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 green shoots of Spring began to emerge more fully.
…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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Elsecar – an evening of History and Creativity, 6th April 2022
At the start of the month, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were delighted to be invited to a wonderful evening celebrating Elsecar’s history and new creativity inspired by its heritage.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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
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.
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, to be completed during April 2022, was introduced by artist and illustrator Will Rea whose past work on a giant scale has included a mural at Orchard Square in Sheffield.
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.
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!
Elsecar on Film
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lots to be excited about as the days get longer and the weather improves!