‘Mining life will never leave us’

Ian Castledine took images of Kellingley Colliery for a website documenting the pit.
Ian Castledine took images of Kellingley Colliery for a website documenting the pit.

December 18, 2015 was the end of Big K and the end of deep mining in Britain.

“There were a lot of emotions running high that day,” said Peter Wordsworth, 49, who was assistant manager of Kellingley Colliery at the time.

“We knew it was going to close on the 18th and we were preparing for our final shift.

“We felt like we were waiting for someone to rip the floor from under our feet. It was inevitably going to happen but we always hoped somebody would turn around and say they didn’t really mean it.

“I personally felt privileged and proud to be one of the lucky few who got the opportunity to work right through to the end of the country’s last coal mine closing.

“To see grown men cry, proud of their work but sad to see the end, it was humbling.”

Ian Castledine, who works in the rail industry, travelled more than 50 miles from Ripley in Derbyshire to see the colliery and its workers on their last day.

The 51-year-old, who comes from a long line of mining and railway workers and photographs industrial mines all over the UK, said: “Never in my lifetime did I think that I would see the end of deep mining. I grabbed my camera and I shot up to Kellingley.”

The day played heavily on his mind and he penned a heartfelt letter to mine manager Shaun McLoughin explaining he wanted to produce a permanent reminder of “the last of the last”.

He toured the site in January and has since created a photographic website, showing the colliery’s many rooms and industrial machinery.

“My concern was after it shut, the pit would just disappear and there would be no trace of a modern mine”, he said. “This website is to the men, the mine, the whole industry. The end of Kellingley needed to be marked with something special.”

Many of the 450 Big K workers who lost their jobs with its closure, knew of no other industry. And General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers Chris Kitchen said it had been a difficult year, as they adapted to life without the pits.

He said: “Most of the men have been transitioning to working in other industries. It’s a different environment but they’re doing well.”

Mr Wordsworth, who had worked in coal mining since 1986, was offered a job at the National Coal Mining Museum in September, where he now runs underground tours.

“Mining has been my grandad’s life, my dad’s life and my life,” he said. “It’s not just a job it’s a way of life and it never leaves you.

“Now, I can still descend into the bowels of a pit and I’m honoured to be able to share my mining experience with others.”