This week’s blog will review the progress made at Hemingfield Colliery throughout 2021.
Starting with the group’s first day back on site and reflecting on the jobs completed throughout the year. Recapping on a few important dates before finishing with the group’s final visit on the 18th December.
Another weekend with the promise of rain had seen the team arrive on site eager to get on with the day’s work at hand; with everyone arriving before 10:00am.
The morning commenced with the usual routine, a quick walk around site scanning for signs of intrusion, whether it be by trespassing or a (gloved) handful of the new “flying” doggy-doo bags.
After pondering around and catching up with the regular volunteers, it was time to do the honours of removing the blanket of leaves that mother nature had laid along the front wall. Following some vigorous sweeping, shovelling and wheel-barrowing the entrance to site and the pavement leading up to it looked just as good as it would in the summer, leaf and litter free!
As we approach the winter months, the air becomes damper and cooler, inviting Jack Frost himself to come out and play. This in return restricts what we can and can’t do around the site. The rear retaining wall has been the main focal point within the group since we have been able to have regular meet-ups again, but with winter hindering any further restoration on the retaining wall, the group’s attention has turned to Pump House Cottage.
The previous fortnight has seen Pump House Cottage receive quite the overhaul: The removal of an old satellite dish; a general sweep, freshly painted drainpipes and window sills – all of these giving the building a complete new look; resembling what she (OR HE!) may have looked like in her past, working life.
After giving the Pump House Cottage a fresh new look, it was agreed within the team that the main job in focus this weekend would be repairing the Lintel on the red brick extension of the cottage. Requiring scaffolding; a safe, solid structure was soon erected and both Glen and Paul could get to work on the restoration. Using specialist, rapid set waterproof repair mortar the once heavily weather damaged lintels now have a fresh face!
Oh PHC, Oh PHC, how does your garden grow?
To accompany the cottage’s new look, the garden has also benefited from a makeover, Janet and Jeff, two of the latest members to join the team have volunteered to give the Pump House Cottage some much needed care and attention.
Over recent weeks the garden has slowly transitioned from a regularly strimmed section of wilderness to an area that is beginning to take the shape of a 4 planting bed garden. What seemed to be an endless fight against long grass and weeds is now shaping up nicely into a place of peace and tranquility.
This weekend the small blades of grass that had managed to make an appearance through the week, were removed; in their place we see eight new species of plant being added, this including: Montbretia, Pyracantha, Asters, Phlox, Campanula, Sedum, Miniature Rose bush and variegated hebe. Further plans are to add Lavender, Daffodils, Crocus and other summer flowering bulbs to the garden.
Following the plans of the new garden; a new pathway has been dug leading from the concrete path (at the gate) straight towards the centre of the site. Throughout this process the remnants of an old stone pathway was unearthed, quite possibly covered for the past 50 years!
As the hours passed by, more and more of this stone pathway was being revealed to the bright autumn sun. Excess topsoil removed from the garden is being used to level other areas of the site out, this primarily being around the concrete pad close to the main entrance, allowing for better accessibility and parking.
Treasure!! Half a penny’s worth.
Throughout the process of removing excess topsoil from the garden, a small, corroded discovery was made. Easily recognisable as being made from copper, but roughly the same size as a 10pence piece, it was a mystery as to what this coin was. Following some careful cleaning of the reverse(tails) face, it soon became clear that what had been found was a ‘half penny’ dated 1936.
Interestingly the obverse(heads) face of this coin holds a portrait of King George V, given the coin is dated 1936, this is the last of the half pennies that feature the king. Following the death of King George V the reverse face of the half penny featured a ship, rather than Britannia, for the first time since 1672.
Finding this coin, buried deep within the topsoil by the stone pathway, makes you wonder how long it has been sitting in that exact position for. How long ago could somebody have dropped this coin? Given the date the coin was minted, it would be quite possible that this half penny was buried before world war two! With this in mind, it makes you think about whether the person who dropped this coin ever noticed; depending on when this coin was lost, it could have determined the meal they ate that night, or if the family went without milk the following day.
Identifying the past
Continuing from his previous week’s work, John has continued to take measurements within the Winding Engine House, adding more and more to the extensive collection that he has already achieved. Each measurement slowly allows the group to better understand how the operation at Hemingfield may have unfolded; with over 100 years worth of extensions, there’s plenty more of this unknown story to be told.
Each individual measurement is an extra piece to this mammoth puzzle, allowing extra precision to be added to diagrams of the Winding Engine House. Taking measurements of both the interior and exterior of the building has allowed diagrams to be drawn, this then allows us to envision where the steam winding engine would have once sat within the building; accompanied with its beam, flywheel and gearing. This in turn will then allow an accurate depiction of where the flat rope drum sat within the building and what this would have looked like, before being replaced with electricity and a smaller round rope drum in 1937.
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.
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?
Bank Holiday weather is usually euphemistic cover for a downpour, rather than the hoped-for rays of sunshine on a public holiday, but Spring Bank Holiday 2021 was a nice surprise: a long, bright, dry and hot weekend for a change. A holiday at home. Almost. Certainly a fabulous day to be outdoors.
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.
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.
After a week of, well let’s say ‘changeable’ weather, the Friends and regular core volunteers were keen to recoup some of the time lost to site maintenance since March and the beginning of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this an extra Saturday when the weather looked set fair was seized on 11th July to continue the weeding, cleaning and tidying the site so that it is back in good order for what the future may bring as the world, or the UK at least, takes its first steps back towards a new normal.
Coronavirus is contracting space and dilating time, it seems. For their part, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery continue their efforts, remotely: researching, planning and staying safe. We hope you and yours are safe and well. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all those affected by this epidemic, all those lost to it, and all of those caring and keeping the rest of the country, if not the whole world, running as normal as possible.
But more anon: this blog has a little bit of catching up to do…