The National Coal Mining Museum (or NCM) is England’s national museum dedicated to coal mining. It is one of the most interesting places in West Yorkshire. The museum is located between Wakefield and Huddersfield, in the middle of nowhere. This remote location was not randomly chosen – the museum is located just above a real colliery. The mine, called Caphouse Colliery, was sunk in the 18th century and it was in operation until its closure in 1985.
The museum is located some 13 mi from Leeds and it can be accessed by bus from Wakefield and Huddersfield (lines 128, 130 & 232). It is open daily, free entry. For underground tours in the mine, a £5 deposit is asked, and it can either be given to the museum or refunded after the tour. See the website for more information.
Above ground, visitors can see every part of the former colliery – control room, stables, machinery, and even the showers and locker rooms. There is a large exhibition space dedicated to miners’ life, coal mining history and techniques. The highlight is however the underground tour, which is done by a real retired miner. The tour is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of coal mining in England, the exploitation techniques and to have a glimpse into what was an English working colliery. The mine shaft is very deep. Underground tours last for a bit more than an hour – depending on the guide. Tours are to be booked at the reception or online.
There is a small park around the museum. Some real pit ponies, now retired, can be seen at the stables. Caphouse Colliery is one of the very few collieries in England that have been preserved after their closure. For most of them, the disused shafts were filled up and the surface elements were destroyed, and it is quite hard nowadays to spot their location as nothing remains above the ground. Yorkshire still had around 50 collieries in the 1980s, the last – Kellingley Colliery near Selby – having closed in 2015.
Around the National Coal Mining Museum:
Yorkshire Sculpture Park