Community art group helps create national memorial paying tribute to miners

A National Miners’ Memorial commemorating the men, women and children who worked in the industry and served or died for their country has been unveiled in Staffordshire.

Designed by artist Andy DeComyn, the £100,000 memorial was unveiled on Friday at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, near Burton-on-Trent, by the Duke of Gloucester.

Among the specially-commissioned bronzes which form a frieze around the memorial are ones depicting members of the Mines Rescue Service, pit ponies, and so-called Bevin Boys who were conscripted to work in UK coal mines during and after World War Two.

National Miners’ Memorial unveiling
The Duke of Gloucester (centre) observes the memorial after the unveiling of the National Miners’ Memorial (Jacob King/PA)

Other bronzes, funded by donations from mining heritage groups in Kent, Leicestershire and the north-west of England, show the aftermath of a roof collapse.

The memorial project was co-ordinated by Chase Arts for Public Spaces (Chaps) – a group of volunteers based in towns within the former Cannock Chase Coalfield in Staffordshire.

Speaking at the unveiling, Chaps member Len Prince, a former miner, said it was “only fitting” that the miners’ memorial was near those honouring the RAF Regiment and an Army artillery regiment.

Mr Prince said: “The Industrial Revolution was bought on the backs of the hard work of miners.

National Miners’ Memorial unveiling
The frieze on the National Miners’ Memorial depicts the history of the industry in the UK (Jacob King/PA)

“Men women and children worked in coal mines up until 1842. Then they changed the law so that women, girls and boys under 10 could not work in the coal mines.

“In the First World War, half a million miners volunteered to fight and a lot of them were sent digging trenches, but a proportion of them were sent tunnelling under the German lines.

“It was top secret work and one of the most dangerous things you could do – so the memorial has got plaques representing that.”