|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|