Year’s End: Open Day, 9th December 2017

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The end of the year cometh, but so do the volunteers! On a cold, but beautifully light December morning at Hemingfield, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were delighted to welcome the regular volunteers to the pit to mark the last Open day of 2017; to celebrate the Christmas vacation ahead, and reflect on a busy and rewarding year for the Friends and the whole area.

But first, on with the discoveries!

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Open Day and working weekend 16th and 17th September

A Fantastic Company

Following on from a busy couple of public openings and community event activities in September with the Heritage Open Days and Elsecar by the Sea, this weekend was very much time to get back to work, with the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and volunteers being joined by the fantastic junior soldiers from Waterloo Company, joining us from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

The assistance and support from the AFC soldiers is thanks to our friends at the Elsecar Heritage Railway who work with the AFC offering regular volunteer hours with trackwork, rail depot and lineside tasks providing some great team working and learning opportunities alongside some honest graft.

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Elsecar by the Sea weekend, 2nd-3rd September 2017

El-sea-car

Another year flies around and suddenly it’s the first weekend in September once again. Time for the Elsecar by the Sea festival.

A community gala, a great beer festival and a weekend of public activities, including railway trips, live music, entertainers and fairground rides all celebrating the promenading wonders of Elsecar by the Sea.

The origins of the celebration date to the turn of the Twentieth century when the summer charms of Elsecar’s reservoir were promoted to Sheffield city dwellers as a ‘seaside’ escape from the industrial grime and smog.

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Milton Gala, 23rd July 2017

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were keen to return to the annual Milton Gala this year after the great experience they enjoyed last time. Organised by the very active Mates of Milton community group, the event is a fun day for local people from Elsecar, Hoyland and further afield to come and enjoy a day out, with shows, rides, stalls and displays to entertain them throughout the day.

Travelling in hope

After a damp Saturday which had prevented the Friends from opening the colliery, all eyes were looking skywards, as the organisers and attendees assembled at the Forge playing fields at Milton, just off Milton Road, by the Furnace pub.

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were out in strength, with regular volunteer Keith preparing the ground with a great marquee, courtesy of our friends at the Barnsley Main Heritage Group. Directors Glen and Christine continued the convoy, with volunteers Glenda and Chris also on hand to set up stall, and lay out both the fun activity and also a display of materials about the Friends group.

The top of the Forge playing fields was busy with stalls, fairground rides, bouncy castles, stalls, food outlets and a steady parade of dogs with their owners, ready for the show.

During the day queues were forming to the left and the right, for the sweet and the savory, ice creams or jacket potatoes.

The weather was mostly bright, just with some slightly threatening clouds overhead, but with a steady stream of visitors the time flew by.

Roll up, roll up…

The friends had a prime spot with many people passing by, stopping to chat, look at the stall, play our game, or just stroke good old Rosie the dog, staunch supporter, keenly guarding the wares.

Time to get out and engage the passers by with a fun ‘Treasure Search” game in aid of the colliery, with Glenda offering 5 goes for a pound, picking a letter and number combination which was checked off against the board grid. Would players hit a prize, miss one, or get another free go?

Prizes were flying off the stall, and several visitors dig deep to have a few goes to see if they could win one of the prizes which the Friends had collected over the past year. Alongside the game, we had boxes of books of all types and we’re happy to unite several sets of readers with new titles for small donations to the colliery’s cause.

The group were well pleased with the response of the crowd to the game and to the story of the colliery site, with several former miners stopping for a chat and asking about progress on the site and the future plans around Hemingfield and Elsecar with the recent Heritage Action Zone status, and the funding of Elsecar and Wentworth for the Great Places scheme.

Right at the end of the day, after the dog shows and as the announcements were winding down, we felt the first drops of persistent rain, and so started to gather up the remaining items on the stall. Packing the books, prizes, and mining memorabilia away, the group loaded up 3 vehicles with the various bits and pieces, before collapsing the gazebo and heading home.

Forge, Furnace and Fun

The rain faded away as the gala free to a close, with people drifting home by the pond, or walked over to the Furnace Inn for refreshment.

Others walked home down the Forge playing fields themselves, down the “mound” which marks part of the old Milton Ironworks site – and I’ve of the exciting areas which the new Elsecar Heritage Action Zone archaeological investigations will hopefully shed more light on for us to learn about and celebrate.

Thanks to the organisers and all who attended the gala, the Friends raised funds for the Colliery and were happy to meet and share the story and future plans for the pit. Same time next year!?

Open Day, Saturday 8th July 2017

View of the winding engine house in the July sunshine

A bright and beautiful day welcomed the Friends and volunteers to Hemingfield Colliery on Saturday, as the crew returned to do some regular maintenance of the site, as well a continuing the recent excavation on the lower terrace, a pleasing piece of industrial archaeology revealing more of the original stone paving of the colliery.

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Barnsley History Day, Sunday 18th June 2017

Bright sunshine and beautiful blue skies, it must be Barnsley!

Sunday 18th June was a scorcher. As the longest day drew near, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery gathered their display materials, leaflets, booklets and badges and headed in to Barnsley town centre. The destination, the beautiful 1933 listed town hall building, whose white Portland stone facade was resplendent against the bright blue sky.

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In and Out: two days of volunteering, Friday 9th and Saturday 10th June 2017

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery are entering a busy time of year, with a series of events to attend, and planned activities to share and join in with ourselves.

This early weekend, from Friday to Saturday was a celebration of the spirit of volunteering at the colliery and by the colliery in the Elsecar valley which we are proud to call home.

Beautiful countryside around Hemingfield

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Experiencing Virtual Reality, Elsecar, 4th June 2017

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.

Seeking feedback

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