15 August 2016

Silverhill

Once the land to the west of Teversal was scarred by coal mining. Great charcoal-grey mountains of slag altered the profile of the countryside and coal dust hung about the hedgerows, blowing on to Monday morning washing lines. In these ways it was not dissimilar from other villages in the North Nottinghamshire coalfield. 

But now the coal mines have all gone. Silverhill Colliery is no more. Visitors from other parts of the country might think that the wooded hills near Teversal were natural, like miniature wolds. But dig down and you will still find the slag - all the useless waste brought up from below the earth's surface during  the quest for coal. It was a coalrush that took a hundred years to complete.

The tallest mound on the old Silverhill site is now the tallest point in the ancient county of Nottinghamshire and sitting on top of that artificial mound is a bronze statue of a miner holding a Davy safety lamp. Created in 2004 by Antony Dufort, "Testing for Gas"  pays homage to the lost coal industry, the people who worked in the pits and the tight, hard-working communities that coalmines created.

They were not what Margaret Thatcher called "the enemy within", they were the salt of the earth. Whenever I think of the adjective "Great" in Great Britain I think of coal miners and farmers, textile workers and ship builders, steel workers and engineers, not Margaret Thatcher or David Cameron or other toffs from Oxford and Cambridge. There are not many significant monuments to lost industries. Mostly those people get forgotten, relegated to unfortunate footnotes in the annals of history but "Testing for Gas" acknowledges and proclaims them, reminding visitors about coal and the heroes who mined it.

15 comments:

  1. For three or more years I worked in the Bowen Basin area of Queensland...in both Glenden and Collinsville. The Bowen Basin is a major coal-mining area of Queensland and Australia (the largest coal reserves in Australia). Of course, tough times are being felt in those areas because of the mining downturn.

    In 2011 The Basin had 49 operational coal mines. Nowadays the count is 34.

    http://www.bowenbasin.cqu.edu.au/

    Good post, Yorkie.

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    1. I am glad that this post resonated with you Lee. Thanks for the link.

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  2. I agree that the labor force produced the wealth as the coal miners did. It's too ad that here are memorials for Thatcher.

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    1. There are no public statues of Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. The authorities know that they would become targets.

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  3. A thought-provoking post, Neil, and one I can relate to very much. My interest has always been more with the lives of "ordinary" folk than of "celebrities". You'd probably like the book I am reading right now - the diary of a shop assistant in the 1940s, written for Mass Observation (I trust you are familiar with that).

    The slack heaps turned into something resembling parkland are all around the villages where my relatives in south Yorkshire live; Thurnscoe, for instance, has such a "park". The hills are now popular for recreation; people walk their dogs, runners run, walkers walk, lovers love.

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    1. I did not know about the "Mass Observation" project. Thanks for alerting me. As for lovers loving on former slag heaps, I wouldn't want to trip over them!

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  4. Totally agree with that last paragraph YP.

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  5. I couldn't agree more YP about the role of those who toiled to make the country's wealth and give us the standard of living we have now. However, to be balanced, without the ruthlessness of those who pioneered and made the empire on which so much of that was built and depended we would still be an agrarian economy.

    I've learned several things as a result of this post: no public MT statues (a Good Thing) and the Mass Observation (another Good Thing). Even though I have the book by my (almost) namesake GB Edwards who was a co-creator of the project.

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    1. GB Edwards? Why would anyone name their son Great Britain?

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  6. Agree with Graham's comments in his first paragraph. Couldn't care less about the lack of any statue of any "Celebrity", or PM, regardless of whichever party they stood for.
    Not heard of Mass Observation either. There are so many books nowadays written by people from all walks of life, so this must be something similar? Unfortunately I've found some of them extremely boring and very badly written - the downside of self publishing. Can't think that a book about my working life would be of any interest to anyone !

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    1. I don't know about that CG. I would look forward to the chapters headed "What Happened in the Stock Cupboard" and "Debauchery at The Christmas Party".

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  7. I agree -- the workers put the "Great" in Great Britain. I never thought about the lack of Thatcher statues, but you're right -- they would be magnets for defacement, wouldn't they?

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  8. The T.V play 'Housewife 49' (I think) by Victoria Wood, was based on the wartime diaries of Nella Last, written for Mass Observation. Terrific play and a real insight into life in wartime...

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  9. The T.V play 'Housewife 49' (I think) by Victoria Wood, was based on the wartime diaries of Nella Last, written for Mass Observation. Terrific play and a real insight into life in wartime...

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