THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF NOTTINGHAMSHIRE’S MINERS
ACTS OF GENEROSITY AND COMMUNITY SPIRIT – PART 3 – SPORTS, PARKS, SWIMMING BATHS
Many parks, leisure facilities, children’s playgrounds, sports pitches and swimming pools throughout Nottinghamshire have benefitted from the generosity and community spirit of Nottinghamshire’s miners. C P Griffin in Appendix I to the introduction of his book, ‘The Nottinghamshire Miners Industrial Union, Rufford Branch, 1926-1936 and District Minutes, 1926-1927’, records that –
“Welfare Facilities at Rainworth. Property provided by the Miners Welfare Scheme. Children’s playground, football pitch, putting course with pavilion, children’s shelter and open air swimming bath. Total site 16 acres in extent and grants of £4,037” had been made between 1929 and 1951.
Following the passing of the 1920 Mining Industry Act, in January 1923, the Notts Miners’ Welfare Committee completed the purchase of the Berry Hill Estate, Mansfield, from Mrs Hollins, widow of Mr W Hollins, at a price of £10,000. The Committee also sanctioned the erection of ‘slipper baths’ at Arnold.
Berry Hill Park was soon a venue for the wider community.
This photo, copyright Clare Dobbs, shows Mansfield Harriers Cross Country team, including Clare’s grandad, George Wiffen, and great grandad, in the 1920s using Berry Hill Park.
“Berry Hill Athletics Club paid a massive part in my life. I started running at 9 yrs of age and competed for Midlands, Notts and England at cross country and track events. I stopped competing at the age of 21, but still ran socially.
I felt very honoured and proud to follow in my Grandads footsteps but also sad that he was never able to see me compete as he was tragically killed down Clipstone Pit in 1947.
Berry Hill, as a park and sporting facility was a key part in forging life long friendships and giving me opportunities to fulfil my potential as an athlete and this defined me as a person!
The park means so much to local people and I will always be forever grateful for what the miners sacrificed for us to enjoy today.”
Notts Miners willingness to share the benefits of their sports and leisure facilities with the wider community is further shown by this September 1926 article in the Mansfield Reporter and Sutton Times, when the Mansfield Scouts Association held their Sports Day at the Park.
Following the end of the 2nd World War, the Miners Welfare Committee was able to invest further in the Sports Stadium at Berry Hill, which was declared by R Ringham, East Midlands Division Chairman,
“to be the most ambitious in the country.”
Without this generous investment in community facilities, throughout Nottinghamshire, many of our towns and villages would have been economically, physically and culturally poorer.
The grandchildren, great grandchildren and great grandchildren, have cause to be proud of their coalmining ancestors for their generosity and community spirit.