The National Coal Mining Museum

by David Murray on 22 February 2011

in Mining, Museums, Yorkshire

Driving down the M1 south of Leeds I’ve often noticed the signs for the National Coal Mining Museum but until today had never taken the time to investigate. My wife and I were driving home from North Yorkshire and had nothing else planned so thought we’d take a look.  We were not disappointed.

The main museum, by the A642 midway between Wakefield and Huddersfield, is on the site of Caphouse Colliery and also includes neighbouring Hope Pit. The first surprise on entering the modern entrance hall was that when we asked for a ticket there was no request for payment.  Museum entrance is free. This, however, in no sense should be taken to imply a cheap and amateurish presentation. The Gallery areas include modern multimedia displays and provide a comprehensive picture of English coal mining and of the mining communities and their lifestyles.

Especially emphasised in one area is the awful cost in human life that from time to time was involved. Listening to the recorded news reports of the 1951 Easington Colliery disaster in County Durham I could not help recalling a dark day in March 1962 when the whole town of Burnley was shocked as Hapton Valley Pit exploded.  I was studying in the local college that day and knew that a friend of mine was a miner there; he is alive today only because he’d exchanged shifts with a colleague.

Not only are there the indoor displays at ground level but we were told that we could also have an underground tour. The next one was not for a couple of hours so we decided to leave it for another visit, and certainly a second visit is called for.  We sampled the services of the excellent café, and as usual spent money in the gift shop, then continued on our way home highly satisfied with our detour.

If you’re anywhere in the area of Wakefield, Huddersfield or Barnsley don’t miss a visit to the National Coal Mining Museum.

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