Looking Back at Lives at the Pit

There are many different views about life at the pit, looking back from now, over a decade since it shut. ‘I’m glad they put a lid on it, don’t ever tell anyone I said that though.’ ‘It was the best thing that ever happened to this community. It forced people to look to other things, to make something out of themselves.’ ‘The pit was un-natural, men shouldn’t have to work like rats. It was never right.’ These are just three comments we’ve heard from those, including from several former miners, who felt that the end of the pit was a good thing.

However, others feel very differently. Most local people believe the village changed a great deal for the worse when the pit closed, although there have certainly been improvements in more recent years. The number of witnesses, miners and others, who question why the pit shut and can still expose the complex lies and falsehoods they believe the government put forward to justify the pits being closed, is astonishing.

For some the pit was this community and when it closed a cog turning at the centre of so many families’ lives vanished, leaving a fractured and disjointed village, very different to what it had been. Others would suggest that the decline of the pit as the actual centre of Kiveton Park as a community was a long process: it had started before the strike, some would argue in the 1950s and 1960s, as the days when the pit was worked predominantly by local men, and when most local men worked at the pit, ended.

What was certainly taken away with the demolition of the pit was a symbol of the community. No matter how tough and unpleasant working underground could be, gone was something that local people had had in common with generations before them and shared with each other. The pit was where friends and family members had not only worked but put their lives at risk, and in well over a hundred cases had been killed.

The history of Kiveton Park Colliery, which we have tried to recount in these pages, as Michael Sampson did with his book, cannot rebuild the pit or replace what it was to this community, but it can act as a memorial to those who worked here and hopefully allow future generations to understand just how important Kiveton pit, and indeed its neighbours at Waleswood and West Kiveton, were to their ancestors in years gone by.