Grey days and hidden beauty
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived on site bright and early on Saturday morning; unlike the less than sparkling cloud bank and damp air. Still, the crew were on site and ready to get on with a good days’s work, and at least it wasn’t raining.
Seasons to be cheerful
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery arrived on site this weekend as autumn colours finally began to take hold all around. Shivering trees of burnt orange and raw sienna tones, Woody Nightshade berries of bright tomato-red shades and Yellow Snapdragon flowers of a delicate lemon hue all displayed their dazzling natural beauty against a backdrop of grey-brown industrial features.
Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) plants have invaded the site, clambering over rocks and brick rubble and smothering scrap heaps. This plant is a member of the Solanaceae family, the most well-known genera of this family perhaps being Solanum tuberosum (potato) and Solanum lycopersicum (tomato). Woody Nightshade is a truly beautiful plant with curvaceous, arrow-shaped leaves and striking purple flowers, which are succeeded by succulent, though highly poisonous, scarlet fruits.
Yellow Snapdragons (Linaria vulgaris) are dancing happily on our freshly-formed clearance spoil heaps, their delicate pale lemon and yellow petals adding a welcome splash of sunshine to the dull brown mounds of soil. Naturally a late bloomer, the Yellow Snapdragon can often be seen brightening up waste places, disturbed land, road verges and railway sidings as the sparkly month of October turns into gloomy November.
And this changing season has brought with it changing times for the colliery – the beginnings of a new lease of life for the engine house.
Thanks to generous support from The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, the Association for Industrial Archaeology, and Subterranea Britannica, the colliery site has been transformed as work has begun on the repair and restoration of the roof of building which held the 1846 beam winding engine.
Nothing but blue skies
Unaccustomed as we are to sunshine and summer days, the Friends and volunteers were delighted to renew acquaintances and bask in the glory of another beautiful day down at Hemingfield.
Friends Director and Site Manager Glen was on site early, joined by regular volunteers Chris, John, and Keith who rolled out the barrows and rubbed on the sun lotion for a hot day’s work at Hemingfield, continuing to remove the overburden and demolition debris of the old boundary wall, as well as revealing the odd find here and there.
THE FIRST WORKING PARTY OF THE NEW YEAR!
A grey, but mild, Saturday morning saw Friends Chair Steve catch the attention of an inquisitive, passing dog walker, as he opened up the heavy steel gates to the Hemingfield Colliery site in readiness for another productive working day. Steve duly treated the gentleman and his four-legged friend to an impromptu tour of the site and an explanation of the archaeological and reclamation work underway.
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery warmly welcome visitors and are always happy to showcase and explain their work to interested guests and to share their exciting plans and aspirations for the future of the site.
Hemingfield basin – with Hemingfield Colliery above
Springtime showers marked the beginning of the first working party in April, but they quickly cleared, and as bluer skies returned the Friends and volunteers got to grips with another weekend of site clearance.
Saturday was a very busy day on site with visitors, volunteers and members of the local community exploring the site, digging up rubble, reclaiming materials for future reuse, as well as discussing both the past and the possible futures for the colliery and its surroundings.
No shortage of bricks!
We were delighted to welcome back members of the Live Project team from the University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture. The whole group of thirteen students have been busy developing proposals for the future development of the site, and the project members have already conducted visitor research and are surveying the opinions of members of the local community. In the near future the team will be presenting some of their ideas as part of a stall at the Elsecar Heritage Centre.
Pumping pit headgear
We were also fortunate to have a number of experts on site – mining historians and professionals who can shed further light on the standing structures and phases of development in the site’s working life. There’s lots still to be discovered about the story of the site – from its beginnings in the 1840s through to the end of the First World War when it was under the control of Earl Fitzwilliam, then into the South Yorkshire Pumping Association and Mines Drainage Committee years, and finally up to its most recent history just before the site’s acquisition by the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery.
Sunday was quieter by comparison, but another beautifully sunny day in which to get stuck into the working party tasks of clearing vegetation, digging out rubble and reclaming whatever materials we can as we go. One element of this work is the reclamation of bricks – cleaning, stacking and storing original building materials is important to our work.
On brick reclamation duty as bricks emerge from other parts of the site being cleared of rubble.
As many of the volunteers will recognise, we have a wealth of different types of bricks on the site and a number of visitors have commented on some of the names – local makers’ names both remembered and long since disappeared. As we make progress in exploring and clearing the site, we hope to be able to add some information about some of these related histories; often important concerns for local history. Please follow this link to the first of these concerning Skiers Spring brickworks.
Working Parties Update
Due to poor weather conditions and some unforeseen circumstances the general working parties scheduled for 8-9th and 29-30th November have been cancelled. However, the Friends have remained busy throughout, both on site and attending events (see the following blog posts!).
Please see the Working Parties page for further updates.