CHAPS had advised on many mining and miners’ memorials in the country and abroad – then realised that although many towns and villages have their own memorial there was no national memorial that honoured all those who had worked in the coal industry – an industry that was central to the lives of thousands of people all over the UK and to the infrastructure of the country.
The memorial stands in its own beautiful site at the National Memorial Arboretum [NMA]National Memorial Arboretum It is 5m long x 2m high x 1m wide, is built of Derbyshire stone and has around it, replicating a drift mine, a frieze made up of 25 bronze plaques depicting the men, women and children who worked in the UK coal industry over hundreds of years. It recognises the colliers’ contribution to the two World Wars as tunnellers and as Bevin Boys. Research has discovered that 45 miners were awarded the Victoria Cross following the Great War, whilst two were awarded the same gallantry medal in WW2
Mike Mellor, President of CHAPS, created an initial design which he and artist Andy DeComyn https://www.publicart.co.uk/ developed during 2017 and 2018. Mike approached the NMA in September 2018 regarding the proposal and subsequently submitted an initial presentation for consideration which, after further consultation with the NMA was given final approved in May 2019. The group then embarked on raising £100,000 to make this a reality.
In March 2020, with just £6,000 in the bank – the country went into lockdown due to the Coronovirus Pandemic.
Mike led a small group – his wife Trish, committee members Len Prince, a former miner, and his wife Jackie – who set about raising the funds. They met on zoom, wrote, emailed, phoned, came up with ideas – and by May 2021 had raised the funds! Many individuals, Sir Michael Parkinson being one; and organisations, the NUM and several mining groups around the country amongst them; donated funds to sponsor the bronze plaques.
CHAPS produced their own film to promote the project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkqCV_ffhsw; BBC Midlands Today reported on the fundraising efforts in a broadcast on BBC News and CHAPS commissioned a piece of music, Grounded in Gratitude, which was then used to produce a film using archive footage of mining https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhF0HIIzM_0 , all of these have been very well received.
Those who donated plaques each received a plaster of paris replica of their particular plaque, coloured to reflect the bronze patina. They were presented at the NMA in August 2021, giving every donor the opportunity to view the memorial at their leisure and prior to the official unveiling.
The memorial was unveiled on September 3rd 2021 by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, KG GCVO accompanied by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester GCVO at a Dedication Service led by the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipcress, OBE, Bishop of Lichfield. Specially invited guests and a large number of the public were in attendance. The service was enhanced by music from Lea Hall Brass Band and Wolverhampton and Walsall Orpheus Male Voice Choirs. The dedication was filmed by national television networks
The memorial provides a focus for everyone – including former miners and their families – to reflect, to remember and to learn more. Crosses bearing names of individuals or groups, or remembering particular incidents, are often left at the memorial. It has become one of the most visited at the NMA and is included in the commentary heard when using the land train there.
A book “A Nation’s Tribute” was written to go alongside the memorial. A recording of The Story of the Plaques is available here https://chaseartsforpublicspaces.co.uk/projects/the-story-of-the-plaques/ and via a QR code on the plinth at the entrance to the memorial site.
On Remembrance Sunday each year, at 2.30pm, a short, personal service is held at the memorial.
A film of the making and dedication is available to see here