Mist over the meadow

Saturday 10th July 2021 was almost a dot day. Not because of the mounting excitement ahead of the Euro 2020 final and the hopes (ultimately dashed) for England men’s football team, but rather because the weather forecast looked wet and miserable. Nevertheless the Friends and regular volunteers braved the elements.

Emerging from the mist, the approach to Hemingfield Colliery, Sat 10th July 2021

In the event, ‘Plan B’ of indoor building recording work, followed by a swift exit proved unnecessary, and it was a very active and incredibly hot-and-humid day to be working outdoors, mostly bringing the growth of green stuff back into order.

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Pathways to the past, Saturday 26th June 2021

Framed by trees, the pit appears from Wath Road in Elsecar

After a short hiatus, the Friends and volunteers gathered for another socially-distanced outdoor working session on site.

Opening up. Not quite ready for open days more generally, but hopefully not too far away now!

Although decisions around lifting national lockdown restrictions in England were held back for four weeks until 19th July 2021, and there were worrying signs of Covid-19 infections rising with the new ‘Delta variant’, still the protection of an effective vaccination programme and gave the crew confidence in working outdoors, in a small group, albeit behind closed gates for a further push on restoration activities.

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The highest heights, 12th June 2021

Keeping up the pace the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and regular volunteers returned on Saturday 12th June. Just a week since the last session. Clearly they had the bit between their teeth; the wall-pointing bug was evident: a crazed addiction if ever there was one.

Not quite the Eagle’s Nest, more like a Barn Owl box

This week was crowned by gravity-defying high scaffold work, and equally heightened temperatures. Hemingfield may not have enjoyed the global media attention of the G7 summit happening in Corbis Bay, Cornwall, but lacked none of the fabulous weather. Who needs the pabulum and bluster of world leaders when you have the wit and wisdom determined volunteers? Such geopolitical debates aside, what *is* the right way of spreading cream and jam on a scone?

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Lundhill Colliery Disaster, 19th February 1857

Engraved view of Lundhill (or Lund Hill) Colliery after the disaster, showing crowds assembled at the surface buildings (Illustrated London News, 28 February 1857, p.195)

On this day in 1857, a horrific underground explosion of firedamp occurred at Lundhill Colliery, between Wombwell and Hemingfield, claiming 189 lives, including 120 adults and 69 children.

Snippet from the Lundhill Colliery entry in Mines Inspector Charles Morton’s Report of the Working of the Coal Mines Inspection Act (18 & 19 Vict. c.108.) in Yorkshire, for the Year ending the 31st December 1857, HMSO, 1858, p.134

The impact on families in the community was catastrophic, leaving 90 widows and a total of 220 children without a father. We remember the victims and the devastating impact on the local community.

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Saturday successes, 5th Sept 2020

View of lower terrace and top of retaining wall with repairs reaching the top.

Seizing another weekend of good weather and maintaining the momentum of recent weeks, the Friends and regular volunteers started early and quickly got shovelling, mixing and delivering lime mortar ready to continue rebuilding the collapsed rear retaining wall. Working safely outdoors and with focus to get the job done, the global pandemic seemed a little further away for a short while.

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Up and Down

Cloudy but still warm. View of the main headgear from the main gates. Saturday 15th August 2020

Cooler, but no less humid. Cloudy with no chance of downpours. But who trusts the forecasts? The Friends and volunteeers arrived for another COVID-catch-up session; safely-spaced and behind closed-gates to try and make good some of the lost weekends over the past few months that have cast such a long shadow over the country, and worldwide.

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Humid of Hemingfield, seeks shade

Bit warm again. Seeking to keep up the momentum from the last week’s efforts, the Friends and careful band of regular volunteers returned to Hemingfield Colliery once again for another early start to a day of repairs to the rear retaining wall behind the winding engine house. Still gently returning to the site and following COVID-19 secure guidance, the pit was working behind closed gates again for now.

View of the winding engine house and pay off the pumping shaft and headgear next to it.
Sunny view of the pumping shaft and winding engine house
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Celebrating our Heritage on Yorkshire Day

Bright morning and blue sky under the main headgear at Hemingfield, Saturday 1st August.

Nothing but blue skies may be an optimistic note to strike in the midst of a global pandemic, but despite the darker clouds, the ups and downs, through the closings, reopenings and re-closings of recent days, the ability to safely distance and volunteer with others, carefully, outdoors, for a common cause – to protect and restore our common heritage – is something to celebrate. Saturday 1st August also had the distinction of being Yorkshire Day – so it was good to see the blue flags flying the white rose against a mostly blue sky. 

Indeed, despite the widespread uncertainty and social and economic distress since the crisis began in March, it is heartening to see concrete steps being taken to support culture, the arts and heritage; most recently the announcement of the £88M Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage distributed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Historic England, following criteria from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This fund is part of the £1.57 billion rescue package from government to safeguard cultural and heritage organisations across the UK.

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