Hatfield Main Miner's Welfare Hall
This page has two articles:
The second article is a more detailed look at the history of the Welfare, by Peter Dumville.
The Hatfield Main Miner's Welfare Hall was demolished in 2000. The scene of so many trials and tribulations which affected Stainforth's mining community, the hall will be long remembered by the miners and their families.
Paid for from the miners own funds, the hall was well furnished
and comprised of a well equipped kitchen, the main hall and a billiard
room. The billiard room was occupied by two full sized tables and was
given access to the kitchen via a serving hatch, as was the main hall.
Meeting rooms and modern toilets and washroom facilities were also provided.
Throughout the 1930's the village doctor, Dr Robert Anderson, wrote plays, in which the miners who were part of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade would participate, and which provided entertainment for the people of Stainforth. Known simply as, "Dr. Anderson's concerts", the plays were an annual feature of village life.
The hall served as a central point for the miner's union, the N.U.M, and before that the Yorkshire Mineworker's Association, and meetings were held there regularly. At times of crisis the hall would see miners gathering to vote and decide on the course of action to be taken. Such a meeting occurred in 1984, after vans and cars equipped with loudspeakers called the miners to assemble at the welfare hall. British Coal had announced the closure of Corton Wood, which sparked the bitter year long miner's strike of '84-'85.
Throughout the following year and into the spring of '85, and mainly thanks to voluntary contributions, the hall served as a meeting point and food distribution hall for Stainforth's miners and their families.
The leader of the N.U.M,. Arthur Scargill visited Stainforth and spoke at the hall on several occasions. Many visitors from mining communities around the world came to speak at the hall, and those who didn't speak English brought interpreters with them in order to get their message across.
Besides being the headquarters of the Hatfield Main N.U.M., the hall's main function was as a Working Men's Club. Several times a week the hall would be filled with people and the sound of the visiting "turn" would reverberate around the walls.
An athletics track was built some years ago, but the building which serves as changing rooms etc. suffers from mindless attacks of vandalism on a regular basis.
Neglected for many years, the hall eventually went the way of many Stainforth's other landmarks and was the target of arsonist on several occasions.
Now there is just a bare patch of ground where the hall once stood. The neglected bowling greens are left open to view from the road, allowing the breeze to tumble litter across their once immaculately maintained swards, now patchy and weed ridden. The click of the woods has been silenced forever, replaced by the hushing wind. It blows mournfully through the burned-out pavilion, whispering about memories of finer days, and maybe carrying with it the echoes of the miners who have long since departed.
The Hatfield Main Miner's Welfare Hall
The Rise and Fall of the Hatfield Main Welfare Scheme.
Work began in 1911 on a new Colliery at Stainforth, it was named Hatfield Main Colliery. Despite the 1st World War and numerous Geological problems full production was attained in 1921. For the pleasure and recreation of Miners and their families it was decided to develop an area where children could play safely and older people had opportunities to play various Sports, competitively if they wished.
The 1st Hatfield Main Welfare committee was formed in 1922 and it received £5,000 from the South Yorkshire Welfare Committee to buy 11 acres of land called The Tofts which were situated next to the present Church Road Stainforth. Tenders were let for the various sections of the Welfare in October 1924 and, surprisingly, as early as May 1925 the youngsters sandpit, swings, paddling pool and the hard Tennis courts were being used enthusiastically! The following year a Bowling green and the grass Tennis courts were officially opened and soon afterwards Hatfield Main Cricket Club who had been formed in 1912 started to play their matches in the Doncaster Cricket League. In 1928 Hatfield Main Football Club, formed in 1913, played their 1st matches on the grounds in the Doncaster Senior League.
Further grants of around £6,000 were allocated in 1927 for the construction of a Concert Hall and Billiard room on the Stainforth site and the purchase and development of Childrens playgrounds on Broadway, Dunscroft. Hence, the initial Capital Expenditure of the scheme amounted to approximately £11,000.
The whole scheme was officially opened in December 1928. At the Ceremony Mr Herbert Smith, the President of the Miners Federation of Great Britain, gave a speech stating the great evil in the coal industry of 1928 was its suicidal competition and he advocated pit head baths which eventually came to Hatfield Main in 1934. Interestingly he also advocated pensions for aged miners because at this time, incredibly 27,000 men over 65 years were still working in the mines and 7,000 over 70 years! He said many of these men should now be receiving pensions , not only 10 shillings a week but something they could go to the shop with! As a comparison Mr Smith said a policeman retired after 25 years of service and got a pension of £13 per month. And he, generally, got another job!! At the end of the ceremony a concert and dance followed.
The facilities both indoors and outdoors were very well used and were the main centre of activity for Stainforth residents. In 1932 over 2,000 people watched the final of the Pit Knock out football competition and many sports days were held on the grounds, as they are today. Because of increasing demand a 2nd bowling green was added in 1937.
In November 1953 after an extensive re-fit and reorganisation the Concert Hall and Billiard room were renamed the Hatfield Miners Welfare Club. 1,000 people enrolled in the 1st 10 days. The amenities were on a par with the best anywhere. The Cricket pitch was also overhauled and reseeded at a cost of £1,000.
A major addition to the site occurred in 1962 when an outdoor Swimming pool was opened on the site of the old childrens playground. Originally a £46,000 indoor swimming pool was planned but it was scrapped because of the perceived high annual maintenance costs. The new Swimming pool was financed by donations of £10,000 from Thorne Rural Council, £5,000 from C.I.S.W.O, £10,000 from the Hatfield Main Welfare Club and a grant from the Ministry of Education. 4,000 people including 1,400 schoolchildren used the new swimming pool in the 1st week! The swimming pool was very popular but, unfortunately, very expensive to maintain. Doncaster Council rejected the chance to take it over in 1976 after hearing it would cost £200,000 to cover and heat the pool and £450,000 to integrate the whole structure under 1 roof. Unfortunately, severe maintenance problems began to appear and it opened for the last time in 1989. The following year the pool was filled in.
During the 1960s the grounds were becoming less popular because of the large number of alternative attractions, peoples way of life changing and the improvement of Transport facilities. The original grass Tennis courts made way for the new Stainforth Youth Club building in 1968. However, another sporting facility, adjacent to the Welfare grounds, opened in 1971, i.e Stainforth Athletics Track and Pavilion. This 400 metre track (the only one in Doncaster) was constructed at a cost of £28,000 by Stainforth Parish Council with the aid of grants from C.I.S.W.O, Thorne Rural Council and the Department of the Environment. Amazingly when it was measured a year after it was opened it was found to be about 27 inches short!! It could only happen in Stainforth!! Today the Athletics facilities and Pavilion are a shadow of their former glories because of a lack of investment and vandalism but they could be improved.
Major problems to the Hatfield Miners Scheme began to surface in 1985. At this time Hatfield miners paid 25p/year and 5p/week which raised around £3,000/year. Unfortunately, the fixed bills came to around £10,000/year and therefore an appeal was made for everyone to use the Welfare facilities more. However, debts continued to mount and in June 1989 Hatfield Main Miners Welfare Club closed. Soon afterwards the premises were reopened as The Ridings Private members club but in 1995 this, also, closed. Due to continued vandalism the building was demolished completely in 2000.
As a result of cash grants from a number of bodies £150,000 of improvements were made to the Stainforth Welfare grounds in 1991/1992. For Example a new all weather floodlit multi sports area, irrigation for the Bowling green and Cricket pitch, new childrens play area on the site of the old Swimming Pool etc. These improvements met with limited success but did not really stop the gradual decline of the grounds and almost inevitably the Bowls team had to resign from their League in 2000 because of vandalism and 2 years later the Bowls Pavilion and irrigation system were demolished. A ray of hope in the form of a new B.M.X track opened in 2003 but will this last? Today, Hatfield Main Cricket Club still continues to use the grounds along with several Stainforth football teams and the Athletics Club but the grounds are certainly underdeveloped and large scale investment is urgently needed.
The History of the Hatfield Miners Welfare Scheme is
very interesting, particularly to all of us born in Stainforth! However,
the question always remains why were such brilliant facilities so badly
neglected, could they ever return?