By Colin Varrall
Following several delays and almost three years after it had originally been hoped to launch, the Kent Mining Museum and visitor centre at Betteshanger Country Park was officially opened with a special ceremony on Saturday, April 2.
The museum was opened with the attendance of almost 200 guests, who had all been invited from Kent Mining communities associated with the heritage of the Kent Coalfield.
Prior to the opening ceremony, children from Aylesham Primary School and Elvington Eythorne Community Primary School led a parade of the guests around the new museum and visitor centre building, holding banners that they had made for the event.
The opening speech for the ceremony was read by Mark Quinn, Chairman and CEO of Quinn Estates, who introduced Stuart Elgar, Chairman of the Kent Mining Museum Foundation. Mr Elgar gave a speech, before giving his thanks to all the people and different groups that have been involved with the museum.
Guests at the opening were the first people to see the displays and exhibits in the new £1.7 million museum, which had been funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. One of the permanent displays includes four original small gauge colliery tubs used at Tilmanstone Colliery and donated by Dover Transport Museum.
The official ribbon cutting was performed by four miners, who worked in each of the four main Kent collieries, John Baldwin (Tilmanstone Colliery), Phil Sutcliffe (Snowdown Colliery), Ross Llewellyn (Chislet Colliery), Jim Davies (Betteshanger Colliery).
Entertainment was provided for all the guests by the Betteshanger Colliery Welfare Band and the Snowdown Colliery Welfare Male Voice Choir.
The state-of-the-art facility is free for all visitors and the first of its kind in the county, with video and audio content from the miners themselves, and the chance for children to dress up in miner’s clothing.
The museum is housed in the new £6million country park’s visitor centre. In addition, there is a mining-themed play area for children and a cafe displaying interior designs inspired by the miners’ materials. Over the next few months there will be a programme of learning activities and events held at the park.
The Kent mining museum was first envisaged by Hadlow College almost 10 years ago, when they first became interested in purchasing Fowlmead Park, near Betteshanger, Deal. The site had originally been the soil heap for Betteshanger Colliery and was developed into a 250-acres country park, established in 2007, by SEEDA after it had been derelict following the closure of Betteshanger Colliery in 1989.
Coal was first discovered in Kent in 1890, but it wasn’t until 1912 that a successful supply was being mined at Snowdown Colliery.
Four main collieries remained open for the majority of the existence of the Kent Coalfield with the establishment of Tilmanstone, Snowdown, Chislet and Betteshanger collieries.
In Thanet Newington estate was created in the 1950s and was originally for local coal miners and their families.
The new Kent Mining Museum will be open to visitors throughout the year from Wednesday to Sunday between 10am to 4pm. There is an underground part of the museum, which is accessible by a lift for wheelchair user and people with other disabilities.
Check the website www.kentminingmuseum.co.uk for all the events and temporary exhibitions.
this looks a great museum , and long overdue . sadly a lot of the men that worked in the mines have passed on since the closure of the kent coalfield , and they will not see it at last .
Looks amazing! I’ve long been fascinated by Kent’s mining history, and the fact that villages such as Aylesham, Hersden and Elvington were built especially to accomodate these “outsiders”.
Fantastic.I t will keep the memories alive. My dad,uncle,and grandad worked there. Am glad its open at last,will have to pay a visit.
Couldn’t make it yesterday due to dreaded covid but happy memories of the families who fought for their jobs and homes against state oppression.the greatest community i have ever met
Margaret Thatcher was clearly a Climate Change pioneer.
Not really Thatcher the milk snatcher closed down the mines to bring in cheaper dirty burning coal from abroad
The reality is that the geology if the Kent Coal Fields was unsuited to the cheap mechanical excavation of coal. Thin seams, frequently offset by faulting, meant that extraction had to take place by hand – a slow, inefficient and expensive process.
On a different topic altogether, the damage that Thatcher did to Britain is still being felt today
If we had any Kent coal fields today, the likelyhood is that we’d have the loony left glueing themselves to roads outside.
No true all 4 collierys were fully mechanized
Does Harold Wilson figure in this State Opression, or does Margaret Thatcher have to take the blame for his closures?
Barry The comments you make a so stupid. State oppression and greatest community ever met. What about your Cliftonville third rate citizens, or have you changed your allegiances for the day. Ahain
well said barry , and yet working class people are still voting tory ? . but i think they are gradualy realising, given thier current financial situation.
I think you’ll find that the Kent pits were closed by a loony Tory.
So happy this is finally open and hope to visit soon.
A wonderful vision from a pioneering dover council , KCC and Hadlow college. Quinn got a rock bottom deal after all the hard work had been done. Credit to Tim Ingelton ,Barbara Cooper, mark dance , mark Lumsdon-Taylor who made this happen
I worked at Chislet as an apprentice fitter until it was closed in 1969. Very happy memories of all the lads.
Labour closed more pits than the tories ever did.
I have just googled and it would appear you are right.
Blair closed 10 and
Gordon Brown was the last to close a deep mine.
Harold Wilson closed far more than Margaret Thatcher.
jack – have a look at kellingley colliery the last one to close , courtesy of the tory government. also re an earlier posting i think you will find the kent coalfield was highly mechanised.
During my time at Snowdown, 74/84, the coal seams were between 4 and 5 feet thick, the ground was short, I,E the roof was uneven and broke away very easily. Much timber had to be used to support the roof before the conveyer could advance.
Some seams up north were about 8 feet thick, roof solid like concrete and generally no timber needed. Other than that, all Kent pits were highly mechanised.