Appeal launched for help to create mining museum in Mansfield

Association president and retired miner Eric Eaton with one of the artefacts that have already been collected for the museum.
Association president and retired miner Eric Eaton with one of the artefacts that have already been collected for the museum.

An appeal has been launched for funds to create a mining museum, complete with a virtual-reality experience, in the centre of Mansfield.

The Nottinghamshire NUM Ex-and-Retired Miners’ Association is looking to raise £250,000 to buy a building capable of housing a traditional museum.

The building would also feature a virtual-reality room, education space for school groups, storage and offices.

The association is setting up a charity, called Nottinghamshire Mining Museum, to apply for grants from both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery grants. It also hopes to raise money through donations from trade unions and supporters of the Labour Party, and through crowdfunding and sponsorship. To date, it has generated £26,000.

The association’s president, Eric Eaton, said: “We want to preserve the heritage of coal mining, miners’ lives and the mining communities for future generations.

“Our museum would be highly educational and contain digital elements alongside the traditional displays of artefacts and visual and written information.

“But our unique selling point is the virtual reality. In combination with surround sound, it would give visitors an immersive, virtual coal-mining experience, showing what life down a pit was really like.”

The museum would reflect how the Nottinghamshire coalfield was one of the most successful in Europe. At its peak, it had 42 collieries and 40,000 miners, but its 750-year history was brought to an end with the closure of Thoresby Colliery in July 2015. Five months later, deep coal mining in the UK finished for good when Kellingley Colliery in Yorkshire ceased operation.

However, there is clearly an appetite among the public to preserve the industry’s heritage. The National Coal Mining Museum for England, at the former Caphouse Colliery in West Yorkshire, attracted more than 138,000 visitors last year, while The Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales saw a footfall of 150,000.

The Nottinghamshire association, which is based at Byron House, Commercial Street, Mansfield, is also seeking to collect artefacts for the museum. Those secured to date are being preserved at Mansfield Railway Station, thanks to help from Mansfield District Council.

The association, which is also looking for opportunities to hold ‘pop up’ museums in Mansfield and Sutton, runs between four and six mining roadshows in schools every year and has won an award for this work. It hopes to create partnerships with other community, arts, theatre and heritage groups to promote community pride in its coal mining history.

To help with the funding appeal, e-mail the association at exandretiredminers@hotmail.co.uk, or ring Mr Eaton on 01623 416895.