Origins of the Miners Welfare schemes

One of the defining sites of the pit villages and towns of the coal fields of Great Britain were the headstocks and winding gear that dominated the skyline. Not far from these somewhere in the community, it's safe to say, would be a Miners' Welfare hall built and run by the miners for the benefit of the community and their families.

Almost all of these welfare schemes had their origins in the 1920's or 30's and were funded by weekly contributions deducted from the miners' wages, initially to build the schemes and subsequently to run them.

Some of the schemes had the word "institute" in their title, probably an indication that they also had an educational as well as recreational purpose. Whatever their title, they all had one thing in common; they represented the hopes and aspirations of the men who worked in the mines, and their families.

The Colliery at South Wingfield

Wingfield Manor Colliery, or "Oaky" as it was affectionately known because of its proximity to Oakerthorpe, was sunk in 1906 by the Wingfield Manor Colliery Co. and in 1920 it was purchased by the Clay Cross Co. for the princely sum of £5,000. It was one of the few mines to work the Kilburn seam and in 1939 a drift was sunk to work the Low Main and Blackshale seams. It was one of the first mines to install pithead baths in 1932 and during the peak of its production in the early 1950's it produced between 300,000 and 400,000 tonnes per year with a workforce of around 600 men.  It merged with Swanwick Colliery in 1963 before closing in January 1964. Long gone now, there are few signs of "Oaky" ever having existed; the headstocks have gone and the massive slag heap has been landscaped and wooded and now forms a continuation of Shaw Wood.

South Wingfield Miners Welfare

The miners of "Oaky" opened their welfare scheme around 1926 with the help of the Unions and Derbyshire Miners Association. The land for the scheme was purchased from Henry Walker, a local farmer and the Grandfather of a past Chairman. The first facilities included a bowling green with a pavilion / clubhouse, two tennis courts and children's swings.

The club became very popular with miners and their families and soon a larger building was needed and by the early 1930's the building we now use was built. Although popular and well used at that time as a social meeting place, it did not have a bar, something that would come later.  The war years intervened and the scheme did its bit to support the war effort, holding events such as dances, whist drives and war bond auctions with the proceeds going to services charities. After the war there seems to have been a slump in use of the club and it was in danger of closing. Something had to be done!  A meeting was set up in the early 50's and 26 people got together, determined to keep a scheme running. Apparently some of them contributed 5 shillings towards a dart board, things were that bad!  Up to now the scheme was dry, i.e. no bar. Some other schemes were applying for bar licences so the decision was taken to follow suit and South Wingfield Miners Welfare evolved to be a licenced, members only club.

Some people who were responsible for saving the club and moving it forward were:- Jack Smalley - pit manager, Sam Greenhough - union, Albert Pilkington - surface foreman, Ted Hopkins - pit manager, Eric Dennis - club secretary, Arthur Brighouse - club Chairman.  A mention must be made for a special couple, Mr Frank Martin and Miss Eunice Clayton, who worked as steward and stewardess from those early days before retiring in 2003 for a well earned rest after 48 years of unbroken service to the club. The club has gone from strength to strength in the 50 or so years since those uncertain times. It now trades as South Wingfield Social Club under the auspices of the Coal Industries Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO)