23 September 2016

Grimethorpe

Backs of houses. High Street, Grimethorpe
When international visitors to Great Britain flick through their glossy brochures and travel guides they will not find Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire. Oh yes, Stratford-upon-Avon, York, London, chocolate box lid villages and maybe even Blackpool but not Grimethorpe.

The village has an unfortunate name that speaks of grimy industry but in fact its roots are in Norse settlement of the eighth and ninth centuries. It was a farming settlement (thorpe) under the rule of Grim, Grimer or Grimey. And it remained a small agricultural hamlet through the centuries until vast reserves of coal were discovered underground in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Dilapidated Grimethorpe Hall - built in 1670
Soon Grimethorpe grew. It had not one but two collieries and before  very long workers flooded in to occupy rows of tiny miners' cottages that had been thrown up by landowners and coal magnates.Britain's appetite for coal was voracious and Grimethorpe was at the front line of the coal industry's effort to satisfy that hunger. It was, after all, on the back of coal that our Industrial Revolution and The British Empire were built.

Following Thatcher's spiteful war upon the coal industry in the nineteen eighties, coal mining in Grimethorpe ceased in 1993. The village became a neglected, decaying and rather pointless place. Its heart had been ripped out.

Officially, it became the most long-term deprived community in Great Britain. In 1994, the European Union's study of deprivation named Grimethorpe as the poorest village in the country and amongst the poorest in Europe. Levels of crime and drug abuse were chronically high. Unemployment was above 50% for much of the 1990s and a large proportion of the older male population were disabled, having suffered injuries in the coal mines.
Memorial to Grimethorpe coal miners killed in colliery accidents
Nowadays, the place is changing. Many of the old mining cottages have gone and there are modern estates where affordable new houses have been built. Road access to the village is much better than it was through the twentieth century and there are new businesses nearby. In fact, if a passing visitor didn't know what had happened in the past, he or she could be forgiven for not recognising that this was once the epicentre of the Yorkshire coalfield. There is little evidence left behind -  of what once was.

"Yorkshire Pudding" sent its star reporter to Grimethorpe yesterday to bring you the photographs that accompany this post. But some photo opportunities were missed. The queue at the "White City" fish and chip shop. Albanian car washers where the petrol station used to be, a tattooed man walking a muscular pit bull terrier, obese middle aged women stopping to chat in their mobility scooters, empty cans of "Carling" lager scattered around a park bench. The poverty has not gone.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that in spite of the heavy knocks the village has received, Grimethorpe is still home to the finest brass band in the world - The Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Listen to them here and visit their website here. In all that ugliness beauty blossomed.
Grimethorpe Working Men's Club
The semi-derelict sports ground
Millennium Obelisk in Grimethorpe Park

19 comments:

  1. Interesting pictures. Grimethorpe IS a somewhat unfortunate name. This post, like a lot of your posts, makes me wish I had easier access to a car and more rural parts of England...

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    1. Maybe you and Dave should plan an English country road trip - staying at B&Bs. Surely one of you can drive. Maybe it would be best to get out of London first as that's like being in The Wacky Races.

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  2. That band were here at Tennants Garden Rooms in Leyburn last week - it was a sell out and according to someone I know who was there - it was an amazing evening.

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    1. I have never seen them live but I notice they are on at Huddersfield Town Hall next month. We might go.

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  3. Poor town. Happy to hear that things are looking up for the inhabitants there, if only a little. Lovely pictures, as usual, Mr. Pudding.

    I had never heard of this esteemed band. So I took your invitation and looked up their web site and their performances that are on youtube. They are indeed a spectacular musical group! I especially enjoyed the performance that won them Band of the Year in 1985.

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    1. In England, brass bands are usually associated with mining and other industrial communities. Visiting Grimethorpe makes me feel I would like to see them in concert. I shall take a lifesize cardboard cutout of you Mama so that you can also enjoy the music.

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  4. The Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band is, of course, world class and known everywhere thus bringing the Grimethorpe name everyweher too. It's good to know that there is progress being made although I'm not sure that obesity and Albanian car washers are always signs of poverty. The EU nationals providing car wash services that I go to are in affluent areas where people are very happy to pay for their excellent service. A service which, incidentally, is a first class example of a service all over the UK (including Lewis!) that could be provided by entrepreneurial unemployed Brits if they were so inclined.

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    1. But there is a gangster-type organisation behind a lot of these car washes Graham. Mostly they are staffed by illegal economic migrants on poverty wages. I have never visited or used their services.

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  5. So often, beauty and ugliness are the closest neighbours. I feel sorry for poor Grimethorpe and the way it was run down. Hopefully whatever is being done to give its residents some perspective will work for the better of the place that seems so hard done by.
    As for the derelict Grimethorpe Hall - well, you know that picture made my heart beat faster.

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    1. Ha ha - I guessed that picture would grab you Meike. There's a fellow who has devoted an entire blog to Grimethorpr Hall. Go here:-
      https://grimethorpehall.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/save-grimethorpe-hall-2/

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  6. Since the coming of industry this little town has seen nothing but suffering. Good description and background of something that is all too common.

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    1. Thanks for reading with understanding Red.

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  7. When I think of Grimethorpe my first thought is the Colliery Band, they are fabulous. Another pocket history from Mr Pudding.

    Thank you

    Alphie

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    1. Our star reporter likes to cover places like Grimethorpe - off the beaten track. We are pleased he took you there. Thanks for calling by once again Mistress Soup.

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  8. Yorkshire Pudding's illustrious, world-famous, unmatched by any other, past, present or future reporter has struck again! And struck well he has!

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    1. Editor's Note: Our star reporter is seeking a massive wage hike but this publication exists on a very limited budget. Consequently, we might have to let him go. Apparently, offers have been pouring in from blogs around the world, including North Korea.

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  9. Hi YP,
    My dad is a brass band tragic so the moment I saw the name Grimethorpe I wondered if you would mention GCB

    With all that poverty, the distraction and cameraderie of the band would be a great comfort

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  10. Is there anything left to commemorate the colliery ? What is the address ?

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    1. See my third picture Colin. That memorial is on the main street in Grimethorpe. A visit to the local graveyard may also provide evidence of what once was.

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