The National Mining Museum Scotland was created in 1984, to preserve the physical surface remains of Lady Victoria Colliery at Newtongrange, Midlothian, Scotland. The colliery, sunk by the Lothian Coal Company in 1890, came into production in 1894. It was nationalised in 1947 with the formation of the National Coal Board, and had closed in 1981. The buildings were recognised as being of outstanding interest as they formed an almost complete survival of a major Victorian colliery, with later additions. Some demolition, such as the 1950s canteen and medical centre, has occurred but the vast bulk of the structures stand. The winding engine is by Grant, Ritchie and Company and the colliery headstocks were built by Arrols of Glasgow. From 1998 onwards several of the main structures were stabilised and new visitor facilities opened.
The National Mining Museum Scotland is the national coal mining museum for Scotland and cares for the Lady Victoria Colliery and the national coal mining collections. The collections at the museum comprise over 60,000 items, including objects, archive material, photographs and books. The Museum’s object collection includes tools, safety equipment, lamps, models, clothing, trophies, geological specimens, banners and art. The BIG Stuff Tour allows visitors to see the Museum’s extensive collection of large mining objects, such as coal cutters, cages, and locomotives. The Museum has over 18,000 photographs in its archive, including underground scenes, surface images, aerial views of collieries, miners at work and play, gala days and village scenes. Nearly all of these photographs can be viewed on a touchscreen computer at the Museum. The reference library at the National Mining Museum houses books, journals, trade catalogues and periodicals covering the history of the coal mining industry. The Museum’s archives also hold many original documents relating to Scottish Collieries, including those of the Lothian Coal Company.
Coal has been central to the story of Scotland over much of the past two centuries. A chance of geology meant that a large part of the heart of the country was home to a series of rich coalfields extending from Ayrshire in the south west through Lanarkshire, the Lothians, Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Fife. But although the central belt of Scotland was home to most mining activity, outlying coalfields meant that mines existed as far west as Machrihanish in Kintyre; as far south as Canonbie in Dumfries & Galloway; and as far north as Brora in Sutherland. By the early years of the 1900s, nearly 150,000 people were directly employed in Scotland's mining industry; out of a total population at the time of around 4.5 million. Scotland's coal industry produced over 40 million tons of coal each year, and powered much of the rest of the country's economy at a time when Glasgow was generally considered to be the second city of the British Empire. And yet... by the time the industry was nationalised in 1946, direct employment was down to around 80,000 people in 300 mines, producing around 23 million tons of coal each year. And by 1980 the equivalent figures were 20,000 employees, 7 million tons production, and around 30 mines. Today the only coal extracted in Scotland comes from open cast sites, and there are no deep mines in production.
What this means in practice is that an element central to the lives of very many Scots of recent generations has effectively disappeared. When mines closed the shafts were filled, and the buildings - and, usually, even the spoilheaps - were cleared away. Today you can only tell if you are in an ex-mining area of Scotland if you stumble across a pithead memorial, usually to one of the many disasters that plagued the industry, or a miners' welfare club. Lady Victoria Colliery in Newtongrange was sunk in 1895. It employed a maximum of 1,765 people at its peak in 1953, and closed in 1981. Unlike almost all other Scottish collieries, most of the the above-ground buildings at Lady Victoria were retained after its closure, though the shaft, and other below-ground works, were filled in. The role of the Scottish Mining Museum is to ensure that the role and national significance of the industry, and the impact it had on the lives of those who lived in mining communities, is never forgotten. It also serves as the custodian of the national collections and archives relating to the mining industry in Scotland. As a result it cares for over 60,000 items ranging from large scale mining machinery and locomotives to personal equipment, documents, and over 18,000 photographs.
The visitor to the Scottish Mining Museum starts in the superb three-storey visitor centre. The ground floor contains the ticket desk, a shop, and an excellent cafe. The upper floors contain a wealth of interactive displays, reconstructions, and sound and visual exhibits to tell "The Story of Coal" on the first floor, and the story of the mining communities, "A Race Apart", on the second floor. From the visitor centre you proceed along a gantry to the start of the "Magic Helmets" tour. Visitors tour in groups, and each wears a helmet that comes complete with headphones that give information about the different areas visited and the items on view. The focal point of the tour is the series of walkways around the "Tub Circuit and Pithead". Here tubs full of coal were brought to the surface and marshalled. You can also look into the top of the filled-in shaft, which was once over 500m or 1500ft deep. Close by is the Operations Centre, containing a series of hands-on engineering and mining exhibits guaranteed to fascinate children of all ages. Another excursion takes you to the winding engine house, home to the most powerful winding engines fitted in any Scottish colliery. The man controlling the winding engine had one of the most responsible jobs in the colliery, and it comes as a surprise to find that he had to spend his days sitting on what looked like a converted wooden dining chair. You can also visit the area in which coal emerging from the colliery was washed before being sorted. Although Lady Victoria Colliery no longer has underground workings, visitors tour a highly atmospheric recreation of an underground roadway and coalface built above ground in part of the colliery. This gives an excellent impression of the sorts of conditions miners worked in, though without the levels of dust and noise they would have had to put up with day after day. As well as the normal tours on offer up to 3.30pm each day, visitors can also take one of the "Big Stuff" tours that take place twice a week and include the museum's collection of heavy equipment; or make arrangements to study the museum's archives.
The nearest bus stop is right outside the gates. The Borders Railway service runs from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank and stops at Newtongrange Station. From Newtongrange Station an accessible pathway, signposted National Mining Museum Scotland, leads visitors to the museum. The museum has 2 manual wheelchairs which can be booked either in advance of your visit or on arrival at reception. There is a large free car park on site with disabled visitor spaces and a ramp leading to the main reception area. There is a drop-off zone directly outside the main doors of the museum. There is level access at the main reception. The double entrance doors are automatic in operation and have an opening width of 1.7 metres. The reception area is well lit. There is a low level counter at reception. There is level access from the main reception to the gift shop, café and toilets. The gift shop and café have low level counters. Staff will be pleased to assist disabled visitors as may be necessary. Access between floors is by stairs and by lifts. Stair cases all have handrails both sides. The lifts are large enough for most power operated wheelchairs. A hearing loop system is in use through the exhibition floors. Baby changing facilities are available in the disabled visitors’ toilets. Guide and assistance dogs are welcome – no non-working dogs please. All public parts of the museum are fully accessible with the exception of the Winding Engine House. The layout is spacious and there is ample room for wheelchairs throughout the public areas. Foldable/portable walking stick seats are available on request. Red flashing beacons light up when the fire alarm sounds. Disabled visitors’ toilets are available in the café area on the ground floor, in the 1st floor exhibition area and the 2nd floor behind the lamp room. The disabled visitors’ toilets are purpose-built unisex facilities. An emergency alarm is provided in the toilets. Doors open outwards. All taps are easy to use and do not require an ability to grip. A coat hook and low level mirror are provided. Picnic tables at the front of the museum are fully accessible. Children’s play area is accessible to wheelchair users.
Location : National Mining Museum Scotland, Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange, Dalkeith EH22 4QN
Transport: Newtongrange (National Rail) then 7 minutes. Bus Routes : 29, 33, 39, 95 and X95 stop outside.
Opening Times : Summer Hours Daily 09:30 to 17:00; Winter Hours from 2nd November, Daily 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets :Adults £9.00; Concessions £7.00; Children (5 - 15) Free
Tel. : 0131 663 7519