Big Pit: National Mining Museum of Wales - fantastic!

Discussion in 'Wales/Cymru' started by editor, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. editor

    editor hiraethified

    Went there on the weekend and can't recommend it enough.

    The whole thing is totally free - even including the superb underground tour with an ex miner who did a great job of explaining what life was like for the thousands of men who worked at the coal face.

    There some powerful photos, personal testimony and artefacts from miners and their wives which give a insight into the terrible working conditions, the comraderie, the socialism and life in a Welsh mining town.

    Big Pit is part of the Blaenafon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site and it's amazing that they've created a world class attraction in the truly bleak post industrial landscape of this past of South Wales. It's a great day out!

    Big Pit: National Mining Museum of Wales ( Museum of the Year!)
    Blaenafon, Torfaen
    NP4 9XP
    01495 790 311
  2. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Yeah, I've been there, and its amazing. Not a little scary, too, definitely not for the claustrophobic--you couldn't pay me enough to be a miner. But its also slightly sad, in a postmodernly ironic way, to see former miners finding employment as guides to their former mine. Near where I live, they're going to do the same thing to the biggest steelworks in the world, in Bethlehem, PA, which closed down 15 years ago. They're going to keep one blast furnace as an industrial museum, and turn the other three into a casino.
  3. editor

    editor hiraethified

    It's hard not to leave the Big Pit feeling lucky (that it wasn't you that had to go down the pit), angry at the reckless greed of the pit owners, sadness for those hard working men and women exploited so ruthlessly and fucking fury at Thatcher who destroyed the close communities who grew around the pits.
  4. Billy Hunt

    Billy Hunt New Member

    Yeah. I've been down Bit Pit and it was the working conditions that our parents/grandparents had to endure that was most astonishing to me.

    Every spotty teenager who ever moans about any job should be forced to go down Big Pit to see what real work is really like.

    My father worked down a mine not far from Big Pit but left to join the army because he had not seen daylight for six months.
  5. 1927

    1927 Funnier than he thinks he is.

    One of the most amazing things at Big pit is the wall in the old pithead baths which lists the names of all the mines in the south wales coalfield,there were literally hundreds of them,all now gone!
  6. editor

    editor hiraethified

    In Victorian times, six year old children were employed to open and close the ventilation doors underground.

    The mine owners expected the workers to buy their own candles, so these poor bastards who couldn't afford any light had to stand in the pitch black in a cold, dripping mine for long shifts, with only the occasional passing miner offering brief illumination.

    What was interesting about the experience is how you get an understanding of how the NHS grew out of miner's self-help groups which led to the mighty Aneurin Bevin (an ex miner himself) pushing through the introduction of the welfare state.
  7. marty21

    marty21 One on one? You're crazy.

    i was in Blaenafon about a year ago (didn't go to the big pit experience) but at the time they were just trying to make it into a book town, like hay-on wye, the first shops were opening then, has it worked? are there loads of book shops there now?
  8. Belushi

    Belushi 01 811 8055 R.I.P.

    One thing that people forget is that the South Wales Coalfield still produces a large amount of Coal - but through Opencasting which destroys the environment and employs relatively few workers and in many little private mines where the conditions can be as tough and dangerous as our grandfathers faced. And of course the Tower Colliery is still open thanks to the workers who bought it out.
  9. Billy Hunt

    Billy Hunt New Member

    Last week I went to Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.

    Before electric drills were used it would take two men an eight hour shift to drill a hole by hand before blasting. Lit only by candlelight.

    And they would not get paid for it, because they were paid by the amount of roofing slates produced. Any time spent drilling, blasting, collecting and transporting the slate was, in effect, unpaid.
  10. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    There were about six small second-hand bookshops last time I was there. Don't know if there's room for two Hay-on-Wyes.
  11. editor

    editor hiraethified

  12. Biffo

    Biffo Well-Known Member

    Visiting the Big Pit is a bit like working behind a bar - I think everyone should do it at least once.

    An important piece of Welsh heritage.
  13. oneflewover

    oneflewover Following "The Tigers"

    May i also recommend this one in Yorkshire. Here again a must do if in the area. Treats school parties really well. On one though, 10 year olds, when asked what coal is, was or does, none knew, and these where Leeds kids whose school stands within about 400yds of old pit sites.
  14. Col_Buendia

    Col_Buendia sort code

    I had the privilege of a tour round Tower Colliery last year as the interpreter with a visiting Colombian mineworkers' union rep. It was fascinating to see a working pit, and made an interesting comparison to an earlier visit I had made to the Rhondda Heritage Park - what totally blunted the experience for me there was the overwhelming sense of impotent anger listening to the ex-miner tour guide reminisce about the butchering of the UK coal industry. The Tower visit was pretty inspiring, they've such a sense of struggle, trying to constantly keep an entire market at bay, a market that wants to see their example go down the plug. And they made a generous donation to the Colombian union's fighting fund.
  15. davesgcr

    davesgcr Reading books

    My father did 44 years down various anthracite pits - he had no choice as the family needed the money - this was 1938.

    It was a miserable job in terms of conditions - but hugely rewarding in terms of the sense of ownership and community.Yes - the strife in the industry form the 1950s - and up to the inudstry genocide after 1984 was a low point - but the overall contribution to economy and society was huge.

    Lolts of work to do on the research while there are still people around who worked in the pits - it will be gone in 10 years or so.

    The Miners Institute at St Fagans is well worth a look for the non work side of the legacy.
  16. comstock

    comstock Banned Banned

    Shame there is nothing like this for the South Derbyshire coalfield. Obviously not on the same scale as South Wales or the North East, but an important part of our industrial heritage.
  17. reallyoldhippy

    reallyoldhippy Banned Banned

    I think there might be. I'll check. But, failing that, there's Caphouse Colliery near Wakefield.

    editor - when you were underground, did they get you to turn your lamps off so you could experience REAL darkness. Most find it a really unnerving experience as their eyes struggle to make sense of the TOTAL absence of light.

    edit to add: Snibston colliery in Leicestershire has "colliery visits" but unfortunately they're all above ground. :(
  18. anfield

    anfield We are Sparta F.C.

    These days out sound great. The decimation of our mining industry is a tragedy. It would be even more tragic if we forgot the pits, the miners and the communities.
  19. easy g

    easy g Banned Banned

    sounds crackin'

    might try and go there when I pop home to see me nan in cardiff later this year...
  20. oneflewover

    oneflewover Following "The Tigers"

    And the fact that however long it is like it, your eyes never get used to it.
  21. davesgcr

    davesgcr Reading books

    I have my Dads lamp - dated 1913 - it was his badge of office as Assistant Manager and he was allowed to keep it on retirement most valuable artefact apart from my kids - (of course) - nicely battered and weathered - and his safety tool for gas testing. How the hell do youespain that sort of thing to a 21stC generation ?

    That and his measuring stick for clearance of the roof in the coal seams.?
  22. *Miss Daisy*

    *Miss Daisy* Suck a Big Hairy....

    :) i went to a school(West Mon) not far from Big Pit and they took us there,,it was great,,getting all kitted up with the hard hats,,,
    quite bleak up in the hills tho,,,,
    oh,,and they had big pit-ponys in the field ,,,,
  23. Belushi

    Belushi 01 811 8055 R.I.P.

    I have my Grandfathers Davy lamp, and its my most valued possesion. Still in perfect working order, I can remember my Dad filling it with paraffin and using it when we had power cuts as a kid.
  24. editor

    editor hiraethified

  25. Biffo

    Biffo Well-Known Member

    Top pics.

    2 years on :eek: :)
  26. planetgeli

    planetgeli There's no future in England's dreaming

    And bump.

    'NCB' ironwork, reminiscent of 'Arbeit Macht Frei' at Dachau
    Wrecked workshop, just 30 years disused
    Blaenavon, pithead
    List of closed mines
    Remembering great names, locker rooms, miner's baths

    DSC06798.JPG DSC06799.JPG DSC06808.JPG DSC06806-001.JPG DSC06803-001.JPG DSC06804-001.JPG DSC06805-001.JPG
    Chilli.s, editor and S☼I like this.
  27. 1927

    1927 Funnier than he thinks he is.

    A brilliant day out and all free!
    editor likes this.
  28. William of Walworth

    William of Walworth Festographer

    I'd forgotten this thread, thanks for bumping and for the pix planetgeli :)

    They really makes me want to go again, I love industrial history but I've not been there since long before I moved (back) to Wales :oops:
  29. Chilli.s

    Chilli.s changed the little words

    This is on our to visit list too.

    ATOMIC SUPLEX Member Since: 1985 Post Count: 3

    When I was a kid it was the school trip of choice for us. I think they did it every year.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice