In a previous article I wrote about finding parch marks in Lewis Oval, and suggested that they were due to the railway cutting and tunnel of the former Lambton Colliery. I recently obtained a scan of a 1944 aerial photograph of Lambton from the Local Studies section of Newcastle Library. By overlaying the photograph in Google Earth I can see that my guess was spot on.
In archaeology a parch mark is where variations in vegetation growth reveal underlying archaeological features. They most often show up where stone or brick ruins underneath the surface means that there is less soil, and in dry seasons the vegetation in these areas will wither before other areas with deeper levels of topsoil, thus revealing the underlying structure in aerial photographs. Parch marks have sometimes appeared in Britain’s Channel 4 program “Time Team“, revealing ancient Roman structures.
I was excited to discover today photographic evidence of some historical parch marks in my own suburb. The present day Lewis Oval in New Lambton is built over the location of the former Lambton colliery, pretty much in the spot shown in the photograph below.
Overlaying an old map onto Google Earth confirms that the rail line and inclined mine tunnel entrance used to be where Lewis Oval is now.
I reasoned that these former excavated regions for the railway and mine tunnel would cause slight subsidences in the surface of Lewis Oval, causing water to pool in these areas more, and that in dry times the vegetation in these areas would remain greener for longer. I opened up the historical images feature of Google Earth and browsed through the available images, and bingo – there was an image from 2006 that clearly showed the location of the mine rail and tunnel. I have enhanced the contrast in the image below to make it stand out a bit more.
In the course of preparing the article I came across an interesting and instructive book about coal mining from 1906 in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections archive. Interestingly this textbook “First Lessons In Coal Mining” is subtitled “For Use in Primary Schools” – which highlights how much our industrial economy and educational curriculum has changed in the last 110 years!
In an introductory note to the book, H.F. Bulman writes
“Coal mining is peculiarly suitable in every way to be a subject taught in the schools of mining districts, as a matter of most practical concern to the children, and as being well fitted to draw out their metal powers. And the dangers and difficulties which need to be encountered in the getting of coal, demanding as they do courage and self-devotion, supply that element of the heroic which will naturally appeal to a healthy-spirited boy, and call out the finer qualities of his nature.”
I wonder if there are any subjects in the modern school curriculum that can “supply that element of the heroic”?
The University of Newcastle archive has each double page of the book as a separate scanned image. For convenience of reading I have collected the pages into a PDF document: First Lessons In Coal Mining.pdf