Days of Future Past: saved a century ago

A hundred years ago today, 31st December 1918, two agreements were signed which effectively saved important parts of our mining heritage in South Yorkshire, and specifically what is now the site of Hemingfield Colliery.

Firstly, after a thorough report by mining engineer Charles Edward Rhodes, members of the South Yorkshire Coal Owners Association agreed to constitute the South Yorkshire Pumping Association to continue draining the exhausted Barnsley seam workings of Earl Fitzwilliam’s old pits to prevent flooding causing problems to deeper workings active in other parts of the coalfield.

Mining Engineer Charles E. Rhodes, of Rotherham (1849-1920)

An Agreement made this thirty-first day of December, 1918, between the companies and firms, owners or lessees of South Yorkshire Collieries by or on whose behalf it is hereunder sealed or signed.

Whereas the parties hereto are all interested in preventing water now being pumped or otherwise disposed of by Earl Fitzwilliam at his collieries in South Yorkshire from reaching or injuriously affecting their respective Collieries and that part of the South Yorkshire Coalfield in which they are situate;

And Whereas Earl Fitzwilliam will shortly cease to maintain and operate the various pits, levels, engines, pumps and other appliances by means of which the said water is being pumped or otherwise disposed of and it is therefore necessary and desirable to ensure the future safety and economical working of the coal in the Collieries owned or leased by the parties hereto and in that part of the South Yorkshire Coalfield in which they are situate that the said pits, levels, engines, pumps and other appliances should not be allowed to stop and cease working but should be acquired and effectively maintained and operated in the future;

And Whereas there is at present no authority possessed of statutory or other sufficient powers for controlling and dealing with water likely to become a danger to the South Yorkshire Coalfield and the Collieries therein, therefore the parties hereto with a view to avoid danger to their Collieries and the district in which they are situate have agreed to purchase if possible such of the pumps, pits, levels, engines and other appliances aforesaid as are necessary or convenient for effectually pumping and disposing of the water hitherto pumped or disposed of by the said Earl and to add to or improve and operate and maintain the same when purchased;
[…]

[Quoted from copy documents Rotherham Archives and Local Studies, 63-B/6/5/2]

And secondly they also agreed with Earl Fitzwilliam to purchase the pumping and drainage system of his Barnsley seam pits which would otherwise be abandoned.

7th Earl Fitzwilliam, William Charles de Meuron Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (1872-1943)

An Agreement made the 31st day of December 1918 between the Right Honourable William Charles de Meuron, Earl Fitzwilliam (hereinafter called Earl Fitzwilliam), of the first part; The Most Honourable Lawrence Marquis of Zetland and The Honourable Henry Berkeley Portman, of Buxted Park, Uckfield, in the County of Sussex (hereinafter called the Wentworth Trustees), of the second part; and John Brown and Company Limited, The Dalton Main Collieries Limited, J.and J. Charlesworth Limited, The Manvers Main Collieries Limited, The Cortonwood Collieries Company Limited, The Wath Main Colliery Company Limited, The Wombwell Main Company Limited, The Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries Limited, The Mitchell Main Colliery Company Limited, The Carlton Main Colliery Company Limited, The Houghton Main Colliery Company Limited, The New Monkton Collieries Limited, The Brodsworth Main Colliery Company Limited, The Hickleton Main Colliery Company Limited, and The Bullcroft Main Collieries Limited (hereinafter called the Colliery Companies) of the third part.

Whereas the owners in possession of the Wentworth Estates, in the County of York, have for many years past worked the Barnsley Seam of Coal belonging to those Estates from Pits at Elsecar, Hemingfield, and Low Stubbin (hereinafter called the Wentworth Pits), and have maintained the pumping pits, stations, and levels, shewn on the attached Index Plan, for intercepting and discharging water that otherwise would flow into and damage their workings. 

And Whereas so long as the said water is so dealt with it is prevented from flowing into or damaging the pits and workings of the Colliery Companies or others situate to the deep of the said pumping pits, stations, and levels.

And Whereas the Barnsley Seam, so far as it can be got from the Wentworth Pits, will in a short time be worked out and the maintenance of the said pits, pumping stations, and levels for the benefit of the Wentworth Estates will then cease to be necessary, but the Colliery Companies desire that the said pits, pumping stations, and levels shall nevertheless continue to be maintained for the benefit of the pits on the deep thereof.

And Whereas Earl Fitzwilliam is tenant for life in possession of the Wentworth Estates and the Wentworth Trustees or Trustees of those Estates for the purposes of the Settled Land Acts.

And Whereas the pits, pumping stations, and levels are specified in the First Part of the Schedule hereto, and (with certain fixed plant and machinery also there specified) belong to the Wentworth Estates and Earl Fitzwilliam is absolute owner (as the Wentworth Trustees hereby admit) of the loose plant and machinery used for the purposes of the pits, pumping stations, and levels, and specified (so far as they can be ascertained without valuation) in the Second Part of the Schedule.

And Whereas Earl Fitzwilliam is willing to sell to the Colliery Companies on the terms of this Agreement-

(a) All pits, pumping stations, and levels, now used or capable of being used by the said Earl for pumping, intercepting, and discharging water that might otherwise flow to the deep of the said pits, pumping stations, and levels in the Barnsley Bed of Coal;

(b) The subjacent and adjacent coal, also belonging to the Wentworth Estates, necessary for support of the said pits, stations, and levels; and

(c) The fixed and loose plant and machinery at the said pits, pumping stations, and levels, or used or capable of being used in connection therewith for the purpose of pumping, intercepting, discharging, or dealing with water.

Now it is hereby agreed as follows:-
1.Earl Fitzwilliam as tenant for life will sell and the Colliery Companies will purchase

1. The property specified in the First Part of the Schedule, namely:-
a) The Hemingfield Pumping Pit and Station shewn on Plan No.1.
b) The Elsecar Pumping Pit and Station shewn on Plan No.2.
c) The Westfield Pumping Pit and Station shewn on Plan No.3.
[…]

[Quoted from copy documents Rotherham Archives and Local Studies, 63-B/6/5/2]

Later History

1929-1946 

The South Yorkshire Pumping Association was replaced by a statutory body, The South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Committee in 1929. 

1947-1994

The Committee was dissolved when the Coal Industry was nationalised under the National Coal Board from 1947. The NCB established the South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Unit which ran the system and which lasted until 1987, when it was operated from Silverwood Colliery, as part of British Coal, South Yorkshire Group. 

1994-2014

After de-nationalisation in 1994 the site was bought up with Silverwood, but less and less visited and ultimately was disposed of along with other assets of UK Coal group.

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery began negotiations to save the site in 2013, and the purchase went through in 2014, since when the group have been dedicated to saving the remaining buildings.

2014 onwards:

We remember the centenary of 31/12/1918 with gratitude for saving Hemingfield (and Westfield and Elsecar pumping sites) after their coal winning days were over. They secured Georgian and Victorian sites and structures which later generations have inherited, and – hopefully – can repair and conserve for the future. Here’s to the next century for Hemingfield!

Happy 2019 to all of our volunteers, friends, and supporters!

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