This is how a Doncaster village will remember its 100 year old mining heritage

It’s more than five years since coal was last brought up at what was Doncaster’s last working colliery.

Friday, 19th February 2021, 11:43 am

And the winding gear at Hatfield colliery in Stainforth still stands, a landmark for drivers as they pass by on the M18.

But the pit could now be set to see a lasting memorial to the miners who worked the coal seams at the pit for nearly 100 years.

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Stainforth Deputy Mayor Keith Allsopp, Chairman of Hatfield Main Heritage Trust, pictured at the site along East Lane, which will become a Memorial Garden. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Memorial Garden 2-NMSY

Cash is already available for the project, as part of an early payment on the Government’s Towns Fund project, for which Stainforth currently has a bid going through the system. The final hurdle will be planning permission, which still has to go through the system.

And now, a well known Doncaster based artist has put forward his plans for a centrepiece, which he hopes will provide a striking image for those who visit the site.

Mike Johnson has been commissioned to create the work – which will depict the shape of a miner inside a miners lamp.

It will be on the corner of Pit Lane and East Lane, with a memorial garden, including flower beds, created on the land behind it

The site along East Lane, that will become a Memorial Garden. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Memorial Garden 3-NMSY

Mick Lanaghan, a former miner at the colliery, has been heavily involved in the plan, through his work with the Hatfield Colliery Heritage Association Trust.

He said the location was the area where in the past, families used to stand to wait for news if there had been an accident at the pit.

He said: “That was the area where striking miners would picket. But it also has a deep place in our psyche. It was the place where if anything had happened at the pit, and families couldn’t get down, it was a common understanding that that was where they would go to.

"We are over the moon with the memorial we will get, and that corner is the place for it to be.”

Stainforth Deputy Mayor Keith Allsopp, Chairman of Hatfield Main Heritage Trust, Tracy Armstrong, Dave Marshall, Stuart Bolton, Phillip Bedford, Parish Councillors, Jamie Hughes, Hughes Contractors and Building Services Ltd Director, Councillor George Derx, Mayor of Stainforth and Paul Reynolds, pictured at the site along East Lane, which will becomae a Memorial Garden. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Memorial Garden 1-NMSY

It will be close to the pit strike memorial, which is located next to the pit club, on the other side of Pit Lane. That was unveiled several years ago by the Beautiful South Singer Paul Heaton, who also made a donation to the heritage trust, giving them the royalties to the Housemartins track Coal Train from Hatfield Main.

That memorial is close to a broken lamp post, which came down and was used as a barrier during the 1984-85 strike.

Mr Lanaghan said the green would be home to smaller memorials to individual incidents at the colliery, which would have been 100 years old this year if it had continued to operate. They will commemorate things like the 1939 disaster when the cage lifting miners overshot and crashed into the headgear, killing one and injuring 50 more.

It will also be next to a memory wall.

Mike Johnson's design for the Hatfield Colliery memorial

"If the pit had stayed open it would have been its 100th anniversary this year,” he said. “It would nice to be able to mark that in the garden.”

He said he was grateful to St Leger Homes, who donated the land after talks with Mayor of Stainforth George Derx.

Phil Bedford, from the community organisation Stainforth4All, said the money was in place through what was known as the Accelerated Fund, which has already been approved by the Government. Planning permission was now the issue.

The cut out miner will stand around 9ft tall. It will be cut from corten steel, also known as weathering steel, as a thin layer of oxide forms on the outside surface of the steel, giving it the orangy colour of rust, but sealing it from further corrosion. The artist making it believes it could stand centuries of weathering.

Artist Mike Johnson has worked on projects for a number of former collieries and coal fields in the past. Among them in South Yorkshire is a memorial to a mining disaster at Lundhill Colliery, near Wombwell.

The Stainforth memorial will also feature a section of one of Hatfield’s winding wheels.

Both the winding towers still remain at Hatfield, having been listed by Historic England in November 2015 because of their rarity.

Spare wheels existed. But it was originally not known where they were. However it turned out that Hargreaves Land, which ran the pit in its final years, had taken them to the North East for safe keeping. Hargreaves have now cut one in half and donated it. It will stand behind the artwork, visible through the cut out section.

Mr Johnson said: “The community near Hatfield Main is like a family. Living in the South Yorkshire area, the design is a development of drawings that the community gave me, which had some key elements, including the miners lamp.

“That was the starting point. It was important to have the miner to represent the people.

"The fact that the shape of the miner is cut out of the lamp means it is an image of a missing miner – the industry has now gone and what is left is the memory of what it was. It is effectively created in silhouette.”

Mr Johnson is now looking to start work on the memorial, which he will make in his own studio near Tickhill.

He expects the work is likely to take six to eight weeks to complete.

"People who drive past will certainly see it,” he said.

"It’s a project I love because it matters so much to the people of Stainforth. Everyone knows what it is about."

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.