Chesterfield Walking Festival – Markham Colliery, The Story Mine

Wendy Stevenson with support from Sandra Struggles led a special walk open to the public as part of the Chesterfield Walking Festival. Here is Wendy’s account of the walk:

“21 walkers set out from the Markham Environment Centre on the 6th day of 2019’s Chesterfield Walking Festival.  All were thrilled to be handed a new trail leaflet hot off the press, showing where all the Markham miner commemorative figures are situated.  Sandra Struggles gave us biographical anecdotes about the families most severely affected by the 3 disasters and we paid our respects to victims of the disasters and other coal mining accidents in the Rectory Road Cemetery.  The mining mural in Duckmanton was obscured by scaffolding for maintenance but we had the unexpected bonus of receiving an impromptu invitation into the Duckmanton Methodist Chapel when the cleaner inside heard us talking about “tin tabernacles” outside.  The foundation stones around the outside of the chapel are plaques dedicated to former local dignitaries active in the mining industry and the local Methodist movement.  

We saw other reminders of coal mining activity at many points along the way, including a new memorial at Poolsbrook to Poolsbrook miners who died in the 1938 Markham disaster.  We saw the Markham pit winding wheel at Poolsbrook Country Park and compared a present day Ordnance Survey map with a 1938 map to locate exactly where Ireland Colliery used to be.  When Ireland Colliery closed, it was merged with Markham and so became Markham shaft no. 5.  We looked at old photos of Markham Lane and perused a diagram showing the locations of its 4 shafts.  

Tea, courtesy of the Markham Environment Centre staff at the end of our 5-mile walk, was most appreciated while Sandra showed the walkers her history display board and the heritage project awards recently won at Barrow Hill. 

Many of the walkers said they would return either on their own or with other walking groups, having been moved by the harrowing stories of the disaster victims and inspired by the resilience of the old communities.  Just as the old miners walked together to and from the colliery so did today’s hikers follow in their ghostly footsteps.”