End of year reflections
The Friends and volunteers arrived on site for the final time in 2018, with Friends Chair Steve, Site Manager Glen, and regular volunteers Paul, John and Chris, and returning expert John, coming together to open the colliery and reflect on the year’s progress, as well as start planning for the coming year – 2019 – will be 5 years since the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery first took possession of the site and started the slow, but steady work of undoing years of neglect, vandalism and theft on this jewel of a Victorian colliery site.
First things first
Delayed autumn and mild winter waits or no-one, so the leaf-gathering must continue, keeping the site neat and tidy.
Meanwhile, at the rear of the site, work continued in back-filling the old inspection pit to restore the floor level we encountered when we first arrived on site.
With mostly decent weather and trusty shovels, this was not too bad a job with barrows rolling back and forth.
Steps in time
Whilst the spoil heap was being reduced whence it came, Friends Chair Steve and archaeologist John continued some light clean-up of the bottom corner of the lower terrace. a job pushed forward back in November. With some neat trowel work, it became clear that in the recent past there had been some steps fixed from the lower terrace and bridging up to the top level by the headgear. All that remains now is a concrete footing and the bottom step in an odd looking alignment with the upper level.
It is conjectured that the shuttered concrete work around the welded-section pipe is the later addition which required the space formerly taken by the landing of the flight of steps. This area has a mixture of old and new; re-used and removed material, so the phases of use – all likely NCB days – are not entirely clear.
The old brickwork and stone in-fill, together with the rotten timber appear to relate to changes probably made during the period after coal winning was complete in 1920, and perhaps more specifically, post-demolition, c.1921, but before the completion of the concrete headgear and level in 1939/40. The old wooden headgear was removed c. 1939, as the 1940 Report of the Mines Drainage Committee made clear:
The main winding shaft headgear has been replaced in concrete and the yard surrounding it properly graded and walled off.
South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Scheme, 1929 and 1936. Report and Accounts year ending 31st December 1940 [report dated 28th Feb 1941], p.1
Sheffield Archives, NCB 1297/16/21
There is much more to understand and record here, of course, but discussions of the possibilities make for interesting conversation on site. Especially when luncheon is called for.
Carriage of delights
The approach of Christmas brings with it special events all around Elsecar. Our friends at Elsecar Heritage Railway put on Santa Specials, from the 8th through to the 23rd December at times varying from 11am to as late at 17.15pm. The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery have a beautiful vantage point from which to observe the Santa Specials, and to wave at the passengers and crews of these larger trains, with happy children enjoying a great day out on a magical steam railway.
A longer train of course gives pause to the Friends and volunteers, who pause and enjoy the steam rising across the site.
As if to call time on the final working day of 2018, a beautiful rainbow, a double-rainbow in fact, appeared as the volunteers were finishing off their lunch.
Framing the Victorian buildings quite magically, it raised the spirits of everyone on site, and left everyone excited to continue the work of saving and restoring the pit in 2019.
Elsecar update and Merry Christmas!
As the Friends sign off for Christmas, there is just time for a brief update on other heritage news in the area. Elsecar Heritage Action Zone project has been sharing the results of the archaeological work on the former site of the Milton Ironworks. The Milton Dig results have been summarised in a neat video prepared by ArcHeritage, Elsecar Heritage Action Zone and the creative folks at Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar.
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery look forward to learning more, and supporting the work of Elsecar HAZ and Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar in 2019. We also had some fantastic news to report – thanks to National Lottery players, and support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery have been successful in their bid to fund an exciting new project – Hemingfield’s Hidden History which will hopefully see the group secure Pump House Cottage, repair it and reunify the whole colliery site, together with developing a whole range of new activities on site, and opportunities for local people to get involved in discovering their heritage via the site. We’re excited to support our friends and partners locally as we expand our efforts to restore and save the remaining built heritage of our own site.
What nicer way of posting a festive send-off than with a period postcard of Elsecar.
Merry Christmas to all of our volunteers, friends and supporters!