Hemingfield Colliery


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
The former Hemingfield Colliery, Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley, S73 0PA


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Statutory Address:
The former Hemingfield Colliery, Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley, S73 0PA

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Mid-C19 colliery pit head built for the fifth Earl Fitzwilliam under the supervision of the mining engineer Benjamin Biram.

Reasons for Designation

The former Hemingfield Colliery is included on the Schedule for the following principal reasons:

* Period: dating to the mid-C19, an early example of a well-capitalised pithead, prefiguring the larger complexes that were built in subsequent decades and came to characterise the industry at its peak in the late C19 and early C20; * Survival: in addition to the standing buildings, pieces of C19 and early C20 machinery and other rarely surviving features remain on site; * Potential: features of the upstanding structures together with archaeological remains retain good potential for aiding our understanding of mid-C19 mining technology and the experimentation of the notable mining engineer Benjamin Biram; * Group value: with the Grade II*-listed former Cornish Pumping Engine House also at the colliery, the immediately adjacent Grade II-listed canal basin, and with the more distant, but directly associated Grade II*-listed Elsecar Central Workshops.


The coal industry, which fuelled Britain’s industrial expansion through the C19, expanded greatly from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) when annual production was around 15 million tons to peak at 170 million tons in 1913. This saw a shift from shallow, dispersed workings with few permanent structures to the highly capitalised deep mines with concentrations of buildings forming colliery pitheads that came to characterise the industry by the late C19. Hemingfield Colliery is an early example of a well-capitalised pithead, prefiguring larger complexes that were built in subsequent decades.

The history of Hemingfield Colliery is well documented through contemporary records preserved in various archives and published sources. The colliery, also referred to in Victorian documents as Low Elsecar Colliery or abbreviated to L.E.C., was developed as one of the industrial enterprises of the fifth Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse (1786-1857), being part of his Elsecar group of collieries. The Fitzwilliam family took an active interest in industry and were paternalistic towards their workers and tenants. The fifth Earl was actively supportive of the passing of the 1850 Coal Mines Inspection Act which introduced mine safety inspections by the State for the first time. The collieries were overseen by the earl’s steward, Benjamin Biram (1804-1857) who took over from his father as superintendent of collieries in 1833. Biram became an influential mining engineer who developed an improved safety lamp, was an early pioneer of fan-powered ventilation and invented a mechanical anemometer, a device which was used for measuring mine ventilation. Shaft sinking was in progress in 1842 when Biram reported that 8,000 gallons of water were entering the shafts every hour, this prompting the additional investment of a Cornish pumping engine. The Barnsley Seam was reached in 1847 at a depth of just over 140m. In 1849 Biram appeared before a House of Lords Select Committee giving evidence on the prevention of accidents in coal mines, giving some details of his experiments of mine ventilation at Hemingfield. He subsequently (in 1851) gave a paper to the West Riding Geological Society about his experiments using a hydraulically-powered fan for ventilation at Hemingfield, although earlier that year it appears he had replaced this arrangement with a steam-powered fan as documented in his letter published in the Mining Journal in 1852. Two oval tanks constructed from riveted iron sheets, now sited to the north of the winding shaft, may have been part of the original hydraulic system, and to have originally been set underground: their shape designed to allow them to be lowered down and later retrieved via the oval winding shaft. Hemingfield was also used as a test bed for other ideas: the winding shaft is thought to have been an early example of a shaft fitted with lift cages. The shaft is a bypass shaft, arranged to allow for two lift cages to bypass each other at a widening of the shaft at the mid-way point, thus allowing the two cages to each have a footprint nearly the same size as the main bore of the shaft. The winding engine house, which fully contained a beam engine powering a flywheel linked through to an externally sited winding drum, is also thought to be a relatively unusual arrangement, and an example of Biram’s experimentation.

Coal was initially shipped out to market via the Elsecar branch of the Dearne and Dove Canal via the colliery’s own canal basin, but rail-shipment soon commenced following the opening of the Elsecar branch of the South Yorkshire Railway in 1850. The first edition 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1849-1850 depicts railway sidings adjacent to the colliery as well as the original layout of the pithead consisting of the two stone-built engine houses and four smaller buildings that have since been demolished. Pit Row, the terrace of former mine-workers’ cottages to the south (and which are not included in the scheduling), is also shown. Pit Row was originally built as workshops for the colliery, being converted into cottages after the establishment of the Earl’s Central Workshops at Elsecar in the 1850s. In 1852 an underground explosion caused the death of 10 miners, the report into the disaster noting and praising details about Biram’s fan ventilation system. Two additional shafts were sunk in 1852-1853 to further improve ventilation, these thought to have been those nearly 0.5km to the south west connected to the fan house built in 1854. A detailed valuation of the colliery made in 1857 survives which provides an interesting insight, for instance that the pumping engine with its boilers and gear was valued at £1,100, just over three times the value of the winding engine at £350, the whole colliery being valued at just over £5,500. By 1869 Hemingfield was producing 500 tons of coal per day and was the most productive of the three Elsecar pits working a decade later. Comparison between the first and second edition maps show that the colliery saw investment in additional buildings and facilities through the second half of the C19 and into the early C20, although the pithead complex remained compact, retaining its mid-C19 extent rather than becoming a more expansive site that was typical of the highly capitalised collieries of the late C19 and early C20. Part of this development included the installation of a steam-powered haulage system, the engine beds for which lie beneath the flooring of the ancillary range to the south-east of the winding shaft, this range subsequently incorporating an ambulance shed and an electricity substation. A sketched view of the colliery at its late C19 height, as seen from the canal, survives (see Goodchild 2005) along with some early C20 photographs, these also giving an indication of the extent of subsequently demolished structures to the south of the winding shaft.

The colliery became worked out and production ceased in 1920, however it was taken over as a mine pumping station by the South Yorkshire Pumping Association, helping to prevent the flooding of neighbouring, but still active workings. The 1901 Ordnance Survey map shows that the loading facilities at the canal basin and railway on the north side of the site, along with a number of buildings to the south of the two engine houses were all demolished before 1929, the survey date of the next map edition. Electrically-powered pumps were installed underground in the 1920s allowing (in 1934) the conversion of the Cornish pumping engine house for domestic use with the removal of the steam engine and the addition of a brick-built extension. The concrete headframe above the pumping shaft was constructed at the same time, wound electrically from the former ancillary building to the south, initially to provide maintenance access, subsequently forming a rescue shaft for workings within the Barnsley Seam. In 1940 the drawing shaft was also provided with a new concrete headframe, this being wound using the original Victorian winding drum but powered by a new electrical winder, the adjacent 1840s winding engine house being converted for use as a maintenance workshop for pump gear.

The pumping station was included in the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947 and continued in active operation until 1989, the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments England making a brief photographic record of the site in 1988. It was retained on a care and maintenance basis through the 1990s, with attention declining up until 2013. In 2014 the site was taken over by a conservation group.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the pit yard outlined and including a revetment wall on the northern side and a boundary wall on the southern side: this including standing structures, upstanding earthworks and buried features within the area. The upstanding structure of the Cornish pumping engine house at the north eastern end of the complex, which was converted to domestic use and is listed Grade II*, is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath, the attached headframe and the associated pumping shaft are all included. Other standing structures included in the scheduling are the winding engine house with its attached drum house and ancillary building used as an electric winding house; the ancillary building range to the south which included an electricity substation; the headframe over the winding shaft; and various boundary and retaining walls. Buried and surface remains include footings of boiler houses and other structures along with deposits of material related to the workings of the colliery.

DESCRIPTION: in terms of its overall layout, the pit yard is constrained by the road passing along the south-east side and the railway to the north-west, both lying outside of the area of the scheduling. The pit yard lies on terracing above the railway, overlooking the canal basin beyond to the north-west. This terracing, supported by revetment walling, is split into two levels, the higher being to the south. The engine houses and shafts are in a roughly linear arrangement along the top of the revetments: the Cornish engine house is to the north-east; then the pumping shaft with its 1934 headframe; next are three connected buildings consisting of the brick-built ancillary building reused as a C20 electric winding house which extends north from the corner of the stone-built winding engine house, the drum house being on the north-western side of this earlier engine house; beyond, to the south-west, is the winding shaft with its 1940 concrete headframe. To the south-east of the winding shaft, extending to the road, there is a block of brick-built ancillary buildings which originated as a late C19 haulage engine house which was subsequently extended and converted for a range of functions including an electricity substation.

To the centre of the site is the winding engine house, a tall, single-celled building with a gabled roof and basement, built of well-dressed and coursed sandstone, being considered to date to about 1842. Its ground floor is at the level of the upper terrace, its basement level with the lower terrace to the north east. The building originally fully enclosed a beam engine connected to a crank and flywheel, with power being transmitted outside to the winding drum. The south west gable end has a bricked-up large-arched opening which would have provided access for the insertion and removal of the steam cylinder. The south-east wall has two blocked openings marking the insertion points for the bob beam and the girder which supported the inspection platform for the steam engine, along with scaring marking the roofline of the former lean-to boiler house. The north-east gable end has a high-set round-arched window. Below, at the level of the upper terrace and opening onto a landing at the head of an external staircase to the lower terrace, is a similarly arched doorway. Below is a door to the basement. The north-west wall is covered by the lean-to drum house, but includes openings for power transmission. The interior of the engine house retains its bob beam that is embellished with Greek Doric detailing. The interior also retains other fixtures and fittings related to its original use as a steam engine house as well as its later reuse for an early C20 electric winder, and subsequently as a maintenance workshop for pumping equipment.

The winding shaft is oval and remains uncapped, descending from the upper terrace, its upper parts at least being lined in ashlar stonework. It is aligned with the drum house to the side of the winding engine house and is thought to retain evidence of Biram’s bypass winding arrangement. Set over the shaft is a reinforced concrete headframe that replaced a timber headframe in 1940. Although originally wound from the drum house to the north-east, it was modified in the late C20 to be wound with a portable winder that was set on a hard-standing to the south. The headframe retains a small diameter pit wheel from this later arrangement. Just to the north, standing on the lower terrace, are two oval tanks constructed from small sheets of iron riveted together. These are thought to have been shaped to allow them to be lowered down the winding shaft and it has been suggested that they were made as part of Biram’s mid-C19 experimentations.

The drum house is a two storey, single-celled building that rises from the lower terrace, but is accessed from the upper terrace. It has a cat-slide roof extending from the north-western side of the winding engine house. The lower level, only exposed externally on the north-west side, is stone-built and is considered to date to the 1840s, the upper portion originally being open to the elements. This upper portion, brick to the side and stone to the south-west end, is thought to have been built in 1940. The interior, which is open to the electric winding engine house to the north-east, retains in-situ machinery and access staging. This machinery includes the 1840s winding drum and gearing (the latter incorporating timber gear teeth); remains of a late C19 breaking mechanism that employed compressed air; and an early C20 electric motor which replaced the steam engine for winding.

The electric winding house is set on the lower terrace and is a mid-Victorian brick-built ancillary building that was reduced in size in the 1930s with a rebuilt north-east gable-end when it was converted into a winding engine house for the pumping shaft. It retains its in-situ winding drum. The pumping shaft, which is set on the lower terrace on the south side of the Cornish pumping engine house, is uncapped, but covered with a grill. It is circular and is lined in ashlar stonework retaining evidence of former shaft top arrangements, the lower part of the shaft believed to have been relined in concrete. Conduits within the shaft connect and discharge into the canal basin to the north-east. Set above this shaft is a reinforced concrete headframe dated to 1934 which uses the Cornish engine house as its backstay, but is otherwise unrelated. This headframe retains a small-diameter pit wheel.

The single-storey ancillary building built on the upper terrace adjacent to the road is multi-phased and mainly dates to the late C19 into the C20, but appears to overlie remains of mid-C19 structures. The range started as an 1897 engine house for steam-powered haulage engines, the beds for the horizontally set engines still surviving below the current main floor level. This was subsequently altered and extended, part becoming an electricity substation facing onto the road, one room forming an ambulance station, other rooms including store rooms, switch room, and a washroom, some being roofless at the time of inspection (2019). Extending across the yard north-eastwards are earthworks and buried remains of further buildings and structures including boiler houses. The ground surface to the south-west is more level, but this area is also considered to retain evidence of former colliery structures and activity.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: this extends across the terraces including the standing buildings of the pit head complex bound by and including the boundary to the road along the southern side and the revetment wall above the railway on the northern side. The south western and north eastern boundaries follow the boundary lines as marked on the 1890 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map. This area captures the functional core of the colliery pit head.

The terrace of housing on the south side of the road (originally built as workshops for the pit) is not included, nor is the site of the reservoir in Mary Gray Wood to the south, this thought to have been the steam-raising reservoir for the colliery’s steam engines. The area northwards from the tall revetment wall, extending across the railway and including the canal basin beyond, is also not included. Although this area included structures associated with coal handling and dispatch, no significant archaeological features are known to survive with the exception of the Grade II-listed canal basin.

EXCLUSIONS: the standing structure of the Grade II*-listed Cornish pumping engine house with its C20 extension is excluded from the scheduling, however the ground beneath, along with the attached headframe, is included in the scheduling.


Books and journals
Elliott, B, South Yorkshire Mining Disasters: Vol 1, (2006), 50-52
Rimmer, J, Went, D, Jessop, L, The Village of Elsecar, South Yorkshire: Historic Area Assessment. Historic England Research Report 06-2019, (2019)
Goodchild, J, 'Earl Fitzwilliam's Elsecar Colliery in the 1850s' in , British Mining Vol 78, (2005)
Biram, B, 'Description of the fan erected for the ventilation of the Hemingfield Pit, belonging to Earl Fitzwilliam, at Elsecar' in Proceedings of the Geological Society of the West Riding of Yorkshire, , Vol. 3, (1851), 215-218
Biram, B, 'Letter (concerning ventilation at Hemingfield Colliery)' in Mining Journal, , Vol. 21, (1852), 195
Biram, B, 'Evidence on the Prevention of Accidents in Coal Mines' in House of Lords Select Committee, , Vol. Questions 1570-1805, (2 July 1849), 167-186, appendix 1, plans XII-XIII
Website of the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery, accessed 20 May 2020 from https://hemingfieldcolliery.org/history/


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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