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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Experiencing Virtual Reality, Elsecar, 4th June 2017

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were excited and proud to present a new Virtual Reality experience based on the colliery as it appeared at the turn of the Twentieth century.

A misty morning at the pit welcomes virtual visitors into the relative peace of the pit yard, before the journey descends into the depths of the Barnsley coal seam 150 years below.

Guided by the insightful narration of Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan, the explorers are instructed in the ways of navigating in the VR world, before being free to roam in the half-light below ground, lit only by your own safety lamp.

Life and Art

It was designed and created by local Darfield artist Iain Nicholls, with financial support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.

Using artistic and  3D modelling skills, photogrammetry, and additional effects, Iain has created an immersive experience which brings the underground life back to you, the lost world back into focus and gives a sense of the difficulties and daily details of mining.

This weekend was the first public outing locally, and the artist himself and the Friends were delighted with the response from young and old alike.

Elsecar Heritage Centre

Arriving at Elsecar Heritage Centre, the VR kit and a collection of display materials related to the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were set up in the upstairs activity room of the visitors’ centre.

Exhibits and experiences

Visitors to Elsecar were of all ages and many tried their hand at the VR experience, including some former mine workers which was wonderful to observe.

Surrounding the VR kit was an extensive display of mining and local history materials corrected and presented by the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery.

So between diving into the depths of our pit shafts, visitors to Elsecar could also learn more about the history, heritage and community activities the Friends are currently engaged in.

Seeking feedback

A key part of the first local public outing was the opportunity of along members of the public for real feedback, to influence the completion of the original design. This was achieved by asking the VR users to fill in a feedback form and by telling to them about the experience.

Based on this feedback, Iain will make final adjustments before being able to complete his work on Hemingfield Colliery and allow the VR headset, a HTC Vive to be used by the Friends at future events.

Next VR event: Sunday 18th June 2017, Barnsley History Day at Barnsley Town Hall, from 11am to 3pm

Open Day, Saturday 29th May 2017

Shall we compare thee to a Summer’s day?

All was bright and sunny as the Friends and regular volunteers arrived for this weekend’s open day, marking a great start to the long Bank Holiday weekend.

Director and Site Manager Glen opened the gates to regular volunteers, Keith, Alan, and Nigel, later being joined by Chris. The group caught up on developments since the last open day and determined to continue a mixture of activities, including site clean-up and some archaeology on the lower terrace.

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Open Day, Saturday 13th May, 2017

The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery had a very busy time this particular weekend in May as the site was open to visitors on both Friday and Saturday, with a number of groups being given guided tours of the colliery and its history and remaining buildings.

Working day

But first there was work to do. On Saturday Friends Directors Glen and Ian arrived early to complete the fencing of the back of the site. No light task, they closed a gap which had allowed some unwelcome visitors to sneak in previously.

Friends getting to grips with the perimeter fencing (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

On the record

Amidst the work, the Friends were pleased to welcome two filmmakers to the site. Nick Jordan and Jacob Cartwright arrived from Manchester and toured the site, interested in the history, industrial function, social stories and place of the pit in the community and local landscape. 

Speaking to the Friends, the crew recorded insights into the progress and future plans for the site, including the historical research and creative work of our volunteers, such as Amanda Willoughby’s beautiful artwork project, and the amazing Virtual Reality materials created by Iain Nicholls.

Site Manager Glen discussing the work of the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

Friends Director of Community Engagement & Volunteering, Christine, talking to the crew

Friends Chair Steve, and Site Manager Glen taking to the documentary team (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

Clear and Pheasant Danger

Elsewhere on site, another regular visitor graced the Friends with her presence: the somewhat carefree pheasant wandered freely around the site and almost into oncoming traffic on Wath Road, until one of the volunteers shooed her back into the pityard and safety.

International Early Engines Conference at Elsecar

During the week, from Thursday 11th until Saturday 13th May, The Ironworks at Elsecar Heritage Centre hosted delegates from the International Early Engines Conference – IEEC – the first event of its type – dedicated to exploring the history, engineering and archaeology of early engines, that is the atmospheric and steam engines developed before 1812.

Hemingfield volunteer Chris giving a brief site tour to IEEC delegates on Saturday (Photo credit: Keith Whitaker)

During two visits on Friday evening, and a further tour on Saturday afternoon, the Friends were delighted to extend a warm welcome to visitors from as far afield as China, New Zealand, Germany and The Netherlands.

Working closely with the Conference organisers, Barnsley Museums and our friends at Elsecar Heritage Railway, the conference delegates had a rich variety of places to visit on the doorstep of the main conference venue, as well as enjoying trips to Rockley furnace and engine house, and to Wortley Top Forge.

Extending a warm welcome to visitors to Elsecar

Remembering the Oaks Colliery Disaster – unveiling the memorial

On Sunday 7th May, the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery were present at the ceremony to mark the public unveiling of the memorial statue you the victims of the Oaks Colliery Disaster. The Oaks Colliery Disaster Memorial which was installed at Church Street in Barnsley was designed and sculpted by Graham Ibbeson (RCA).

Friends Directors Christine and Glen were proud to attend the event, and form part of the public parade, which assembled at Regent Street South and Mandela Gardens at noon. There, the Dodworth Colliery Miners Welfare Band and the City of Sheffield Pipe Band formed a procession, with banners being carried by Trades Unions groups.  Members of the public swelled the numbers as they marched up Church St to the unveiling.

Video by Barnsley and Surrounding Areas


The moment of unveiling the memorial statue (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)

Close up view of the statue by Graham Ibbeson (Photo credit: Christine Cameron)