The National Coal Mining Museum for England is located at Caphouse Colliery, nestled in the hills on the western edge of the Yorkshire coalfield, where mining has been carried out for centuries. A plan dated 1791, showing workings from 1789 to 1795, includes a shaft on the Caphouse site. It is probably the oldest coal-mine shaft still in everyday use in Britain today.
The museum was opened in 1988 and it offers groups a varied and memorable day out, with the main attraction being the underground tour. To discover the depths, descend 140 metres down the pit, where your guide will take you around the workings, sharing his mining experiences with you, and introduce you to the methods and machinery of mining from the 1800s to the present day. Each visitor is provided with a hat, belt and battery, so that the true atmosphere of working life underground is captured.
Back above ground, the story of coal mining and the history of its communities is told through various exhibitions. The Museum is home to original colliery buildings, some of which are over 130 years old. Marvel at the original pithead and see the 1876 steam winder. Visit the baths to see where the miners cleaned up at the end of a shift, and the restored medical centre, to see how injuries were treated. The Coal Interface Gallery allows you to see how machinery was used to hew the coal, and pay a visit to the Mining Lives exhibition to find out more about a miner’s home and leisure life.
There really is plenty to do here to keep young minds and bodies active. There is a train ride, an adventure playground and a nature trail that takes in the new environmentally friendly water treatment plant, which cleans mine water through reed beds, and several different wildlife habitats along the way. Visitors can meet the retired pit ponies and Colonel the shire horse in the stables. There is delicious Yorkshire food and drink available in the café, and of course, no visit would be complete without a browse round the souvenir shop.
The Museum really comes to life during the school holidays, with extra activities taking place such as free art and craft sessions, and children’s entertainers, such as Maurice the Miner (who even as his own Facebook page!). The live history interpretations will capture the kids’ imaginations as characters such as Fred at the pithead baths in the 1930s, and Sally Fletcher, recalling her life as a child miner during Victorian times, perform.
10.00 am – 5.00 pm every day, except 24-26 December and 1 January.
During normal opening hours there is no charge for admission. Visits outside normal opening hours are available by prior arrangement for groups of nineteen or more.
Tours are in parties of up to nineteen people plus a guide. If your party consists mainly of children there should be at least two adults with each group of seventeen children. Children under five are not allowed underground.
For further details and for group booking forms, visit the website at www.ncm.org.uk, email email@example.com or telephone 01924 848806.