100 years ago…
A hundred years ago today, on the 15th May 1920, the last corf load of coal was raised from Earl Fitzwilliam’s Hemingfield Colliery. It marked the end of an era for the pit, as silence fell, albeit temporarily, at the main winding shaft.
The pit had been working the mighty 9ft Barnsley coal seam (amongst others) over 150 yards (c. 140 metres or 450 feet) below the surface since 1848.
Coal worked at Earl Fitzwilliam’s collieries at Elsecar and Park Gate 1850s-1870s (based on General Manager John Hartop’s mineral accounts – [Rotherham Archives 291-B Newbould papers])
But now the seams were exhausted, and the pit might have been closed forever and disappeared like its near neighbours High Elsecar (closed 1889) or Simon Wood (closed 1903) before it.
Coal and Water
But rather than abandon the miles of underground workings, and drainage levels, letting them flood and threaten other collieries still working nearby, a group of 15 local colliery companies had banded together to take on and maintain Earl Fitzwilliam’s vast pumping and drainage system.
- Brodsworth Main Colliery Company Ltd
- John Brown & Company Ltd (incl. Aldwarke Main, Car House and Rotherham Main collieries)
- Bullcroft Main Colliery Company Ltd
- Carlton Main Colliery Company Ltd
- Cortonwood Collieries Company Ltd
- Dalton Main Collieries Ltd
- Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries Ltd
- Hickleton Main Colliery Company Ltd
- Houghton Main Colliery Company Ltd
- Manvers Main Collieries Ltd
- Mitchell Main
- New Monckton Collieries Ltd
- Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd
- Wath Main Colliery Company Ltd
- Wombwell Main Company Ltd
Joining together as the South Yorkshire Pumping Association, they had approached Earl Fitzwilliam’s colleries manager, Mr Thomas Newbould on the possibility of buying the drainage levels and pumping equipment at Hemingfield, Elsecar and at Westfield near Parkgate.
Newbould investigated the matter, working with mining engineer Charles E. Rhodes for the South Yorkshire Coal Owners, taking the request to Earl Fitzwilliam himself.
“I think you have arrived at a proper solution of the whole question, viz:- that coal must be left to support the old water levels and that pumping must continue. As regards the former I shall be quite content if the Owners concerned will carry out any arrangements or discussions with Mr Newbould […]”Earl Fitzwilliam to Charles Rhodes (1918)
And so it was that, after working through the First World War, through the Spanish Flu, and into peacetime, in May 1920 the day finally came for the Pumping Association to take over the pit from the coal working years under Earl Fitzwilliam.
The last manager at Hemingfield, Mr Asher Hollings, continued under the aegises of the SYPA and the pit was maintained as the coal winning materials were removed and the heavy plant now surplus to requirements was removed.
Electric pumps suplplied by Rees Roturbo Manufacturing Company from Wolverhampton were installed in a new underground ‘pump house’ in the following year, and equipment renewed for the new purpose of pumping and drainage for the benefit of the wider South Yorkshire mining industry.
Jumping forward to the present day. 100 years have passed since that last wooden corf of coal was chalked up ready for winding up to the surface. The same shaft is still in existence and the same winding and pumping engine house can still be seen at Hemingfield. Since 2014 the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery have strived to save the site, restore and share the stories if its long working life. In 2020 we remember the end of one shift for coal, and the beginning of another for pumping water to keep other pits safe.
We hope you will join us as we take the story of Hemingfield Colliery into the future.