Until the early 1990's coal mining was Barnsley's main industry, providing thousands of jobs. The Government of the day, decided that it was not viable to continue mining coal in Yorkshire and that it would be cheaper to import it.  The closure of the mines led to many job losses and pit villages were decimated, it is only in recent years that these villages are coming back to life by a re-generation programme.

Centre of the Yorkshire Coalfield. A busy town with an ancient history. Possesses a 17th century Grammar School and a 12th century Cluniac Priory. Wentworth Castle, once a very large private house, has a front 600 feet long and possesses many masterpieces of art. Charles I's Bible and Prayer-Book are preserved there.

Barnsley -  South Yorkshire.

Barnsley was once the heart of the coal mining industry, until the pits were closed down in the early 1990’s.  Pit villages were decimated and Communities  split up, working down the pit was a very arduous and dangerous job, but for many men, it was the only option for them to work.  My dad worked down the pit as a bricklayer and whilst he hated being underground, he loved the companionship of his fellow workers and the jokes which they shared. 

Pit workers and Miners after a shift at Barrow colliery, my dad is third from the right.

This photograph has been kindly provided by Alison Fisher.

Alison's grandad is H. Hayes, seated at the front.  Apparently, the rescue team had been told to wear white shirts because they were having their photograph taken, grandad forgot to tell grandma so he turned up in his old working shirt, he was in trouble with his wife.

Note the canary in the cage at the front of the photo, on top of it's cage is a mini-oxygen tank to revive it, in the event of gas being present in the mine.

Barnsley Main Colliery, as it is today...........

 A pit pony, above, I always used to feel sorry for the poor things, living a life underground.  My dad had a favourite pony he was called Ernest, he used to give him some "treats" when ever he could.  I don't know if dad was supposed to do this, but he didn't care, Ernest had his treats.

Miners leaving Cortonwood pit, their very last shift.............. then nothing the mine had closed.

Another Industry which provided a lot of jobs was "The Cannister Company", this was situated at the junction of Sackville Street, Barnsley and the top of Fitzwilliam Street.  It was affectionately known as "The Tin Factory" or "The Tin Oil".  It came to Barnsley  around 1919 and closed in 1992.  A lot of jobs were lost on it's closure.  I can remember as a little girl finding dozens of round tin discs, together with my two cousins, I used to "skate" them over the walls.  It is a miracle that none of us lost a finger or two during this escapade. The wall to the left of this picture was the boundary wall of the "Tin Factory".

The Star Paper Mill was situated at the bottom of Old Mill Lane, in Barnsley, and provided employment for hundreds of people, two of my Grandma's sisters worked there as young girls Tiddy (Elizabeth) and Alice.  It was very hard work, there was a very tall chimney, which was a landmark.  At finishing times there was a loud buzzer which told everyone in Barnsley that the shift was over at the Paper Mill, that buzzer was as reliable as "Big Ben".


Reflections from Retirement.

Many long years now since underground,
A lifetime never forgotten.
More than a lifetime, a life in fact.
Thoughts of mates, laughs and fears.
Anger and frustration, effort, hurt and tears.
Reflections of these seen everyday.
A love, a fear, an acceptance of nature.

The induction of excitement,
The proud following of dad and greater fathers.
Chattering as if in knowledge, first time at the pit
Terrified of the vertical dives
A daily trip for the rest of our lives.
Thought we knew just what we faced.
They say it becomes as easy as breathing.

Easier lessons learned early,
Thirty years to learn the harder bits.
Firstly how to speak to who,
Later, who to speak to about how.
With respect but never kowtow.
Often bullied sometimes pushed,
Pulled from stupid danger many times.

Soon to grasp a comradeship
A two-way dependence on each other,
The world upon a young man’s shoulders.
From schoolboy to man in a single drop.
Passed through a barrier now never to stop.
Kidnapped in childhood, held in youth
Released only in the remnants of manhood.

Lessons of life learned in one fell swoop
Listened to stories of life as it really was
Not really related in Biblical fashion.
Birds and bees theories put to flight
Youth clubs and Tizer disowned as if overnight.
Suits, ties, beer and suspenders become the goal
In timely order of a young collier’s merit.

Astronauts and explorers a challenge meet
To go where no other has ever trod.
Yet a miner’s toil in headline rarely seen
Daily walks where no one else has ever been.
In a world before even ancients
Sterile ground never known to others
In places created before Adam or sin.

The smell and the taste of virgin coal
Mingled with the stench of human toil.
Permanent stains upon the soul, never forgotten.
The taste of joy, excitement, fulfilment
Offset those of fear, failure and discontentment.
Realising a miner’s happiness does not exist
Without the filth he labours in.

Only a miner knows a miner’s effort in trying
Straining to limits, but then boundaries yielding.
Human enduring versus nature’s resistance
Wanting more, stretching further, striving for what?
A little improvement on what we’d got.
At times confused betwixt need and greed.
Working harder living easier, bereft of all thinking logic.

Such work was never likely easy.
As time goes on the going gets harder.
The daily effort of an impossible chase
To capture the advancement of a working face.
Day by day, step by step the trial increases.
Weeks and years, yards and miles
The mine and miner grow older together.

All workers strive to score retirement’s goal
Of well-earned peace and idle moments.
A miner skips the thoughts of golden stashes
Carries a hope of at last achieving
A few years rest with ease of breathing.
To reach works end with limbs and lungs
A lifetime’s lottery with very few prizes.

And now reflections on what has gone
Many thoughts scrolling through my ease.
Remembering mates, good times and hates
Tragedies, successes, hardships, flashes of wealth
Some I would exchange for different health.
But the trust and faith of comrades in toil
Could not, ever, be bought.

written by Daz from the yorkshire expats forum, thank you Daz






Barnsley Main pit, I wonder if the men on this photo are waiting to go down the pit to work their shift.