Seeking shelter, Open Day 26th October 2019

The rainclouds hung heavily overhead during the morning. Ever-optimistic, the Friends arrived on site, opened up the gates, and skipped over the puddles to get on with a list of tasks before the worst of the cold and miserable weather set in.

Swept up

Friends Chair Steve, Site Manager Glen, and regular volunteers John, Paul and Chris donned raincoats to scurry around and about the pit yard.

Gloomy start to the day. Dark rain clouds gathered overhead – but the bright National Lottery Heritage Fund Banner it looking good!

Autumnal weather had definitely arrived; dark wet and generally miserable, with local roads flooded just down from the pit on New Road, by Tingle Bridge, and a huge puddle down Wath Road towards Elsecar – a veritable stream was flowing down Royds Lane, coming up through the curb stones by the former entrance to Elsecar Main Colliery.

Outside the colliery, the first green-yellow leaf-fall had gathered. Using one of the new shovels, the crew had a quick sweep of the pavement – many more bag-fulls will follow in the next month!

The Great Indoors

After a brief recce of previous work on the rear retaining wall, looking solid with its safely tarpaulined top row, one part of the crew headed to Pump House Cottage and the other set off for the insulated roof of the winding engine house.


Chair Steve got out his tools for a most unusual, yet most appropriate task under the circumstance – getting ready to sweep the chimney. Although not technical a historic recreation or re-enactment, the task did present moments of drama and not a little amusement. Eery shadows and mucky boots…


Rods at the ready, sweeping the fire at Pump House Cottage, October 2019

From the outside it was both delightful and hilarious to see ‘one section too many’ appear out of the chimney pot:


October 2019 – no Mary Poppins and Burt in site, but a chimney well and truly swept!

Work then continued in starting to clear out the worst parts of the upstairs front room at Pump House Cottage – this also required some sinister garb – a breathing mask as years of leaky roof and damp were to be faced.


Modelling our Autumnal collection!

20191026_120528The ravages of time and neglect (and not just a damp carpet!). Severe water ingress needing clean-up in Pump House Cottage. October 2019

It was still early days in starting work to clean up Pump House Cottage, part of the major project for the friends Hemingfield’s Hidden History, funded by National Lottery Players via the National Lottery Heritage Fund it aims to bring the former pumping engine house back into use, fixing the roof, and enabling it to be used as a community resource as we share and celebrate the history and heritage of the wider site, reuniting that side of the site with its other half and ensuring a more easily accessible, sustainable future.


Windy Engine House?

Across the way, over in the winding engine house, rather like the Crystal Maze, the Friends had set themselves another physical challenge: to create a window frame, fitted with wire, and manage to get it high up in the front of the building. No crystal for this one, just the glory of a job well done.

The opening was left unfilled when the winding enginehouse roof was repaired and the scaffolding was removed sooner than expected. Although an owl box was built into the roof void, and another box (now well-used) was hoisted onto the headgear, there remained a need to limit the flow of guano.

Before completing the frame and adding the wire, there was the small matter of a large compressed air pipe in the way. After some nifty ladder work and coordinated lifting which would make a Chuckle Brother proud, the lengths of old pipe in the way were carefully laid down inside the workshop space of the engine house.

Winding engine house workshop after some cleaning

After some high-level measurements, a trip to obtain some wood, and a flurry of sawing and wire-wrapping, the framed wired window was ready to be fixed into position.

In order to keep the inside tidy, a further wire window was made to fill the opening in the wall which was used for the main winding rope.

After a long morning, and a successful early afternoon, the gang packed up their tools and departed for the day, pleased with further securing and protecting the main heritage buildings on site.

Join us next time, on Saturday 9th November 2019!


And now, in a delightful break from the norm, a brief introduction to a fascinating new exhibition, Untameable celebrating the work of Barry Hines, especially Kes, hosted at Western Bank Library, at the University of Sheffield which holds Barry Hines’s papers in its Special Collections.

The exhibition brings to light the hidden gems of Hines’s collection, drawing on the personal selections of artists Patrick Murphy and Anton Want.

The exhibition artwork makes wonderful use of the listed Western Bank Library building and also its remarkable next door neighbour, the Arts Tower (have a look at ‘who’ is in the Paternoster lift carriages).

Untameable explores the origins and working papers behind Hines’s literary, television and film work. Best known for originating Kes, the film which was based on Hines experience of the Hoyland area, the film was shot in several locations in Hoyland Common (street scenes) and Tankersley (the famous Old Hall scene). In some ways, although a fiction, it also captures something factual – now-vanished scenes of mining life in the background to its main narrative; collieries and pit headgear (including Skiers Spring Colliery) which no longer survive.

This is a great exhibition, which is on from 21st Oct until 20th Dec 2019.

In addition, a new BBC4 television documentary based on the literary origins and publication of Kes is underway. Hosted by former English teacher-turned-comedian Greg Davies, the one-off documentary, Kes: A Boy’s Life was shot around South Yorkshire recently, and includes an interview with Hines’s brother Richard, as well as access to the Hines Collection at Sheffield. The final broadcast date has not yet been confirmed.