VIDEO: Take an underground tour of the National Coal Mining Museum

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For 25 years the National Coal Mining Museum for England has helped educate generations about the important industry which shaped today’s communities.

And during that time, those in charge at the Caphouse Colliery in Overton have had a continual battle to balance the books and keep the popular tourist destination open.

National Coal Mining Museum celebrates 25th birthday.'Pictured: Steve Guest and Lin Taylor, 150 metres underground.'w312e344

National Coal Mining Museum celebrates 25th birthday.'Pictured: Steve Guest and Lin Taylor, 150 metres underground.'w312e344

A 150 metre underground tour and exhibitions celebrate the history of coal mining, which was once a way of life for so many families across the city.

It has continued to build up its nostalgic collection of memorabilia and introduce new aspects to keep visitors returning year after year.

The museum’s director Margaret Faull was given the task of establishing the new venture in 1986, and by June 1988 it was opened to the public.

Even back then money was an obstacle, with Wakefield Council stumping up the majority of funding. An initial entrance free of just 50p had to be upped to £3.50 to cover costs. It was later free admission for all by 2002.

The museum has relied on government backing and grants to meet its £3.5m yearly running costs, but cuts haven taken their toll in recent years.

By 2015 the museum will have lost 31 per cent of its funding, meaning Dr Faull and her team will have had to save an extra £1m from their budget. So far they have saved more than £600,000.

Dr Faull said: “If we have any more cuts beyond 2015 we will have some real problems.

“Visitor numbers are going up, while the money we receive is going down. All the time we have to keep the entry free.

“It is quite difficult when you have got a 43 acre site in a conservation area and the Caphouse site is listed and it all has to be maintained.

“We want to make changes and keep improving, but the reason we get the government money is because we are a unique 19th century colliery.

“If you go too far you stop being that and become another leisure attraction. It is a big balancing act.”

The Caphouse Colliery and Hope Pit site was chosen over Walton in the 1980s due to its smaller size, one operating shaft and location close to the M62 and M1 motorways, Huddersfield, Leeds and Barnsley.

Since then thousands of school visits and family days out have been made enjoyable thanks to the experienced ex-miners who give underground tours.

The museum received its national status in 1995 and in recent years has opened a new underground classroom so children can relive what working conditions were like for Victorians.

It also restored a furnace shaft with glazed floor so visitors can look down the 130-metre drop to the pit face.

Dr Faull said it is just as important now as it has ever been for the museum to keep educating future generations.

She said: “Coal mining was the basis of the industrial revolution and, along with wool, was the industry of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is very important for the history of the area.

“It has been a bit of a battle but we are still here and going from strength to strength.”