Commemorative pit flag unveiled

Doncaster College students Daniella Houghton (left) and Andrew Essex (right), unveil the Miners Memorial flag, which they helped to design, at the Memorial Service in Armthorpe alongside MP Rosie Winterton and Dennis Knowles. Picture: Cliff Edwards
Doncaster College students Daniella Houghton (left) and Andrew Essex (right), unveil the Miners Memorial flag, which they helped to design, at the Memorial Service in Armthorpe alongside MP Rosie Winterton and Dennis Knowles. Picture: Cliff Edwards

A unique flag has been created in memory of the 89 miners who lost their lives at a Doncaster colliery.

The official unveiling took place at the Miners Memorial Garden in Armthorpe.

The flag was unveiled by former miner Dennis Knowles and Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton, and is a tribute to those who died during duties at Markham Main pit between 1920 and 1996.

The flag was designed by students at Doncaster College, along with members of the memorial group – Mr Knowles, Hayden Griffiths, Ron Turner and Councillor Tony Corden.

Mr Knowles, 69, of Mere Lane, Armthorpe, worked at the colliery for 30 years as a blacksmith.

He said: “We have been doing a lot at the memorial garden and I was down there when I thought we could really do with a flag to remember the miners.

“I was already in touch with Doncaster College so I asked them for their help.

“A class of students all drew their own designs and then members of our group went down there and did a mix and match out of what they had created, to get the flag we wanted.”

The flag is one sided and has been handmade, and following the weekend’s unveiling has now been taken down again to be framed.

Copies can be ordered.

Mr Knowles explained why he thought the event was so important.

“We have got to keep remembering,” he said.

“We can’t let young kids forget.

“It’s a lost industry.

“My dad, uncles, cousins, nephews and friends were all miners.”

He added: “We believe that this is the only flag of its kind and we are going to have some made.

“We are hoping other miners’ memorial groups may want one.

“There doesn’t appear to be one like this anywhere in the world.”

Doncaster MP Rosie Winterton said: “Doncaster has a proud mining heritage, and collieries such as Markham Main were once at the heart of our communities.

“The majority of people in the borough will have had a family member, or will have known someone, who worked down one of the area’s many pits.

“Our collieries were places where long-lasting friendships were formed, but also where some terrible tragedies occurred – and many lives were lost – and it is important we remember that.”

Mr Knowles said the support for the memorial garden, which was first formed 17 years ago, had been tremendous.

He gave special thanks to the National Union of Miners which donated £250 for the site’s development and also the dedicated volunteers involved, including Bryn Close, Lenny Richmond and Mick O’Connor who contribute time and labour for nothing.

Thanks were also given to Walkers garden centre of Blaxton who provided decorative trees for the unveiling day.

The garden is situated on Church Street in Armthorpe.

Eighty nine people were killed at the pit

Markham Main Colliery was a coal mine in Armthorpe, on the eastern edge of Doncaster.

It could be seen, and was a landmark, from the nearby M18.

Some 89 miners were killed at the pit.

It was sunk on May 6, 1916, and work continued until August 24, 1916, when work stopped because of the war.

Work recommenced on May 21, 1922.

Coal was first recovered on May 5, 1924.

The site cost around £1 million and a model village for the pit was built.

For many years it was used as a training pit for the local area, with a training tunnel. In the 1950s it had around 2,700 workers.

A domestic fuel processing plant was built in 1966.

In the mid-1980s the pit had around 1,500 employees.

When the 1980s miners’ strike finished in 1985, Markham Main was the last Yorkshire pit to return to work, three days later.

On its initial closure in 1992 it had around 730 workers.

It closed in 1996 when it had 50 million tonnes of coal reserves, enough for around 50 years. The site is now a housing estate, next to Sandall Beat Wood.