Mining Museum

Mining Museum

It’s a bit of a wander through the recent and distant past today, with a trip to the Mining Museum. Brought about by thinking we’ll soon need the heating on!

We survived the storm here on Rossall Prom and thankfully it wasn’t as bad as the forecasters said it would be. We had sunshine before lunch then it clouded over, boo hah! I love the sunshine, I wonder if I put an order in for more sun it will happen, although I’m not holding my breath. I was saying that I couldn’t believe that we are so far through September, which made me think about the central heating, which won’t be long before it’s going on! As I do, my mind started drifting on about keeping warm in Winter and made me realise that a lot of today’s school children won’t know what a piece of coal looks like. My dad was a miner, so we got our coal free every month. It was called concessionary coal and as the wages in those days were diabolical compared to other jobs, it was a good job it was free or we would have been cold!

I think I’ve mentioned before, that a full ton of coal was dumped onto the edge of the road and pavement and then you had to wheelbarrow it in up our quite steep sloped path and then dump it outside the coal place.

Mining Museum
Coal delivery and how it was tipped. This isn’t my coalplace – it’s one off the internet!

It was built into the outside of the house using some of the void under the stairs. As it was a coal mining area, most people had one. Then you’d not finished, you had to shovel the full ton coal into the coal place, using boards to shore the front up as you filled it, so that the coal didn’t come tipping back out. It was horse work believe me. I’ve shovelled a few tons of coal in during my life, and I suppose that is one of the things that haven’t helped the state of my body! (Read my previous blog about the good old days with a coal here).

I had an auntie who lived in London and one of cousins came up to stay with us. He was amazed that there was all this coal dumped on the road as they, like other people, had to buy it sacked. From what I’ve read on Facebook, everyone on the Fylde Coast bought their coal in sacks too. He was also amazed that we had street lights (I was ten at the time) which made me realise how Southerners thought we were hillbillies, living in fields in tents!

Mining Museum

Anyway, when we were working over there in the back of beyond, we did work for the National Mining Museum at Caphouse Colliery in Wakefield. It was about three quarters of an hour from us. We went for a look round the mining museum which included a trip down the mine for the full visitor experience, to help us to design their work. After all, it’s not much good doing work for a client if you don’t know what they are talking about is it.

So, off we all trooped to the museum to have a mining experience. It was one I will never forget as we arrived at the lamp room on the pit head to don our hard hats, lights and equipment – which weighed a ton. It felt as though your head would be forced off your body it was so heavy. Then we went to the shaft where the lift took us down. Now I’m well known in our family from suffering extreme claustrophobia, so looking back it probably wasn’t the best idea to go hurtling down a hole at speed to the tunnel where we were going.

At least it was all well lit and you could see what was what. The mining museum had created displays with sort of tableau’s figures showing how they worked in dreadful cramped conditions and used pick axes and all the rest of the outdated  equipment they had. I have to say it was fascinating to think that you were so far underground.

I’d heard my dad talk on very, very seldom occasions about life down there, so I couldn’t help but think that I was glad I didn’t have to do it, like the small children who would fit in the tight spaces were made to do. My dad and others like him deserved a medal for keeping our country and industries warm, and there’s no wonder he didn’t talk about it. He once said that it was too awful to talk about and that’s why he wouldn’t, so sadly we found out very little from him.

Pit Ponies

Off course when I was little, there were also pit ponies who lived underground with stables and everything. They were used to pull the tubs of coal from where it had been mined underground to where it was brought to the surface.

As a child it always upset me to think of them down there, all their lives in the dark. They used to come up to the surface once a year for two weeks and it was fantastic, if not upsetting, to see them in the sunshine, grazing, playing and running. I always used to go and pet them and even today the thought of it still upsets me.

Anyway, back to Caphouse, and we eventually came back up to the surface thankfully, and came out into the lovely sunshine. Was I glad to get out, even though it was fascinating.

There are a lot more memories I could share but maybe another day. Well done to all the men who risked their lives on a daily basis to keep us all warm and power the power stations to give us lights. My dad had a few close calls, but I used to be mesmerised as a child to see the scars on his face and hands. As they healed over they trapped coal dust on the inside of the skin leaving black scar marks everywhere.

Coal Dust everywhere!

When I was very young he used to come home filthy from the mines, and what a job he had to not get the house filthy too. Luckily we had a bathroom, some didn’t back then, so that was frequently used! Eventually showers were installed in the pits so he came home clean then, although my mum washed his ‘pit clothes’ every week. She had a twin tub so they went in the water last at the end of her wash so they didn’t dirty everything else.

Mining museum
Twin Tub washing machine, connected to the sink taps!

I suppose you could call the conditions they lived under down the mines barbaric, and I personally was glad when they all closed down.

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