Our team of volunteers have united in a quest to preserve the remains of an important local heritage site.
Jubilee is located in Shaw, not far from Newhey. Jubilee Colliery is one of the largest and best preserved Lancashire Coalfield Collieries. It represents a big part of Oldham’s industrial past as it supplied coal and coke to many of the factories in the area.
The project has been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and is being delivered in three phases. Over the summer the volunteers have carried out archaeological digs and completed conservation work to safeguard the historical features at the site. Here is an update on what has been achieved to date.
Phase 1: Archaeology and community dig days (June – August)
The first part of the project involved recruiting volunteers and working with archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North to complete a 10 week dig. Over the course of the project over 300 visitors came to help out with the dig or attend events where volunteers and staff told the history of the site.
This dig was very much built on the success of the previous project ‘Unearthing the Past’ delivered by volunteers and Archaeological Research Services in 2012. We used the previous teams’ final report to inform our excavations.
We knew from the maps and photos of the site that there would be the remains of a boiler house and chimney so this was the first area we decided to uncover. After three weeks of digging with an army of volunteers we found the floor of the boiler house and the base of the chimney and it turned out to be a rather beautiful industrial structure.
As the dig continued we decided to look for evidence of further structures indicted by early maps.
We found coke oven bases and an engine bed that had been hidden from view by soil, leaf litter, nettles and brambles for over 30 years.
On the 1898 map there are what appear to be more coke oven structures near the pond so we looked for evidence of these. One visitor to the site on our heritage open day used to play around the old ruins back in the 1940s and said we have revealed something new even to him and he has been coming to the site for over 50 years!
The team unearthed many interesting artefacts such as a Victorian lace up boot and a brick decorated with a thistle – an echo of what would come as nature took over the ruins of the site.
Phase 2: Preserving the Past – Heritage Building Conservation (August – September)
Once an area is uncovered the best way to preserve it for the future would be to cover it up again with soil but we wanted to leave a lasting impression of what we had found for future visitors. We enlisted the help of local heritage building conservation experts Alan Gardner and Paul McGiffen.
Alan and Paul worked with us for three weeks to help consolidate the uncovered structures and taught our volunteer team some conservation techniques such as under pinning exposed brickwork and repointing areas with lime mortar. We decided to leave three areas uncovered – the chimney base, a section of the boiler house floor and the newly discovered coke oven bases. At the end of the preservation works we held an open day and 100 visitors came to see what we had done.
Phase 3: Outreach and sharing our learning (October)
We are now in the outreach phase of our project. We have done lots of research, ran community events and met lots of interesting local people along the way who have memories to share or information to throw light on what life was like for people living and working in the Victorian era.
We would like to enable many people to learn more about the Jubilee history, visit the site and see what remains. We are working with our volunteers and students from Oldham Sixth Form College to put together some short films about the site which will be available soon. Keep your eyes peeled!
A big big thanks to everyone who has got involved in activities at Jubilee and a special thanks to the dedicated team of volunteers who have been at the core of all the work.