Sat 1st October 2022, Freeminers AGM, held at the Speech House
Freeminers Association met to discuss matters arising during the year and elected officers for 2022/23
The new Executive Committee for 2022/3 are:
President: Jonathan Wright
Chairman: Richard Daniels MBE
Secretary: Jason Griffiths
Treasurer: Philip Schwarz
Unveiling the Waterloo Monument
Saturday 26th March 2022 at 11 am the Freeminers Association held a moving ceremony to unveil the newly completed Waterloo Colliery monument that was created to remember the Colliery and the men who worked in it. They became engulfed by a terrible incident that took place on 30th June 1949, when the colliery became catastrophically flooded. The men working underground broke into flooded workings of the adjacent East Slad colliery, causing a massive inrush of water. By quick thinking from the colliers and officials working underground, combining with the speed of surface staff to realise the situation, they worked together to ensure that all the 182 men (some working miles underground) made it safely to the surface. It required bravery, presence of mind and ingenuity to save everyone. The men worked together to make the dangerous journey and everyone was eventually saved, they even brought out the mine cat which has been included on the wonderful plaque created by internationally renowned sculptor Antony Dufort. The plaque was cast in resin and a beautiful script carved beneath by artist Dorota Rapacz.
We were fortunate that the monument could be jointly unveiled by Nick Gibson (representing Eric Morris, who worked at Waterloo until it closed and who proposed creating a monument several years before he passed away). We were also fortunate to have the monument jointly unveiled by the Waterloo Colliery surveyor Paul Morgan (now 90 years old).
The unveiling introduction was made by Association chairman Rich Daniels. Antony Dufort thanked those who contributed valuable information to create the work and bring it to reality.
The plaque was cast in resin by artist Dorota Rapacz incorporating a black pigment made from coal collected from the actual Waterloo tip, that had been mined by colliers before the pit closed. So the plaque contains coal mined from the colliery. Neil Jones (Freeminer) made the steel armature supporting the plaque. Neil and his wife Caroline, also made the cloth and rope support for the unveiling.
ME Damsells made the expertly engraved granite to the back of the monument. Kristian Warren (Freeminer and owner 'Set in Stone') built the excellent supporting wall for the monument. The stone used is blue and grey pennant sandstone from the coal measures, mainly from the quarry run by Harry Cole (Freeminers Association) and also from Forest of Dean Stone Firms.
Beside Antony and Dorota who provided the incredible artworks, the Freeminers' Association would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their grant towards the monument and The Foresters Forest for their support during the process. The Association would also like to thank the Coal Authority, Forestry Commission and Forest of Dean District Council for their various permissions required to create the monument. We would like to thank Forestry England for their adoption of the finished monument.
The Association particularly wish to thank Robert Morgan (Lydbrook Band secretary) and members of Lydbrook Brass Band for providing such moving and exhilarating playing during the event. Also grateful thanks to those who have tirelessly helped with the realisation of the monument and to all those that attended the unveiling. We hope the monument represents a suitable reminder of the colliery and men that worked it, especially remembering the risks colliers face on a daily basis - even today, that traumatically became a reality at Waterloo.
Arthur and Edward colliery gale was operated from the late 1830's until it finally closed in December 1959. The colliery was known locally as the Waterloo Pit. On the 30th of June 1949 water was noticed running from the face which had been advancing towards nearby old workings. The quick action of the underground officials ensured the men were making their way out as the inrush began to flood the colliery workings with 182 men still underground. It is to the massive credit and hard work of the men that everyone was rescued and the the colliery pumps could be restarted after only a few days. The colliery was eventually dewatered, so they only lost two weeks before the colliery could resume production.
National Association of Mining History Organisations (NAMHO)
Annual Conference, Dean Field Study Centre, Parkend, 2-4th June 2018.
Chairman of the Freeminers' Association, Rich Daniels, delivers a talk about the Future of Freemining to the well attended Lectures of the National Association of Mining History Organisations (NAMHO 2018) Conference at Dean Field Study Centre Parkend, in June 2018.
Richard's talk discussed the position of Freemining in the Forest of Dean today and changes being implemented to increase the interest and stability of Freemining for future generations.
Mining focussed talks, over the weekend, were wide ranging and even included a comparison of the Butty systems that operated in Pennsylvania, Durham and the Forest of Dean, presented by Dr Robert Wolensky, Professor of History, King’s College, Pennsylvania, USA. A fascinating talk was given by Roger Deeks about Arthur Clifford's pivotal role in running rescue services on the Western Front during the First World War, for which he had been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) and his time running the Mines Rescue Service in the Forest of Dean. Freeminer Royston Pritchard gave a short description of the Proto apparatus he was trained to use, and spoke of his time training under Mr Clifford, at the Cinderford Mines Rescue Station in Dockham Road; where Clifford set up and ran the Forest of Dean Mines Rescue Service until he retired in 1959, he died at the Dilke Hospital in 1961.
Maternity Unit in the Forest again?
A bold move to restore Freemining rights to future Foresters has won unanimous support from Forest of Dean District Council.
The ongoing restructuring of health services in the Forest of Dean has led to a call for a maternity birthing room to restore freemining rights to future Forest children.
Cllr Di Martin won unanimous support at last week’s meeting of the full district council, for a motion calling on Gloucestershire Care Services and the Acute Trust to establish new birthing facilities within ‘the Hundred of St Briavels’.
This follows the ancient rights of anyone born within the Hundred to become a freeminer, a tradition that appeared to have died with the closure of the maternity unit at the Dilke in the 1980s.
Cllr Martin said: “The health services in the Forest are in a state of flux at the moment with the proposed closure of the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals and the building of a new GP surgery in Cinderford. “So I think this is the right time to consider the re-introduction of some sort of birthing facility. “I am aware that there are not the resources for a full maternity unit but I would like to see a birthing facility or even just a birthing room supported by midwives to give local women the chance to give birth to their own little Foresters. “I know it’s a dream but maybe it’s time to push forward to reinstate foresters’ rights.”
Maurice Bent, a Forest of Dean Verderer and former miner, saId: “This is fantastic news. It would have a huge cultural impact on the Forest and would be very popular."
-article in the Forester, 18th July 2018
Oakdale Colliery visit 1988.
A photograph from the last Mine Deputy course held at Cinderford in 1987. After the course, Freeminer Dave Tuffley arranged a memorable visit down Oakdale Colliery in 1988, the colliery was sadly closed shortly afterwards. The colliery encountered geological problems just after investing £3,000,000 on equiping the new coal face. The colliery went out of their way to make us very welcome during the extensive underground trip and a brass Freeminers' plaque was presented to mark the visit. This photo is of some miners from that last Deputy course and a couple that came along for the trip.
Back row: L-R Clive Hinton, Mike Howell, Dave Tuffley, John Hine, Cyril Hinton, Les Tuffley (Dave's Dad), Phil Willets, Nick Bull.
Front row: Oakdale and NACODS representative and Training Officer (both wearing orange overalls).