2022 starts here

Well, it wasn’t perhaps the most auspicious weather to kickstart a new year of work on site: Saturday 15th January 2022 saw cold foggy skies and icy ground conditions. And yet, there’s a lot to write about: where there is a will…

…of course there is a way. Friends Director Glen welcomed regular volunteers Paul  John, Janet and Jeff and Mitch back on site to continue where the December gatherings left off.

Groundworks, gardening and landscaping are a major focus this year to delivery a more accessible and open site as part of delivering on our Hemingfield’s Hidden History National Lottery Heritage Fund project

Hoarfrost (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Paul and Glen tackled the spoil heap next to the main gates, levelling out the ground. Digging and barrowing merrily away after the Christmas hiatus.

Removing the spoil heap near the hard standing, Jan 2022

Over at Pump House Cottage, Janet and Jeff  continued developing the garden, turning over the earth and airing the topsoil, as all around droplets on the frozen grass and cobwebs shimmered in the morning gloom. Industry was in the air.

Frosty web (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Indoors, up high and down low in the winding engine house, John continued efforts in detailed building recording. Course-by-course and feature-by-feature an incredibly detailed model of this complex and intriguing edifice is being developed to help us understand the development of the appliance of power  steam and electrical to winding from the Victorian period through to the Twentieth Century.

Headgear in the frozen mist (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)


Even at this early stage of the new year, we were delighted to welcome visitors to the site, and provide guided tours. In addition we were able to share some of our own archival collections with visitors in the form of a set of Silverwood Colliery abandonment plans. Originally a pit associated with the Roundwood and Dalton Colliery Co, later the Dalton Main Collieries Ltd, it as part of the Rotherham and District Collieries Association Ltd in the 1930s, before nationalisation. A major employer the pit survived denationalisation in 1994, just. But closed shortly afterwards. Hemingfield pumping station was initially one of the satellite sites under its responsibilities, before shifting to Maltby as further closures continued, and the closure plans relate to both places as well as several others.

Moving on out (Jan-March 2022)

Temporary footpath closures for the widening and resurfacing works; encouraging greater active travel down the corridor from Elsecar to Cortonwood

Boots on the ground in January takes hardy souls, but we are not the only ones. Just down from the pit site, on the TransPennine Trail from Elsecar to Cortonwood, work was underway on improving the TPT path by widening and resurfacing it to facilitate active travel, walking, cycling (and some horse riding).

Machinery in action in the TPT widening and resurfacing at Elsecar

Taken together with improvements to road crossings at Elsecar Park and Wath Road, this major investment from South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, delivered by Barnsley MBC is a welcome improvement and will help folks avoid getting stuck in a mudbath along the trail in winter when the heavy bicycle and foot traffic takes its toll.

Council signage on temporary closures from Jan to prepare for widening of the TPT
Connecting heritage via the Trans Pennine Trail

Nationalisation, 75 years ago

2022 marks the 75 years since one of the most profound changes to the Coal Mining industry in the United Kingdom; namely the 1st Jan 1947 ‘Vesting Day’ of the National Coal Board (NCB) when the industry was nationalised as the result of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act of 1946. As the then Prime Minister, Clement Attlee put it:

“To-day, January 1st, 1947, will be remembered as one of the great days in the industrial history of our country. The coal-mines now belong to the nation. This act offers great possibilities of social advance for the workers, and indeed the whole nation.”

Vesting Day Leaflet, The National Archives CAB 21/2207

The National Coal Board members were initially appointed by the Minister of Fuel and Power (Hugh Gaitskill) on 15th July 1946:

  • (John Scott Hindley), Lord Hyndley (1883-1963), Chairman
  • Sir Arthur (William) Street (1892-1951), Deputy Chairman
  • (Walter Citrine), Lord Citrine (1887-1983) – Manpower and Welfare
  • (Ebenezer) Ebby Edwards (1884-1961) – Labour Relations
  • Sir Charles (Drummond) Ellis (1895-1980) – Scientific
  • John Crandon Gridley (1904-1968) – Marketing
  • Lionel Harold Harvey Lowe (1897-1960) – Finance
  • Sir Charles (Carlow) Reid (1879-1961) }
  • Mr (Thomas) Eric Boswell Young (1891-1973 ) } Production

None would live to see the end of the nationalised industry they initiated with the Coal Industry Act of 1994. They had a significant challenge ahead of them to establish and administer an organisation which could take on and improve the productivity and efficiency of hundreds of the formerly private companies, as well as deal with the changing demands of a huge workforce in coal mining communities from Scotland down to Kent.

The initial approach was to group local collieries into manageable units, named Areas for organisation and production goals. There were 48 Areas initially. The Areas were then grouped into intermediate regional managing authorities called Divisions, which would then relate and report to a central National Coal Board organization.

The initial 8 NCB regional Divisions (Appendix II) from: National Coal Board, Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for the Year ended 31st December 1946, HMSO July 1948

Special mention

Although coal winning had ended at Hemingfield in May 1920, Vesting Day also brought changes for Hemingfield, as its management under the South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Committee was handed over to the new National Coal Board, indeed the unique nature of the SYMDC was specifically mentioned in the 1946 Act:

“The South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Committee. Vesting of Interests and Dissolution of Committee.

9. On the primary vesting date—

(a) there shall vest in the Board, by virtue of this sub-paragraph and without further assurance, the interests of the South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Committee (in this Part of this Schedule referred to as ” the Committee “) in property of whatsoever kind ; and

(b) the Committee shall be dissolved and the South Yorkshire Mines Drainage Scheme, 1929 (in this Part of this Schedule referred to as ” the scheme “) shall cease to have effect.

10. Compensation shall not be made in respect of the transfer to the Board of interests of the Committee.”

Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 (c. 59) 9 & 10 Geo. 6, Third Schedule, Part II

Coming to our Census

From 75 years ago we now step even further back, to 1921, over 100 years since the Census of England and Wales was carried out. January 2022 saw the release from The National Archives via Findmypast.co.uk of digitised and transcribed images from the enumerators household schedules, as filled in and signed by our forebears.

1921 was the 13th and by far the most expensive Census undertaken in England and Wales. 1,132,668 people were classified as “030” or employed in the coal mining industry (including 1,126,258 males, and 6,410 females).

For mining, local and family historians the new resource is a enticing prospect, especially as the 1921 Census added a specific field to provide more details about the employer as well as the occupation, meaning that in many cases users could assemble lists of workers for particular companies and pits, or see the variation in a locality of the employers.

However the digitisation processing costs and exclusive contract for up to 3 years do mean that the service has a per image charge (£2.50 per record transcript and £3.50 per record image, reduced with a subscription) which may preclude area studies in the short term.

The Friends hope to share some insights from research on this Census, as Hemingfield Colliery moved into the management of the South Yorkshire Pumping Association and the coal winning equipment was turned over to pumping purposes.

Meanwhile, for those interested in the contemporary population analysis stemming from the report, please see the full report available via the Internet Archive, Census of England and Wales 1921. General report with appendices, HMSO, 1927

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.