Binley, in east Coventry, grew from a small mining village on the outskirts of the city to a large residential suburb. This was largely due to the Binley Colliery, which started producing coal in 1911 – reaching peak production during the 1950s, and then closed in 1963.
Once the mine closed, the Colliery site lay unused and became derelict. Part of the site became a nature reserve following opposition from local residents over proposals to transform the former colliery into a business park. The site is known as Claybrookes Marsh, named in memory of Jack Clay and James Brookes who were killed when the roof of the mine collapsed in 1947.
Claybrookes Marsh is now a popular site with members of the local community, for walking and getting involved with the Dunsmore team’s various outdoor activities.
The history of the area and the mining legacy is still very much visible around the area. Pit cottages survive on several roads of the former Colliery site and housing developments in Binley have seen roads named after well-known local miners.
As part of their National Lottery Heritage Funded project, the team at Dunsmore Living Landscape are undertaking a series of interviews with local residents to record the oral history of the area and collect memories of the Binley Colliery.
The University of Warwick Oral History Network team have been on hand to assist with the project, including advice on interview format/ethics and have helped source undergraduate volunteers to assist with interviewing, transcribing and networking with local community centres and local history group.
The interviews aim to collect the memories of the local residents about the Colliery: as a place of work when it was active, as a makeshift playground following its closure, and of its continued presence in the local community. Interviewees are being found through meetings with community groups in Binley and neighbouring Willenhall.
Once gathered, the stories from these interviews will be displayed on the Dunsmore Living Landscape’s website and on information boards along the footpaths of the nature reserve itself. As well as working to preserve and improve the local environment and biodiversity, the Dunsmore team hopes to reconnect local people with these areas of natural beauty on their doorstep. Tapping into residents’ intimate, personal memories of the area is a key way of doing this.
Photo credit: Warwickshire County Record Office, PH350 269a