The dream of a former miner to turn the site of a Northumberland colliery into a landmark is to become a reality, just months after his death.
George Nichol, who died suddenly in July last year at the age of 65, set up the Ashington Colliery Heritage Group in a bid to make the site where he spent many of his working years a heritage trail with a website.
Now thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund the project has been awarded a £24,500 grant to get it off the ground.
George’s son Paul took up the baton from his father, who was born and raised in Ashington, and submitted the Group’s application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and he is now taking the lead on the construction of the trail. He said: “The social and economic structure of Ashington has changed to such an extent over the last 25 years that the reasons for the origin of the town and its subsequent development have been lost. My father wanted to do something about that and in the last year, he conducted guided heritage walks around the site and gave a series of presentations across the North East.
“Ironically, many people now think of the nearby Woodhorn Colliery, which is the location of a museum and the county records office, as being Ashington Colliery. The fact is, Woodhorn was a much smaller neighbour and it would be a mistake to let the tales and memories of Ashington Colliery, which was less than a mile from Woodhorn, be forgotten.
“My dad was very proud of his Ashington roots and extremely passionate about the heritage trail. He wanted the local schools to be a part of a project by developing a website and including the mining history of the town in their syllabus. He also gathered together a small but enthusiastic group of former colliery managers, miners and heritage experts including local writer and historian Mike Kirkup. We are all determined to bring this trail and its associated activities to fruition as both a tribute to my dad and the many thousands of men, women and boys who worked at the colliery over its lifetime.”
Coal mining put Ashington on the world map when commissioned in 1867, employing 5,500 men from across the country and transformed an agricultural hamlet into what became known as the biggest mining village in the world. But following its closure in 1988 there has been nothing put on the site, now a business park, to commemorate its history.
Now the HLF award will enable the building of a heritage trail which will depict the structures and activities of the mine in their actual locations. A website will also be created to tell the story in both words and pictures of how the colliery and the town grew.
Ivor Crowther Head of The Heritage Lottery Fund North East added “We are delighted to be able to support this project. The social history of Ashington, stemming from the colliery, is fascinating and is a story that needs to be told.
“The trail will give local people and visitors to the town an opportunity to walk through the site of a major colliery, where they can learn about its most prominent and interesting features in the area where they once stood.
“As well as providing former miners with a place of reflection, it will enable young people and newcomers to identify with the heritage of their community.”
The Ashington Colliery Heritage Trail and website is scheduled for completion in summer 2014.