Introduction to the Project
In 2001 Dover District Council launched the Coalfields Heritage Initiative Kent (CHIK) project, led by Dover Museum and the White Cliffs Countryside Project. The project's aim is to record and preserve East Kent's mining heritage.
Coal was discovered near Dover in 1890, which led to a rush to exploit the mineral. Many coal mines were started, only to fail, and just 4 collieries survived; Snowdown, Tilmanstone, Betteshanger and Chislet. Most of the workers for these mines came from traditional coal areas such as south Wales, the Midlands and the North East and to house them new villages were built, including Aylesham, Elvington, Hersden and Mill Hill in Deal. The last colliery, Betteshanger, closed in 1989.
If the on-going regeneration of the coalfield and the improvements to the old mining communities are successful, there will soon be almost no indication that there ever was a coal industry in Kent.
Phase one, begun in August 2004, will record coalfield heritage through the creation of a digital archive, comprising photographs, documents, stories, oral reminiscences and video clips. Put together by ex-miners and their families, schools, community groups and other societies, the aim will be to create both a local resource available in regional centres and a 'virtual museum', available as a CD-ROM for home use and worldwide on the internet. A travelling exhibition will also be produced, available free to parish halls, community centres, etc.
The CHIK project will produce a unique resource on what life was like for people living and working in the Kent Coalfield Communities. The aim is to fully involve residents of the coalfield areas, as well as local schools and community groups, and to facilitate them to continue the work themselves once the funding for the project ends. As well as contributing to the archives and sound recordings, there will be opportunities for volunteers to learn new skills in areas such as computers/information technology and environmental management. Volunteers will be trained to lead guided walks, carry out routine maintenance of footpaths and help create public art.