What with Storm Ciara (pronounced keera) threatening proceedings, and suggestions of Storm Dennis barely a week away, the Friends threw caution to the – admittedly light – wind on Saturday 8th February 2020, and ventured down to site for a surprisingly storm-free open day at Hemingfield Colliery.Continue reading
2020! The first Open Day in the new year and what a beautoful day. Bright blue skies above, clear views all around, and a quickening coldness which suggested frost, but was soon chased away by getting to work as the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and the regular volunteers returned to the pit for another year of activity, in a new decade of life for the colliery.Continue reading
1852 – Disaster strikes at Low Elsecar Colliery
At 1.30 pm on 22nd December 1852 an explosion underground at Hemingfield Colliery (also known as Low Elsecar Colliery) claimed 10 lives and injured a further 12 miners.
Milton Gala, Sunday 22nd July 2018
Arriving at the crest of an extraordinary heatwave, the 2018 Milton Gala was a scorcher! Organised and managed by the Mates of Milton community group, and held on the Milton Forge recreation grounds, the day was busy with food, fun, music, rides, displays, dancing, dogs (not dancing) and a great turnout from members of the local community in Hoyland, Elsecar and further afield.
Beneath striking blue sky and the direct sun, the day was glorious; the parched grass like straw, turned yellow-brown, encouraging picnics and sunbathing, as well as gentle conversation as the crowds gathered to join in the fun on the upper field. On the lower field, for the first time, a volunteer cordon for parking ensured no snarl ups, and encouraged everyone to enjoy the whole of the recreation ground.
Young and old, families and friends walked around the Gala grounds, stopping to admire the shops and stalls surrounding the performance and display area. Local community, volunteer and faith groups were out in force, including Holy Trinity Church Elsecar, Wentworth Castle Volunteers and others, as well as a strong presence from the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service, with a fire engine on site and a rolling series of demonstrations on the dangers of domestic fires – leading to some spectacular flames!
Amongst the stalls of books, plants, crafts, gifts and sweets, was the great group from Old Martha’s Yard Community Garden, just up Milton Road in Hoyland, tucked away behind the Belmont club, off West Street.
Also present was a joint stall hosted by the Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar team, with Heritage Specialist Megan Clement, together with the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) officer Dr Tegwen Roberts; both are experienced commercial and community archaeologists with a passion for sharing their expertise.
The Great Place WE and Elsecar HAZ teams were on site to share the progress of their Milton Dig project – a two week community archaeology project on the Milton Forge fields to investigate the history of the site and any remains of the former Milton Iron Works which occupied the site from c.1799-1885.
Building on the findings of Historic England’s national Geophysics Team, who used a number of techniques to investigate the Milton Forge playing fields area, including caesium magnetometry and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR).
Linford, N.T., Linford, P.K., Payne, A. W., Elsecar, Barnsley: Report on Geophysical Survey, May 2017 (Report number: 62/2017), Historic England Research Report series ISSN 2059-4453 (Online).
The Milton Dig project, from 16th-28th July 2018 was designed to excavate a number of features identified by the geophysics, together with indications of structures from old Ordnance Survey maps, and some archival plans from Barnsley Archives, to determine what if anything remains of the original iron works and ancillary buildings.
The Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar team worked closely with ElsecarHAZ project officer Dr Tegwen Roberts to design a programme of archaeological and creative activities. The dig itself was delivered by an experienced team from Arc Heritage, supervised by Richard Jackson. It also provided an opportunity for young people in the area to be inspired by their heritage, and the Great Places WE team enlisted local writer and poet Michéle Beck to lead creative writing workshops with local children during the dig period.
The Heritage Action Zone for Elsecar is a 3 year project resourced by Heritage Lottery Fund monies and led by Historic England to undertake new research into the area to reveal its heritage and help develop future plans for its visitor economy. The Great Place WE scheme brings together work by Barnsley and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Councils with the resources and expertise of Arts Council England to engage and inspire young people locally with the creative opportunities of the heritage found at Wentworth and Elsecar, as well as arranging a series of fantastic events to remember in the two villages.
Local schools and members of the community were invited to come and see the dig and learn about the emerging finds as the work progressed. There were daily opportunities to volunteer on site, and many members of the local community, including families were quick to reserve a spot to get down in the trenches to see their history emerge first-hand.
At Milton Gala, a highlight was a series of tours of the ongoing archaeology. Historic England Elsecar HAZ Project Officer, Dr Roberts led groups around the site, explaining the choice of excavation sites, and the emerging discoveries to date. The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were delighted to visit and learn more about the history of the area, and how interconnected the collieries and ironworks were through the years.
Context is everything
After explaining the progress of the Milton Dig to-date, Dr Roberts led visitors to the project cabin where the cleaned and sorted finds were bagged and tagged with individual labels, giving the trench and context numbers relating to where they were found.
Following the Dig #MiltonDig
In the week following the Gala, the Milton Dig concluded. The recording work will lead to a study of the findings and the results will be shared with the community in a report produced by Arc Heritage in the near future. To learn more about the exciting progress of the dig, and the many local people and professional archaeologists who got down in the trenches, or who visited to see the progress being made, please see the videos presented by Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar:
- Introduction to the Milton Dig project, Megan Clement, Heritage Specialist, Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar.
- Introduction – Richard Jackson (archaeological project supervisor, Arc Heritage)
- Day 1 – Opening trenches, Megan Clement, Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar
- Day 2 – Schools visit (Dr Tegwen Roberts, Elsecar HAZ officer)
- Day 3 – Update (Richard Jackson from Arc Heritage)
- Day 4 – Megan Clement Great PLace Wentworth and Elsecar Heritage Specialist
- Day 5 – Michéle Beck, Freelance Author and Poet – creativity from shared heritage
- Milton Dig and the Gala – For local people and their history, Dr John Tanner, Barnsley Museums
- Day 7 – Richard Jackson, Arc Heritage
- Day 8 – Richard Jackson, Arc Heritage
- Day 10 – Drawing the Milton Dig to a close, Richard Jackson, Arc Heritage
The Next Shift
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were keen to return to site this Saturday – to open the gates, collect tools, and return to the dig at the rear of the winding engine house.
Friends Chair Steve welcomed regular volunteers John, Keith and Paul, followed by Chris. The crew returned to the scene of the earlier discovery of the coal tub, and picked up where they left off, removing the spoil in what is quickly becoming a fascinating area of hidden features.
Works in Progress
Saturday was a busy day at Hemingfield, ushering in the first working party in November. Following a week filled with US election drama and the sombre reflections of remembrance day, Site Manager Glen opened the pit gates, joined by Directors Ian and Christine. Chairman Steve and regular volunteers John and Chris were also on hand as the Friends welcomed a number of new visitors to the site, all eager to see the progress in the winding engine house roof, and to discuss some exciting opportunities throughout the valley.
Water, water everywhere
Summer’s here and the weather is…very British.
When the clouds signally fail to roll by, and the heavens descend, it can certainly put a dampener on plans and postpone progress on site. Being chased indoors by the elements may prevent the pit gates from opening, but it also gives the Friends chance to delve deeper into the history of the site; open days become research and volunteer days. So, on to writing up research, raising awareness of the group’s activities and generally carrying on regardless!
The Friends and their doubty volunteers looked skywards this past weekend as the heavens opened and the water descended. There was every likelihood that the weather would indeed stop play. However, our volunteers are most definitely made of sterner stuff, and donning waterproofs and not a modicum of plucky determination, they set forth to Hemingfield, to get stuck in to another day of site clearance activity. Continue reading
The year ended quietly at Hemingfield; with strangely mild temperatures but constant rain, bringing floods to the North. Our final open day in December was, unfortunately, rained off, but the Friends continued with their current research projects, and set to planning events and identifying new opportunities to pursue in the new year. Elsewhere bigger events dominated the news… Continue reading
As reported elsewhere, the weekend of the 5th-6th September 2015 was the occasion of ‘Elsecar by the Sea’ – a celebration of all things Elsecar and a chance for the Friends to get out and about and meet local people and visitors to raise awareness of the site; however the work on site must go on, and a working party gathered on Saturday to continue the clearance activity.