National Coal Mining Museum

I am proud to be a Yorkshireman, proud of the Counties history and proud to have one of the best accents this Country has – no arguments please!

As a bit of a local history enthusiast, I am very aware of the areas past, and the I love how industrial the area used to be, and discovering the shadows of the past fascinates me, indeed, I now live in an area which was devastated by coal mine closures and the removal of industry from the area. While I mention coal mines, I will use the opportunity to actually get to the point, the National Coal Mining Museum.

So, we finally made it to the point, so a few notes about what we will be looking at. The National Coal Mining Museum opened in 1988 using the site of Caphouse Colliery, which had operated since the 1700’s, and eventually closing in 1985.

The Coal Mining Museum is one of our favourite places to head if we are in the area and have a few hours to kill, however, we don’t always do the tour, but on this occasion we did.

Arriving at the museum, the journey being quite easy, just a few miles from the M1, however they are down country roads which you have to watch your driving as some of the corners can be a little deceptive. However, I digress, back to arriving, and you pull into the car park, which is quite small, however, if it is busy, pull a left and head right up towards the top end of the museum, it can be a bit of a walk back, but there are things to see up there too.

The first thing you will want to do upon arrival, before the tours book up, is head to the visitor centre where you can book on an underground tour, and get the chance to walk the real mines where thousands of miners have worked over hundreds of years. To do this, you will need to hand over a deposit of £3 each, which gets you a Miners Check, which acts as your ticket. After your tour, you can leave with your Check, your £3 acting as a donation to the museum, or return it for a refund.

The museum is spread out over around half a mile, at the top end, the Hope Pit is a closed off pit, which now houses science activities, to enable you to test your skills on various puzzles and discover how powerful a vacuum is. Also up here are the Settling Ponds, where you can see the bright orange water which is pumped from underground.

Nearby, the Hope Store is opened frequently, mainly in busy periods for you to glimpse static mining machinery.

Heading down to the other end of the museum, you can meet the Pit Ponies and tour the other buildings. As an amateur photographer, I am in my element here as the angles and the worn look of the buildings and machinery creates some unique shots.

By the time you have discovered many of the things to see, it will be your time to tour underground.

For this, you head inside a building where you leave your valuables, basically anything with a battery, which does include your car keys, so take a set without a battery if you are concerned, however, they have an excellent record as everything is kept securely for you.

You are kitted out with a hard hat, lamp and battery, the battery is quite heavy, so children may need a little help with this, and you are all set to head nearly 500 feet straight down in a lift shaft.

Children under 5 are not allowed underground, and I would advise you to tour the mine without young or timid children first, as there are loud noises, and very dark parts of the tour.

The tour itself lasts nearly an hour, as you wander through the mine, guided by an ex-miner, who will be more than happy to offer his knowledge throughout, and always happy to answer questions. We have never had a tour guide we didn’t like, and a lot of them play up to children, making it fun for them.

The Coal Mining Museum is always an entertaining day, and one you will need to visit more than once to see everything, but that’s fine, its all free!

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