The National Coal Mining Museum invites the local community to take part in the Caphouse Colliery Coal Race as part of their #Nationalisation70 commemorations

The Caphouse Colliery Coal Race is a traditional coal-carrying race for men, women and children. The Museum is inviting local people to come along on Saturday 27th May, take part and show their strength and stamina!

Inspired by the Gawthorpe World Coal Carrying Championships which take place every year on Easter Monday and as part of the Museum’s year-long commemoration of the Nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, the Museum is set to revive the days of the coalmen in the unique setting of Caphouse Colliery near Wakefield.

The Coal Race will take place at the start of the Spring Bank school holidays on Saturday 27th May and people interested in taking part can contact the Museum now on 01924 848806 to book places as applications are now open. More information about applications can be found on the Museum’s website on the What’s On Page.

The adult race is an 800m race from Caphouse Colliery to Hope Pit.

The children's & youth races are approximately 100m long.

First race starts at 11:00am

Men carry 30kg of coal, women 15kg, youths (15-17) 10kg and children (11-14) 5kg.

Children: Goody Bags
Youth: £10/£7.50/£5.00
Adult: £75/£50/£25
All entrants will receive a commemorative certificate.

Children (11-14): £1
Youths (15-17): £2
Adults: £7.50

The days of the coalmen

In the days after the war when coal was still the main fuel in homes, coal deliveries would have been a common site around the area. Coalmen were a tough breed – they would arrive at the coal yard early in the morning to load and deliver coal. Typically the load would be up to 6 tons of coal and coalite. They would start by shovelling the coal into the sack, and then lift it on to the other coalman's back. The lorry would be loaded until full. Next might come a hearty breakfast before the delivery round started.

Delivery sometimes involved delivering inside houses, even upstairs, or down an alleyway round to the back of houses and into the garden to tip a sack into a coal bunker. When they had delivered the entire load, they would go back to the yard, load up another 5 to 6 tons, fuel up their own bodies and then go out and deliver again.

The coalman’s job was really tough & meant they were out in all weathers.

Shaun McLoughlin Head of Engagement and Collections at the Coal Mining Museum comments “Part of our commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the coal industry has been to put on a special event each month that transports visitors back to the late 1940s/early 1950s. The coalmen would have been a part of daily life back then and we thought it would be great for the Museum to stage its very own Coal Carrying Race against the backdrop of the pit. We’re expecting it to be a very popular event so we are asking people to get their applications in as there are limited places! There will be lots to see and do for all ages around the Museum that day so we hope people will come and visit.”

The annual tradition of a Coal Carrying Race in the area

At the century-old Beehive Inn situated in Gawthorpe the following incident took place one day in 1963. Reggie Sedgewick and one Amos Clapham, a local coal merchant and current president of the Maypole Committee were enjoying some well-earned liquid refreshment whilst stood at the bar lost in their own thoughts. When in bursts one Lewis Hartley in a somewhat exuberant mood. On seeing the other two he said to Reggie,” Ba gum lad tha’ looks buggered!” slapping Reggie heartily on the back. Whether because of the force of the blow or because of the words that accompanied it, Reggie was just a little put out. ‘’ Ah’m as fit as thee’’ he told Lewis, ‘’an’ if tha’ dun’t believe me gerra a bagga coil on thi back an ‘ah’ll get one on mine an ‘ah’ll race thee to t’ top o’ t’ wood!’’ (Coil, let me explain is Yorkshire speak for coal). While Lewis digested the implications of this challenge a Mr. Fred Hirst, Secretary of the Gawthorpe Maypole Committee (and not a man to let a good idea go to waste) raised a cautioning hand. ” ‘Owd on a minute,’’ said Fred and there was something in his voice that made them all listen. ‘Aven’t we been looking fer some’at to do on Easter Monday? If we’re gonna ‘ave a race let’s ‘ave it then. Let’s ‘ave a coil race from Barracks t’ Maypole.’’(The Barracks being the more common name given by the locals to The Royal Oak Public House)

Thus was born The World Coal Carrying Championships!


For information about the ‘Caphouse Colliery Coal Race’ visit

For more information about the Nationalisation Exhibition visit


For press information, images and interview requests please contact Sarah White at the National Coal Mining Museum for England on 01924 844566; email:

Editor’s notes
• The Museum is free admission
• Some individual events will incur a charge
• Free car and coach parking
• Opening hours: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm daily except for 24-26 December and 1 January
• Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times
• Please arrive early to book onto an underground tour, as at busy periods tours are often fully booked by midday
• Temperature underground is 12C; we strongly recommend warm practical clothing and sensible flat shoes.
• Unfortunately children under five years old are not permitted on the underground tour
• Indoor play area for children under five
• Disabled facilities include level parking, ramp and disabled toilets with accessible underground tours which can be arranged by prior arrangement

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