Finally, after several delays and almost three years after it had originally been hoped to open, the Kent Mining Museum and visitor centre situated at Betteshanger Country Park was officially opened with a special ceremony on Saturday 2nd April 2022. The museum was opened with the attendance of almost 200 guests, who had all been invited to attend from all the Kent Mining communities that have been associated with the heritage of the Kent Coalfield.
Prior to the opening ceremony, children from Aylesham Primary School and also Elvington Eythorne Community Primary School led a parade of the guests around the new Kent Mining Museum and visitor centre building, holding banners that they had made for the event. The opening speech for the ceremony was read by Mark Quinn, Chairman and CEO of Quinn Estates, who introduced Stuart Elgar, Chairman of the Kent Mining Museum Foundation, who gave a speech, before giving his thanks to all the people and different groups that have been involved with the opening of the museum. The ribbon cutting, which signified the museum officially open was performed by four specially chosen miners, John Baldwin (Tilmanstone Colliery), Phil Sutcliffe (Snowdown Colliery), Ross Llewellyn (Chislet Colliery), and Jim Davies (Betteshanger Colliery). Guests at the opening were the first people to see the displays and exhibits in the new £1.7 million museum, which had been funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. One of the permanent displays includes four original small gauge colliery tubs used at Tilmanstone Colliery and donated by Dover Transport Museum. Entertainment was provided for all the guests by the Betteshanger Colliery Welfare Band and the Snowdown Colliery Welfare Male Voice Choir.
The state-of-the-art facility is free to all visitors and the first of its kind in the county, with video and audio content from the miners themselves, and the chance for children to dress up in miners’ clothing. The museum is housed in the new £6million country park’s visitor centre. In addition, there is a mining-themed play area for children, and a cafe displaying interior designs inspired by the miners’ materials. Over the next few months there will be a programme of learning activities and events held at the park.
The vision of a Kent mining museum was first envisaged by Hadlow College almost 10 years ago, when they first became interested in purchasing Fowlmead Park, near Betteshanger, Deal, which had originally been the spoil heap for Betteshanger Colliery, and developed into a 250-acre country park established in 2007, by SEEDA after the site had remained derelict for years following the closure of Betteshanger Colliery in 1989. Coal was first discovered in Kent in 1890, but it wasn’t until 1912 that a successful supply of coal was being mined at Snowdown Colliery. Four main collieries remained open for the majority of the existence of the Kent Coalfield with the establishment of Tilmanstone, Snowdown, Chislet and Betteshanger collieries.
The new Kent Mining Museum will be open to visitors throughout the year and open from Wednesday to Sunday between 10am to 4pm. There is an underground part of the museum, which is accessible by a lift for the use of wheelchairs and other disabilities. For more information check the website www.kentminingmuseum.co.uk for all the events and temporary exhibitions.
Photos by Steve Durbidge, Dawn Sedgwick, Kay Sutcliffe and Colin Varrall