Miners’ Welfare

A group photograph in front of the cricket pavilion circa 1930. The man seated in the centre is probably Dennis Walter Hargreaves who at that time was the manager of Water Haigh colliery. Deputy and later undermanager George Prince is believed to be second from the left on the back row. Billy Williams who later became the manager is 8th from the left on the back row.

The management at Water Haigh colliery, before and after nationalisation, were strongly supportive of the Miners’ Welfare organisation which had a club house and sports grounds on land formerly owned by the Calverley family at Oulton.

The cricket pitch, which is still in use today, was established in the village before the pit was opened and was absorbed into the Miners’ Welfare which took over 17 acres of land including a house and cottages from the Calverley family in 1924.

They acquired it after a scheme to buy Oulton Hall and turn it into a cottage hospital was rejected. A grant of £3000 was initially given to improve the facilities and build a new cricket and bowls pavilion. Miners were the backbone of local football, cricket and tennis teams, and crown green bowling was also popular. Membership wasn’t exclusive and many locals who worked in other industries were also involved in the sporting activity.

The house at Oulton Green, sometimes wrongly referred to as The Hollins or The Hollings, which  was turned into the Miners’ Welfare clubhouse. In the 19th century it was the home of the Vicar of Rothwell, John Bell. Amongst its other tenants was Charles Frederick Hoyle, the managing director of Bentley’s brewery. Click on the photo to read more on Facebook.

After nationalisation a levy of a penny a week was taken from all colliery wages to be paid to CISWO, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.

Water Haigh Colliery Cricket Club began playing on 6 May 1933 taking over the fixtures of the former Oulton second team in the Yorkshire Central League. The pit manager Dennis Walter Hargreaves was the club’s first president with undermanager William Bell Williams as treasurer and Frank Arrowsmith as secretary.

The first game was at home against Monksbridge Sports with Water Haigh scoring 142 for 6 before a storm stopped play. Tom Brandfoot was 82 not out.

The “new” bowling green was formally opened by Mr. Hargreaves a couple of weeks later on Wednesday 17 May 1933. It was on the site of a previous green which was enlarged and laid with Cumberland turf at a cost of £700.

Mr Hargreaves said the club had got an expensive green under the Miners’ Welfare Scheme “as the sum required for the improvements made, and in hand, would have taken a long while to raise by private subscriptions.”

He said £400 had been spent on the tennis section and £300 on a joint cricket and bowls pavilion. The Wakefield Express reported: “Mr Hargreaves bowled the first wood and later the members adjourned into the club for social intercourse.” In other words they had a few beers!