National Lottery - Celebrating Science and Education

Posted on by Anita O'Donovan

In celebration of the National Lottery’s 25th birthday, we’re saying #ThanksToYou for all of the continued support that we’ve received over the years to help with the development of the museum.

Of all the changes across site, one of the most significant (and long running) has been the development of Hope Pit, transforming it from a space that wasn’t even accessible to the public into what it is today.

The establishment of Hope Pit

Before its redevelopment, the small scale of Hope Pit’s remaining buildings was typical of many small, rural, 19th century collieries. It is believed that the Hope Pit shaft began in the late 1820s, but very little is known about the early site.

Hope Pit was first developed in the late 1820s. The owner of Caphouse, Sir John Lister Kaye, commissioned John Blenkinsop to lay out a new pit. Blenkinsop was an experienced mining engineer, perhaps best known for his work with early steam locomotives at the Middleton railway, Leeds.

A development of Hope Pit

In June 2001, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a major grant to overhaul the surface of the National Coal Mining Museum. Part of this project was to redevelop Hope Pit and for the first time, open the buildings at this end of site to the public.

Previously, Hope Pit was maintained by Kirklees Metropolitan Council and ownership was transferred to the Museum in 2004 once the restoration works were completed.

All the historic buildings at Hope Pit were repaired and the site landscaped. 

This project included the construction of a purpose-built store now known as the Power House. This building was designed to house some of the large objects from the Museum’s historic collections and was home to a new conservation lab which became the centre for object conservation onsite.

The Hope Pit scheme was opened in May 2005 by TV presenter and mathematician, Johnny Ball. Mr Ball grew up in the Lancashire coalfield, performing in many Miners Welfares and on the day, held science workshops with children from nearby schools including Gilthwaites at Denby Dale.

The advances of Hope Pit

The science behind mining has underpinned Hope Pit, as the historic buildings on the surface played vital roles in supporting the mining underground.  This of course includes the need to pump water out of the mine.

During the period 2002 to 2006, a joint project was set up (with the Coal Authority, the Mineral Industry Research Organisation, ECS and Human Dynamics) focusing on the management and monitoring of water pumped from underground.

An innovative water treatment plant was installed including settling tanks and new reed bed technology. This treats the potentially toxic water that needs to be pumped out of the mine, keeping the underground tour open.

This work was partly funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (along with several other partners) and included new displays about the project and about the science of coal mining at Hope Pit.

Hope Pit Today

Currently, the team are working on an Heritage Lottery Fund project called Coalfield Conversations. This project hopes to bring together the site as a whole through new interpretation, signage and interactions (you can read a little more about it on our previous blog post here). 

Hope Pit represents the mechanics of mining. The buildings and the displays within, deal with some of the most vital functions of pit, namely ventilation, pumping, power, transportation and machinery repair.

Through the HLF’s funding, new displays and interpretation will better contextualise these roles within Hope Pit.  Better signage will allow visitors to navigate what has previously been something of a hidden gem.


As a big thank you for all the ways the National Lottery's funding helps support the museum, we will be having a special offer of a free tea/filter coffee in the cafe plus a free copy of Coal Faces Mining Lives: Portraits of an Industry and Its People by Imogen D Townsend from 23 November to 1 December, as well as a tour of our newest exhibition, Digging Deep by its curator, Norma Gregory on Saturday 30th November 2019 at 11am and 1pm. Anyone who visits and presents any National Lottery ticket on these days will be able to take up this special offer. For more details, see


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