Hope and Heritage spring eternal, April 2022

Cold comforts…

2 seasons in one day: snow in the morning of 31st March 2022

Picking up from our previous update at the end of March, you might be forgiven for thinking that the seasons had jumped, with winter returning, as snow fell on site on the morning of 31st March; the pit briefly donning a white cloak, before warmer air, and the green shoots of Spring began to emerge more fully.

Snow chance, exit the white stuff later in the day, 31st March 2022

…and sunny delights

Changing seasons, spring brings new life across the valley. Green shoots emerge, and birdsong echoes all-around as the long-lost drops of sunshine finally arrived.

9th April 2022 Sunshine! (Photo credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

All eyes were on the grass seed which had been scattered (expertly sowed, to be fair) on the top of the site. How would our garden up top grow?

Quite slowly seemingly. But steadily, from 1st-23rd April, the green stuff emerged:

Daily timelapse of the grass growing 1-23 April 2022. We know exciting content when we see it.

Still, it certainly looks a lot better than when we started with an overgrown mound! Just as, on the other side of the site, our progress in and around Pump House Cottage is truly epic when compared to how things stood almost 6 years ago:

Top: 28 May 2016 – work to be done; Bottom: 9 April 2022 – progress (image credit: Mitchell Sutherland)

Progress at Pump House cottage from 2019 has been driven though the energies and commitment of the Friends and the amazing volunteers, but has only been possible thanks to the support and encouragement of the National Lottery Heritage Fund – that’s thanks to National Lottery players – supporting our ambitious Hemingfield’s Hidden History project which has secured the formerly private and separate building, made strides in repairing its leaky flat roof and other problems after years of neglect, to be able to make it available as a resource for the wider community as well as a comfortable dry space for volunteers after years of roofless buildings and no welfare facilities.

The colliery site is reunited once again and ever more accessible, as we investigate its history and share the stories with the local community and interest groups, engaging new audiences, and hopefully creating opportunities for many activites on site, free from the disruptions and delays of the pandemic.

Summery statements

The regular volunteers certainly made the most of the warmth with work on site during the regular fortnightly open days, but also extra weekends’ work in between. The Friends are truly fortunate to have such kind and dedicated volunteers, special thanks to Glen, Paul, John, Mitchell, Jamie, Janet, Jeff, Chris, Barrie, Danny and Amelia for all of your efforts in April.

With a bumper list of topics to cover, here are just a few highlights from work on site this month.

Iron harvest

Part of caring for the site is keeing it tidy. With roofless buildings and burnt metal from past vandalism and theft, there is no shortage of rusty rubbish; oxidised scraps laying around. Gathering the rubbish with an eye to recycling or salvaging any for scrap will assist in supporting the long-term care of the site. But it is dirty heavy work.

Nuts and bolts, 9th April 2022
Digging indoors 9th April 2022
Switchgear scrapings 23rd April 2022

English country gardening

Pump House Cottage is looking much better now with the TLC of the Friends. The old garden is being transformed, and the wider site secured and restored, with improved green spaces and consolidated stonework with lime mortar pointing. It all takes time, and a lot of hardwork given freely by volunteers.

Revealing beauties, 9th April 2022
Many hands make lime work, 16th April 2022

We have been fortunate to welcome new volunteers to the site, sharing their time, energy and ideas as we continue to improve the site, learn more about its past, and develop new interpretations and plan activities for the future.

Shovels for shapes and shade, 23rd April 2022

Elsecar – an evening of History and Creativity, 6th April 2022

We know we are not alone, too, but rather part of a growing local heritage-focused community. The Friends and volunteers have worked closely with partners in and around Barnsley, and Rotherham boroughs, focussing on Elsecar’s story – which is also Hemingfield Colliery’s story. We were delighted to support the re-assessment of Elsecar’s heritage value, and share research into our own site and the wider industrial Iron and Coal activities on Earl Fitzwilliam’s Wentworth Woodhouse Estate which Historic England championed through the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone work, and later in Oct 2020, the announcement of the listing and scheduling of a number of historic sites in and around Elsecar – including Hemingfield Colliery – a recognition of the significance of the surviving heritage and a level of protection for the remains which we all hope to ensure we maintain and improve.

So, at the start of the month, the Friends were delighted to be invited to a wonderful evening celebrating Elsecar’s history and new creativity inspired by its heritage.

Invitation to explore Elsecar’s heritage 6/4/2022

On the evening of Weds 6th April, Museums Barnsley Project Officer Dr John Tanner welcomed a large audience to the Ironworks at Elsecar for an evening of film and presentations on the past, present and future of telling Elsecar’s heritage stories, he was joined by professional heritage experts and creative artists who are helping to engage new local and wider audiences as well as stimilating new economic developments for the village.

Dr John Tanner welcoming over 100 local people to the special event 6th April 2022

Heritage in action

Following Dr Tanner, Archaeologist and Heritage Action Zone project officer Dr Tegwen Roberts provided a timely recap of the groundbreaking work of the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) at Elsecar from 2017-2020, during which time new assessments of the historic development and significance of Elsecar’s surviving buildings was pursued with the help of experts from Historic England.

HAZ activities, supported by the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery, reviewed by Dr Tegwen Roberts

Conducting building surveys, community archaeology and archival research to produce ‘The Village of Elsecar, South Yorkshire: Historic Area Assessment‘, a remarkable report revealing the importance of the iron and coal industries developed on the Wentworth Estates of the Earls Fitzwilliam. Beyond the historical discoveries the HAZ project has led to new protections for Elsecar’s historic buildings, including new listings and 2 schedulings, protections which have also directly assisted securing a future for Hemingfield Colliery’s site for the long term.

Setting the scene: Building 21 at Elsecar, the old ironworks rolling mill, ready for the event and the small display of materials from the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery, 6th April 2022

Sounds like ours

The evening continued with sound and visual artists’ work being presented to the audience, composer and award-winning violinist Amanda Johnson‘s soundscape of the village; Dirty Freud‘s electronic and dance tracks inspired by the history of Elsecar and developed from conversations with local people (producer and electronic instrumentalist Danni Skerrit and vocalist Ruby Tingle). Both works were commissioned by Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust through an Additional Restrictions Grant, awarded by the South Yorkshire Combined Mayoral Authority, part of the South Yorkshire Mayor’s Renewal Action Plan.

The audience were also treated to a preview of a performance of Grimethorpe Colliery brass band reaponding to artist Ed Carter’s installation the Mute Still Air.

Wonder walls of art

Pupils from Elsecar Holy Trinity Primary produced bright canvases on Elsecar’s mining and industrial heritage.

From sounds to sights, the audience were treated to a display of vibrant artwork in and around the ironworks. Around the wall were bold and bright canvases created by puils from Elsecar Holy Trinity Primary school, and led by their selections series of bold new murals have been put up along the Heritage Centre approach to the Ironworks.

A series of new bold murals celebrating Elsecar’s mining heritage have been erected in the Heritage Centre.

Painting a bigger picture

A further new artwork was announced: a giant mural to cover the antiques centre building, creating a giant spread of images of Elsecar’s productions and past activities. This new artwork was also part of the Additional Restrictions Grant awarded by the South Yorkshire Combined Mayoral Authority and part of the South Yorkshire Mayor’s Renewal Action Plan. The mural is to be completed during April 2022, and was introduced by artist and illustrator Will Rea whose past work on a giant scale has included a mural at Orchard Square in Sheffield.

Details of Will Rea’s mural at Orchard Square, Sheffield, April 2022

At Elsecar, starting with a blank canvas of freshly-cleaned brick, Will painted the long wall white and had just begun some colour at the left-hand end on the 6th April.

6-9th April 2022 – progress of the mural by Will Rea

By the 23rd, the colours of the final design are clear – and the detailed images are starting to appear. We are excited to see the final product!

Mural progress as at 23rd April 2022

Elsecar on Film

Archival and new films on Elsecar’s mining and industrial history

Alongside sound and physical artworks in progress, the evening also introduced several films on the history of Elsecar. Archival film showing Elsecar Main and Reform Row c.1920 from a Swedish film archive, and a sneak preview of a brand new film to be launched in the coming weeks to invite local people to share their memories and family associations with Elsecar Main Colliery, or previous workings at Elsecar. A story close to our own heart, the film by Joshua Daniels heard from ex miners Barnsley Museums staff and even had a contribution from the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery. The film, Elsecar Mining Memories, will promote a new round of history and archival work for Barnsley.

Digital dreams, digital domains

As the evening drew to a close, a sneak preview was provided of a remarkable digital fly-through of Elsecar as it was in the 1880s. Created by Martin Moss of Dextra Visual historical illustration and animation, this stunning fly-by reprinted in minute photo-realistic detail the ironworks, collieries, canal and landscape of Elsecar.

Martin Moss (Dextra Visual) introduces his stunning digital recreation of Elsecar in 1880. Hemingfield Colliery appeared in the animated fly-through.

Word power

Poet Ray Hearne gave a passionate performance of his Ballad of Wentworth and Elsecar.

The final creative act of the evening came in the form of a live performance, a powerful reading of ‘The Ballad of Wentworth & Elsecar‘, by the local Rotherham poet and performer Ray Hearne. Attendees all received a copy of this poem, published by Wild West Press and originally commissioned by the Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar project. An energetic and socially-charged end to the night which drew applause from the large audience.

A past with future purpose

The events provided a forum to reconnect and re-energise local people with the fantastic amount of historical and creative work happening in and around Elsecar after the last 2 years of pandemic isolation.

It also allowed for the announcement of some great news for Elsecar – that Barnsley Museums has been awarded £3.93 Million by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, delivered by Arts Council England through the Cultural Development Fund stream of the government’s Cultural Investment Fund. It aims to turn Elsecar Heritage Centre into a cultural and creative industries hub through development of the site’s historic buildings and outdoor spaces, creating new event spaces and creative galleries under a new £4M ‘Forging Ahead’ project.

Pathing the way

And a final update to what was a bumper month – the resurfacing and widening of the TransPennine Trail (TPT) between Elsecar and Cortonwood – is almost complete.

Crossing improvements at Wath Road, April 2022

Receiving funding from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority as part of its Active Travel funding programme, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council have improved road crossings at Elsecar Park and Wath Road as well as improving cycle access and safety at Tingle Bridge.

Active travel improvements to the TransPennine Trail between Elsecar and Cortonwood, April 2022

We can look forward to additional interpretation board signage and artwork installation on the TPT in the coming weeks, highlighting a new sculpture installation by artist Patrick Murphy, entitled ‘Industrious Revolutions’ the artwork is a sculpture of a horse, decorated with emblems of local industrial history.

Improved crossings, April 2022

Lots to be excited about as the days get longer and the weather improves!

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