Heritage Open Days 2017

In HODs we trust

This year’s Heritage Open Days events included two full oublic open days for the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery. 

Following recent open days during working party weekend, the site was cleared ready to welcome guests.

Joining a host of local heritage groups in the immediate area, across South Yorkshire, and all around England, we were pleased to open our gates to new visitors.

Spirits undampened

The first day began, slightly ominously, with rain, but it did not deter the Friends and volunteers from setting up stall, or rather pitching a gazebo under our distinctive 1940 concrete headgear.

With golf umbrellas on standby, and armed with eager tourguides, boxes of treats, and a chance to win a prize whilst supporting the Friends’ work, the group on site welcomed a steady stream of visitors who had beaten the showers to get out and enjoy some fantastic heritage locations, many of which were open together over a single weekend. Added to the excellent publicity in the local press and the ease of searching for HODs events via the official website: www.heritageopendays.org.uk there was simply no excuse not to get out and finds something old (and new!) and go and explore!

The sights for site seers 

Over the weekend Friends Directors Glen, Christine, Chair Steve and volunteers Bill, John, Keith and Chris took turns in welcoming visitors, introducing them to the colliery and its surroundings and conducting them on what we hope was a lively and engaging tour of the site. 

Winding engine house, a remarkable survivor

Visitors received exclusive access, going inside the buildings.

Inside the winding engine house, a visitor examines where the beam engine first ran (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

Climbing through doorways closed for years, around old machinery abandoned for decades, and looking down our two shafts where coal was won, water pumped and miners lives lived and lost through 170 years of industrial activity.

Elizabeth chugging along the Elsecar Heritage Railway line

And we were rewarded with visitors coming from as far as as Scotland, Lancashire and the Home Counties, as well as just down the road.

Glories in the gloom: sharing the canalside and railway connections of our remarkable pit

In many ways the local and long distance travellers both serve to remind the Friends how fortunate they are to be the current custodians of the colliery site. 

Family group visiting the pit (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

Whether industrial historians or local families, the is much to learn and much more to explore in and around the pit.

Friends volunteer guiding visitors around the site (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

The questions and comments the Friends received help us ourselves to bring the pit to life and engage new audiences.

Pit palimpsest: surface horizontal winding engine house (for dip workings) with electrical pumping extensions, atop earlier buildings

As the first day drew on, the weather cleared, and the Friends could stand by the headgear and share not just the past, but our plans for the future of the site, and the exciting heritage activities currently underway in and around Elsecar with its Heritage Action Zone status.


With a less drippy and puddlesome day, came also a chance to conduct visitors around the whole site, as well as making some headway on clearance tasks whilst awaiting new arrivals.

Winding and pumping, Hemingfield Colliery’s heritage

Down by the lineside, or Friends at the Elsecar Heritage Railway were putting on a treat for passengers: a double headed carriage service carrying visitors up and down the line, past the pit, and back to Elsecar Heritage Centre.

Twin at-traction? Great passenger service on the EHR

Good progress was made in brick reclamation and some more stump clearance. Amongst the visits scoring the site we were delighted to receive supportive comments, contributions, donations and even some potential new volunteers.

The Friends at work (thankfully not a heritage feature in our very active group)

Sharing the story of the pit from 1842, through to 1920, and from 1920 to now was a pleasure.

Visitors touring the site

Standing back and admiring the progress of 3 years on site, and celebrating the survival of the pit to be open for the Heritage Open Days in 2017 was a great thrill.

Discovering heritage

Sharing this site, its stories, hidden nooks and crannies and objects old, alien and intriguing continues to motivate the Friends’ work. So thank you to all our guests, visitors and new friends, and here’s to many more HODs!

Seeing things from a new perspective

Heritage Open Days, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September 2017

Hemingfield Colliery Heritage Open Days

Come along and visit our wonderful Victorian coal mine site. See its 1840s winding engine house, two headgears and shafts disappearing into the depths from which the Barnsley seam coal was wrought.

Our team of volunteers will be on site to explain more about Hemingfield Colliery, and provide tours to visitors.

Join us on Saturday 9th or Sunday 10th September, between 10am and 4pm


Hemingfield Colliery
Wath Road/ opposite Pit Row
South Yorkshire
S73 0NX

Elsecar by the Sea weekend, 2nd-3rd September 2017


Another year flies around and suddenly it’s the first weekend in September once again. Time for the Elsecar by the Sea festival. 

A community gala, a great beer festival and a weekend of public activities, including railway trips, live music, entertainers and fairground rides all celebrating the promenading wonders of Elsecar by the Sea.

The origins of the celebration date to the turn of the Twentieth century when the summer charms of Elsecar’s reservoir were promoted to Sheffield city dwellers as a ‘seaside’ escape from the industrial grime and smog.

Oh we do like to be beside the… Res

Starting with the Barnsley CAMRA beer festival taking place in Milton Hall from Thursday to Saturday, 

followed by the community gala in Elsecar Park, the weekend was capped off with events at the heritage centre, including a craft fair in the Ironworks, local heritage displays, fun fair rides, live music and and street entertainers.

Elsecar thronged with people of all ages coming together to relax and enjoy the joys of the village.

Mapping out the fun

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery gathered for a Saturday Open Day and working party to continue the work on site.

Arriving in sunshine, the regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, John and Ian were greeted by Site Manager Glen and Friends Chair Steve.

Starting the brick reclamation production line, Alan picked up and chipped in to clean up recovered bricks and stack them neatly for reuse. The Friends are hoping to use some of the frogless pressed bricks to repair the front wall in the near future as well as providing a store of imperial size bricks for minor repairs.

Taking turns, bookending the day, we brickies all, the crew rotated through the tasks, Steve and Nigel collecting brick hammers from the tool store and chipping in some more.

Wrong kind of trunks

Meanwhile, in the forestry services department Steve, Glen and John, with barrow work from Chris proceeded to clear up the top of the site.

Removing stumps, reducing the remaining rubble mounds and tackling some serious logging, in preparation for visitors at our forthcoming Heritage Open Days on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September.

Sizing up when digging down

Earlier in the day volunteer Nigel set to measuring the current state of the archaeological dig at the rear of the winding engine house (at the northern end of the site). 

Tagging up the recent finds, measuring the buildings and the exposed stonework floor.

With trusty tape measure in hand, and an eye for a straight line, Nigel carefully drew out an accurate representation of the features before the Friends proceed to reveal further layers of archaeology on site.

Detailed measured drawings of the exposed stone paving.

Deep and meaningful

Back up top by the main shaft headgear, Friends Chair Steve revealed a piece of the pit’s past: the indicator board of the water shaft one man winder. Odd names picked out in lettering tease and confuse:

  • Top
  • Kent
  • Bottom

No, not the shipping forecast, but the levels in the pit shaft, Kent not being the county, but rather a seam of coal, and a level in the shaft with an inlet where pumping equipment was held.

Winding indicator board (water shaft) Top, Kent and Bottom

Below the board were three power gauges with bells, with similarly odd names:

  • Banksman
  • Kent
  • Barnsley

Kent we now know.

Barnsley rings a bell, but is the coal seam of that name, around 140 yards down, not the town. It’s the deepest working part of the pit, the bottom. The Barnsley seam, all 9 feet of its thickness, was the ‘gold’ mined throughout the South Yorkshire coalfield until its exhaustion. 

The need to prevent old Barnsley seam workings from flooding and affecting active pits nearby was the cause of the organisation that saved Hemingfield pit as a pumping station from May 1920 onwards.

Banksman is not a financial position, it’s much more important than that. Rather, it’s the name of the surface worker responsible for safely confirming the winding of workers going underground. The Banksman is the Top here. You should start and end your journey at bank, the shaft top.

The indicator board was removed from the site for safekeeping in the 1990s after the pumps stopped, the shafts were allowed to flood and the winder ceased to be used. See a  rare photo of the whole board in position, taken by the Friends Chair.

Electric winding indicator board for old water shaft (Photo credit: Steve Grudgings, 1997)

With the winding indicator screw wheel and indicator handle returned to site in October 2015, we now have all the elements to restore the indicator wall instruments.

Down the line

Our friends at Elsecar Heritage Railway keep the Friends and volunteers entertained with a steady and changing stream of locos, both steam and diesel coming down the line from Elsecar. This weekend William was on show and in steady steam, giving footplate experiences in the sunshine.

Ale and Arty

At the end of the day, with tools downed, site locked up, a delegation of the Friends proceeded to partake of the produce at the Elsecar by the Sea beer festival. Housed in Milton Hall, the village’s original covered market, the sandstone glowed in the evening sun and conversation flowed over a half or few.

Al fresco dining followed as the desk numbers settled and everyone enjoyed the last of the summer stout (or mild, or bitter, or pale ale, depending on your preference).

A topic of conversation and delight to the Friends all weekend was the creativity inspired by the pit.

Local artist and royal academician Iain Nicholls is continuing to bring a unique eye and skill to oil paintings of aspects of the site, and below we give some further samples of the beautiful lines and light he shines on the colliery.

Hemingfield Colliery (Slates) Iain Nicholls 2017, oil on aluminium, 11×14 inches

Hemingfield Colliery (Corrugated door), Iain Nicholls 2017, oil on aluminium, 11×14 inches

We look forward to reporting on Iain’s work, both in paint and with virtual reality as he prepares an exhibition of his work at a gallery in London.

Ice cream Sunday

Sunday was the last day of the festival, but a busy day for the Friends at the Elsecar Heritage Centre.  As families, young and old arrived to enjoy the seaside themed fun, live music filled the air, and performers toured the site entertaining visitors.

Heritage and mining groups were invited to present displays by the visitors centre at Elsecar, and the Friends were delighted to set up stall besides our friends from Barnsley Main Heritage Group, and alongside the dedicated team from Elsecar Heritage Centre and Barnsley Museums providing tours and games for families discovering Elsecar for the first time.

With a rarely-seen selection of photographs and documents showing the history of Hemingfield colliery and the pumping station, and some of the archaeological finds from our site digs, Friends Directors Glen and Christine were joined by volunteer Chris.

Part of the display materials (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

The Friends had a lovely day meeting and greeting passers by, ex miners, young families, visitors from beyond our shores (outside of Barnsley). They were joined by two new volunteer supporters, Bill and his granddaughter who created a great buzz at the stall, engaging visitors to Elsecar and having fun whilst raising awareness and much needed funds for the restoration work on site.

Fun at the festival, volunteering at the Friends’ display (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

The Friends took the opportunity to meet volunteers from other groups, and discuss the exciting plans for Elsecar as it begins its Heritage Action Zone programme of activities.

Raising awareness and having fun were the order of the day, and we were pleased to hear visitors planning to visit the site during the Heritage Open Days the following week. We’ll see you there come rain or come shine.

Open Day, Saturday 19th August 2017

Is winter coming?

The Friends opened the gates to another busy open day, in what was by turns a bright, but exceedingly wet, working day. Site Manager Glen welcomed regular volunteers Nigel, Alan, and John and was pleased to see the returning Peak District contingent of experienced mining archaeological enthusiasts John, Phil and Chris.

Splitting into small groups, work continued in two areas – one excavating the lower terrace, the north-facing area terrace above the Elsecar Heritage Railway line. The other was by the site entrance, next to the pit gates.

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Open Day, Saturday 5th August 2017

Golden days

Summertime gatherings stir the soul and lift the spirits. Surrounded by lush countryside, listening to breezy birdsong, and keeping cool in the shadow of this old workplace under a bright blue sky makes for a memorable day.

And so once more unto the pit, dear friends, once more, as the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery assembled to open the gates for another open day, and continue to maintain and explore the site.

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Milton Gala, 23rd July 2017

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were keen to return to the annual Milton Gala this year after the great experience they enjoyed last time. Organised by the very active Mates of Milton community group, the event is a fun day for local people from Elsecar, Hoyland and further afield to come and enjoy a day out, with shows, rides, stalls and displays to entertain them throughout the day.

Travelling in hope

After a damp Saturday which had prevented the Friends from opening the colliery, all eyes were looking skywards, as the organisers and attendees assembled at the Forge playing fields at Milton, just off Milton Road, by the Furnace pub.

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were out in strength, with regular volunteer Keith preparing the ground with a great marquee, courtesy of our friends at the Barnsley Main Heritage Group. Directors Glen and Christine continued the convoy, with volunteers Glenda and Chris also on hand to set up stall, and lay out both the fun activity and also a display of materials about the Friends group.

The top of the Forge playing fields was busy with stalls, fairground rides, bouncy castles, stalls, food outlets and a steady parade of dogs with their owners, ready for the show.

During the day queues were forming to the left and the right, for the sweet and the savory, ice creams or jacket potatoes.

The weather was mostly bright, just with some slightly threatening clouds overhead, but with a steady stream of visitors the time flew by.

Roll up, roll up…

The friends had a prime spot with many people passing by, stopping to chat, look at the stall, play our game, or just stroke good old Rosie the dog, staunch supporter, keenly guarding the wares.

Time to get out and engage the passers by with a fun ‘Treasure Search” game in aid of the colliery, with Glenda offering 5 goes for a pound, picking a letter and number combination which was checked off against the board grid. Would players hit a prize, miss one, or get another free go?

Prizes were flying off the stall, and several visitors dig deep to have a few goes to see if they could win one of the prizes which the Friends had collected over the past year. Alongside the game, we had boxes of books of all types and we’re happy to unite several sets of readers with new titles for small donations to the colliery’s cause.

The group were well pleased with the response of the crowd to the game and to the story of the colliery site, with several former miners stopping for a chat and asking about progress on the site and the future plans around Hemingfield and Elsecar with the recent Heritage Action Zone status, and the funding of Elsecar and Wentworth for the Great Places scheme.

Right at the end of the day, after the dog shows and as the announcements were winding down, we felt the first drops of persistent rain, and so started to gather up the remaining items on the stall. Packing the books, prizes, and mining memorabilia away, the group loaded up 3 vehicles with the various bits and pieces, before collapsing the gazebo and heading home.

Forge, Furnace and Fun

The rain faded away as the gala free to a close, with people drifting home by the pond, or walked over to the Furnace Inn for refreshment.

Others walked home down the Forge playing fields themselves, down the “mound” which marks part of the old Milton Ironworks site – and I’ve of the exciting areas which the new Elsecar Heritage Action Zone archaeological investigations will hopefully shed more light on for us to learn about and celebrate.

Thanks to the organisers and all who attended the gala, the Friends raised funds for the Colliery and were happy to meet and share the story and future plans for the pit. Same time next year!?

Open Day, Saturday 8th July 2017

View of the winding engine house in the July sunshine

A bright and beautiful day welcomed the Friends and volunteers to Hemingfield Colliery on Saturday, as the crew returned to do some regular maintenance of the site, as well a continuing the recent excavation on the lower terrace, a pleasing piece of industrial archaeology revealing more of the original stone paving of the colliery.

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Happy 3rd Birthday! Saturday 24th June 2017

Happy Birthday to the Friends!

The pit site on its third anniversary under the care of the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery

On Saturday 24th June, The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery gathered at the pit to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the date that the Friends finally received the keys to the site and could begin the journey which has brought us all to where we are today.

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Barnsley History Day, Sunday 18th June 2017

Bright sunshine and beautiful blue skies, it must be Barnsley!

Sunday 18th June was a scorcher. As the longest day drew near, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery gathered their display materials, leaflets, booklets and badges and headed in to Barnsley town centre. The destination, the beautiful 1933 listed town hall building, whose white Portland stone facade was resplendent against the bright blue sky.

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In and Out: two days of volunteering, Friday 9th and Saturday 10th June 2017

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery are entering a busy time of year, with a series of events to attend, and planned activities to share and join in with ourselves.

This early weekend, from Friday to Saturday was a celebration of the spirit of volunteering at the colliery and by the colliery in the Elsecar valley which we are proud to call home.

Beautiful countryside around Hemingfield

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