Open Day, Saturday 3rd November 2018

Notching up November

On Saturday morning the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery returned to work on another open day. The approach of winter hardens the ground and turns the air, so working out doors becomes harder and the days slightly shorter as the clocks fell back at the end of October. With the great sleep-in behind us, the Friends and regular volunteers were eager to face the ultimate challenge: shifting the Great Stump.

The Axemen cometh (again)

Friends Chair Steve and regular volunteer John were first on site, joined a little later by a well-wrapped Chris. Heading straight for the lower terrace, the crew returned to the scene of previous struggles with the huge tree stump which had self-seeded atop one of the concrete buttresses of the retaining wall.  Having rooted under the existing boundary wall, the curious tree retains the mortar-marks of a slow but steady war of wood-on-brick. Only by removing the remaining damaged wall, and lifting the stonework enveloped by the tree could the Friends begin to repair much of the damage done to the lower boundary. This week everyone was determined to get the job done.

With chainshaw, handsaw, hatchet, hammers, chisels and pry-bars galore the light infantry moved in and started chipping away at the remaining roots holding the beast in place. After some verbal encouragement and additional sawing, the first hunk anchoring the stump down was shifted.

With it came shattered stonework as the trees roots had gripped onto bricks and masonry over perhaps 50 years or more. Unlike dental surgery, this style of root canal made for a strangely beautiful sight. There were, alas, no points for style, or compliments on technique; no honours for synchronised sawing or plaudits for acrobatic axework.

Onwards, ever onwards. With some sharp-eyed root removal (imagine three-dimensional chess moves) and sweet-talking, it moved. A bit.

Just a tiny bit, but movement was the chink in the armour. A wedge or two later and the whiff of victory, the suggestions of success was in the air, that and steam from Elsecar Heritage Railway passing by below (more of which anon). Wedges in, the rocking and rolling began. The annals of Hemingfield Colliery will no doubt long remember the moment when the Mighty Stump fell. Recorded for posterity.

And it’s gone! The buttress bared, and a whole lot of wall to repair, but with stacks of stone and bricks carefully stored ready for reuse and repairing. It was quite an epic battle!

Remembrance – Home from the Front

November is synonymous with cold; with frosty dull dreary greyness. Not this one. Bright blue streaks of sky, and trees still heavy with leaves,  discoloured but not yet fallen; the scene was full of contrasts. Pit, railway, wood, fields beyond and the water down by the canal. Birds in the sky and the unmistakeable sounds of a locomotive passing beneath the working party at the pit. What a pretty sight, in the shadow of the headgear. Earlier in the morning volunteers has set off from Elsecar Heritage Centre to litter pick their way towards Hemingfield. Caring for Elsecar and making a difference to keeping its surroundings tidy. It’s heartening to have a community of people that really do care.

Admiring the train passing by, the Friends also looked on and considered the special passengers it contained – the living history performers of Home from the Front – bringing to life the stories of real local people returning home from the First World War. Providing a powerful echo of the demobilisation of men from 1918-20, our friends at Elsecar Heritage Railway, together with support from Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar, and students from Barnsley College and University Centre Barnsley, provided a unique journey on a train specially prepared for this centenary of the First World War.

Leaf, no trace

Autumn brings its wonderful colours, but also its natural clutter; leaves gather on the road to the pit. It’s a pleasure to keep things tidy and presentable. A quick before and after tells the tale of the advancing season.



The stump cleared, a fine luncheon to reflect on progress, and the site tidied up, the day’s work was done, and the Friends departed ready for the next phase of works on site, pausing only to remember the lives of the workers of a hundred years ago; their families and friends affected by a conflict which changed forever the local community, both those who returned and especially the loss of those who never came back. Leaving Pit Row behind, we stopped by the poppies of two sons of the Guest family. We will remember them.

Open Day, Saturday 6th October 2018

October mild

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived early on site, swinging the gates wide open and stepping into the pit yard. Expecting rain, but finding mostly dry terrain and pleasant working conditions in the mild autumnal air. Looking over across the valley over to Hemingfield proper, the sky was cloudy but blue, and the farmed fields in the distance contrasted with the dense and beautifully dis-colouring trees nearby. It is a turning point in the year when days shorten, clocks go back and woolly jumpers emerge.  American poet Robert Frost put it crisply:

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.

(From ‘October’, published in A Boy’s Will, 1913)

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Open Day Saturday 25th August 2018

High times

True blue skies above greeted the Friends as they arrived at Hemingfield-sur-mer for another in the seemingly endless summery days of 2018. More heavy work was at hand, but some beautiful weather made it fun, and the company of regular volunteers Paul, John, Keith and Chris certainly kept the mood light with laughter drifting out over the canal and railway below the colliery.

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Open Day, Saturday 11th August 2018

And the heat goes on…

August, and the Indian Summer continued at Hemingfield. Site Manager Glen was joined by Friends Chair Steve in opening the site. Tales of summer holidays were in the air as regular volunteers John and Chris arrived. The Friends would also be delighted to receive a special group of visitors.

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End of June 2018 – Celebrations

The End of June 2018 was marked by a series of fascinating and impressive events, part of the Experience Barnsley Festival, arranged to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the opening of Experience Barnsley, museum and discovery centre which has really transformed how local people access and experience the cultural heritage of Barnsley.

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Open Day Saturday 9th June 2018

The beginning of June 2018 was marked by unrelenting sunshine, blue skies and the reluctant admission that yes, Summer is indeed here.

Dazzling sunshine; seeking shade under the headgear

Site Manager Glen opened the gates to regular volunteers Alan, John, Keith and Chris. Friends chair Steve was also present and catch up with the results of recent working parties.

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Open Day, 26th May 2018

Far and away in May

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

Heading to the colliery on foot from the green hills beyond the village of Hemingfield itself, the pit first appears as a wooded hollow.

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

The huddle of cottages at Pit Row guide the eye to the right level, on the far side of the canal bank, at the foot of a densely wooden hillside – really the landscaped spoil heap of Hemingfield’s younger sibling, Elsecar Main Colliery.

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

Standing proudly over the canal and railway line is the main headgear, its concrete geometry contrasting with the lush green leaves swaying in the breeze.

Photo credit: Andrew Jones

Standing in the distinctive lines of its shadow, the Friends and regular volunteers collected tools and headed out around the site to get to work.

Keep it clean

A big part of the Friends’ work is taking pride in looking after the pit; taking care of this remarkable survival of the Victorian age is a privilege, and as a survivor, the site has been no stranger to the effects of neglect and vandalism. Stepping out of the gates, and grabbing a brush, shovel and take, it is good to keep the gateway to the site clean and tidy.


After: looking smart.

Elsewhere around the yard, Site Manager Glen powered up the strimmer and got to grips with the long grass, whilst regular volunteer Chris raked up the cuttings and cleared the lower level by the pumping shaft.

Feeling Hot

The sun was fierce on Saturday, but the working party on site were still a little cooler than the firemen on the footplate of the steam engine racing by on the Elsecar Heritage Railway line below.

Boiling away: William looking great in the lush vegetation

A Hole New World

Keeping cool in the moderate shade of the winding engine house were ‘the crew’ – regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John and Keith returned to the fray, excavating the pit feature which is now two metres down from where we once stood a couple of years ago.

As features emerge, trowel work takes the place of the shovels of demolition rubble, as we seek to assess and interpret what the pit was used for, and record it’s features including compacted coal, and the tantalising drainage feature which suggests we have hit the bottom.

Trowels and tribulations, carefully excavating compacted coal, possibly a pile for a boiler?

Pausing for lunch before rounding off the digging, strumming, raking, sweeping, narrowing and brick chipping. The Friends returned home to a well earned glass of water/pop/juice/beer [delete as applicable]. All pleased with another pleasant day spent on site at Hemingfield under blue skies with hopefully none-too-reddening necks!

Open Day Saturday 12th May 2018

Settling back into the routine of normal Open Days as the good weather continued, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery welcomed a good group of volunteers and visitors to the site. Site Director Glen, and Friends Chair Steve opened the gates to regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John, Paul, Keith, together with our Peak district friends John, Chris and Phil. It was a full house, and with effort to spare, the team continued work on excavating the pit at the rear of the winding engine house.

Hive of activity

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