Victorian mining in Barnsley brought to life

England’s worst ever mining disaster has been brought to life using cutting edge 3D technology.

Former miner Alan Andrews has used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to tell the tale of 12th December 1886, when almost 400 people died in explosions at the Oaks Colliery in Barnsley.

Oaks Colliery in virtual reality
Oaks Colliery in virtual reality

Alan has worked with the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership to showcase the technology during two drop-in sessions at the Experience Barnsley museum, on Saturday 14th and Saturday 28th January.

Wearing a special headset, members of the public can place themselves at the centre of the events that unfolded 150 years ago. They can experience what it would have been like both above ground and within the Victorian mine when the explosions went off, with the chaos brought to life in 3D.

Former miner Alan Andrews
Former miner Alan Andrews

Alan, who lives in Darfield and worked at Goldthorpe Colliery in the eighties before moving into IT, narrates the story himself. It is his first major project using 3D and CGI technology, produced through his company The Art of Mining. He will be on hand during the sessions to answer any questions.

Alan said: “As far as I’m aware this is the first time that mining has been the subject of this type of technology. The experience of being a miner is not something that can easily be explained to people, so I’m hoping that virtual reality will open doors in terms of education and bringing mining heritage to life in general.

“Because of the subject matter, this project has been very emotionally draining as I’ve had to immerse myself in tragedy and death. I’ve put my heart and soul into it but I’m really proud of the results and I’m looking forward to sharing them with people at Experience Barnsley later this month.”

As well as the drop-in sessions a CGI film by Alan can be seen in the ‘When the Oaks Fired’ exhibition at Experience Barnsley curated by the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP).

The DVLP is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – thanks to National Lottery players.

Stephen Miller, community officer at the DVLP, said: “We jumped at the opportunity to work with Alan to bring the events of that day to life in such an engaging way. The stunning 3D brings history directly into the 21st century by using such modern techniques and it really does have to be seen to be believed.”

Members of the public are able to take part in the 3D simulations at the Learning Lab at Experience Barnsley during drop-in sessions between 10am and 3pm on 14th and 28th January. No booking is needed.

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