A celebration of the Middleton Schools History Project, which focused on the mining heritage of Middleton Park, was held at the new visitor centre at the park.
The event was attended by MP Hilary Benn, Nick Rochford of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Councillor Judith Blake and Councillor Jack Dunn, and was hosted by pupils from Middleton Primary School. Work produced by the children as part of the project was displayed, and they were able to talk to others about what they learned.
Middleton Park has a mining history dating back to the 1300’s, which reached a peak in the mid 1700’s when Charles Brandling extensively mined the park, building the now demolished grand Middleton Lodge and its gardens with the proceeds.
Middleton Park also saw the first commercial use of steam locomotives in the coal mining industry, the nearby Middleton Railway is the legacy of this.
Wagon ways, shaft mounds and horse powered winding gins used for lifting the coal from underground are all still in evidence today as archaeological earthworks, which have led to the park being designated as a Scheduled Monument by English Heritage. There are concerns, however, that public understanding of the park’s heritage are putting the remains at risk from vandalism and erosion.
The Middleton Park School’s History Project took place in July 2012 and involved around 250 pupils from six primary schools in Middleton, and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Parks For People initiative. Further funding was received from Leeds City Council and Wade’s Charity.
The project was delivered by Archaeological Services WYAS and the West Yorkshire Joint Services Education Team, with support from the Friends of Middleton Park. The four-week project involved classroom sessions looking into the mining history of the park and how we can recognise and protect the archaeological evidence of this, and a creative workshop in which posters, heritage trails and gin models were made. Another session involved going into the park to record the evidence of mining there. This included the remains of Horse gins which were used extensively in Middleton Park to lift the coal from the mines.
Some of the children’s work will remain on display in the visitor centre, alongside a wooden model of a horse gin. A full size reconstruction of a Cog and Rung style horse gin is also planned for 2013 to show the public how they were used in the park.
Graham Hebblethwaite, Chief Officer of West Yorkshire Joint Services, said:
“This project provided an excellent opportunity not only to engage the young residents of Middleton with their past, but also to encouraged them to consider how they can ensure our shared heritage is preserved for the future.”
Graeme Ashton, Middleton Park Estate Officer said:
“The project has been extremely valuable in engaging young people to learn about the history and importance of their local park (and area). The feedback I’ve seen has been extremely positive from pupils and teachers. It will have future positive impacts for local young people, the community and the park itself.”
For further information on events taking place at the park, please contact Graeme Ashton on 0113 3957400 or email email@example.com