Kiveton: Last look inside pithead baths

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished  (w130807-1b)
Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished (w130807-1b)

Being one of the last people to tread the corridors of Kiveton’s derelict pithead baths building was a something of a privilege, writes reporter Hayley Gallimore.

The Guardian was invited, along with a few other interested parties - Kiveton and Wales History Society, the National Coal Mining Museum and Apedale Heritage Centre - to take a final look inside.

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished (w130807-1j)

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished (w130807-1j)

Next month the demolition crews will move in and consign the structure to history.

But before that the historians were allowed to scour the building for any salvageable items or materials.

The former bath house dates from 1938 and was paid for by thousands of miners so they could shower before going home after work.

The facilities accommodated 1,748 miners, but the workforce dwindled to just 800 before it closed in 1994.

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished  (w130807-1g)

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished (w130807-1g)

It was one of a cluster of buildings around the pit head at Kiveton Park Colliery.

Today, only the baths and the colliery offices still stand.

The two buildings stand in stark contrast, design wise. The brutal modernism of the bath house block stands towering over the ornate gothic revival style offices, now the headquarters of Kiveton Park and Wales Community Development Trust.

Both, until recently, were listed buildings. The pithead baths was Grade II listed because of its modernist design.

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished (w130807-1i)

Tour of Kiveton Pit Head baths, which are due to be demolished (w130807-1i)

It is one of the few remaining pithead baths to feature flat roofs, a design used by the Miners’ Welfare Committee’s architectural department in the 1930s.

The tall vertical water tower is also a common architectural feature used during this time.

The building was designed by Miners’ Welfare Commission architect William Albert Woodland and his strict brief stipulated that every space and every feature should serve a purpose.

Several attempts have been made to develop the building for various uses but they never materialised.

Finally, last year the Secretary of State approved an application by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) - the baths’ current owners - to demolish it.

“The pithead baths was designed for a specific purpose. It is laid out in such a way that is very different to any other type of building, and as such it has been very difficult to find a way of transforming it for another use,” said Tom Hustler from the HCA, who showed us round the crumbling building.

“Once it has been demolished the land will be returned to green space as an extension of Kiveton Community Woodland which covers the rest of the old colliery site.”

Stepping inside it was a shock to see how years of decay had left the once-proud building looking so sorry.

Anyone who worked there might have felt pang for the colliery which was once the heart of the community.

Under the dust and graffiti are rooms lined with lockers and ceramic tiled shower cubicles, giving an eerie insight into its former life.

There was a canteen, two sets of lockers for clean and dirty clothes and showers on both floors.

Thousands of miners’ lockers are still standing, row upon row.

Tom explained that there would have been a stifling steaminess in the changing areas, as a huge boiler and industrial fans blew hot air around the room to dry everything off.

Shower cubicles with individual towel pegs are still visible, tiled in beautiful white porcelain.

All the fixtures and fittings were built for sturdiness and quality, even the sinks below the miners’ drinking water fountains bear the Royal Doulton stamp.

Managers had their own showers too. And their wood panelled officers were located downstairs along corridors which led from the medical room to the union office and, most importantly, the pay office.

A miner’s wage was higher than most manual jobs due to the risk involved and the horrendous conditions endured.

The pithead baths was built using the a levy of the miners’ own money.

And having now sensed what an important place it was, I am sure they felt it was money well spent.

Click this link to go on a video tour of the baths http://www.dinningtontoday.co.uk/news/local-news/video-inside-kiveton-pit-head-baths-1-5935272