The siting of the headgear atop the shafthead building wasn’t unusual, although the backstays are supported by the winding house meaning that no part touches the ground. However, it’s certainly unique in the context of the other remaining headgear in the UK, and made all the more prominent by the demolition of the previous mining infrastructure thus leaving it in splendid isolation, looking like the surrounding land has sunk away around it.
There are very few photographs on the internet of the colliery when it was operational, but I’d recommend Steve Grudging’s excellent book ‘The Last Days of Coal Mining in Yorkshire‘ for some photographs that he took in 1991 just after closure when the place was intact. I did a review of the book earlier this year.
While the exact opening date of Barnsley Main is unclear, the Historic England entry notes that “Barnsley Main Colliery No.2 Shaft is shown on the 1892 Ordnance Survey map without any associated buildings, at that time labelled as part of Rylands Main Colliery whose pit head was immediately to the south.” At some point, the site became known as Barnsley Main.
The colliery expanded and in 1931, it took over the nearby Oaks Colliery. Oaks Colliery, was sunk in 1824 and in 1866 thirteen methane gas explosions occurred at the colliery over ten days. This resulted in the deaths of 361 miners and 27 rescuers and the closure and infilling of the Old Oaks shafts. This remains the highest death toll of any mining accident in England.
The current winding engine house and shaft head building, were built in the early 20th Century and modernised and reconstructed with new headstocks in 1956 for the National Coal Board. Barnsley Main closed in 1965, following an accelerated pit-closure programme.
A £25 million-pound refurbishment scheme saw the re-opening of Barnsley Main in the 1970s, with the construction of several new buildings at the pit top however, it was for man-riding only (with the coal being brought to the surface at Barrow Colliery).
The site’s surviving headgear and two-storey, brick-built engine house date from this period.