Wet and windy starts are usually inauspicious signs for an open day, but this Saturday was far from run-of-the-mill (or run-of the-pit for that matter).
Spring was truly upon us this weekend, as the Friends opened up the site. Paul, John and Chris joined Site Manager Glen for a busy Open Day, and a special one to be sure.
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were excited and proud to present a new Virtual Reality experience based on the colliery as it appeared at the turn of the Twentieth century.
A misty morning at the pit welcomes virtual visitors into the relative peace of the pit yard, before the journey descends into the depths of the Barnsley coal seam 150 years below.
Guided by the insightful narration of Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan, the explorers are instructed in the ways of navigating in the VR world, before being free to roam in the half-light below ground, lit only by your own safety lamp.
Life and Art
It was designed and created by local Darfield artist Iain Nicholls, with financial support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.
Using artistic and 3D modelling skills, photogrammetry, and additional effects, Iain has created an immersive experience which brings the underground life back to you, the lost world back into focus and gives a sense of the difficulties and daily details of mining.
This weekend was the first public outing locally, and the artist himself and the Friends were delighted with the response from young and old alike.
Elsecar Heritage Centre
Arriving at Elsecar Heritage Centre, the VR kit and a collection of display materials related to the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were set up in the upstairs activity room of the visitors’ centre.
Exhibits and experiences
Visitors to Elsecar were of all ages and many tried their hand at the VR experience, including some former mine workers which was wonderful to observe.
Surrounding the VR kit was an extensive display of mining and local history materials corrected and presented by the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery.
So between diving into the depths of our pit shafts, visitors to Elsecar could also learn more about the history, heritage and community activities the Friends are currently engaged in.
A key part of the first local public outing was the opportunity of along members of the public for real feedback, to influence the completion of the original design. This was achieved by asking the VR users to fill in a feedback form and by telling to them about the experience.
Based on this feedback, Iain will make final adjustments before being able to complete his work on Hemingfield Colliery and allow the VR headset, a HTC Vive to be used by the Friends at future events.
Next VR event: Sunday 18th June 2017, Barnsley History Day at Barnsley Town Hall, from 11am to 3pm
Saturday 8th April 2017 was an extraordinary open day and working party at Hemingfield Colliery, as the Friends were honoured to be joined by our neighbours from Elsecar Heritage Railway, working together with the great junior soldiers from the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, giving their time to make a real difference here in Hemingfield.
Despite the forecast, we’re no fools. Sunshine and laughter filled the air as the Friends and crew returned to the colliery on a lively and productive day at the pit.
Site director Glen and Friends Chair Steve opened up the site, welcoming John, Ian, Chris, Phil, Frank, and Keith during the day.
Another busy weekend on site, with the Friends and regular volunteers arriving bright and early to continue work on tidying the site and clearing the rubble.
Friends Chair Steve and site manager Glen opened the gates as the crew returned to their tools and continued the noble tousle twixt mankind and tree. They were joined by regular volunteers John, Alan, Nigel, and Chris.
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were happy to see that the external scaffolding had gone from around the Victorian winding engine house. This could only mean one thing: the main phase of the roof restoration was over – the reroofing, new rafters, wall plates, fascias, battens, insulation and slating was in place, with flashings, and guttering looking clean and new as Friends Chair Steve and Site Manager Glen opened up the gates.
Grey cloud and autumn mist lingered over the Knoll Beck in the valley to Elsecar as the Friends and volunteers arrived at Hemingfield Colliery for another open day.
Preparation was the name of the game this weekend for the last working party before the Friends hand their 1846 winding engine house over to the care of building contractors who will be re-roofing the whole building, ensuring it will be protected well into the twenty-first century.
Raising the roof
There was excitement in the air, alongside the welcome warmth of the September sunshine, as the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and their regular volunteers gathered on site to kick start another busy day’s work and open the gates to visitors.
Friends Chair Steve, and Directors Glen, Ian, and Christine were all on site during the day to share the latest news on developments on site and some exciting plans for the coming year.
Earlier in the week the Friends were able to announce the fantastic news that thanks to the tremendous support of the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, The Association for Industrial Archaeology, and Subterranea Britannica, the group had been able to secure funds to completely reconstruct the roof of the 1846 winding engine house.