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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 May Day bank holiday weekend saw a busy day down at Hemingfield Colliery, as the Friends and a good crew of volunteers arrived on site, thankfully blessed with a bright and pleasant day.
On the Fence? To the pallisades!
The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery had a busy and varied day this weekend. In addition to an Open Day at the colliery, Friends Director of Volunteering and Community Engagement, Christine, went to join in the exciting Elsecar Making History event held from 10 to 1pm at the Heritage Centre. The event brought together examples of local history materials from Barnsley Archives, together with an open invitation to visitors to bring their own records, letters, pictures and stories to share.
Back on site, Site Manager Glen opened the gates and was joined by regular volunteers Keith and Frank followed by newcomer Neil. Later volunteer Chris served to lend a hand, and later still we welcomed Andy and Luke.
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.
Despite the forecast, we’re no fools. Sunshine and laughter filled the air as the Friends and crew returned to the colliery on a lively and productive day at the pit.
Site director Glen and Friends Chair Steve opened up the site, welcoming John, Ian, Chris, Phil, Frank, and Keith during the day.
Another busy weekend on site, with the Friends and regular volunteers arriving bright and early to continue work on tidying the site and clearing the rubble.
Friends Chair Steve and site manager Glen opened the gates as the crew returned to their tools and continued the noble tousle twixt mankind and tree. They were joined by regular volunteers John, Alan, Nigel, and Chris.