A hundred years ago today, on the 15th May 1920, the last corf load of coal was raised from Earl Fitzwilliam’s Hemingfield Colliery. It marked the end of an era for the pit, as silence fell, albeit temporarily, at the main winding shaft.
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.
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.
For the last open day weekend in September, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery gathered in numbers. Site Manager Glen was joined by Friends Chair Steve, and regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John, together with John, Phil, Chris, Mike and another Phil – a very full crew.
Full house. Catching up with Friends and volunteers
As the Friends and volunteers returned to site at the end of January, they discussed their plans, passions and other pass times. With Friends Director and Site Manager Glen on hand, Friends Chair Steve, Director Ian and Friends’ Director of Volunteering Christine, this weekend was a great time to celebrate the many volunteer voices at Hemingfield; sharing personal passions, insights and enthusiasms. Volunteers John, Iain, Glenda, Keith, Chris and Phil were on hand during the day to lend a hand, and share the research and discoveries they had made.
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.
There was excitement in the air, alongside the welcome warmth of the September sunshine, as the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and their regular volunteers gathered on site to kick start another busy day’s work and open the gates to visitors.
Friends Chair Steve, and Directors Glen, Ian, and Christine were all on site during the day to share the latest news on developments on site and some exciting plans for the coming year.
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery (FOHC) are delighted to announce that we have received commitments of the funds needed to reconstruct the roof of the historically important 1846 Vertical Winding Engine House.
Saturday was another wet one; a disappointing summer’s day at Hemingfield, and unfortunately the working party and open day were called off. The Friends and volunteers staying indoors to return again on a drier day.
Undeterred, everyone turns their time to good account: the Directors continue their planning work to ensure the future of the site. Meanwhile our active volunteers dive back into their own pursuits inspired by the site. Whether it be investigating the social and economic history; modelling the geological context of Hemingfield; studying the wildlife on site, or seeking inspiration from the variety of flora and fauna to create new artwork, providing new perspectives on the colliery.
In future posts we will start to share the fruits of all of this time and effort. For now, this post will bring together a few odds and ends from some recent delvings into the past, some mining miscellanea.
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!