National Coal Mining Museum for England
National Coal Mining Museum for England Wakefield Reviews
National Coal Mining Museum Aug 27, 2011
The National Coal Mining Museum in Yorkshire is housed in a former working pit. This makes it a very different experience from other coal mining displays I have seen in the past, including Beamish, which are either reconstructions or housed in the mouths of drift-mines. In the NCM, you descend the height of the Blackpool Tower into the earth in a real pit cage, and a former miner takes you round some of the actual workings, which provide some information about conditions from the beginning of this mine, in the 18th Century or so, right through to when the pit closed in the 1980s.
This is a fascinating tour, but you should remember that this is a real pit and a real miner. If you are taking anyone with you who is scared of the dark, enclosed spaces or being crammed 20 into a small cage style lift, you might want to consider leaving them at the surface. You will also want to be wearing sensible shoes and a jacket, because it isn’t warm down there (it would be if it was working – Dave, our guide, said that even in modern times miners work almost naked because of the heat). Hard hats are provided and necessary – the ceilings were low enough to clunk me on my head and I’m 5 foot 2. You also have to surrender anything with a battery, including your phone and any electric keys, on your way into the pit. Mines are still potentially dangerous (all the gas monitors are still working in the mine and they tannoy each other to check everything’s OK constantly) and you can’t carry anything that might spark. The easiest
thing is to take a bag and check it in with your phone and your car keys on the way down.
The tour guide we had was very funny and interesting, although I think some of the southern visitors struggled a little with the Yorkshire accent (he didn’t mind explaining again, but people seemed shy of asking). It was good to get a perspective on mining from someone who had actually been down a commercial pit for decades, and some of the things he told us about modern mining were really interesting.
There is a museum with artefacts from mines, miners and the unions and (of course) a gift shop, and there are other mine workings to see at the surface but we didn’t have time for them.
Entrance is free, although they do hint heavily for donations and I think that’s fair enough for an hour and a half long tour. You’d struggle if you needed a wheelchair, although sticks are probably OK – there is quite a long walk underground. And mining has a rough history, so the tour does contain details of mining disasters, explosions, and the past mistreatment of horses, so if you have a particularly sensitive child bear that in mind. Mind you, they have to learn sometime!
Visitors to the UK usually focus on the castles and countryside, but millions of people have worked in the mines and it’s possibly more important to modern Britain, and more interesting than most castles, to see the industrial heritage too. I would really recommend a trip here
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