The Clipstone Colliery Headstocks, Europe’s tallest coal mining headstocks at over 200 feet, stand abandoned. Still and silent in the village of Clipstone in Nottinghamshire, England since they were left to rot. Only a few miles from Sherwood Forest, that’s not just coal country—that’s Robin Hood country too.
For over thirteen years Clipstone Colliery has sat dormant in the middle of this North England village. Nottingham is known to anyone who’s seen a Robin Hood movie, but the Shire has more to its past than a famous sheriff and legendary forest. It was a center of coal mining through much of the 20th century, and the coal mine (colliery or pit) in Clipstone once employed over a thousand people. But as coal production declined, the mine closed, and since 2003 it has taken up a lot of space, but supported no jobs. The former pit lies in a part of England know as the Dukeries coalfields due to the number of ducal seats in a small area rich in coal.
Since the coal company pulled out of Clipstone, there has been a hot debate about whether or not to allow demolition of the facility, including the headstocks (the tall frames built around the pulley rigs that hoist the coal up and out of the ground). Times have been tough without what was the area’s biggest employer. Many people want to see the site torn down so that the area around the mine can be repurposed for new industry or housing. But the structure has been given what is known as a “Grade 2” listing by the U.K. government, so the giant headstocks can’t be torn down without petitioning the local authority to have the status changed. Being a “graded” building means protection from demolition because of special architectural or historic significance—and in the U.K. they take historic significance seriously. The iconic Bauhaus building between the headstocks contains impressive winding machinery which permitted deep shaft mining from the Top Hard seam.
On the other side of the debate is the local preservation organization, the Clipstone Colliery Regeneration Group Ltd. The group has rallied around the headstocks to not only ensure tat the Grade 2 protection sticks, but their longterm goal is to turn the whole site into an area of new focus and employment for the community. This includes proposals for an adventure attraction, with indoor skydiving, a parachute drop, a café, a movie theater, and the jewel in the crown—the U.K.’s longest zip line. If a new industry can both save the structure and bring jobs and tourists to Nottinghamshire it will regenerate the local commuunity, both sides could win. Too bad Robin Hood and the Sheriff couldn’t figure something like that out.