June 2022 was another busy month of weekend activities on site at Hemingfield Colliery, although the first weekend presented a unique pause – the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend from Thursday 2nd June 2022.
Pubs and republicans
Although monarchy may not be everyone’s cup of tea – Cromwell was less than keen at times – it remains the unwritten constitutional reality of the United Kingdom; at all events after 2 years of pandemic fears and Brexit recriminations, most people were happy to enjoy a few days off and sat with family and friends in the sunshine.
Locally, bunting was flying high and proud; cakes and flags were also flying off the shelves as families and communities gathered to celebrate. In the evening beacons were lit to mark 70 years – the Platinum Jubilee of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Matters secular and temporal
Returning to site, there was plenty of grass mowing and garden tending to be done. The regular volunteers continue to outdo themselves in the hours of effort they put in to maintain, but really improve the site for future generations.
Saturday 11th June was a beautiful day, the shaded stroll down Wath Road from Elsecar providing a relaxing promenade, filled with birdsong and bright green hedges rustling gently in the breeze.
Emerging from the end of the green tunnel, framed in an archway of branches, the pinkish-red brickwork of the colliery appears, sitting impassively under the bright blue sky. Welcome travellers!
Hope and glory
Friends Site Manager Glen was early on site and got straight to the managing the estate – keeping the grass in check. An appropriate setting and outcome attained in what looked like perfect picnic weather. Quickly joined by regular volunteers Paul, John, Mitchell, Janet, Jeff and (briefly) Chris.
Walking around the site, the levelled, grassed ground looks neat. The smaller patches of ‘wilderness’ around the rear and edges of the site, are home to long grasses, flowers, insects and wildlife; merging us smoothly into the fringes of the TransPeninne Trail and the canalside below.
The regular activities continued – site tidying, maintenance, and the steady work reclaiming and renewing the garden of Pump House Cottage, volunteers delivering part of our Hemingfield’s Hidden History project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, making the site more accessible and encouraging visits and opportunities to engage with new audiences.
We were also pleased and indeed honoured to receive several guests on site, one of which included a donation of some mining plans, thank to a member of the local community with whom we hope to conduct further history research adding to the Hemingfield’s Hidden History research and new interpretation efforts.
The newest aspect of the garden work is the creation of a run of saw-tooth edged paths across the garden. Making use of reclaimed materials on site, together with deliveries of crushed limestone and sharp sand.
Using concrete rubble from spoil on site, plus the limestone to provide a base, volunteers set out plumb lines and levels for the path.
To fix the saw-tooth edges, and bond corner pillars, a good few mortar and cement mixes were also required. Thankfully we have a resident mixologist.
Once bricks started to be laid and set, progress was rapid. Additional work in the following two weeks led to a spectaular new feature coming clearly into view, crowning the hours of new planting and landscaping of the garden.
Meanwhile, around the back of the site, just behind the pumping shaft, regular volunteer (and human dynamo) Mitchell started clearing back years of muck covering the concrete yard surface at the rear of Pump House cottage.
We knew this surface existed from photographs of the 1970s and 80s, but only the part nearest the shaft was still clearly visible as we first used the clear patch to stack bricks as they were reclaimed and cleaned.
This hefty work continued the following week. Really speeding through the surface cover to reveal the intriguing railed path, used to manoeuvre pumping equipment into and away from the shaft via the former rear access gate to the site.
Royalty round ‘ere
Looking back 125 years ago to 1897, it was the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria; patriotic and monarchic fervour was in full flow in these parts as the Queen visited Sheffield to open the newly built town hall.
A ROYAL MONTH. – Hallamshire has given a most excellent ‘lead’ to the forthcoming jubilations throughout the country. It was of course a very great honour, which far more than made up for the disappointment of 12 months ago, that Sheffield should have received a visit from the Queen in 1897; and certainly everyone in the district from his Grace the Mayor downwards, made the most of their opportunity, and gave the Queen a magnificent outburst of loyalty, an anticipation of what London and the whole empire will do on the 22nd June. “It is our proud privilege,” so ran the most admirable address presented on behalf of the Mayor and Corporation of Sheffield, “to herald the outburst of thanksgiving with which the world-wide British Empire hails the unparalleled length of your Majesty’s reign. More than a thousand years have rolled away since England became a kingdom, but during all those centuries no Sovereign has worn the crown so long as your Majesty, or has seen such moral and material blessings conferred upon the country. How wondrous has been the history of these sixty happy years!Tankersley Parish Notes, June 1897
Her heir, King Edward VII, returned to South Yorkshire in 1905, to the opening of the University of Sheffield.
To see silent film footage of the King’s visit, shot by early filmmaker Frank Mottershaw, see the British Film Institute’s player.
King Edward’s heir, King George V, came even closer to home in July 1912, during a momentous visit to industrial Yorkshire.
Hosted by Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Woodhouse, the King visited Elsecar Main Colliery on 9th July 1912, the day of the tragic disaster which occurred at Cadeby Main Colliery.
They returned to industrial Sheffield 7 years later, a patriotic tour after the nation had seen 4 years of war.
A few years later, in 1923, the heir apparent, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, before his abdication, and uncle to the current Queen Elizabeth II had visited Sheffield.
For more on earlier and later royal visits locally, see Barnsley Museums’ recent blogpost.