In The Offices

In the early 1870s, the Old Colliery Offices were built at Kiveton Park, to provide offices for the newly-sunk pit but also as a school house – the facilities of the villages were struggling to keep up with the rapidly expanding population of miners and their families.

These offices were, and remain, at the centre of the community– their distinctive clock tower shines out over the village each night. When the pit was working, it was very deliberate that the clock shined out in every direction, because, as several people have told us, it was how people would tell the time – that and the distinctive hooter that everyone in the village knew the pattern of.

The top housing of the clock tower, including the faces, was actually built on the ground and then hoisted up as a complete unit and placed on top of the tower. The workings of the clock itself are the original and still keep the correct time.

In his younger days, Tom Batty would go into the pit offices and tend all the fires. He remembers the Manager’s Office, with its big bay window looking out over the pit top. Running a bit of a risk, he and his workmate would snatch a few moments kip in the big armchairs by the fire, always on the lookout for the manager coming back.

The view from the manager’s office is still impressive, but over thick woodlands and lush green meadow – things have changed a great deal.

Downstairs from the manager’s office was the Surveyor’s Room, with its grand oak table, which, we’ve heard, was probably scrapped when the pit shut. Such a table was needed so maps of the pit could be unrolled out over it, with managers and officials crowding around. Events were held here, as they still are. In the last years of the colliery’s life, the Pit Surveyor was Neil Robertson, who has been a great help with this project.

The rooms towards the front of the office were used as wages offices and general offices. What is now the main office for the development trust used to be graced with angled oak leaning tables where clerks worked. Two bays at the front of the office were where men were once paid, one hatch for the Hazel, the other for the Barnsley men. Many men and some women worked in this and the other offices over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – this picture shows the staff of the 1930s, with one of their descendents’ original notes. We have spoken to many men and women who worked in these offices – shown is Ken Raynor with a price book, which can be read in full in the Digital Archive.

At the north-eastern point of the Colliery Offices is another former manager’s office, used for a time by Keith Haynes. It was taken over by the police and used as this area’s headquarters during the Miners’ Strike. By chance, this room was where our interview with Keith took place.

What is now a taxi office was a pay office for a time, complete with an emergency alarm which the staff insisted was installed. Security had certainly been taken seriously in other respects, for in both the wages office and surveyors’ office were huge, heavy safes. The one in the wages office was locked shut for many years – it took local safebreakers seven hours to open it for us to use for this project! On a similar theme, it is said that Arthur Scargill’s wife once handcuffed herself to the radiators in this office, in the wake of the Miners’ Strike.

Not many people realise that the area at the back of the colliery offices, the twisting staircase that goes up to several local businesses, was once someone’s house, not just another part of the offices. It was where Cyril King and his family lived, a perfect place to look after the pit from. In later years, this area was merged with the rest of the offices and turned into working space, as these plans from around 1994 show.

To the back of the pit offices, which is now being transformed into a community garden, cages were kept for canaries – in case of an emergency. Thankfully, there is no record of them having to be used. These gardens seem to have alternated between careful cultivation and disregard over the last 100 years.

Below the colliery offices lie deep cellars, original from the first building of the offices back in the 1870s. These cellars hint at the status of the industry in those days, with large store rooms, fixings for thick wooden doors and what is claimed by some to have been a wine cellar.

One of the first things that strikes visitors to the pit offices is the original oak doors and fixings, which are deep in colour and just as strong as when they were first installed. Together with the sophisticated architecture and imposing towers of the Colliery Offices, these give more than a hint of the greatness of the coal industry in the late nineteenth century.