When Barnsley Main Colliery closed in 1991, the whole site was cleared except for the headgear and connected buildings. Over time it became overgrown and the buildings vandalised. The Barnsley Main Heritage Group was established in 2016. Since then, the Group’s volunteers have been busy conserving and protecting the remains of the Colliery with support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.
Barnsley Main Colliery was a symbol of Barnsley’s proud mining heritage which had become neglected. The iconic piece of history and its associated green space needed to be looked after so that people could enjoy it and learn about the colliery. A new group of volunteers seemed like a potential solution.
Building The New Team
With a grant and support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership the Barnsley Main Heritage Group grew from a small team of volunteers to a much larger, stronger and more resilient group. Sarah Dewey, one of the many new volunteers, found out about this group of like-minded people by taking part in a community clear-up at the Colliery.
Sarah credits the research that the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership’s Community Officer Stephen Miller coordinated into the Oaks Memorial Day as an important tool for getting volunteers even more interested in the site and working together. This brought people together with diverse interests and motivations.
New Skills give the colliery a bright future
Volunteer training included:
- 6 days training in practical landscape management skills such as hedge laying and coppicing
- 3 days training in willow weaving
- 1 oral history workshop.
Volunteers have been able to put their new skills to good use, for example, they have cleared the overgrown site using their new landscape management skills and worked together to build a willow structure onsite. Sarah talked about the enthusiasm and expertise of the ground maintenance contractor, John Twigg, who showed Barnsley Main Heritage Group how to mow the site.
‘They teach you how to do things that we can then do ourselves’
Volunteer, Chris Sayer’s understanding of the best wildlife management for the site has increased. The Landscape Partnership funded an ecological survey which will be used by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Barnsley Main Heritage Group to encourage biodiversity on site. Other positive results for wildlife include 1500m2 of wildlife meadow sown and four wildlife recording days run by Sorby Natural History Society.
Volunteers have also developed their organisational and administrative skills. Sarah Dewey used frameworks provided by the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership to help the volunteers form a cohesive group. She also learnt how to use Mailchimp; sending out a quarterly volunteer newsletter to the whole team.
The experience has not just been beneficial for the heritage of the Colliery but for volunteers too. Richard Totty, another volunteer, said that the experience has helped to develop his confidence and interpersonal skills. He has taken pop-up stands about the Oaks Disaster to the National Coal Mining Museum for England. Richard commented;
Improving the area inspires even more people
Peter Shaw, local gym owner volunteers every Monday morning on practical tasks at Barnsley Main Colliery. Peter compares his gym clients’ Before and After photos with the impact of the volunteer Group’s work to improve the neglected site. He wanted to be part of something that he noticed was making a visible difference to the local area. The history of the site is also important to him:
How can we make a cohesive volunteer group? Liane Holdsworth (DVLP Landscape Partnership Development Officer) and Stephen Miller (DVLP Community Officer) advised us and DVLP helped set up the framework for the group
‘My Grandad worked in the pit and so I feel connected to it. I would like the next generation of people, kids to know about the history of mining in our area. To know that people risked their lives for their livelihood.’
‘…having a go and doing things I’d never done before…learning about talking to people about our work on site and what happened.’
Hedge laying, cutting trees, training courses with DVLP at Elsecar, willow sculptures. My Interpersonal skills have grown. Talking to people, raising the profile of Barnsley Main at English Museum of Mining –getting confidence by doing things. Learning things we have never done before and just doing it.”