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Rare journal from Elsecar Old Colliery has been found
Elsecar Old Colliery journal
The journal was donated by a historian to Barnsley Archives and Local Studies

A glimpse into Barnsley's rich coal-mining history has been made possible with the donation of a rare hand-written journal dating back to 1839.

The book, labelled 'Elsecar Old Colliery', was rescued 30 years ago from a warehouse which was being cleared out.

The journal records details of individual labourers and their wages.

It has now been given to Barnsley Archives and Local Studies.

The donor, a historian himself, has asked to remain anonymous. He found the book when going through items which were being cleared from a warehouse in Barnsley and decided to preserve it.

He eventually moved away from South Yorkshire but later heard about plans for the new archives centre due to open in 2012 and decided to donate the book.

Paul Stebbing, archives officer for Barnsley, said:

"The initial reaction was extremely excited. It is not often something so rich in history gets donated.

"Often the papers which are given are high level administrative records, such as accounts.

"This is a day book, detailing individual miners and their wages.

"It tells us how many people were working at the mine, exactly what they were paid, the amount of coal being extracted, the breakdown between men and boys, some of them quite young boys."

For example, on February 7, 1839, labourer Benjamin Guest was paid one pound and eight shillings for twelve days work.

In comparison, young James Allott, a horse boy, was paid just ten shillings for the same number of days.

Elsecar Old Colliery was started around 1750. By 1757 there were eight small pits in and around Elsecar Green, operated by a handful of men.

Interior shot of journal
The journal is available for inspection at Barnsley Archives

The colliery was substantially expanded in the 1790s with the addition of steam winding engines, and by 1848 the pit was employing 87 men and boys.

Renamed Elsecar High Colliery, it continued to be worked until 1888 when the seam was exhausted.

However, coal mining continued in Elsecar until 1984, when the closure of Elsecar Main ended 230 years of mining in the village.

The journal is available for people to request at Barnsley Archives and Local Studies, which is on the top floor of the Central Library in Shambles Street.

According to Paul Stebbing it could provide useful information for people who want to research their family history:

"We get a lot of users interested in family history and you could take the list of names in this journal and use other information in the archives to find out more about them, where they lived for example."

The journal is being transcribed with the aim of making it available online before Christmas 2010.

It will also be put on display in the new museum and archive centre in Barnsley, scheduled to open in the Town Hall in 2012.

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