the time came to pack up and head home. The Friends had an enjoyable day, and were pleased to meet a steady flow of visitors and introduce them to the history of the colliery, but also share the exciting opportunities of the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone, and work with our friends at Elsecar Heritage Railway. We look forward to taking the display and curtail reality experience to other events as the summer progresses.

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