IT’S AN ODD FEELING, to catch up with a painting that I haven’t seen for 36 years.
In 1973 my father, who was the area chief accountant at Grimethorpe Colliery, commissioned
me to do two paintings for the new staff dining room, one of Denby Grange, the other,
in contrast, of South Elmsall, a modern colliery where even the winding gear was
boxed in concrete. I never completed the latter.
At the National Mining Museum today they brought the painting out of the archives
for me. It had been presented to the museum by the manager of Denby Grange in 1991,
possibly it had found its way there when Grimethorpe closed. How long did it hang
in the staff dining room? I realise that a painting has a secret life of its own.
One of my sketches from the spring of 1973. I decided to show the birches and sycamore
in leaf in the final painting.
Denby Grange, acrylic on hardboard, approx. 3ft x 2ft
I guess the colliery closed in the early 90s. This is now Earnshaws timber yard.
From its earliest days Denby Grange was also called the Wood Pit.
This sketch was in grey ink. In those days I experimented by drawing in sepia, raw
sienna, blue or even red Indian ink. There are handwritten colour notes; the settling
pond was ‘DIRTY PEA SOUP FLECKED WITH LIGHT GREY’. Today I would probably simply
Left: Denby Grange from the south-east corner of Stony Cliffe Wood, OS grid ref.
SE 273 154. The colliery was used as the setting for a 1970s television advertisement
for draught bitter beer. The camera zoomed out from the headgear to show miners walking
up the lane, presumably about to call in the Black Bull for a well-earned pint on
their way home.