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Old King Coal at Beamish Museum

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Old King Coal
Celebrating the mining industry in Old King Coal, Beamish Museum

Mining celebration kicks off Great North Festival of Transport

Banner parades, brass bands, and pit ponies will celebrate North East England’s mining heritage during Old King Coal, a five-day event at Beamish Museum, marking the start of the Great North Festival of Transport.

Visitors will be able to join a miners’ banner parade from The Town to The Pit Village on Saturday and Sunday (April 1 and 2), at 1.30pm.

People can design their own flag and help make a banner, see the “Just One Spark” explosion demonstration, enjoy folk and brass band music and meet pit ponies during the weekend.

Banners from North East pit villages and the Beamish collection will be on show, along with local history displays.

Beamish’s head of industry Jonathan Kindleysides said: “Mining is a huge part of the region’s past, so it’s very important that we remember the industry, the miners and their families with our Old King Coal event.”

On Saturday, a memorial plaque will be unveiled to the victims of the 1896 Brancepeth Colliery “A Pit” disaster, which claimed the lives of 20 men and boys.

The plaque, originally from Brancepeth Welfare Hall in Willington, has been donated by Spectrum Leisure and the community of Willington.

It will be unveiled by local historian Olive Linge and Coun Fraser Tinsley in The Pit Village band hall, after the parade. Greater Willington Town Council has supported the event.

Jonathan added: “With the unveiling of the plaque, we will be paying tribute to those people who lost their lives in the collieries.”

Mining history

Old King Coal will include displays from Hylton Banner Group, Silksworth Mining History Society, Felling Heritage Group and Wardley banner exhibition, and on Saturday and Sunday, Tommy Armstrong Society.

Beamish has been working with schools to explore their communities’ mining heritage. Pupils will be visiting the museum to take part in junior miners’ galas.

Community events officer Gemma Stevenson said: “Old King Coal is going to be a brilliant event, we’re really excited about it. There will be so much to see and do for visitors of all ages.”

The Great North Festival of Transport continues with the Great North Steam Fair from April 6-9, followed by Horses at Work from  April 21-23.

The festival is included in admission to Beamish and is free to Unlimited Pass holders, as with all daytime events. Find out more at www.beamish.org.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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