June 8 2011: Guide To The Coalfields: East Midlands Division (Colliery Guardian, 1956)
The events of 1984, when the Miners’ Strike took place, are still raw in many of the coalfields described by these maps. Yet the damage done is also starkly noted and when the active pits named on the 24 separate maps below, as taken from the 1956 edition of the Colliery Guardian’s Guide To The Coalfields, are compared to their present equivalents the numbers still operational are, I’d imagine, at levels that would have seemed inconceivable at the time. When the scale of the closures is seen on maps like these, it doesn’t seem credible that such a key industry should have so abruptly vanished even now, almost three decades on.
Indeed, it was only the other day, while thinking about that, that I realised (with a shudder) there is now a greater temporal distance between today and the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 than there was between that event and Clement Atlee’s victory in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. This means that the dismantling of the post-war settlement has – at this precise moment – been going on for longer than the building of it. As we appear to be entering an accelerated phase in that dismal and seemingly ongoing process, it may be worth looking again at the maps here, since much of what they represent has now been erased from the landscape and official memory alike.
With regard to the publication itself, incidentally, Guide To The Coalfields 1956 is a volume rich in suggestive lost history, industry advertising (some of which may appear here another day) and maps like these covering the whole of the National Coal Board’s operations for that year, and as such it’s well worth a look. This particular copy was pulled from a box of random books and magazines at Colwick Racecourse one Sunday morning a few weeks ago and although I’d initially had Robert Holcombe in mind when buying it, the contents and generally good condition have ensured it will be remaining intact.
Click on the thumbnails below to see the larger version of each map: