PROTECTING AND ENHANCING LOCAL MINING HERITAGE
Stainforth's history is intrinsically linked to coal mining and this heritage is highly valued by local residents. Prior to the sinking of the pit, Stainforth was primarily an agricultural area. Once the colliery was sunk in 1911, Stainforth expanded with people coming from Durham, Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and indeed all over the country to work in the pit. By 1930 there were 3600 people working in Stainforth, and many houses, shops and entertainment facilities were built. The colliery was indeed the most significant development in Stainforth in recent times and its closure in July 2015 brought about massive deprivation and led to generations of unemployment. Whilst the mining heritage itself remains strong in the community, there is precious little to show its history.
The remaining structures from the former Hatfield Main Colliery site include No.1 and No. 2 headstocks, Former Hatfield Main Colliery which are Grade II Listed Buildings. Historic England provides details about the listing and heritage assets at Hatfield Main Colliery:
"Hatfield Colliery was built by the Hatfield Main Colliery Company, initially to work the Barnsley seam, with its two shafts sunk between 1911 and 1921, work being interrupted by the First World War. The shafts were constructed using the Francois Cementation Process to overcome the difficulties posed by sinking through shifting sands and the very porous, waterlogged sandstone. Hatfield was the first mine in the country to employ this process which had been developed on the continent, shaft sinking was supervised at Hatfield by the inventor, Mr M Francois. The colliery went into production in 1921, using the shaft sinking headgear whilst the permanent headstocks and winding engine houses were being constructed, these completed in 1922. Number 1 Headstocks, for the downcast shaft, was constructed by Naylor Brothers Ltd. of Lancashire using lattice steel framing; Number 2, for the upcast shaft, was constructed by the colliery workers to the design by the Trussed Concrete Steel Company employing Khan System ferro-concrete beams. Both headstocks were designed for twined, double-decker cages. The winding gear (including the headstocks) were described in detail in the Colliery Guardian published 6th October 1922. The lattice frame headstocks at Hatfield were used as an example of the type by G Poole in his 1935 treatise “Haulage and Winding”.
By the mid-1930s the colliery had been deepened to also work the High Hazel seam. The worst accident at Hatfield Main Colliery occurred in 1939 when the cage lifting miners in the upcast shaft overshot and crashed into the headgear, killing one and injuring fifty more.
Hatfield Main Colliery underwent modernisation in the 1970s with the conversion to electric winding. Number 1 Shaft was converted from tub to skip winding with the removal of its heapstead and the introduction of a conveyor, with the lower portion of the main legs of the lattice steel headstocks encased in concrete. The heapstead for Number 2 Shaft was also rebuilt although photographs published in the Colliery Guardian in 1922 suggest that this was a modification of the existing structure, rather than a complete rebuilding.
The colliery was closed by British Coal in 1993, the RCHME carrying out a rapid historic building recording survey of the complex in 1994. Hatfield was reopened under different ownership in 1994 and worked through until final closure in June 2015, the shafts being subsequently in-filled."
Today, the area lies vacant and unused and is closed off to public access. The former buildings are located to the south east of the site, on land adjoining the rail line and with access off Waggons Way. There are other areas of slag heaps to the north, west and south. Due to the low-lying character of the surrounding area, the headstocks and winding houses are a local landmark, visible from the M18 motorway, railway, other neighbouring villages and the wider countryside.
The Town Council considers that there are significant opportunities for the development of the site to provide improved local facilities and employment, subject to securing funding and investment. Hatfield Main Heritage Trust was formed in April 2017 with the aim of developing the Pithead site into a heritage centre and country park. The plan for the site includes various workshops, business incubation, conference centre, and a local mining heritage museum. The group has been crowdfunded through Just Giving and Paul Heaton, lead singer from Beautiful South, has donated the royalties from his song “Coal Train to Hatfield Main”. The land is currently classed as Crown Land and the debt has been recently bought by Hargreaves Lansdown plc.
DMBC have conducted a survey in March 2018 which concluded that the Pitgears are safe to remain for at least the next 10 years. As the Pitgears are also grade 2 listed by Historic England this means there can be no plans for demolition. As such, DMBC,
Hargreaves Landsdown and Stainforth Town Council must work together to find a way to make the site viable for the future.
The responses to the questionnaire survey demonstrated a very strong degree of local support for the idea of having a heritage and craft centre on the old pithead site, with 93% of respondents supporting this. In addition, 90.4% of respondents wished to preserve the old headgears of Hatfield Main as a monument to mining heritage.
At the Issues and Options event ideas for the pithead buildings included:
A heritage centre with workshops
A small recording studio
A sports hall
Use of the winding houses for a museum and restaurant
A flexible space for theatre productions, films, shows etc and
Using the railway sidings for old trains.
Clearly these ideas are ambitious at this stage and there will be a need to firm up proposals, work with landowners and Doncaster MBC, and secure funding and investment.The role of the NDP is to help provide a supportive local planning framework, perhaps through a site allocation and / or planning policies to guide development proposals which may come forward over the plan period.
Any proposals will require careful and sensitive design which recognises the importance of the listed buildings and seeks to protect and enhance them.