Markham Colliery Online Exhibition

The Arts and Humanities Research Council have been funding a joint project with the University of Wolverhampton and Northumbria University, known as ‘On Behalf of the People’, which focuses on coal mining communities from the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, right up until 1994 when collieries were winding down. Eight different case studies have been used as examples to highlight how these communities were similar or different across Britain. Dr Grace Millar has been using Markham Colliery, a colliery located at Duckmanton near Chesterfield, and once owned by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, as a case study with the help of us at the Derbyshire Record Office and the Markham Vale Heritage Group.

Markham Colliery, which opened in 1882, was the largest colliery in the county. It had many pit shafts covering two different collieries at the site, which all shared a pit yard and other service buildings. Sadly it is probably most well known for it’s two large disasters in 1938 and 1973, before it finally closed in 1994.

Markham No. 2 and 3 Collieries, D4774/13/42/8 (1930s)

There were plans to have a physical exhibition about the project but due to the pandemic, a website has been created the case studies, including information on social clubs and activities, holidays, and strikes, just to name a few topics. For more information on the Markham example, please follow the link. https://www.coalandcommunity.org.uk/markham

For anyone who’s been following the blog posts on our own Mining the Seams project about the Derbyshire coal field, I’m sure you’ll like to follow the blog section of the above website. There are certainly some interesting topics there for you to delve into and I would thoroughly recommend taking a look if you have any interest in the former mining communities not just in Derbyshire, but country wide. They welcome feedback on the website and its contents, or any memories you may have of coal communities, so I’m sure they would love to hear from you. Make sure to look out for the submission box shown on the bottom of their homepage if you wish to do so.

Hopefully the project will be able to put on some form of exhibition in the future, but for now, I honestly think this is a good introduction to the social and economic history of the coal industry in Britain. If not, have fun reading into the lives of miners through this excellent website.

Mining the Seams is a Wellcome Trust funded project aiming to catalogue coal mining documents, originally held by the National Coal Board, so they can eventually be viewed by the public. Alongside the Warwickshire County Record Office, the project aims to focus on the welfare and health services provided to miners. 

My Family’s Claim Against the Butterley Company

One of my main tasks as an archive assistant on the Mining the Seams Project, is cataloguing documents. For me, this involves checking over documents and creating spreadsheets to correctly describe them for future users. Since I started on the project in October 2019, a lot of this has involved looking through various correspondence of the Butterley Company. The Company was established by Benjamin Outram in 1790 to work Derbyshire’s minerals, initially iron ore for their ironworks, but this expanded to include coal, which would help fire the ironworks. When coal became a popular fuel to use, they created large collieries to meet increasing demand for coal. It was one of the largest employers in the county, so you can imagine just how much material there is to wade through.

The one thing I didn’t expect to find was correspondence about Hill Top Farm in Swanwick, where my paternal grandma, Margaret, grew up. As this task is shared task with my colleague, Neil, due to current restrictions meaning I’m only in the office one day a week (prior to a change in COVID restrictions), it could have easily been him who came across the reference to mining damaging the farm.

As this task is shared task with my colleague, Neil, it could have easily been him who came across the reference to mining damaging the farm. To me though, finding a letter in my two times great grandad’s handwriting was emotional. Sadly I don’t know much about my family history on my dad’s side as both my grandad and grandma refused to talk about large aspects. My grandad ran away from home for an unknown reason at 14, and my grandma’s father sadly committed suicide, so she never wished to talk too much beyond her own childhood.

My great, great grandad’s initial letter to the Butterley Company, 26 Oct 1925, N5/166/3

When I first saw a the below letter mentioning repairs needed at Hill Top Farm in Swanwick, my heart jumped as I knew that was the family farm my grandma lived on as a child, but her sister, Josephine, when she was old enough worked with her husband. As soon as I saw that the person who had brought the claim was a Joseph Calladine, I knew it was my family because that was grandma’s maiden name. I quickly checked the census, just to find out what the connection was and found he was my two times great grandad. It meant even more than it would have done before because my grandma sadly passed away in April.

Letter written following inspection of the property, 5 Nov 1925, N5/166/3

So what was my great, great grandad doing writing letters to the Butterley Company for? He was claiming for damages done to the farm and 3 cottages he owned, which had been possibly caused by subsidence from workings at the company’s nearby Britain Colliery. The company came to inspect the damage a week after Joseph Calladine’s letter. It appears that Joseph had brought the mineral rights to a pillar of coal on his land at a similar time to him building the 3 cottages mentioned, probably hoping to avoid any possible damage. However, within 5 years, there were cracks in most of his buildings, including the cow shed.

Brief report of inspection, 4 Nov 1925, N5/166/3

Thankfully the inspection noted that no serious damage was done, but repairs should be completed once the ground had settled. So far I haven’t come across any mention of any more repairs that needed to be done later on, as was suggested might happen. I will have to keep an eye out just in case!

Mining the Seams is a Wellcome Trust funded project aiming to catalogue coal mining documents, originally held by the National Coal Board, so they can eventually be viewed by the public. Alongside the Warwickshire County Record Office, the project aims to focus on the welfare and health services provided to miners. 

Mining the Seams Project Update

First of all, I hope you’ve been enjoying the blog posts about some of the interesting things that have been found so far during the project, which seeks to catalogue the archive left to us by the National Coal Board. The project has a particular focus on the medical and compensation aspects, but as it’s such a large collection, there are bits of everything in it. Now that Mining the Seams is roughly half way through, and into another lockdown, we thought it a good time to update on what we’ve done so far.

Working from home has meant reduced time checking and cataloguing documents in person for me. However, that still is going on thankfully and it still means progress on the hundreds of boxes to be checked and drafted for future cataloguing purposes. This particularly means adding more detail to descriptions of documents for the future use of those interested in industrial history. In total we have completed 379 out of 631 boxes, which is around 60%.

The largest collection we are working on is N5. This is a mixture of accident and compensation records, but mainly correspondence on a wide range of topics relating to the coal industry in the early and mid-twentieth century, including medical issues, the planning of Ollerton Colliery and village, and helping the war effort during WW2. Of course this is not an exhaustive list considering how large the collection is, but look out for some future blog posts and tweets on some topics from the N5 collection.

Letter detailing a U.S. Army Depot at Boughton, 23 Aug 1943, N5/182/3

If you’ve been following the progress so far, you’ll remember that during the first lockdown, we were working on transcribing compensation forms for the Butterley Company. Now 40 bundles have been finished, with 25 fully checked over. These are also being used to track miners who had more than one accident they claimed for.

The compensation forms aren’t the only thing we were able to do from home. One of the other main collections being catalogued using our scanning technology are photographs from D4774, making it easy to do during lockdown. The majority of these are of colliery buildings at various collieries. There are some interesting ones, such as the one below showing the Miners Rescue Team at Ormonde Colliery.

Photograph of the Ormonde Colliery Rescue Team, 1950, D4774/13/49/12

If you would like to know more abut the project, please don’t hesitate to visit the project’s information page at https://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/record-office/records/record-office-projects/record-office-projects.aspx. Or if you have any queries about the project or related coal mining collections, please email the Derbyshire Record Office at record.office@derbyshire.gov.uk.