Photograph of Markham Colliery (1956-04-28) by National Coal BoardDerbyshire Record Office
In 1882, the Staveley Iron and Coal Company sank its first shaft at Markham Colliery, Derbyshire - named after the company's director Charles Markham. By 1980 it was one of the largest British collieries, employing nearly 2000 miners and 400 surface workers. It closed in 1994.
Staveley Markham Rescue Team (1900/1920) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
The Markham Colliery disasters
More than 200 miners lost their lives in the colliery's 112 year history, but the worst loss of life came from three major disasters. In 1937, 1938 and 1973, 106 miners died, leaving a devastating impact on the community. Some households lost up to three family members at once.
The story of the 1938 disaster
The 1938 disaster, caused by a spark which ignited the coal dust, killed 79 miners.
Aerial view of Markham Colliery in Derbyshire (1933) by National Coal BoardDerbyshire Record Office
The Walking Together Mining Memorial
To commemorate the miners who lost their lives, sculptor Stephen Broadbent designed a sculpture along a public walking trail from the site of the former pit (seen here in the foreground) to the village of Duckmanton (in the background).
Concept for the Walking Together Mining Memorial (2012) by Stephen BroadbentDerbyshire Record Office
Concept for Walking Together
The walking trail consists of 106 steel figures symbolising each miner's journey to work and back. The figures walking towards the colliery are silver. Those walking back are black, as if covered in coal dust.
Walking Together Mining Memorial tag (2020) by Derbyshire County CouncilDerbyshire Record Office
Each figure has a circular bronze miner's tag fixed on his chest. The underside is stamped with the name of the miner, his age and occupation. The front shows the name and year of the disaster. Visitors can touch the tags to connect with the real people represented.
The Story Mine volunteers at the Derbyshire Heritage Awards (2019) by BeamDerbyshire Record Office
The Markham Vale Heritage Group of volunteers representing friends and relatives of miners, local historians, residents and schools, researched the men on the memorial and mining life. They won the award for best volunteer project at the 2019 Derbyshire Heritage Awards.
The Story Mine
Here Shane Cooper talks about the death of his father in the 1973 disaster. Information and memories like this one, collected by the Markham Vale Heritage Group research team, are available to view on the Story Mine website, markhamstorymine.org.
Press cuttings about funerals following the Markham Colliery disaster (1938) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
The first commemorations
On 30 July 2013, to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1973 disaster, the first two figures were unveiled. They represented the youngest miner, 18 year old pony driver Arthur Brown, killed in 1938, and the oldest, back repairer Albert Tyler aged 64, killed in the 1973 disaster.
Walking Together Mining Memorial unveiling (2013) by Derbyshire County CouncilDerbyshire Record Office
A growing trail
Over 2013-2021, the trail has gradually grown, funded by local businesses, public funders and community sponsors, and involving schools, relatives and friends of the miners. On average a cluster of figures has been installed and unveiled twice a year.
The completed vision
With 93 figures in place by the end of 2021, the Walking Together trail aims to be completed by autumn 2022. Re-imagining and remembering the lives of all miners, and particularly those who died, it will form a lasting legacy to a vanished industry and its community.
"Class of '73" by Steve Knightley arranged and sung by Judy Dunlop featuring Phil Edger
With thanks to Stephen Broadbent, Arts Organisation Beam, the Markham Vale Heritage Group, Sandra Struggles, Shane Cooper, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Derbyshire County Council, HBD, and all those who contributed towards the Walking Together Mining Memorial and the Story Mine website.