I didn’t expect “the pit” to be my favorite place in Beamish, but I think it might have been. We were running out of time but wanted to see inside the mine (they also call it a colliery), and we made the last tour of the day.
Our guide was giving other visitors a talk about the safety lamps when we first walked into the lamp cabin.
After we donned some loaner hard hats, we were ready to enter the pit.
Pit ponies were given more consideration than human workers. The height of the mine shaft was dictated by the height of the ponies, and their health and safety were of the greatest importance.
Our guide at one point turned off all of the lights and showed us how much light a safety lamp put out; it was shockingly dark inside the mine, and our eyes were opened to how truly horrible the working conditions were. In the photograph below, you should be able to see a small wooden wedge lying on the ground (towards the back right). A worker could lean a shoulder on this to rest on his or her side, but all the while would be lying in dirty water that was trapped in the mine (remember: the pit ponies didn’t have dedicated bathrooms underground!).
The tour of the colliery was excellent, and I highly recommend it if you make it to Beamish. Also in the Pit Village is a school, and I liked that building as well. I kept thinking of Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prarie, where children sat in large classrooms with a variety of ages all in the same room.
Watch out for stern teachers! Below is a copy of an actual punishment log (strikes and whips…yikes!).
I loved school when I was growing up, so I felt right at home. Beamish surpassed my expectations, and I’m so glad we made time in our trip to northern England to see it.