Mining museum unveils ambitious masterplan

Lancashire Mining Museum
Lancashire Mining Museum

A leading tourist attraction bringing the borough’s industrial past to life has released an ambitious masterplan to attract more visitors

Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green has produced the five-year plan to get more people through the doors and make it a more attractive destination, especially for younger residents.

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Visitors are whisked back in time at the region’s only surviving pit to see the days when coal was king, with attractions including a full headgear, engines, industrial railway sidings and workshops and replicas of miners’ cottages.

However, there are now proposals for much more, including the chance to experience the atmosphere of a working pit underground, heritage centres and workshops for age-old skills being practiced in front of visitors’ eyes.

The plan sets out how the museum, run by a group of volunteers at the Red Rose Steam Society, can turn Astley Green into a major regional and national visitor attraction and attract millions of pounds in funding to continue improving the site.

Society chair Trevor Barton MBE said: “We have a massive following on social media and it is clear that the public in this area really desire to see their heritage restored and properly protected.

“Most people of my age have grown up with a pit in virtually every other little village or town but there isn’t now.

“When we get schools, particularly junior ones, and groups like Scouts they are astounded by the concept of coal in itself and by hard engineering, which is way outside their normal experience.

“This is the last remaining pit on this side of the Pennines and we need examples if we are going to teach our youngsters how it used to be. We’ve got to make sure we don’t turn it into a theme park but we do need to make it more attractive, especially to young people, and more of an afternoon out.

“It’s a very detailed and complex masterplan and all our volunteers are excited by it. They are very keen to continue their own roles and also support each other.”

The plan sets out 21 potential points for improvement and a detailed table of funding work which will be required. The most pressing need is to apply for around £750,000 to preserve the headgear.

The proposal then divides the museum into six zones based around the central hub where the old industrial equipment is located.

Eye-catching proposals include creating an underground experience with a display of a coal face and an exhibition of mining safety in order to recreate the atmosphere of a colliery.

There are also plans for a heritage education centre for teaching skills based on the industrial past, a Miners’ Memorial Garden for remembrance ceremonies and private reminiscence and workshops where people can see blacksmiths, stonemasons and other traditional craftspeople showcasing their skills.

The museum will also be made easier to find, with plans for English Heritage brown signs on the East Lancs Road.

Other plans include creating an open vista so people can clearly see the headgear from the entrance, new facilities such as a cafe, toilets and shop in what is now a workshop building, new parking areas including overflow space and maintenance and storage yards.

The woodland surrounding the mining attractions will also be managed to create somewhere visitors can easily experience nature and the site will be better linked to the Bridgewater Canal.

Mr Barton says the plan ties in well with other large-scale heritage projects in the area, such as the redevelopment of Leigh Spinners Mill.

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