Former Cornish pumping engine house at Hemingfield Colliery


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Pump House Cottage, Wath Road, Hemingfield, Barnsley, S73 0PA


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Statutory Address:
Pump House Cottage, Wath Road, Hemingfield, 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:


Engine house for a Cornish pumping engine built in 1843 as part of a mid-C19 colliery pithead (a Scheduled Monument), converted for domestic use in 1934.

Reasons for Designation

Pump House Cottage, the former Cornish pumping engine house at Hemingfield Colliery, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a rare surviving northern English example of a Cornish pumping engine house.

Historic interest: * for the direct association with the notable early Victorian mining engineer Benjamin Biram and with the Fifth Earl Fitzwilliam, an unusual aristocrat who took a personal interest in coal mining.

Group value: * as a key component of the scheduled Hemingfield Colliery, one of the best mid-C19 colliery pit heads that survives nationally, this being 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; * with the immediately adjacent Grade II-listed canal basin, and with the more distant, but directly associated Grade II*-listed Elsecar Central Workshops.


Hemingfield Colliery 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, in Victorian documents often being referred to as Low Elsecar Colliery or abbreviated to L.E.C.. The Fitzwilliam family took an active interest in industry and were paternalistic towards their workers and tenants. The fifth Earl was an active supporter 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 under the management of the earl’s steward, Benjamin Biram (1803-1857) who took over from his father as superintendent of collieries in 1833. Biram was an inventive mining engineer, an early pioneer of fan-powered ventilation, most famous for the invention of a mechanical anemometer, a device used for measuring ventilation. Biram used Hemingfield as a test bed for new ideas including the installation of a hydraulically powered ventilation fan.

The history of Hemingfield Colliery and the engine house is well documented through contemporary records preserved in various archives and other sources. Shaft sinking at Hemingfield was underway in 1842 when Biram reported that 8,000 gallons of water were entering the shafts every hour. This prompted the construction of the pumping engine house in 1843 and the installation of a 130 horse power Cornish beam engine brought from a failed colliery at Kexborough, north-west of Barnsley, the cost of the works being around £2,500. The Barnsley Seam was reached in 1847 at a depth of just over 140m and the colliery started production. 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. The colliery was valued at £5,513 8s 5d after the death of the fifth earl in 1857, with the pumping engine (including its three boilers and pumping gear) valued at £1,100, significantly more than the £350 value placed on the 30 horse power high-pressure winding engine with its boilers and drums. The pumping engine house is included in a sketched view, as seen from the canal, of the colliery at its late C19 height. This also shows a pit wheel above the shaft which would have been used for maintenance of the pump gear (see Goodchild 2005).

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. Two electric pumps were installed underground, replacing the Cornish beam engine. This steam engine was removed, the pumping engine house being converted in 1934 to domestic use for the pumping station’s caretaker. This involved the insertion of a number of windows with steel I-beam lintels, an upper floor along with stud partitions and a domestic staircase, along with a brick-built extension to add an additional room to each floor. The flat concrete roof to the building is also thought to date to this conversion. Internal wall linings fitted as part of the conversion are likely to conceal evidence of the Victorian arrangement of the engine house. 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. The site appears to have been maintained on a care and maintenance basis through the 1990s with declining attention given to up until 2013. In 2014 the site was taken over by a conservation group.


Former colliery pumping engine house, 1843 for the 5th Earl Fitzwilliam under the direction of Benjamin Biram. Converted to domestic use in 1934 as part of a mine pumping station which operated between 1920 and 1989.

MATERIALS: finely-dressed, horizontally-tooled sandstone ashlar; a 1934 red brick extension and flat concrete roofing.

PLAN: the engine house is single-celled of two storeys, now with an inserted domestic staircase and room divisions. The brick extension on the south-east side provides an additional room to each floor and includes the current entrance to the building.

EXTERIOR: the south-west wall of the building is the bob wall of the engine house: the wall that supported the beam of the steam engine. This is built of very massive, very tightly jointed stone blocks, the wall being over a metre thick. To its centre there is a tall, narrow, bricked-up aperture facing the top of the pumping shaft immediately to the south-west. Attached to the head of the wall are the backstays of the reinforced concrete headframe above the pumping shaft.

The other three walls beyond the sides of the bob wall are built of smaller, but still well-dressed and tightly-laid, stone blocks. The north-west wall has a large, tall arched opening that would have allowed the insertion and removal of the large cylinder for the steam engine. This is blocked with matching stonework that was later cut into to form a large ground-floor opening with an exposed steel I-beam lintel. To the left, north-east, at both ground and first floor, there are smaller domestic window openings that also have I-beam lintels. At the time of the site inspection (2019), the large inserted ground floor opening was infilled with blockwork. The south-east wall is largely covered by the brick extension, but includes one inserted window to both floors, again with exposed I-beam lintels. The door and window openings in the brick extension also have I-beam lintels. The north east wall is now blind but the stonework suggests that this wall may originally have had a large tall central window to light the interior and the steam engine.

INTERIOR: C20 inserted stairs, partitions and wall-linings potentially concealing original features.

NOTE: the associated pumping shaft and concrete headframe, along with the rest of the former Hemingfield Colliery and the ground beneath the engine house are all included within a Scheduled Monument.


Books and journals
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), .
Web site of the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery, accessed 20 May 2020 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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