This blog covers highlights from this year, ranging from achievements on site, community engagement and covering some of the goals we may like to achieve in 2023.
As always, we would like to start the yearly review by thanking all of you who continue to support us, whether through social media, or when attending site on our open days. The encouragement you all give us is a key part of keeping this huge undertaking moving forwards.
Thanks also to UK National Lottery players, who support the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and in so doing, have and continue to help the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery to deliver our Hemingfield’s Hidden History project. We have made much progress this year, as the following rundown relates.
Our first major milestone of the year was completing the removal of an old pile of earth that had been dumped in the area used as the car park some years previously. It was a huge task that took a collective effort over several weeks – but by the 5th March the soil had been dispersed around site and the car park was ready to be re-seeded with grass.
Removing this heap allowed for greater access for vehicles on site, providing more space for a higher number of visitors – whilst also keeping the same amount of turning space to exit the site safely.
Not the only pile of earth to be moved this year. Following excavation work around an old pair of rails adjacent to the pumping shaft, there remained a second mound of earth, intertwined with tree roots and lots of nettles. It was decided to excavate this mound to open a new green space on site that can be used in the future for recreation.
Tree stump removal has become somewhat of a profession among a few of the volunteers; some might call it a vocation. Previously poisoned, and left to rot, with a pickaxe and metal rod at hand, short work was soon made of the first obstacles. The second obstacle was to untangle and relocate a section of discarded winding rope that had previously been buried. Weeks worth of gruelling excavation saw the group remove the pile of spoil, leaving a gentle gradient towards the old rear entrance to the site, ready to be seeded in the spring.
Quite possibly the most apparent change on site throughout the year has been the continued transformation of the Pump House Cottage garden. In early January the garden was just two sections of turf, two bedded areas, and a stone pathway.
Thanks to Janet and Jeff’s dedicated support and efforts the garden now impressively boasts a complete brick pathway, 4 planting beds, 2 log stores and a newly added memorial bench. In addition to which there is a birdbath and a sundial, kindly donated by Sue Sutherland and family.
This year, a large effort has gone into creating new information boards that can be used during tours or displayed at our gazebo when hosting open days and attending community events.
Our first community event of the year was Hemingfield Gala hosted at Hemingfield Primary School on the 16th July. The gala was full of an array of activities and displays from exotic animals to handmade candles. The local community turned up in their numbers, allowing the group to spread their message about heritage conservation and the stories our old stone buildings hold.
Heritage Open Days 2022
Heritage Open Days is an event held annually across England, coinciding with the European Heritage Days event – which includes 50 different European countries shining a light on their own history and heritage. This year the Heritage Open Days event ran from 9th-18th September, over 4,500 events took place in what would turn out to be a solemn time for the UK.
Following the saddening news announced by Buckingham Palace on the 8th September, the certainty of this year’s event going ahead was, understandably, in some doubt. However we received the approval of the organisers to go ahead early on the morning of the 9th September.
As the HODS organisers announced: “Once again our festival experienced a year like no other, coinciding with 10 days of national mourning for her Majesty the Queen. As a community event we went ahead with the deepest respect for her memory, bringing people together to share memories, stories and places. The resulting feedback has been truly heartwarming as visitors continually praise the local volunteers and staff who helped them connect with their places and learn new things.”
Every year the HODs event has a theme, this year’s theme being Astounding Inventions, celebrating England’s rich history of invention, industry, and innovation focusing on the industrial revolution, local inventors and cutting-edge innovations.
This year’s events theme was easy to stick to, with the site’s marvellous history being full of innovative ideas, thought up and put into effect during a time of great advancement within the coal industry, particularly developing new measures for safety. A key element for Hemingfield being linked to such innovation is the former superintendent and general manager, Benjamin Biram.
With the event being 10 days long, it allowed the group to open site over two consecutive weekends – maximising the potential for interested parties visiting the area, searching for a small dose of local history.
The first open day of the HOD’s event commenced on the 10th September. Given the sad news released the day before, no expectations were held on the expected number of visitors that first weekend. After setting up the gazebo and displays, it was time to wait for the opening time of 10:30am.
From the very beginning of the event eager history hunters were making their way through our old rusted gates. The first tours commenced at 10:45 and continued until a break ensued at about 1pm. Following time to refuel and chat, there were soon more visitors arriving, looking to enjoy a dose of local heritage. The afternoon saw a few small tour groups take place as the first open day was coming to an end.
Approximately 24 people attended our open day on the 10th September, numbers we certainly didn’t expect, and yet hope to beat in 2023.
Following such a strong start to the Heritage Open Days event, expectations for Sunday 11th September were honestly low: it was overcast with no promise of the sun breaking through. The group hadn’t advertised we were open, only a Facebook event and the HOD website showing we were open.
We arrived at site at 11:30am, ready to open at 12:00 – to our surprise there was already somebody waiting for us! This soon got Chris, Andrew and Mitch to jump into double time, quickly reassembling the gazebo and displays. In this time yet another car load of people had arrived, blowing our expectations out of the water.
The first tour of the day commenced at about 12:15 with a steady flow of visitors until we finished for tours at around 3:30pm. Approximately 20 people attended that Sunday afternoon, something that taught us to never underestimate the local community and their unwavering support.
The second weekend of the Heritage Open Days event was advertised. Posting to our social media accounts several times in the week building up to the open weekend – reaching over 2,000 people online.
Saturday 17th September saw blue skies shining over Hemingfield, arriving at 10:00am to get set up, the gazebo was soon erected and the table full of goodies for any visitors. Just like the week before, eager history hunters were making their way into the site before the event start time had even arrived!
A very busy day ensued, the car park was heaving and even more visitors had walked along the canal or Wath Road to gain access to all of the history buzzing around the site. Not managing to keep track of visitors quite as easily as the week before, approximately 35 people attended the site. All taking home knowledge of something they hadn’t known before.
With all of the volunteers present, it was decided to take advantage of the dinner break and take an up-to-date picture of the people who volunteer their time into making a difference at the colliery.
Sunday 18th September was advertised as a 12:30-3:30 open day. The final opening of site to mark the end of the Heritage Open Days event. Arriving at 11:45, Chris, Andrew, Mitch and Glen were all ready to prepare the site for its final showing. The weather gods had blessed us again with blue skies and sunshine.
Another busy day compared to the week before impaired us from getting a definite number of visitors, although we can estimate that there was 30-35 visitors on the day. Keeping us busy past the intended end time at no obligation to ourselves. Sharing the collieries past and our story with it is a pleasure on behalf of any volunteer.
2022 review and 2023 aspirations.
Regular volunteer and blog contributor Mitch here, to review the year we’ve had as a group and our goals for 2023.
It’s been an unprecedented year on site. The Friends and volunteers decided to drop fortnightly meetings which had run during the last few years and increased the tempo, with some members meeting up every Saturday (weather permitting). Missing only a handful of weekends due to the weather, and Christmas and New Years Eve being the last two Saturdays of the year. The group have been on site 45 times this year, on average with 6 people on site for 6 hours of the day, meaning that there has been roughly 13,500 hours of voluntary work carried out this year, the most we have ever achieved!!
As a volunteer, I am so thankful to everybody who has supported the group this year, including the National Lottery players through our Hemingfield’s Hidden History project, and everyone on social media or visiting on site in person. Your keen interest is what makes all of our hard work worth it, seeing you all turn up in the numbers you did during Heritage Open Days really cemented how special this place really is for the whole community, not just myself.
In 2023, I am looking forward to seeing another big leap forward in the quality of our displays and interpretation around site, together with the guided tours you all love experiencing. Personally, I would also like to add a wider, more intriguing selection of memorabilia to our on site collections. Along with this, I know that the group are keen on sustainability issues, and are looking to install some water butts around site to help keep our water usage to an absolute minimum.
The next goals I would love to see the group achieve are being fully reconnected to the electricity supply, and improving the lighting and accessibility throughout Pump House Cottage and the Winding Engine House.
Thank you all for reading this year’s summary – we wish you all a Happy New Year and look forward to seeing you all again in 2023.