Last year, the Record Office was awarded funding by the Wellcome Trust for a project now underway called Miners’ Health and Welfare, which runs until November 2017. The project is opening up the hidden stories of Derbyshire’s coal miners contained within the archive of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Derbyshire Area, as well as the history of trade unionism throughout the county.
The archive covers the early years of the Derbyshire Miners’ Association in the 1880s through to the creation of the NUM Derbyshire Area in 1945 and the Area’s closure in 2015. As well as the NUM’s own administrative records, it includes documents, posters, photographs and pamphlets relating to the national strikes of 1972, 1974 and 1984-5, the history of the Derbyshire Miners’ Convalescent Home and Holiday Centres in Skegness and Rhyl, individual collieries throughout north-east Derbyshire, social aspects of pit communities such as welfare clubs and sporting events, and the NUM’s relationships with trade unions across the world.
In addition to this rich material, the archive also contains thousands of files dating from 1948 to the early 1990s concerning miners’ and their widows’ applications for benefits under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts 1946 and 1965 and their appearance before Local and Medical Appeal Tribunals. A database detailing the miners, their accidents, injuries and prescribed industrial diseases (such as pneumoconiosis, beat knee and dermatitis), and the appeals process itself is being created as part of the project. Work began in April and so far several hundred cases have been listed, covering the period 1948-1958, with 37 different collieries across north Derbyshire represented in the records. The ages of the miners themselves range from 15 to 74.
These cases are already providing insights into the lives of miners throughout Derbyshire – their days and nights in the collieries, the precariousness of their employment, the type of work they did and its dangers, and their domestic lives. The miners’ own voices, telling us something of their experiences, can be heard throughout the records.
We’ll be presenting some interesting finds from the archive in the coming weeks and months, so please keep an eye on the blog for further updates.