An Extraordinary Day, 8th April 2017

Junior Soldiers from the Army Foundation College Harrogate with representatives from Elsecar Heritage Railway and The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

Saturday 8th April 2017 was an extraordinary open day and working party at Hemingfield Colliery, as the Friends were honoured to be joined by our neighbours from Elsecar Heritage Railway, working together with the great junior soldiers from the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, giving their time to make a real difference here in Hemingfield.

The Junior Soldiers of Burma company, Army Foundation College, Harrogate, with Friends Directors Christine and Glen, Chair Steve and regular volunteer Keith on site (Photo credit: Beth Young)

The junior soldiers, from 19 platoon, Burma company, toiled away in the sun. One party hard at it constructing a new fence by the railway just below Hemingfield Colliery.

Junior Soldiers with members of Elsecar Heritage Railway at Hemingfield (Photo credit: Beth Young)

Digging postholes, the team worked hard, together with AES Engineering, to set the concrete posts for a new lineside fence.

Army Foundation College junior soldiers working lineside, at Hemingfield Halt, in the shadow of Heningfield Colliery, and next to Hemingfield basin (Photo credit: Elsecar Heritage Railway Facebook team)

The Junior Soldiers were doing voluntary work as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Awards. They have already made a huge contribution to the Elsecar Heritage Railway, and now the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery are privileged to benefit from their energy and enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, up in the colliery site, a further party got stuck in moving rubble and shifting the spoil heaps near the entrance wall.

Junior soldiers from AFC Harrogate getting stuck in (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

At the same time a crew got on with clearing and salvaging bricks from the demolished old boundary wall.

Junior soldiers from Army Foundation College, Harrogate on site at Hemingfield Colliery (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

And using the wheelbarrows to great effect, shifting the materials away.

AFC Harrogate junior soldiers shifting reclaimed bricks, alongside the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery

New partnerships; new possibilities

L-R: Friends Director of Volunteering and Community Engagement Christine Cameron; Chairman of Elsecar Heritage Railway Andrew Earl, Friends Chairman Steve Grudgings, and Friends Director & Site Manager Glen Shephard (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

The pit and the railway have been inextricably linked since the very beginning. The Low Elsecar pit (Hemingfield Colliery) was sunk on behalf of Earl Fitzwilliam from 1842, being served by the Dearne and Dove canal initially, but from 1850, the rails of the new Elsecar branch line of the South Yorkshire, Doncaster and Goole Railway Company were bringing empty wagons for the collieries to fill and transport nationwide.

The coming of the mineral railway, and the demand for coal from the Railway companies themselves and their new markets in London would transform Elsecar’s coal economy.

A steam engine from Elsecar Heritage Railway running down the Coalfield Memorial Line running alongside Hemingfield Colliery (taken in 2016)

Just as then, so now the colliery and the coalfield memorial line share many common interests, and are committed to working together to improve local facilities and safeguard the heritage of Elsecar, Hemingfield and Cortonwood.

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So on this gloriously sunny day, both groups are excited to announce a new joint memorandum of understanding for future close collaboration, as described below:

Elsecar Heritage Railway and Friends of Hemingfield Colliery

Exciting Future for Partnership as New Railway Halt Announced

The working relationship between the Elsecar Heritage Railway and the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery is now even closer with their signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Saturday 8th April – the same day as volunteers from both organisations came together to undertake more crucial work at the historic colliery.

As plans for the extension of the railway line to Cortonwood progress, and conservation of the impressive remains of Hemingfield Colliery moves forward, including with recent support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, both parties are keen to develop closely linked facilities and access.

Crucially, the plan is to develop a small ‘halt’ station at Hemingfield, to enable train travellers to visit the pit, look over its impressive adjacent canal basin and really understand their history. Sunk at the direction of Earl Fitzwilliam in the 1840s, it was originally known as ‘Elsecar Low Colliery’. The railway was laid alongside shortly afterwards in 1850.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding will strengthen and formalise the good relationship both bodies have built over the years, and will enable more effective joint planning and development of visitor access to the area around Hemingfield.

All this is considered a very important contribution to how Elsecar can continue to develop as a visitor destination, with both organisations working closely with Elsecar Heritage Centre and other partners, including as part of the new Elsecar Heritage Action Zone supported by Historic England.

Watch the (Hemingfield) Space

The Rev Andrew Earl – Chairman EHR

Steve Grudgings – Chairman FOHC

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