Monday, 6 February 2017

City of Salford Science Museum, Buile Hill No. 1 Pit

To enlarge: right click on image, open in new window and click on image again.

The science museum was housed in Buile Hill House, located in Buile Hill Park. It was converted into a Natural History Museum in 1906. Eventually, with the cooperation of the National Coal Board, a large-scale model of a coal mine was constructed in the building during the 1950s.   However, compared to the glittering glass and chrome of Salford Quays, the Buile Hill museum appears old-fashioned, the vestige of an age perhaps best forgotten, and certainly not in keeping with the city's progressive 'Brave New World' image.  In 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium, the Buile Hill Mining Museum was closed.
Report No. 39 presented at the Conference of The National Association of Mining History Organisations at Truro on the 30th of July 2000  
It has now been announced that this Museum will be closed due to “the
necessity of making financial savings”, yet at the same time opening the
Lowry Centre and investing in the Main Art Gallery in the Museum Department.
The Museum was the last survivor of a phase of mining museums in the 1950’s
whereby cellars of country houses already being used as museums were
converted to “mine galleries”.  Other examples included the museums at
Temple Newsum, Leeds and Bagshaw House, Batley.  There was even a mock mine
in the basement of the Science Museum, London at this time.  The gallery at
Buille Hall was opened in 1957, when Alan Frost, a geologist, was Director.
NCB fitters from Walkden Yard Workshops had been employed to transform the
cellar into a mock mine.  Visitors stepped into a pit cage, doors were
closed and the impression of travelling the shaft was gained (using
revolving walls with stick-on bricks) which was quite acceptable until the
passengers realised that they had seen the same bricks a few times!  During
the late 1960’s, material was collected from such closing pits as Brackley,
Sandhole and Mosely Common. In 1969, the ground floor of the hall was 
partially converted into a “pit top” using the old drift top from 
Old Meadows Colliery at Bacup (Yorkshire).

In 1971, the Museum had to close being declared structurally unsafe!  By
1977, however, the building had been “listed”, dry rot removed and the rest
renovated and the Museum was reopened.  During these years Frank Hacket and
Rick Bradbury had been successive Directors.  They were followed from 1974
by Geof Preece who proved equally enthusiastic in the development of mining
as a theme and by this time the Museum specialised in this.  Geof pushed out
into the field of Industrial Archaeology, adding much more material relating
to the coal industry’s past.  This led to the first floor being converted
into the History of Coalmining Gallery which opened in 1980.  Further
enthusiastic efforts led to a guide book being produced and an archives and
library section of the Second Floor.  He also developed a collection of
“mining art” which lead to a further gallery being opened in 1984.
Geof Preece left Buile Hill in 1985 and Alan Davies, the present Director,
was appointed.  Alan had been an assistant keeper for a short term in the
early 1980’s, but at the time of his appointment was working on the coal
face at a small mine near Wigan.  He was an obvious choice.  He had a degree
in art and an interest in collecting.  He had also worked in four collieries
and had studied mining.  With the decline of the mining industry thousands
of mine plans and documents were rescued, thousands more photos were taken
and numerous objects and drawings acquired.  The upper floors have had to be
refurbished to take them all and the remains of other earlier natural
history collections had to be transferred elsewhere.  Between  1989 and
1991, the Museum’s mining library expanded greatly with the acquisition of
the very important Wigan Mining College Collection and also that of the
former Wigan Library Mining Reference Collection as well as other material
from closing NCB/BC and private industry collections.

In 1994, in recognition of the Museum’s vast regional collection which now
surpassed all other local (and most regional) collections and its embrace of
the whole coalfield, the decision was made to change the name to The
Lancashire Mining Museum, Salford. Without doubt the Museum has a fine 
collection which is very interestingly laid out and easily accessible. 
Its loss will be great to children and students who appreciate its “hands on”
 and “experience” style and to more serious visitors. These can park easily, 
carry out research comfortably and take breaks in the well maintained 
parkland which surrounds it. The writer, for one, will miss the Museum greatly.

Wigan Metro Borough has made a formal approach to Salford to take over the
collection with a view to developing Astley Green Colliery as a new
Lancashire Mining Museum. Most of the collection will go into store but
will remain accessible.

Dr. I. J. Brown

Since its closure, the stately home has been boarded up, and its future remains uncertain. One of its outbuildings caught fire in October 2016, much like the ill-fated Monks Hall Museum.  The old bandstand was demolished in 2001 (Salford Council's cheap alternative to maintenance), and the greenhouse continues to disintegrate.

Shell of the greenhouse


See: Timeline

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