Kent Mining Heritage Foundation has unearthed a unique collection of images offering a glimpse into life at Betteshanger Colliery and reunited ex-miners in the process
The set of 36 black and white negatives has been gifted to the new Heritage Lottery-funded Kent Mining Museum, which is opening at Betteshanger Park, near Deal,
in 2018. Darran Cowd, Museum and Heritage Manager, Kent Mining Museum, said: “With picture research for the Kent Mining Museum displays underway, a phone message from someone, who we now know as Mike Dugdale, saying they had some photographs of a Kent colliery was too good an opportunity to miss. This was just the start of what turned out to be an amazing journey into the past of the Kent Coalfield.”
Hythe-based photographer and cameraman Mike Dugdale visited Betteshanger Colliery in 1968 as a student of Medway College of Art & Design, looking to take photographs of the miners. The resulting collection of images shows miners both in groups and individually as they change shifts. They show a very human side to Kent’s bygone industry, catching the miners in a brief moment of respite.
The discovery of the images launched a research project for the Kent Mining Museum team to identify the miners from the photographs. With the help of the local mining communities, many have now been named. This has subsequently led to a reunion of the photographer and some of the subjects almost 50 years after Mike’s first visit to Betteshanger.
Mike, along with twins Andrew and John Inglis and Brian Hood, met again at Almond House, the former administrative headquarters for Betteshanger Colliery, earlier this year. The original photographs triggered reminiscences about their time down the mines, including stories of their working life, accidents at the pit, the strikes and the humour that released some of the stress of an otherwise dangerous job.
The museum is actively looking for further stories and items about the Kent coalfield. If you have something, a badge, books, photographs, a Davy lamp, tools or a grandparent’s diary telling of their journey to Kent, please get in touch. They’ll be given a safe home, where they’ll be used and shared with future generations.