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Is Bit Pit an accurate representation of work and life in mining communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

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Introduction

Is Bit Pit an accurate representation of work and life in mining communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? The Big Pit was first developed in the mid 19th century to provide coal to the Blaenavon Ironworks, and then later provided steam coal for the domestic and export. Big Pit was originally called Kearley's Pit. It got its nickname, 'Big Pit', from the size of its elliptical shaft, which at 5.5 by 4.6 was the first in the area that was wide enough to wind 2 trams side by side. The numbers of men working in Big Pit grew rapidly, and by 1908 there were 1,122 men employed. This number gradually decreased until by 1970 the workforce numbered as low as 494 men. Steam coal was in high demand in London, and the North Western Railways were regular customers. Steam coal was also exported world wide. In 1945 Bit Pit became part of the National Coal Board. The last coal face stopped work in November 1979, and the colliery closed in February 1980 due to being uneconomic. The purpose of Big Pit being opened as a museum was to show how the coal was mined and aspects of community life. ...read more.

Middle

One guide told us they used a candle until the late 19th century. There were two routes we could enter on the tour and we went down the earlier one so we were able to see aspects of the late 19th/early 20th century. The collier at this time worked in the pillar and stall system. In this system, the stall was the area of coal hewed, cut and field into drams by the collier and his assistant, while pillars of solid coal were left to support the roof. The mining guide showed us the tools that were used in the pit such as the mandrill, hatchet and curling box. The full set of miner's clothes and tools were set out in the exhibition. We were unable to take anything containing a dry cell battery from watches to mobile phones through the pit as the dangers of the mine are real even though the mine is no longer a working one. The safety posters on the stages of Carbon Monoxide poisoning serve as museum pieces and as real reminders of the dangers of being underground. Bit Pit cannot represent work and life in a mining community accurately. I consider source 9, written by Kath Davies who was writing an essay called 'Cleaning up the Coalface and Doing out the Kitchen: the interpretation ...read more.

Conclusion

I consider the people of the community to be the weakest point of the museum because it just seems to consist of posters and files with a few artefacts. There was some emphasis on women's work and children, but these examples did not come from Blaenavon. For better information on things like this, it would be better to visit the Rhondda Heritage Centre or visiting the town of Blaenavon itself. Conclusion Big Pit has re-created the way mining life would have been very well. By having an underground tour and a virtual mine it has brought learning about the coal industry to a whole new level. It has incorporated learning and fun to make history more interesting and gives a better understanding of how life would have been by actually being in the pit rather than learning about it. However, the people of the community part of the museum is a downfall for Big Pit as it is mainly made up of posters, sound effects, files of information and a select few artefacts which makes it quite difficult to follow or take information in. Source 1 and 8 back up that the underground tour is the best part of the experience as I have said in section one. ...read more.

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