Stanley Marsh Nature Reserve
Out of Stanley’s coal heritage, the derelict land of the former Deep Drop Colliery (one of five working pits that formed the Stanley Victoria Colliery) has been transformed over the last 25 years. The ten hectare eye sore of water logged swamp and scattering of tips has been transformed into a patchwork of woodland, marshland, and ponds. It was West Yorkshire County Council who earmarked the land for regeneration in October 1983, having inherited the site from Stanley Urban District Council almost ten years before. Once the proposals were approved a few thousand pounds of county money and a grant from the Countryside Commission was spent on materials and the removal of at least six tonnes of rubbish before new paths were laid, including the wooden board walk and jetty.
Lime Pit Lane 1900, the castellated engine house can be seen top centre in this photo with Spa Fold to the right. The stone wall to the left would have been situated near to the colliery offices and could have been workshops.
The spoil heaps were landscaped incorporating a footpath which was dug into the side of the hill, making a great vantage point looking out over the marsh land. Without doubt the most complicated part of this transformation was locating the five old mine shafts in the area, two of which belonged to the Deep Drop Colliery with the other three being from much earlier workings, and the need to gain control of water on the site. County engineers successfully located and capped all of the five long lost mine shafts ensuring the area was safe, and a new earth dam was constructed along with the re-designing of an out flow culvert.
New ponds were also dug and mini islands created within the marsh to attract nesting birds. The site of the marsh itself is where pit ponies from the former colliery grazed. The pit head was situated between the spoil heaps and end of the tram road bank. It closed in 1879 after a disastrous explosion killed 21 men and boys. At the time Deep Drop was the second deepest pit in the area (see Deep Drop Explosion Page). The pit ponies were housed in what we now know as Spa Fold, this stone building was originally built as a stable block before being converted into housing (built on the site of a spa). Other colliery buildings included what later became known as the Victoria WMC (later the Grove Park now flats); this was used as the headquarters of the Stanley Victoria Colliery. The colliery manager’s house also survived into the 1960s; this was situated at the entrance into the nature reserve (between Spa Fold and the former Grove Park) it was lived in by the Smith family for many years.
Ariel photo from 1969
The former colliery offices and stables can be seen in this photo. The foundations of the engine house can also clearly be seen just left of centre. Much of the area was used as farmland after the colliery closed until rapid subsidence forced the land to be abandoned. Evidence of this can be seen in the above photo.
Foundations of the engine house are still visible today, situated on the pit bank. The engine house was unusual in the respect that the building was castellated, this was due to the owners of Hatfeild Hall who were insistent that the tall stone structure should not be an eyesore from the hall. After the closure of the colliery the site was then turned, in part to agricultural land, hedges were introduced to divide the farmland.
The land was later abandoned due to subsidence, remnants of this hedging has now over grown and added to the wood land on the southern and western borders of the site. Many trees in the area were destroyed by the destructive out break of the Dutch elm disease, in the 1960s, however when the nature reserve was opened, new saplings were planted which have transformed parts of the area into dense woodland.
The rapid subsidence of the site was caused by a deteriorating drainage system and mining subsidence, added to these problems were the colliery spoil heaps and remains of an elevated tram line bed which retained water on the northern and eastern sides of the site during the winter. The official opening of the nature reserve was on the 12 November 1984, by West Yorkshire County Council chairman John Binns.
The ceremony was attended by descendants of those who lost their lives in the disaster 105 years previous, A commemorative plaque to the dead was unveiled (sadly this was destroyed soon after by vandals) along with the planting of 21 trees, each to represent a life of one of those killed. Councillor Binns planted the last of the 21 trees, then gave the following address; “This plaque along with the trees planted will serve as a reminder what winning the fuel which turned this county into the national power house can demand a high price in human terms”
Opening of the Nature Reserve November 1984
A succession of projects followed the opening of the reserve, a wide footpath was added through the hay meadow on the south eastern side allowing access to wheel chair users. The Community Countryside Centre was also added in the early 1990s which contains a classroom for visiting school groups and provides the community with a venue for meetings and activities. Behind the centre, a community wildlife garden was created, by local children and a group of local retired men who became known as the “A team”. Sadly what then followed for a number of years was large scale vandalism; the wooden board walk was all but destroyed, making it impossible to walk. Seats were destroyed and they marsh became heavily polluted with rubbish. Thankfully this period was reversed by a group named “Friends of Stanley Marsh”. They have done extensive work to the area including re laying footpaths, new gates and clearing the area.
View from the wooden jetty, early 1990s
In 2009 the old wooden board walk was replaced with a new path after Wakefield Council asked the local community what they would like to see at the site. Locals opted to replace the old boardwalk with a solid path in order to reinstate the circular route around the marsh. Waste Recycling Environment Limited provided a £16,000 grant to fund the work, which was carried out by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Now a well marked path, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, leads from the car park around the reserve. The reserve is as popular as ever, and includes some of the best wetland, woodland and hay meadow in the Wakefield area. The air is filled with butterflies and dragonflies in the summer and a large variety of birds including kingfisher, green woodpecker and water birds, sparrow hawks that can be seen on the woodland edge. The site also has a good variety of flowering plants, especially on the hay meadow in early summer. Friends of Stanley Marsh now give local children guided tours of the reserve, and continue to improve the area for future generations to enjoy with a growing number of volunteers. At the time of writing this, Wakefield Council is preparing two information boards that will be situated in the marsh and will give the names of those killed in the Deep Drop explosion along with a brief history of the site.
Photos around Stanley Marsh today
View over the marsh today
This raised bank carried the mineral line from the Newton Hill Victoria colliery through the Deep Drop and onto The basin at Stanley Ferry where coal was loaded. For several years coal was also transported to loading staithes in the River Calder at Bottomboat. This line was soon abandoned when the basin at Stanley Ferry was completed
Remains of the engine house
Ariel photo of the Deep Drop Site
The photo below shows the layout of the Deep drop site, also visible in the photo is Spa Fold (former colliery stables) & former Victoria Colliery offices (later Victoria WMC & later Grove Park). The added icons are have been located using old maps of the site.
The ariel photo above shows the following;
Yellow line = Mineral line from newton Hill Victoria running past both shafts of the Deep Drop and adjoining the Nagger Lines at the end of Lime Pit lane
Red line = Nagger Lines
Blue circles = Pit shafts
Blue Squares = Engine houses
Orange square = Coke ovens