Points West Archive Films
Forest of Dean: 1965
The Forest of Dean was shaped, in part, by mining. Many of the pits closed in the 1960s, such as the Northern United Colliery and BBC Points West spent time with the miners to gauge their reaction.
When an area becomes famous for its industry it somehow makes it more difficult to accept the loss when that industry comes to an end.
Ship-building, railways and other forms of heavy industry carry with them a culture peculiar to each one and it is easy to become dewy-eyed when we reflect on what we have lost.
But for those working in the deep, dark, subterranean world of the colliery, any hint of nostalgia is quickly swept aside – this is hard, tough, work, where there is no room for sentimentality.
Northern United miner
And yet, for the men of the Northern United Colliery, when asked by BBC Points West about the pit's closure in 1965, a sentimental streak lurks beneath their seemingly matter-of-fact nature – like a seam of black gold running below the surface of some hardened landscape.
And when you stop to consider how one man there had worked the pit for 49 years, it forcibly drives home the notion that mining was their life and their life was mining.
In fact, in the mid-nineteenth century, it was said there were more men working below ground than there were working above - not surprising when you consider there were more than 300 workings in the Forest of Dean area alone.
BBC Points West's film from 1965 takes a look at the new hi-tech industry that located to the Forest of Dean, attracted by grants and the availability of labour.
Factories in the Forest of Dean
Those tempted (if they were eligible) to become 'freeminers' of the Forest of Dean might have pursued such a career but with increased health and safety legislation and opportunities to leave the area altogether to look for work, it seemed even that option was not a particularly safe bet.
Nearly forty years on, and the old colliery remains a monument to the Forest of Dean mining industry.
In 1999, this part of the Forest's history was marked by the creation of a memorial sculpture – dedicated to 'Northern United's Last Deep Mine of Dean'.
The eight metre steel structure, designed by Philip Bews and Diane Gorvin depicts the mine shaft complete with winding gear and four miners descending in the 'cage'.
Miner's cottages and washing
In 2003, a controversial proposal was put forward by the South West Redevelopment Agency to redevelop the site, and people living nearby responded, expressing their concern at the idea of loosing a piece of important industrial heritage.
Maurice Bent one of the last miners to leave the colliery when it closed in 1965 told the BBC: "I feel that it is our heritage. The atmosphere here was one of comradeship.
"There were six miners who died here and these buildings should be saved as part of our industrial heritage. It must not be flattened."
last updated: 21/01/2009 at 13:29
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Minette Maley(nee Parry)