What is the link between a certain Lady Victoria, black diamonds and a place called Newtongrange in Scotland? It’s simple? For Lady Victoria is the name of the old colliery in Newtongrange and when the locals talk about black diamonds they mean coal which was once mined in huge quantities before being taken off to the markets. Nowadays “Lady Vic” is the headquarters of the Scottish Mining Museum, where visitors can get an insight into the highs and lows of an industry which was once the backbone of the Scottish economy. The 500 metre main shaft may have been filled in. But that’s no matter. For the museum has its own gallery with a genuine underground atmosphere. The driving wheel on the pit head gear may no longer turn. All the better because now you can find out how it worked so brilliantly. Some visitors – especially the younger ones – like to test their strength by trying to push a coal wagon. After that they really appreciate the talents of the colliers who knew how to exploit gravity to their own ends. This museum is all about hands-on activities. All the guides are ex-miners who can give you good solid information about the everyday life and work of colliers. After all, they lived through it all themselves.
In real life Lady Victoria was the wife of the Marquess of Lothian. In his position as the Lord of the powerful Lothian Coal Company he delivered, as it were, the fuel for the Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Of course he did not choose to give his wife’s name to any random colliery. When it was set up in 1890 the “Lady Vic” in Newtongrange near Edinburgh was a genuine showplace. Now it is generally acknowledged to be one of the best surviving examples of a Victorian coal mine. At the time its up-to-date technology, combined with surface buildings built on a grandiose scale, set it apart from other contemporary pits. All the colliery galleries had steel props – not wooden ones – and electric power was used to drive the engines as well as to light the work underground. This delight in innovation is immediately obvious in the 500 metre deep main shaft which was sunk with a special brick lining technique. 40,000,000 tons of coal were hauled to the surface by the largest winding engine in Scotland until the colliery was closed in 1981.
Now the well preserved surface buildings are used by the Scottish Mining Museum to present a lively and comprehensive exhibition on the history of mining in Scotland. The result is a journey back in time on two levels. The first describes a vivid arc from the appearance of coal around 360 million years ago to its mining and exploitation on an industrial scale. The second level shows the improvement in the status of colliers from little more than working slaves to today’s highly expert technologists In all this the regional importance of the mining industry is to the fore. There were once more than 100,000 colliers in Scotland. At its height the Lady Victoria Colliery alone had a workforce of more than 2,000 men and women. A small proportion of them are still working there today – as museum guides.
|Recommended duration of visit:||2,5 Hours|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for Children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on Site:||yes|
April to October:
November to March: