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Section 3: Pit villages – the mining community
TOPIC SECTION:
Pit villages – the mining community
Coalfield culture was most visible in isolated communities where the pit, as sole employer, reigned supreme over the lives of miners and their families. To the outsider, these communities appeared alien.
Picture: 03_1983-5236_A1351.jpg
View of the mid-Rhonda Valley, showing long rows of terraced houses.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 This sense of coalfield culture was diluted in areas where the pit was not of primary importance, tending instead to be concentrated on the workplace rather than the community as a whole.

Interdependence between the pit and home was most apparent in the provision of tied housing to attract workers to the area, but it was not all grimy terraces. Some coal companies provided model housing and when the industry was nationalised the newly formed National Coal Board inherited a large housing stock,

Some take their mining heritage as the bedrock for a new future, with preserved winding wheels and memorials to miners

 which it continued to rent out well into the 1970s. From the 1920s, coalmining areas were singled out by the state for welfare provision from a levy on coal production.This provided welfare halls, libraries, sports grounds and baths, and was a recognition that mining communities were uniquely deserving.

Today, those coal mining communities that are still rooted in their past are forced to look for a new direction. Some take their mining heritage as the bedrock for a new future, with preserved winding wheels and memorials to miners. Others put mining behind them and forge a new identity divorced from the past.Community identity is never fixed, and the culture of the coalfields has evolved over time.
Picture: 03_P6354.jpg
Clipstone Colliery NUM branch banner showing a family in the shadow of the pit.
Credit: Copyright © National Coal Mining Museum for England
 The strength of coal mining communities was forged through interdependence, isolation and danger, but a culture where life-preserving knowledge is handed down through the generations can be slow to accept change.

Many former mining communities are keen to accept the solid virtues that they identify from their past. This is not just an exercise in nostalgia. It is recognition that a culture that transcended a dirty, dangerous and brutalising industry grew from living and working in the shadow of the pit. While new communities may strive to build on that heritage, it is hard to believe that coal culture can, or should, survive the decline of the industry. The pit held communities together, for good or ill. Without the pit this culture, already fading, must eventually wane and die.
 
 
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Inherent dangers of underground working
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The pressures and traditions of working life underground produced a coal culture. However health and safety legislation transformed the industry forever and now threatens the future of deep mining altogether.  > more

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Conflict & solidarity
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Teamwork was crucial to the safe operation of the mine. This team spirit was carried over into industrial relations but the 1984–85 miners’ strike tore apart the National Union of Mineworkers and divided coalmining communities.  > more
 
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