Silverwood Colliery Heritage Group – Pop up Heritage Centre

By Sam Dixon, Community Organiser

“In 1880 John Brown & co were listed as being the owners of Aldwarke Main Colliery. The name Aldwarke refers to an area in the Don Valley two miles north of Rotherham South Yorkshire. To the west of Aldwarke is Parkgate and to its East the villages of Dalton and Thrybergh.

Aldwarke has a long history dating back centuries regarding coal.

Shaft number 1 at Aldwarke was sunk to the Barnsley seam in 1867 and extended to the Parkgate seam in 1877. Shaft number 2 at Aldwarke was sunk to the Silkstone seam in 1884.

A neighbouring colliery to Aldwarke Colliery was Roundwood Colliery and was listed as being owned by Cooper Sellers & Company.

In 1898 John Brown formed a new company to take over Roundwood Colliery and to develop a new colliery near to Thrybergh. This new company became known as the Roundwood & Dalton Colliery Co, becoming Dalton Main Collieries Limited in December 1899.

In April 1900 Dalton Main Colliers ltd began to sink the first shaft for what would later become known as Silverwood Colliery.

Named after a near-by woodland Silverwood Colliery was situated on Hollings Lane between Thrybergh and Ravenfield.

Between April 1900 and 1903 two shafts were sunk for Silverwood, both to the South of Hollings lane. These shafts entered the Barnsley seam at a depth of 745 yards. During the sinking of the shafts the Ravenfield stream was diverted via the use of two 900mm pipes so that the construction of the mine would not interfere with its flow.”

“In 1901 listed as living in Thrybergh with his family was James Ball a pit sinker who had previously worked at mines in Hoyland and Barnsley. James aged 35 was originally from Bristol. It is presumed that James played an important role in the shaft sinking at Silverwood Colliery.

John Henry Megann also came to the area specifically as a shaft sinker to work on the Silverwood site. On completion he signed on as a Stoneman.

Also living at Thrybergh at this time was John Hadrill age 29 listed as a colliery sinker.

James Browne arrived at Silverwood from Wigan in Lancashire and was also involved in the sinking of the two shafts.

In 1901 Charles Power age 55 a foreman working on the sinking of the shafts was killed when a horse drawn wagon ran over him causing intensive injuries to his legs. On the 17th of September 1902 a Mr W Cooke age 22, a pump attendant was also killed while carrying out work on a pump located in one of the shafts.

With the building of Silverwood Colliery large housing estates were also built to cater for the flow of miners that came in to the areas of Thrybergh, Dalton, the near by garden village of Sunnyside and Ravenfield Common. 840 houses were built in Dalton, Ravenfield and Thrybergh and 74 in Sunnyside which were to be the first all -electric houses in the country and the first to have a bathroom and toilet indoors.”

From research by Neil Bingham, Chair of Silverwood Colliery Heritage Group

Neil Bingham grew up in Sunnyside in the area around Silverwood Colliery. The pit was part of his childhood, it was a part of the whole community that he grew up in. 

“My dad started in 74, he did his training at Manvers and I think his first job was a button boy, after completing his training he went on to work in the tailgate and then on to the coal face were he had his accident. He was in hospital for a very long time and my Mum was pregnant with my oldest sister, she gave birth to my sister whilst he was in hospital and when he came round he had no clue as to who any of us were or anything about himself. His memory did slowly come back but he had forgotten all his underground training and would not go back underground, this was in 85 he then worked on the pit top in the stores and on the crane until it closed in 94.”

Neil always thought his future career would be working in the pit even though his parents wanted other things for him, especially his Dad.

As Neil got older, he realised that the history of the pit was beginning to disappear as there is no local physical accounts of what Silverwood Colliery meant to those who worked and depended on the pit for their families. Sitting one night in the Ravenfield Arms he started to write down his ideas for a group to remember….

Silverwood Colliery Heritage group was formed.

The groups Facebook profile reads;

Ex Silverwood Colliery workforce, their family’s and the now grown-up children of the local coal mining community’s Silverwood Colliery shaped and formed have all come together to form the Silverwood Colliery Heritage Group.

Each group member has their own personal connection to Silverwood Colliery.

We have made it our mission to make sure Silverwood Colliery is not forgotten. We are campaigning for a Silverwood Colliery Heritage Centre to be built on the land were Silverwood Colliery once proudly sat.

We strongly believe that Silverwood Colliery has a story and a history that needs to be told and displayed for a new generation to see. A story of Hard Work, Pride Solidarity, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Hardships. Memories good and bad, a story of a place that brought unity to our community’s a place that deserves to be remembered, respected and honoured. 

One of the aims of the group is to create a pop up heritage centre to take into the community and schools to educate people about life at Silverwood, the vision is to eventually find a home for the heritage centre where it will be a permanent part of the community history.

The first of the pop up heritage events took place on Sunday 12th September at Ravenfield Parish Hall. It was attended by more 100 individuals, over a 3 hour period. It was amazing to witness such a successful event that visibly impacted so many. The feedback was 100% positive, there were attendees wanting to donate further artifacts saying that they had never wanted to part with them but now they could see that pieces from their family history would be well looked after.

The event is the first in what will continue to be a highly anticipated event which will help the community to remember the pit, the lives of those who worked down them, and ultimately those who gave their lives in what was an extremely dangerous career.

“Remember them with pride”