Barnsley Main: Marking Mining

This project focuses on the protection of Barnsley Main, a Grade 2 listed building which is one of the few remaining mining headgears in South Yorkshire.

Barnsley Main was the site of the worst mining disaster in English history with the loss of 383 men and boys. The DVLP is working to secure the future of Barnsley Main, increase access to the wider site and commemorate the 150th anniversary of what is known as the Oaks Disaster in December 2016.

The Project

This project focuses on the protection of Barnsley Main and the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Oaks Disaster. The project will be developed and implemented in the build up to the 150th anniversary of the Oaks Disaster in December 2016. It will:

  • Consolidate and protect the structure and site to prevent deterioration of the fabric.
  • Improve access to the site making it easier for people to access the site.
  • Improve signage and interpretation to raise the profile of the site and increase awareness of the importance of it.
  • Research, commemorate and record on the site the names of those who lost their lives in the Oaks Disaster – the worst mining disaster in English history.
  • Identify and develop opportunities to mark the structure as a significant landmark in the landscape through creative approaches – in particular lighting.
  • Work with the community to co-ordinate events and activities commemorating the Oaks Disaster.


Barnsley MainBarnsley Main is hidden despite it being so close to Barnsley town centre and various residential areas. It is adjacent to the Trans Pennine Trail and is set within attractive and varied greenspace. Its historical significance is further enhanced by the site being the location for the largest mining disaster in England.

Barnsley Main Colliery originated as Oaks Colliery, when a coal-winding shaft and a pumping shaft were sunk to the west of Oaks Lane, Stairfoot, in 1824. Thirteen explosions occurred at the colliery over ten days in 1866, resulting in the deaths of 383 miners and the closure and infilling of the Old Oaks shafts. New shafts sunk at Ardsley in the following year opened as the ‘New Oaks Colliery’ in 1870. Barnsley Main closed in 1965, following an accelerated pit-closure programme. A £25 million-pound refurbishment scheme saw the re-opening of Barnsley Main in the 1970s, with the construction of several new buildings at the pit top. The site’s surviving headgear and two-storey, brick-built engine house date from this period.

Barnsley Main is clearly a symbol of the mining heritage of the Dearne and Yorkshire as a whole. The rarity of the pithead highlights it as significant. The Dearne was once covered in many such structures – this is the only one left. It represents a huge opportunity to engage with people of all generations in the mining past of the Dearne and use it as a starting point for further discussion, consultation, creativity, learning and understanding. Barnsley Council was successful in 2012 in having the structure designated as Grade 2 listed.


All News, Press Releases and Events relating to this Project are listed below