‘By the People, For the People’: the seventieth anniversary of nationalisation

An exhibition marking the seventieth anniversary of the nationalisation of the coal industry opened this month at the National Coal Mining Museum for England. ‘By the People, For the People’, which runs until December 2017, explores the events that led to the creation of the National Coal Board (NCB) and raising of its flag at collieries throughout the UK on 1 January 1947 (known as ‘Vesting Day’).

The exhibition looks at many aspects of the nationalised coal industry and the culture it created not only within the workplace but also in the communities in which miners and their families lived. Sports and pastimes, art and culture, training and recruitment:  these all developed in interesting ways through the state’s investment in coal and welfare between 1947 and the end of nationalisation in 1994.

Derbyshire Miners' Welfare Holiday Centre, Skegness, 1939 (D1920/4/3/2)

Derbyshire Record Office will be at the museum on Wednesday 19 April displaying a selection of items from the archive of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Derbyshire Area that complement the exhibition’s main themes. We will be showing how miners and their families spent their leisure time at the Derbyshire Miners’ Welfare Holiday Centres in Skegness and North Wales during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as looking at the social and sporting activities organised by the NCB, NUM and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) in the same period.

Please do come and take a look.

Miners’ Health and Welfare: the National Union of Mineworkers – Derbyshire Area

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.

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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.