On Behalf of The People: Work, Community, and Class in the British Coal Industry 1947-1994

Lead Research Organisation: University of Wolverhampton
Department Name: Faculty of Social Science

Abstract

The project is a new intervention into academic, political, and public debates on the history of the British coal industry between 1947 and 1994. The study is particularly timely given the recent closure of Kellingley in December 2015 the last deep coal mine in Britain. It draws upon both the experiential and academic knowledge of PI Gildart who spent seven years as an underground coal miner in Wales between 1985 and 1992.

The research will be based on extensive archival work in the coalfields, a comprehensive oral history project, interaction with former miners and colliery managers, a partnership with mining museums, and the development of a comprehensive interactive website, blog and touring exhibition. It will explore the development of the industry, its workplace cultures, industrial identities, politics, and individual and collective experiences through a detailed examination of eight collieries located in England, Scotland and Wales: Bickershaw Colliery (Lancashire, 1830-1992), Easington Colliery (Durham, 1899-1993), Hatfield Colliery (Yorkshire, 1916-2015), Annesley-Bentinck Colliery (Nottinghamshire, 1865-2000), Markham Colliery (Derbyshire, 1882-1993), Barony Colliery (Ayrshire, 1910-1989), Tower Colliery (Cynon Valley, 1864-2008), and Point of Ayr Colliery (Flintshire, 1890-1996).

The oral history project will seek to understand the everyday experiences of coal miners and officials in the workplace, the community and the domestic sphere. This will involve interviews with around 80 participants and substantial community engagement in former mining localities. As such it represents a landmark scholarly intervention into the history of the industry by examining policy development, deployment and reception at macro (Government/NCB), meso (coalfield) and micro (colliery/community/domestic) levels. The project will tease out the unifying and diversifying identities and tensions in the eight collieries and their connected communities. In contrast with much of the existing scholarship on the industry there will be a specific emphasis on gender, generation, masculinity, femininity and regional/national identity and how these aspects of mining life contributed to a sense of individual and collective memory.

The research will be organised around particular themes: the political evolution of public ownership and its local social/political impact, occupational culture and identity, the tensions between divergent industrial relations cultures and their impact on organisations, the changing nature of underground work, masculinity, gender relations, community fragmentation, deindustrialisation, memory, heritage, and the resilience of occupational and class identities. Chronologically the project will shed new light on key-moments in the history of the coal industry such as the debates around the nature of public ownership, the industrial disputes of 1972, 1974 and 1984/5 and the subsequent closure of all of the nation's deep mines in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. Yet just as importantly it will gauge the impact of these events on miners, their wives/girlfriends, children, and the wider community in which the collieries were located. The project will go beyond the organisational/institutional frameworks adopted by many historians of the industry in order to reveal both the unifying and fragmentary nature of occupational, national, local, and class identity.

The comprehensive coverage of the eight collieries, will support, stimulate and publicize research material that will be of use to academics, policymakers, schools, and the three major mining museums of England, Scotland and Wales. The website and published outputs will ensure that the project has broad impact in both the academic and public sphere. The project represents a significant reappraisal of the importance of the coal industry in shaping the identities, politics, and cultures of industrial localities in post-war Britain.

Planned Impact

Who benefits?

The project will have significant public impact benefitting from the social and cultural connections developed by PI Gildart during his experience as a coal miner and CI Perchard through his expertise as a former head of energy supply policy in the Scottish Executive. This will be complemented by a dissemination strategy informed by the advisory board.

The website and oral history project will be of value to diverse groups including:

- Museums/archives: coal mining museums in England, Scotland and Wales
- Local historians/local history societies/colliery preservation groups
- Primary schools/high schools
- Institutions investigating their own history: the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) (Scottish Area, Yorkshire Area, North Wales Area, North Western Area, North East Area, Nottinghamshire Area, North Derbyshire Area, South Wales Area), the British Association of Colliery Management (BACM), the National Association of the Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (NACODS), and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO).
- Surviving Miners' Welfare Institutes
- Family historians
- Those promoting local historical awareness e.g. the North Wales Miners Association Trust
- Local history organisations including but not exclusive to named project partners.
- The project will more generally stimulate and support public engagement with twentieth century British history. The first version of the website will be available early in year one, along with the project blog and the bi-monthly 'colliery of the month' feature, with a mechanism to support public submission of former miners and their families.

Anticipated benefits include:

- Recognition by user groups of the value of the coal industry for understanding continuity and change in British society. The development of awareness that the eight selected collieries were symbolic of the link between work, identity, community, culture and politics in the post-war period. They were also crucial in engendering a sense of individual and collective identity that reached beyond the workplace. By identifying, recovering and making accessible the history of the collieries, the project supports and publicises the work of local historians, as well as stimulating and activating local communities' and institutions' interest in their own histories
- Project partners will benefit from assistance in recovering and recording evidence of the history of the collieries and from participation in project events. The good practice in retrieving evidence of the importance of the collieries in working, domestic and socio/political lives will be disseminated in the wider local history constituency.
- Greater knowledge/understanding of coal mining resources in national and local mining museums and record offices, including those run by local authorities, leading to more footfall among all types of user
- Impact on archival repositories' acquisition, as the significance of new material related to the eight collieries is highlighted. Targeted institutions will be the named partners but also the People's History Museum (Manchester), the Working Class Movement Library (Salford), and the Modern Records Centre (University of Warwick).
- The website will be promoted as a resource for schools and colleges in the specific coalfields and beyond the chosen localities: its content (images, text, finding guides and downloadable education packs) will support teaching at various levels from primary to A-Level.
- The project's recovery of documentation and artefacts will extend and deepen collections held in partner organisations. This will not only assist in the interpretation of such sites for visitors, but could facilitate re-enactments of mining life that could enhance the reputation of mining museums as visitor attractions.
- The findings will also inform the historical content of courses offered by organisations such as the General Federation of Trade Unions

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Economic and Social Research Council
Amount £43,135 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2018 
End 05/2020
 
Description Big Pit National Coal Museum Wales 
Organisation Big Pit National Coal Museum
PI Contribution The project has a close working relationship with the museum. One of the Research Assistants (Dr Ben Curtis) is largely based in South Wales and has advised the museum on exhibitions, displays and community events. The project team have kept the museum informed of artefacts and documents that have been collected as part of the research.
Collaborator Contribution A representative from the Big Pit sits on the project advisory board. Their contribution has opened up opportunities for the further development of the oral history project connected to Tower Colliery.
Impact The project has been promoted in the south Wales coalfield leading to oral history interviews.
Start Year 2017
 
Description General Federation of Trade Unions 
Organisation General Federation of Trade Unions
PI Contribution The project team have made a contribution to the development of education courses delivered by the GFTU to affiliates and their members, contributed to workshops and conferences.
Collaborator Contribution The general secretary of the GFTU sits on the project advisory board. Their contribution has been crucial in promoting the project across the labour movement.
Impact The partnership with the GFTU led to the establishment of a relationship between the project and the Durham Miners Association. The outcome has led to interviews for the oral history project and participation in events connected to the Durham Miners Gala.
Start Year 2017
 
Description National Coal Mining Museum for England 
Organisation National Coal Mining Museum for England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The National Coal Mining Museum are partners on the project. Since the beginning of the project we have worked with advising them on archival collections, future public events, and oral history/community projects. This is maintained through meetings twice yearly in which the project team update the museum on artefacts, documents and oral history testimony that have been collected by the researchers.
Collaborator Contribution The museum has a representative that sits on the advisory board connected to the project. The representative keeps the project team up to date with current acquisitions. The museum has also played an important role in developing community links and suggesting oral history participants for the project.
Impact The collaboration with the museum has led to interviews with form miners at Prince of Wales Colliery.
Start Year 2017
 
Description National Mining Museum Scotland 
Organisation National Mining Museum Scotland
PI Contribution The project team advise the museum on documents, artefacts and oral testimony that has been collected by the researchers.
Collaborator Contribution The museum have a representative that sits on the project advisory board that meets twice yearly. The museum has been important in allowing the project to scope oral history participants and material relating to Barony Colliery.
Impact Collaboration with the museum has promoted the project in Scotland and directly led to the recruitment of participants for the oral history project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description A talk at an event at Glamorgan Archives, plus accompanying TV interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Curtis was interviewed on S4C's Welsh-language magazine programme 'Heno' on 21 November 2017. The interview arose from the talk he gave at Archive Wales's 'Explore Your Archive' event which was held at the Glamorgan Archives on that day. Both the talk and the interview mentioned the usefulness of the Glamorgan Archives for his research, both for the project and more generally. The URL for this item was https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p05mdnhl/heno-tue-21-nov-2017 , but it is no longer extant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Advising the National Union of Mineworkers on the organisation and preservation of their archives 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The 'On Behalf of the People' project team visited the National Union of Mineworkers headquarters in Barnsley to scope the extent of the work needed to organise and preserve their substantial archives. We set up a working group drawing together advisors from the National Archives, the Wellcome Trust and the Modern Records Centre University of Warwick. Further meetings are planned in order to develop funding bids to secure the long term future of the archives of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Yorkshire Mineworkers Archive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Feature in Cumnock Chronicle 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Newspaper article published on the aims and scope of the project. This has generated interest in the project and participants in the oral history project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Interview for German Television 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Professor Gildart was interviewed by German Television for a documentary on the history of the European coal industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation on advisory board of the 'Walking Together' Memorial project - and the training of volunteers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The Walking Together Memorial Project was established by community activists, historian and families of ex-miners to develop a walking train that contains 106 exhibits relating to the history of Markham Colliery, Derbyshire. The 'On Behalf of the People' project team is represented on the project board. The Walking Together Memorial Project has developed a website to remember Markham Mine. The project team provided a workshop for volunteers on archival research with the NCB and NUM archives. Volunteers then used the skills they'd developed to identify relevant material for the website. Our contribution enhanced the website, which is available to the general public, and also developed community members' knowledge and skills
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://markhamstorymine.org/
 
Description Radio interview about South Wales coal industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Curtis was interviewed on the BBC Radio Wales 'Good Morning Wales' news programme, on 17 October 2018. As an invited guest onto the programme, he discussed the historical significance of the South Wales coal industry in an article about coal mining. The URL for this article was https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0000qxq , but it is not extant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description TV interview about Tower Colliery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Curtis was interviewed on the ITV Wales 'Wales at Six' news programme on 25 January 2018. He discussed Tower Colliery and the rundown of the South Wales coal industry in the 1980s and 1990s, in item about the tenth anniversary of the closure of Tower Colliery. He also was quoted in the ITV Wales website article which accompanied the news item. The URL for this article was http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2018-01-25/10-years-after-tower-colliery-shut-what-next-for-the-site/ , but it is not extant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description TV interview on BBC programme about Welsh history 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Curtis filmed an interview with Prof. Martin Johnes in January 2019, for the latter's new BBC programme about Welsh history. This two-part series is entitled 'Wales:England's Colony?' and is being broadcast on BBC television in March 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Work with Arte TV channel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Professor Gildart worked with the French documentary film maker Stan Neumann on a 3-part documentary on the history of the European working class. Gildart was filmed for interview segments of the film and the director utilised archive material that had been collected by the 'On Behalf of the People Project' project team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Work with Point of Ayr Colliery History Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Professor Gildart has provided guidance and expertise to the Point of Ayr Colliery History Group on their future plans for creating a small mining museum that is planned for 2019 in the North Wales region.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018