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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Hopewell Colliery Museum

In a nutshell

Gauge:        2' (non passenger carrying)

Length:      unknown

Opened:     1823 (as a museum in 1997)


Prosper Lane
Lacinda Coalway
GL16 7EL

View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map

Tel.        01594 810706 


Date of visit: 22 September 2012


Key Facts

  • The Hopewell mine is linked to the Phoenix mine underground but are worked as separate pits
  • The mines are worked as 'free-mines'. The Free Miners have mined coal for over 700 years unhindered anywhere in in the Forest of Dean by royal decree.
  • These are now the only full-time mines operating in the forest 
  • During the winter-months (October - March) the mines are worked using traditional methods of pick and shovel but they operate as a Museum in the summer months.
  • Visitors to the Hopewell mine walk through some of the mine workings to see exhibits of mining equipment and techniques.
  • The coal is extracted from the mines in railway tubs hauled by cable.


My Impressions

Unfortunately, the museum had closed for the winter on the day I visited, it seems that the museum opens during the summer school holiday season. However, as one of the miners was present, working on a mechanical coal loader, I was able to take a few photos and discuss the mining operations (and the state of the economy) with him.

Normally, I only include accounts of visits to passenger-carrying narrow gauge railways in this blog, but as this museum provides an insight into one of the last remaining operational mines of its type, I feel it deserves specific mention.

 The first thing to catch the eye on the edge of the car park is the pithead winding wheel

..... and the pithead gantry ........

....... together with its portable hand-winch and a coal tub.

Beside the car park is the rope-hauled incline down to an adit shrouded in trees.

This wasn't operating while I was there but it is clear that this is one of the means by which coal is extracted from the mine. The mechanical loader on the other side of the car park suggests that during the winter months, the car park becomes a coal yard for the mine.

Talking to the miner who was repairing the loader, he told me that although the coal is of very good quality, it is presently very difficult to make a living from mining the coal alone, and hence the miners have to diversify into other trades. However, there is a determination to keep the tradition alive and hopefully there will be another generation of free miners to assure the future of this piece of industrial history.

I intend to revisit the museum during the next season and hopefully fill in some of the blanks.

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