As part of their National Lottery Heritage Funded project, the team at the Dunsmore Living Landscape are undertaking oral history interviews with local residents to collect memories of the Binley Colliery. The colliery formerly occupied the site on which the Claybrookes Marsh nature reserve is now found. The project is being coordinated by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust trainee, Daniel Loveard. The OHN has provided assistance to the project, advising on interview format/ethics and sourcing undergraduate volunteers to aid with interviewing, transcribing, and networking.
Binley Colliery opened in 1911 and was a working mine until the 1960s, during which time the Binley area developed from a pit village into a residential suburb of Coventry. Once the mine closed, the colliery site was unused and became derelict. The site became a nature reserve following opposition from local residents over proposals to transform the former colliery into a business park. It is now a popular site with members of the local community, whether for walking or for getting involved with the Dunsmore team’s various outdoor activities. In all, the Dunsmore Living Landscape contains twenty woodlands, covering 618 hectares or ten percent of Warwickshire’s ancient woodlands. On the environmental front, the £1 million of NLHF funding will enable the restoration of three hundred hectares of ancient woodland, twenty kilometres of historic hedgerows, ten ponds, and twenty hectares of grassland.
The legacy of mining still remains visible in the area. Pit cottages survive on several roads near the former colliery site, housing developments in Binley have seen roads named after well-known local miners and the nature reserve is named after two miners who died when the colliery roof collapsed. The interviews aim to collect people’s memories of the colliery, whether as a place of work when it was active, as a make-shift playground following its closure, or just of its continued presence in the locality. Interviewees are being sourced through meetings with community groups in Binley and neighbouring Willenhall, for instance with the Willenhall Local History Group.
The stories gathered in 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
For more information on the Dunsmore Living Landscape: https://www.exploredunsmore.org/the-fingerprint-of-man/
Contact: Daniel Loveard (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust) email@example.com