The National Coal Mining Museum for England is a free museum located near Wakefield in West Yorkshire. It is a great family-friendly attraction and it’s an educational day out. It teaches about what was once a big part of our industrial past. You can book on underground mine tours which there is a charge to do but this is a voluntary donation and you can ask for your donation back at the end of your visit. We loved the underground tour so much we had no intention of asking for our donation back.
National Coal Mining Museum for England Things To Do Review
When I mentioned to my husband that we were meeting my Mum here for a day out he grumbled and said it would be boring. I don’t know why he was bothered as he wasn’t visiting with us but our day out was anything but boring. We all really enjoyed it and we left feeling like we’d actually learnt things but we learnt them by having fun.
We were handed a map when we arrived which we found useful for making sure we hadn’t missed anything. There is supposed to be a small train that runs from either end of the site but this wasn’t running during our visit. I think it only runs in high season. It was drizzling quite a bit when we arrived so we decided to wander around all their buildings before visiting the adventure playground.
The site has a great number of exhibitions that are in the old buildings of the site. There are some really fun hands-on exhibitions. In nearly every room there is something interactive to do. If you have younger children there is an activity room with a small soft play area, dress up and other things to keep them occupied. (please note this was closed when we last visited because of covid)
They have paid a lot of attention to detail and many of the exhibits are there to show you what life was like for the men that worked in the coal mine. Some of the displays show how the miners would have lived with recreated rooms. The museum encourages children to get hands-on and there is a great lack of signs saying do not touch which is always a good thing when visiting places with children.
Many of the exhibits also show the rooms how they would have looked when they were in use. There are locker rooms, a shower block, an operations room and more. This was really interesting and well done.
One exhibition my son found fascinating was a recreation of a tunnel in a mine. Kids can crawl through the space for themselves and it gives them a real sense of the cramped quarters that even children had to endure.
The museum is very thought-provoking and certainly shows the tough conditions that adults and children had to work in. Another exhibition he really liked had examples of on-site phones where you can call each other up from the top floor down to the bottom floor. He could have spent all day in this room.
One of the often-overlooked aspects of coal mining was the use of pit ponies. At the museum, they are keen to teach people about the pit ponies and they now have a dedicated area for them with new stables at the top end of the site.
They even have a shire horse who quite literally has the biggest personality we’ve ever seen of any horse. You must find him and say hello, he’s very friendly and absolutely hilarious. If you choose to go on the tour of the coal mine there is also a very dark and small area where the smaller ponies used to live. If you think any animals have it bad today you may well change your mind.
We had booked on the underground tour and it was the highlight of our visit. You go down in groups that we had pre-booked online in advance. They have a number of tours throughout the day and it is recommended that you book your slot in advance so that you don’t miss out. You are given a helmet to wear and a light to carry with you. You travel down in a small cage that the miners would have once used to access the coal mine.
For everyone’s safety, you can’t take your phones down there with you. In fact, there are quite a few contraband items so we usually just hand over our whole bag for them to keep safe.
We were then taken for a tour around the mine by a man that actually used to work down there, this is how their tours are conducted. The insight into their lives and their working conditions was fascinating and you truly appreciate just what life was like for them. The tour took around an hour and we were shown all the different aspects and working conditions in the mines from when it was first in use up until modern times before the mine was closed.
You get to see the tools they used from pickaxes of the past to modern industrial machinery that took out much of the hard work. The guide made an effort to engage with the children on our tour and some were even chosen to help perform tasks such as igniting pretend dynamite. There was no opportunity for them to get bored.
I can not recommend the underground tour enough. All I would say is don’t take young children down there. They recommend the tour for children age 5 and over for a reason. There was a toddler on the tour with us and she was so scared by the dark conditions They ended up having to send a rescue party down for them to escort her and her Mum back up to the surface. This isn’t a ‘fun’ tour so to speak, it could be pretty scary for younger kids.
After the tour, we decided to spend some time outdoors. There is an excellent adventure playground on-site with plenty to climb, swing and play on. There is also an excellent zip wire. If you want to extend your visit there is a workshop a short walk away from the main centre.
They also have a nature trail walk that takes you around the site. “The Trail begins near the picnic area where you take the gravel path to the valley bottom and follow the stream until the path divides. If you carry straight on up the hill you’ll arrive back at Caphouse, take the right fork to see the reed beds that are part of the water treatment plant and then on to the Hope Pit displays.”
It’s certainly somewhere we would return to (we’ve been twice now). It’s great for kids to understand more about the history of coal mining and the people that once worked at the pits.
National Coal Mining Museum for England FAQ & Further Information
Address: Caphouse Colliery, New Rd, Overton, Wakefield WF4 4RH, West Yorkshire
Category – Museum – Indoors and Outdoors – Suitable for all ages, although more suited to primary age children and older.
What are the ticket prices?
FREE. You can visit the museum for free. There is a donation/deposit for the pit tours, you can ask for your money back if you want. This is a £5 deposit per person.
What are the main facilities and things to do?
Historic coal mine turned museum with many interactive exhibits, shire horse, outdoor adventure playground and pit tours. There are toilets and a cafe.
When are they open?
The National Coal Mining Museum is open almost all year round. For up-to-date opening times please visit their website.
Is there food available?
There is a cafe serving hot and cold food and drinks. You are welcome to bring a picnic.
Is there parking?
There is a free on-site car park.
Are they dog friendly?
Assistance dogs are permitted.