Winter chills, Summer sun!

This weekend the group continued work on the renewal of the garden of Pump House Cottage, and improving accessibility to the site to suport our National Lottery Heritage Fund project – Hemingfield’s Hidden History. All the while basking in the presence of a summer-like sun!

A blinding sun, piercing through woodland along Wath road (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

As usual the group arrived at the pit keen on a good day’s work. Following deliberations on what jobs were at hand this week, the primary site inspections for rubbish and evidence of unwanted visitors were completed.

As expected at this time of year, mother nature had left her weekly deposit of leaves along the front wall of the colliery.

View of the front wall leading to the entrance to the site. (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

Using a different technique to the usual relay-race with a wheelbarrow, a 1-tonne sack and some nifty sweeping made for a quick and easy job; leaving the pavement leading to the entrance of the site much more pleasing to the eye.

Not even an hour later, the deposition of leaves is well under way again! (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

Progress. Lintel by lintel!

Pump House Cottage continued to receive her exterior touch-up in the early stages of the day; the two lintels on the red brick extension had already received a layer of undercoat on Wednesday afternoon (17/11/2021). Accompanied by a layer of fresh paint this weekend, Pump House Cottage, her lintels, window cills and drain pipes have all taken on a fresh, bright and welcoming new look.

Freshly painted lintels (credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

Concentrating on Pump House Cottage, Jeff and Janet continued their excellent work within the garden. Revealing more of the original stone pathway by removing the neverending roots of dandelions, the hardy tufts of grass, and some of the exposed roots of the remaining cherry trees: a long lost feature of the garden now prominent once again. 

Another quarter of the garden has seen the remainder of the white edging removed with the help of the new trusty sledgehammer. The topsoil has also continued to be prepared for the next phase of planting. Snowdrops donated by John were also added this weekend, supplying a pleasant feature we hope will be seen throughout the early stages of 2022!

The pathway emerging from beneath the topsoil. (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

Luncheon meets

An aspect of the day that isn’t really spoken of, yet a part of the day all of the volunteers look forward to, is our lunch hour. This week, being doused in sunshine, the group gathered and acclimatised on the concrete foundation outside of the Pump House Cottage.

The hour we have for lunch is often filled with catching up on the week gone by; talking about the industrial heritage lost within South Yorkshire, or simply what the next planned job is to carry out on site. The sound of laughter and welcome chatter is never hard to find.

The view towards the former site of Elsecar Main Colliery, on a summer-like day. (Credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Previous weeks on site have seen the group focus on improving accessibility; from creating new pathways to levelling out ground, a real difference can be seen. With this in mind, this weekend’s main task was on better access to the emergency winder’s concrete foundation.

Levelling up

The Emergency winders foundation is a much later addition to the site, roughly installed around 1980 to allow emergency winding equipment to be set securely and safely on site. This is now going to be repurposed as parking space for volunteers and visitors alike.

Mound of topsoil prior to any work being carried out. (Credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Attention had turned to the mountainous pile of topsoil and spoil accommodated next to the main entrance and concrete pad itself; this allowing further access with newly cleared land.

Section of the concrete pad. (Credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Glen, Paul and Mitch all got stuck in, with two shovels, two wheelbarrows and the trusty pickaxe. They soon had a conveyor-like system up and running; before you would know it, a large section of the topsoil mound had been cleared and the area of the site leading to the concrete pad was becoming more and more level with every barrowful.

A short time lapse, demonstrating the work carried out. (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

Always keeping a keen eye for anything with potential to cause damage to a car or person, a bucketful of goods awaited us at the end of the day; this including a handful of coal pieces, a section of winding rope and an old carbon brush. Although it sounds like a simple job, fighting against bricks, tiles and endless amounts of old iron objects (nails, brackets, etc.) really cut out for a hard day’s work!

Prior to the work carried out, it was possible to accommodate two cars on the concrete foundation given the cars were in the correct position; following the efforts of this weekend it would be quite possible to fit three cars safely on the foundation. A great success with weeks more of improvements to come.

Topsoil used to level the concrete pads full length. (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)
Large section of the pile of topsoil removed. (Credit. Mitchell Sutherland)

Creating connections

Last Wednesday afternoon (17/11/2021) saw the colliery visited by a group of 13 architecture students from University of Sheffield, accompanied by a member of the University staff, and two members of staff from Historic England.

Their course is about creating schemes for conservation and future sustainable use of historic buildings. The focal point of this course/project being the industrial heritage of Elsecar and Hemingfield; with a working scheme in place for the Elsecar centre, the students have decided to use their assignment to devise a range of potential schemes to manage the Hemingfield site.

The group of students looking over towards the Canal Basin.

The group were given a printed hand-out prior to the visit, this summarising the history of the Hemingfield site and its context within the Elsecar valley. When they arrived, they were shown samples of coal and ironstone (the raw materials), and cast iron and wrought iron (the finished products from the foundries and rolling mills). Following a brief explanation of the history of the site and the surrounding landscape, the group were given a tour of the site, with an explanation of its principal features and taking note of the different architectural aspects of the buildings. A tour of the Winding Engine House allowed time for the group to inspect the details of the drum and winders. A productive day for the students, and another positive interaction with the University for the site as we open up the site to new audiences and share and celebrate the hidden history of Hemingfield Colliery.

2 thoughts on “Winter chills, Summer sun!

  1. I am one of the 13 students who visited that day, hank you very much for your company and introduction, the work you have done there is very respectable.
    But one thing I want to say is that we are the architecture students of the University of Sheffield, not Sheffield Hallam University. It would be great if this information could be corrected. Thank you very much.


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