Heritage Open Days are a blessing. An opportunity to share; to learn and also to enjoy what feels like the beginning of some sort of return to a more normal flow.
After some concerns about the weather, the Friends decided to open all day on Saturday, from 10.30 to 16.00, and for a shorter period on Sunday, from 12.30 to 15.30, weather permitting. Although the forecasts definitely looked less-than-permissive, promising mostly cloud and rain.
Whatever trepidation lingered was swiftly dispersed when the first visitor appeared on Saturday morning, just as the group were setting up.
Visitors, our shared heritage, and sunshine, what is not to like?
Show and Tell
Friends and regular volunteers gathered at Hemingfield and set up shop for tours around the site. With the aide of several enlarged images depicting the site through the last hundred years, the volunteers were ready for some show and tell.
The first groups stood together outside in the sun and listened to the story of the shaft sinking, the coal winning, and the water pumping which saved the site. The connection to the canal, and to the coming of the railway were weaved into the story to explain the scale of activity and indeed the origins of population and economic growth in and around Elsecar from the end of the Eighteenth Century.
Delight in details
When touring the pit, the sunshine picked out details and textures which we don’t always notice when working on the site. A few little details which caught the eye included:
On the list
Hemingfield Colliery is now a Schduled site. The National Grid Reference is SE3932200913, and the official List Entry Number is 1465079. It was first listed on 19th October 2020, following the work Historic England on the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone. Quoting from the offical listing, this is what makes the site special:
Period: dating to the mid-C19, an early example of a well-capitalised pithead, prefiguring the larger complexes that were built in subsequent decades and came to characterise the industry at its peak in the late C19 and early C20.
Survival: in addition to the standing buildings, pieces of C19 and early C20 machinery and other rarely surviving features remain on site.
Potential: features of the upstanding structures together with archaeological remains retain good potential for aiding our understanding of mid-C19 mining technology and the experimentation of the notable mining engineer Benjamin Biram.
Group value: with the Grade II*-listed former Cornish Pumping Engine House also at the colliery, the immediately adjacent Grade II-listed canal basin, and with the more distant, but directly associated Grade II*-listed Elsecar Central Workshops.
Support and gratitude
The Friends are extremely grateful to our guests who visited the site over the Heritage Open Day weekend, their patience, enthusiasm and generosity was energising and reminded the group of the importance of efforts in conserving the site and ensuring they continue to discover and share its stories in the future.