With only a handful of British coalmines remaining active and with targets set to reduce carbon emissions, the coal industry now seems to be heading towards extinction. Yet, it was coal that turned Britain into a world-leader during the Industrial Revolution and established the conditions for the modern state. In the 20th century, it generated building programmes on a massive scale concerning miners' welfare, settlements and housing. The form, space, organisation, and aesthetics of architecture became of critical importance not just to the process of the industry's modernisation but also how it was perceived and understood both within and outside its workforce. But despite the centrality of coal mining and its workers to the development of modern Britain, as well as the contemporary recognition that aspects of its innovative architecture received, its built legacy has often been overlooked and physically almost completely erased. Divided into three parts, this is the first book which provides a critical and comprehensive examination of the architecture of coal in Britain and how it responded to the needs of the industry and, perhaps more significantly, its labour force.
Part I explores the relationship between the architecture of coal and the provision of welfare. While this produced a series of enlightened built projects for miners and their communities especially between the wars - educational buildings, reading rooms, holiday camps, welfare institutes, sports grounds, swimming pools, medical centres, children's playgrounds, etc. - it focusses on the paradigmatic integration of aesthetics and programme seen most emphatically in the creation of over 600 pithead baths. Part II looks at settlement and the relationships between responses to often adverse conditions within domestic environments in mining settlements and the development of broader and influential theories and practices concerning housing. Finally, Part III explores the modernisation of the industry during the post-war period arguing that that architectural design and representation became pivotal to the functional and symbolic requirements of the newly Nationalised entity and its position within, and singular contribution to, post-war society.