Coalmining Representation in the Heritage Sector of the East Midlands

Coalmining Representation in the Heritage Sector of the East Midlands Blog

Newstead Pit Sculptures

Sculptures of coalmining tools were recently unveiled on the former site of Newstead Colliery, Nottinghamshire.  The sculptures were designed by local artist Lewis Morgan with the help of children from Newstead and Annesley Primary Schools.   The designs depict a pick axe, a shovel and a sledge hammer, each sculpture having a nature theme added to the handles.

Plans are currently afoot to turn the  former pit sites of Newstead and Annesley into a Country Park, complete with a visitors centre.  Watch out for the forthcoming Headstocks Festival in early September when two of the headline bands are Echo and the Bunnymen and the Lightning Seeds – start acts from the 1980′s.  Oh hazy days  - pure and simple every time!


Bilsthorpe Heritage Society

Recently it was my pleasure to meet some of the Committee Members from the Bilsthorpe Heritage Society.  The group was formed in 1997 following the closure of Bilsthorpe Colliery with the aim to try and ensure that the coalmining, agricultural and social history of Bilsthorpe remains an integral part of the village community development.

Bilsthorpe is a 20th century coalmining community which developed in the late 1920′s.  The Stanton Company developed the sinking of the pit between 1927 and 1927 and the subsequent development of the village followed.  In all the pit was in production for 70 years.

The group are working towards getting a permanent exhibition for their vast collection of memorabilia, much of which was salvaged from the pit when it closed.  They regularly go to various heritage exhibitions and work with schools on coalmining history based projects.

For further details of the Society e-mail on:


The Pitman Painters – Nottingham Theatre Royal

Recently the stage production of the Pitman Painters visited the Nottingham Theatre Royal. The stage production was adapted from a book by William Feaver and was produced by Lee Hall of Billy Elliott fame. The story is about a group of miners who started a WEA Art Class in Ashington in 1934. The story unfolds of the group, initially unversed in the world of Renaissance Art, eventually deciding to paint the world as it affected them. It was a sort of working class men’s self expression.

The Group flourised and eventually word of their exploits spread. Helen Sutherland, a shipping line heiress, who lived at Rock near Ashington, showed considerable interest in their work, especially the work of Oliver Kilbourn. The stage adaption covered the period from the start of the group in 1934 through to Vesting Day in 1947 (the nationalisation of the coal industry). Especially poignant at the end was the portrayal of a replica of the Ellington NUM Branch Banner. In 2005 the closure of Ellington (Big E) brought to an end deep mining in the north-east coalfield. No longer was the term “its like taking coal to Newcastle” relevant.

The collection of paintings done by the Ashington miners is on show the Woodhorn Colliery Museum near Ashington. For more information contact


Tracing your mining family history

I recently had a call from Bill Saxton who was tracing his famly tree. In the subsequent discussion the usual things cropped up; do records exist of miners service, any accidents, any disciplinary measures etc etc. In many cases the simple answer to these types of questions is no. When the pits closed the men were quickly taken off the books and the salvage / demolition process quickly began. Apart from the excellent collection at Snibston and the Coal Authority many other aspects of mining social history was lost forever. In many cases there was no official moves to preserve unique historical mining documents. Up to the late 1990′s all the service records for the old NCB South Notts Area where based at the old Pit Head Baths at the closed Newstead Colliery. At sometime in the proceedings all these records were disposed of and a vast amont of service history, along with migratory patterns for miners moving to the Notts coalfield was lost forever.

However not all hope is lost. In some cases individuals, on their own accord, ensured that some of the colliery records were preserved. Around ten years ago, I deposited three signing on books and a fines book from Annesley Colliery, at the Nottinghamshire Archives. The record books dated from 1904 to the early 1930′s. Prior to being deposited typed copies were made of all details in the books; included were work details of the former Notts and England fast bowler, Harry Larwood.

For further details see “My ancestor was a Coalminer” by David Tonks, Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd, 2003.


Tribute to Ted Bishop (1927 – 2011)

Ted Bishop, former Colliery Manager at Newstead (1964 – 1975) recently passed away following a short illness. Ted had that rare ability of being respected from all levels in the coalmining industry, from the workmen through to other members of NCB management. This great respect was reflected in a Service of Thanksgiving at St Wilfreds Church, Kirkby-in-Ashfield on 27th June 2011.

Ted’s first managerial post was at Cotes Park Colliery near Somercotes in the early 1960′s but it at his time as Manager at Newstead that most mining people remember Ted. Ted was actively involved at the pit, not only as manager but in all the social and welfare organisations which were attached to the industry. As a junior member of Newstead MW Angling Club, I remember Ted attended all the annual prize giving events held every April at Newstead Miners Welfare Institute.

After Newstead Ted went to the Vale of Belvoir Project, then known as the North-East Leicestershire Project. The end result of this ill fated project was the super pit at Asfordby, near Melton Mowbray, which saw only two years of production in the 1990′s at an estimated cost of 0.5 to 0.75 billion pounds. Ted’s suggestion of developing the Belvoir Project from the then existing Cotgrave Colliery was not taken up and the better reserves of coal remain undeveloped to this day.

Even in retirement Ted was a champion for British deep mined coal, attending many of the protests during the coal crisis of 1992 – 1994. Ted’s passing sees the end of another one of the old school of NCB South Notts management, the like of which we are not likely to see again. Ted was a man of common sense and logic, qualities rarely seen in many aspects of management these days. For me it was a privilege to have known Ted, especially in recent years at the “miner’s reunions” each Christmas at my sisters house near to where Ted lived at Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Notts. Ted leaves one son (Simon) and two daughters (Jane and Ruth).


The 2011 East Midlands Oral History Day – 6th July

The Annual Conference of the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) took place at the Centre for Urban Studies at the University of Leicester on Wednesday 6th July 2011. The theme for the 2011 Conference was interviewing.

As part of the Agenda the MuBu miner made a presentation titled “Proceed with Caution – Representing the 25th anniversary of the 1984-85 Miners Strike in Oral History”. The presentation centred on the various issues that the Selstonia Living Heritage Project (SLHP) had to deal with in its portrayal of the dispute. The issue is still contoversial 27 years on, especially so in the former East Midlands coalfield regions where the majority of miners worked through the strike.

The SLHP eventually settled on doing a pre-recorded community radio broadcast (on Radio Salistune) based on the various oral interviews taken as part of the Project’s remit. Emphasis was placed on trying to get as balanced a view as possible with a remit of including all peoples memories from the time of the strike and not just the miners involved. The radio programme was broadcast on 1st April 2009.


Rail and Canal Historical Society Walk – Ripley 1st July 2011

The East Midlands Branch of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (R & CHS) held one its summer heritage walks recently around Ripley in Derbyshire. The evening walk looked at the remains of the famous Butterley Company Works (mostly demolished 2010) and then followed a heritage based route to Ripley mainly via the former trackbed of the Butterley Junction to Ripley branch. Twenty people attended the walk which was led by Jeff Smith and David Amos.

Large parts of the walk included aspects of coalmining history in the Ripley region. The main reason for the complex network of railway lines in that region was because of coal. Deep coalmining finsihed in the Ripley region in the late 1960′s.

On the walk we passed the site of the former Pentrich Colliery which closed in 1946.


About this Sponsor

The MuBu Coalmining Project took place from April 2010 to the end of March 2012.  The remit was two-fold - firstly to see how the once vast coalmining industry in the East Midlands was represented in the Heritage sector and secondly to bring aspects of social media to that representation. The Coal mining project was funded by Renaissance East Midlands (REM) and the Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) at the University of Nottingham. The Bursary holder was Dr. David Amos who completed a PhD on the 1984-85 Miners Strike in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield. David is an ex miner, having worked in the deep mining coal industry at Annesley Colliery for 24 years.