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Mine Exploration Forum

Author Icons of mining history
carnkie

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Icons of mining history
Posted: 07/12/2008 22:55:29
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I have seen recently quite often the words 'icon in memory of the miners' with regards to mining in a particluar area. For example the odd headframe at Cliff mines.


(click image to open full size image in new window)
I just wondered what others think should be a suitable icon. I know what I think.



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The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
IP: 79.74.193.32 Edited: 07/12/2008 22:59:52 by carnkie
ICLOK

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Posted: 07/12/2008 23:58:19
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Icons of which mining industry?, if UK then surely its down to where you are regionally... I dont think you can get more iconic than Botallock crowns, Geevor and of course Crofty etc for Cornwall for instance.... Derbyshire probably Magpie and Pleasley etc etc... No one building or site seems to typify the UK industry overall.

Just as an aside, I notice under Cliffes description they claim first Koepe winder in Western Hemisphere?
It was invented in Germany in 1877 by Frederick Koepe, the first British example being installed at Bestwood Colliery, Nottinghamshire, in the 1880s and also installed at a few more collieries up to the 1930s, I wonder why they thought they were the first at Cliffe? Odd that as are we not in Western Hemisphere, Germany certainly is?

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Vanoord

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Icons of mining history
Posted: 08/12/2008 08:20:15
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The Oakeley and Llechwedd slate tips at Blaenau Ffestiniog are pretty iconic!

They're protected in some way, but I forget whether this is as high as World Heritage status?

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Peter Burgess

Joined: 01/07/2008
Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Posted: 08/12/2008 10:08:10
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An icon is a representation of something to be held in awe. As such, it needs to be something or a place that has an atmosphere that allows the imagination to work. That, I think cuts out museums and some preservation sites where the thinking has been done for you. I can't think of a specific site that really stands out above others, but it would probably be somewhere that has a visible sign of an immense amount of toil and labour, and also reflects the raw conditions of life experienced by the mining community. An example would be the mountains of slate waste in North Wales.

However, the mining industry that has had the greatest impact on this nation is probably coal, and sadly, there seems to be almost nothing left worth considering an icon. Maybe something in the Ironbridge area might fit the bill? That area, after all, seems to encompass everything to represent to rise of coal and iron, and the creation of industrial Britain. It is, however, a 'museum' area - not that I have anything against museums - but it restricts the degree to which the individual can just wander around at will and take everything in and let their imagination do the work.

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ICLOK

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Posted: 08/12/2008 10:17:58
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On the whole I agree re museums, but having said that I think Big Pit is pretty iconic as you get to go down the pit and get the true experience and that certainly put my kids and all the other visitors in awe, plus you can go almost everywhere there. Plus it looks and feels like a pit still.
Slate quarry spoil works in Wales certainly, as do the zig zag of inclines at Penmaenmawr where they cling to the hillside above the sea.
Also I think things like the Koepe headgears at Clipstone serve as a massive and wonderful icon of Notts mining and alot of people hold them in awe.. they are well impressive.
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carnkie

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Posted: 08/12/2008 12:58:14
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I agree with all of the above. I think care must be taken not to sanitize the history too much. The 19th century almost comes across as a romantic period on occasion when we all know it was just the opposite. The working and living conditions of the miners, and others of course, were appalling. The word exploitation is never far away. I like the idea of the slate tips.
Thanks for setting the record straight re. the Koepe winder Iclock. It never crossed my mind that that particular source would make such a basic error. I should know better.

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ICLOK

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Posted: 08/12/2008 13:38:04
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Odd on the Koepe thing... It seems to be forgotten by many it was a German invention and used in most of Europe...Like you say you would have thought they would have that right... I wonder if they meant in America?



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sbt

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Posted: 08/12/2008 20:01:34
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ICLOK wrote:


Just as an aside, I notice under Cliffes description they claim first Koepe winder in Western Hemisphere?
It was invented in Germany in 1877 by Frederick Koepe, the first British example being installed at Bestwood Colliery, Nottinghamshire, in the 1880s and also installed at a few more collieries up to the 1930s, I wonder why they thought they were the first at Cliffe? Odd that as are we not in Western Hemisphere, Germany certainly is?


Germany is EAST of the Greenwitch Meridian and therefore in the EASTERN Hemisphere. It has 'Degrees of Longtitude East' and 'Degrees of Latitude North', as I remember from my Cold War poring over maps of said place.

But Bestwood is WEST of Greenwitch, as far as I can make out...

Agree on Welsh Slate - but I would include the 'uge 'oles at Dinorwic and Penrhyn.

Worsley Delph is an Icon to me. I'm a canal restoration type and its the location where everything that kick started the Industrial Revolution came together.

If you 'stand back' the whole South Wales valleys area is one big Icon, as is Snowdonia. Mining made those places.

Rick (New round 'ere)
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ICLOK

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Posted: 08/12/2008 20:56:58
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Durr your not wrong...left and right mixed up again. Oh My God
But having done my homework this time they did have em in spain from the 1900s and in the uk like I said.... so its still not the first in the West by a long chalk!

If we are going to go for an area I think Ironbridge with its mines, canals, railways, iron making and other industries is about as iconic as you can get from a uk point of view in terms of industrial archaeology and is recognised all over the world as such by many. Smile

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IP: 78.145.227.111 Edited: 08/12/2008 20:58:33 by ICLOK
Buckhill

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Posted: 08/12/2008 21:00:20
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I agree with you sbt - Bestwood, 1 mile east of Hucknall is about 1 - 1.5 degrees west of the Greenwich Meridian. Maybe our former colonists think the prime meridian runs down the centre of the Atlantic. Wink IP: 86.163.23.29 Edited: 08/12/2008 21:03:41 by Buckhill
carnkie

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Posted: 08/12/2008 22:50:45
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ICLOK wrote:

Durr your not wrong...left and right mixed up again. Oh My God
But having done my homework this time they did have em in spain from the 1900s and in the uk like I said.... so its still not the first in the West by a long chalk!

If we are going to go for an area I think Ironbridge with its mines, canals, railways, iron making and other industries is about as iconic as you can get from a uk point of view in terms of industrial archaeology and is recognised all over the world as such by many. Smile


I have a slight problem with historic industial archaeological sites but only in the sense that they tend to move away from the social aspects and are more about technilogical advances. Not that they were not important. An example would be the Sloss pig iron furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. Now a National Monument I wonder if they dwell on the fact that slave labour was used down the adjacent iron and coal mines for many years after the Civil War.

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ICLOK

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Posted: 08/12/2008 23:17:45
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Yeah I'd agree in some cases but I think Ironbridge and Beamish try to demonstrate a picture of working life and its social elements.
Thats why I like Big Pit as it is a Welsh Coal Mining icon where you go to a Pit in a valley, surrounded by pit hills, get a lamp on, go in a cage down a dark mine shaft, trot around and barring tramming and coal cutting see the work place first hand. So for me that one works probably the best.

I think Ironbridge achieves a good social overview of the past for the industrial UK in general and Beamish does it well too. They have not dumbed down the past at these places and I seem to find people rush around them and don't take in the social side. These are working museums and on the whole do a great job. In fact they tend to focus on life as it was rather than technical advances.
The pure industrial museums can as you say just blow over the social element and as you say just concentrate on technical advancement. Thats exactly why we need more working museums to give some context and social application to our past.


Smile

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sbt

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Posted: 09/12/2008 00:25:27
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The danger with big museums that try and deal with the social aspects of the time was summed up by, I think, the canal based folk musician, the late Jeff Dennison – 'Recreating the past that never was'.

They need to keep people coming through the doors so they either sanitise stuff so as not to upset them or go off the deep end with 'interesting' stories of impossibly nasty times. Its especially true that there is a temptation to avoid the inevitable confrontation caused by telling people things that don't accord with what 'everybody knows'[1].

Finally modern staff in costume wouldn't put up with the sheer level of dirt that people in earlier times, including the upper and noble classes, took in their stride. Jeff set up a travelling song and visual show to get the point across without actors and to entertain at the same time as getting a few home truths across.

[1] I'm not a mining expert so I'll quote from an area that I have more understanding of, Naval History. 'Everybody knows' that the Navy of Nelsons day was a 'Floating Concentration Camp' that the sailors deserted from at the first opportunity. Why then were men regularly transferred from ship to ship by giving them a sum of money and a due day and sending them off across country on their own? N.A.M Rodgers makes the point that Sailors of the time suffered less from Survey than the poorer sort of country peasant (and, IMHO, likely the poorer sort of miner too) – trained sailors were scarce (hence the Press Gang) and the Navy liked to keep them fit and alive. But that's not the sort of story (some, at least) of the guides on HMS Victory will tell you.

OTOH when my Great Grandfather died in the late 1920's as the result of a mine accident his widow was left with no compensation due to the fact he died in hospital rather than at the mine (and, apparently, a few other weasely actions on the part of the mine management). A 'disposable person' from an era when England (forget about Wales, they were still busy trying to stamp the idea out) was supposedly filled with 'thoroughly decent chaps and stout hearted working men with hearts of gold'.

Agree that Big Pit is good – I got down there one day a while ago when we were working up at Fourteen Locks.

Rick
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ChrisJC

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Posted: 09/12/2008 08:56:49
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sbt wrote:


If you 'stand back' the whole South Wales valleys area is one big Icon, as is Snowdonia. Mining made those places.

Rick (New round 'ere)


It always strikes me as ironic that the character of places like Snowdonia, The Lake District etc is defined by the industrial endeavours of mankind, yet now we classify them as 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and attempt to stop the clock.

Chris.
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ICLOK

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Posted: 09/12/2008 09:29:10
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Hi,
I agree ,there can be a tendency to either under do or over do in many cases but its a tough one for the museum to follow through and like you I have often seen the history that never was. My main example is the NRM at York being a steam enthusiast, that does fail to deliver and the sanitised delivery doesn't help, my kids came away with the impression that it was fairly nice working environ on a steam loco until I showed em pics taken on engine sheds of the poor b****rs shovelling ash from pits and fitters working in near darkness under filthy loco's.
Having said that its a fabulous museum in terms of exhibits and technological advancement!

What I liked at the museums I mentioned in my previous response was the fact that those who were there talking to the public were craftsmen in some cases but quite down to earth folk generally who gave a good overview on the life of the coal miner for example.

At big pit we had real ex miners and we got the detail, the dirt, the danger, the hours, the poverty but we also got the cameradery, the beer, the miners club, the food they ate and the life of their lasses inc the filling of the tin bath, cooking of meals ... My family were colliers on both sides and I remember some of these elements for real in the late 60s early 70s inc the tin bath occasionally (if he had had a long day and came straight home) and lots of dirt (and pit talk) but I knew everything that the guide said was true and for that Big Pit still gets my vote as they gave a true perspective over that life in the vallies. Right down to some of the thuggery, bullying, and money lending! But they didn't leave out the walks, chapel and summer picnics either (oh and life as a kid). My favourite bit was re choirs as my grandads choir won at Blackpool twice and I have the solid silver medals to prove it.

Its about training and realism and having the answers to the questions asked....

Back to Ironbridge and Beamish, yes it might be cleaner than the reality was but so what... as long as the exhibits and the guides tell the story true then they are good to go as that coupled to a visual world should be enough to give the right image of the past. We cannot re-create the past we will only ever get the essence of it!

Oooops missed another good one ... the Llanberris museum was a good one too, I went there first and then to Dinorwig quarry proper, the museuem did contain enough socio/economic and stuff on the life of the quarrymen to at least give me a feel for where I was about to go for the first time... it made my day.

In fact i think the Welsh national museums are pretty b***dy good compared to many elsewhere and they should be rightly proud of them, I've driven my kids hundreds of miles to see them and they enjoyed it all, probably as t was a bit more "real".

My big worry is what happens when those with the knowledge retire..... actually then we can have a job... least we're interested! 8)

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IP: 78.145.136.113 Edited: 09/12/2008 09:40:22 by ICLOK
rhychydwr

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Posted: 09/12/2008 10:56:51
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And most Welsh Museums, like Big Pit are free Big Grin

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ICLOK

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Posted: 09/12/2008 11:11:55
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Hi Mate.... Hope you're well.

Good point... they are indeed.... Which makes gives everyone even more reason to visit Big Pit!

Regards IC

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