Coalmining Representation in the Heritage Sector of the East Midlands

Coalmining Representation in the Heritage Sector of the East Midlands Blog

Hucknall End of an Era – 25 years

This time a quarter of a century ago the announcement was made that Hucknall Colliery in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield was to close with the loss of 1,300 jobs.  The colliery had run into geological problems on K33′s in the Black Shale seam and following a meeting of the unions concerned, it was decided production would finish at the end of October 1986.

Babbington Colliery, just to the south of Hucknall,  had recently been connected up underground with Hucknall and significant monies spent on improving the coal preparation facilities at Hucknall.  The plans following the merger were to run a Hucknall-Babbington Complex with all coal surfacing at Hucknall.  Many miners from the Eastwood, Underwood and Jacksdale regions had transferred to Hucknall following the closures of Moorgreen and Pye Hill Collieries in 1985.  Many told the story of being told to expect 20 years of work at Hucknall – they were there for around 18 months!


Newstead Colliery Village – Village SOS

Village SOS – BBC1 – Sunday 4th September 2011

The former colliery village of  Newstead recently featured in the BBC TV programme Village SOS.  The programme featured the efforts of the local community to regenerate part of the former colliery spoil heap, or pit tip, into country park complete with an eco friendly visitors centre.  The Project received a grant of £433,140  from the Big Lottery Fund in 2010.   Over 500 volunteers became involved in the Project with 40 hard to reach youngsters receiving accredited training.

The pit tip where the Country park is being developed is relatively young, only emerging from around 1970 when the former site of Annesley Loco Sheds and Yards became disused.  Eventually Newstead, Annesley and Linby Collieries used the site for tipping colliery waste until 1988 when Linby closed.  By this time Annesley’s coal was travelling underground to Bentinck for preparation.  Newstead Colliery finished in March 1987 whilst  production at the nearby Annesley Colliery finished in January 2000.


Coal-mining Monks – Beauvale Priory

As part of the Eastwood Arts Festival an event took place on Sunday 31st July 2011 at the site of former Beauvale Priory. Guided tours around the site told the story of the dissolution of the Priory from different view points.  The site was influential in the Reformation during the reign of Henry VIII when John Houghton and Robert Lawrence were hung, drawn and quartered for failing to take the “Oath of Supremacy”  that acknowledged King Henry VIII as head of the church.  John Houghton and Robert Lawrence were part of the Carthusian order of monks at the Beauvale Charterhouse which was established by Nicolas De Cantelupe in 1343.

Evidence exists that the Monks mined coal in the area during the 14th to 16th century. This is quite feasible as the site of the Priory is more on less on the exposed coalfield (i.e. where the coal lies shallow and just under the surface) However, it has sometimes been stated that the Monks at Newstead Abbey mined coal during a similar period.  This would be impossible as Newstead lies on the older concealed coalfield of Nottinghamshire where the coal seams lie much deeper.  Mining Technology pre 19th century would not have been advanced enough to mine deeper seams, outcropping and bell-pits probably being the norm for the time on the exposed coalfield.


A Leisurely walk and a Local History lesson at the same time!

Being a dog owner (we own a Parsons Russell Terrier) I do lots of walking.  The health virtues of walking are often mentioned in the media but there is another aspect to it.  With a little background research, a keen set of eyes and some imagination every walk becomes a history lesson.  This morning a short hours walk included the site of several old pits that operated around Eastwood in the 1800′s,  the former home of one half of the Eastwood coalowners (the Walker Family), the coach-drive that connected the home of the Walkers to the home of the other half of the Eastwood coalowners (the Barbers), a former industrial railway that connected the Barber-Walker pits, former pit houses and within shouting distance of the birthplace of a worldwide renown author (D H Lawrence).

Hoskins (the founder of Local History) once said that the best way to study Local History is to put a pair of boots on, get some old maps and walk about?  A favourite saying of my Dad’s about the men at the pit was – “Some men at this pit travel the world and see nothing, a few others walk across a field and see everything”!


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.


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.


Moorgreen remembered

Moorgreen Colliery – 1865-1985

The 25th closure anniversary of Moorgreen Colliery, near Eastwood recently took place.  The colliery finished production in late July 1985.  The colliery had been agreed for closure prior to the 1984-85 miners strike due to exhaustion of viable reserves. 

The colliery was the last Eastwood pit of the Barber-Walker Company and the last pit to operate in the former NCB East Midlands No.5 Area.  The pit featured in DH Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers” as Minton Colliery. 

A local saying was “What’s grayner then grayn”? – Answer – Moorgrayn    (Eastwood dialect)



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.