Going Steady, 12th October 2019

October continued to charm with its up-and-down weather. Saturday looked ok as Site Manager Glen welcomed regular volunteers, John, Paul and Mike to the pit for what would be another good session on repairing the wall.

Edifying experiences

Apologies to readers for a little repetition on the part of your blog writer, but the work over the last 2 months has been entirely driven and supported by the new tools, materials and general equipment available to the Friends and volunteers which have only been made possible by the Tesco Bags of Help scheme.

Tesco Bags of Help scheme presentation to FoHC (Photo credit: Peter Davies, Sept 2019)

This award, from the votes of local shoppers, put the group in 2nd place and meant that the group were able to purchase a generator and cement mixter to start work on the wall. Guided by professional, but freely-offered, advice on heritage building repair methods, the core group of regular volunteers are building up knowledge, skills and, most importantly, actual experience in restoring the rear retaining wall.

In addition to the basic power and mixing kit, further parts of the funds were put to good use on purchasing shovels, 2 new wheelbarrows – always a cause for celebration! – and, vitally, a safe working scaffold platform for when the wall repairs progress further up the wall.

This work continued with aplomb on this Open Day. Rather than wax lyrical about the finer points of mixing, carting, sizing, laying and pointing in the reclaimed standstone blocks with real lime mortar, it is probably better just to show the actual results of a steady day’s work for the team.

Work on retaining wall 12/10/19 (Photo credit: Glen Sheppard)

Shoring up some very large lintel-type stones was a big step forward in consolidating the wall at the point where the sandstone blocks tie back into the red brick. Finding stones of the right size, height, width and depth is becoming something of a fine art amongst the Friends. Truth be told, the thrill of virtual Tetris-style video games pales in comparison with fitting together the real thing!

Detail of wall repair 12/10/19 (Photo credit: Glen Sheppard)

As well as rebuilding and restoring, a fair amount of effort is going into revealing: digging away years of overburden at the foot of the wall.

Trench of overburden removed at base of wall (Photo credit: Glen Sheppard)

Glimpse of the past

Delving into the past, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery have been fortunate in receiving materials relevant to the history of the pit, particularly the last 80 years. The George Beedan Collection of material continues to be an interesting source of information and stimulation to further research. In the 1970s George and friends undertook a number of photographic trips around the local industrial sites of interest and this included the collieries and canalside buildings around Hemingfield. One photo from the Collection is relevant to out work since 2014 as even this c.1973 image shoes how much the site has changed; with trees, bricked up windows and general delapidation. Note also the ghostly presence of the chimney of Elsecar Main Colliery, no longer extant.

Photo of the rear of Hemingfield Colliery c.1973, from the Beedan Collection. No reproduction without permission and acknowledgement

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