Unloved Heritage?

Connecting young people in Wales with their community, history and heritage.

Unloved Heritage is a Wales-wide youth programme for kids aged 10-15.

Led by Cadw and funded by the Heritage Lottery, the programme is made up of several different groups dotted around Wales, with each group working on different projects designed to engage young people with their community, history and heritage.

The activities include anything from recording traditional music, to cave exploration to doing archaeological excavations. Each project aims to reflect the region and its particular story, encouraging young people to delve into the heritage of their community and share the legacy of the past with both present and future generations.

DigVentures is working with Cadw and the Valleys Kids Youth Group on theBlaenrhondda project, based at Treherbert in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales.Since the start of the year, the group bas been busy making 3D models and short documentary films while learning more about the rich coal mining heritage of the Rhondda Valley and the industrial and domestic buildings that once occupied the landscape.

Get to know the kids!

The Blaenrhondda group filmed, directed and edited their very own video to introduce themselves to other groups in the Unloved Heritage project.

Using Minecraft to rebuild a demolished colliery.

A main focus of this particular project aims to digitally rebuild the nearby Fernhill Colliery based on a variety of archival material. We’re using the brick-building gaming software Minecraft to recreate the colliery and its associated buildings from old photos, aerial images and historic maps. We started at Caroline Street – a row of terraced houses still visible on maps which has long been demolished – and have been working our way through the digital valley creating roads, mining headgear and railway tracks.

With an innovative combination of research, construction and imagination, the Blaenrhondda project aims to connect local youth with the industrial heritage that shaped both the immediate and broader community that they live in today.

Once a thriving mine, now there's little left to see.

Fernhill Colliery, sunk by Ebenizer Lewis around 1870, once stood at the head of the Rhondda Fawr valley. It was a major industrial site and a definitive part of the landscape.

Over the years, the Fernhill Colliery continued to expand, adding several new pits and further extending shafts. The colliery peaked in employment during the late 1930s when it employed around 1700 people. These numbers dropped to 1250 by 1945.

The end of an era...

The colliery began closing shafts over the next decades and its output was diverted to the nearby Tower Colliery on the other side of the Rhigos mountain. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Fernhill’s associated structures and outbuildings were dismantled and the colliery was officially closed in 1978. All remaining mining buildings have since been completely demolished and the area fully landscaped. Growing up in Treherbert today, there is little of the original mining landscape left to see.

How it looks today – the valley where Fernhill Colliery once stood.

Headed by Cadw with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Unloved Heritage is made possible by a number of participants.

The project works with the Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council, Birmingham University, Big Pit National Mining Museum, Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, Taliesin Conservation, Rhondda Historical Society and members of the former mining community in the Rhondda Valley have helped to bring this project to life.

DigVentures is working with the Penrenglyn Valley Kids to develop the Minecraft version of Fernhills Colliery – dubbed MineRhondda. Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam is helping the kids create photogrammetry models of larger objects, rooms in houses and some colliery structures.

We have also invited archaeogaming experts Angus Mol and Aris Politopoulos of the Value Foundation. Angus and Aris have worked on multiple projects which aim to develop knowledge activation and disseminate information in an accessible, interactive, and fun way. They bring a deep experience of working alongside cultural institutions such as the Leiden’s National Museum of Antiquities and the Roman Limes project to utilise digital media to activate interest and learning in heritage.

Digitally rebuilding Fernhill Colliery, brick by brick.

Since February 2019, we have been working with a small group from the local Valley Kids Youth Project at Penyrenglyn to research and rebuild aspects of the Fernhill Colliery in Minecraft.

The aim of the group is to recreate homes of the miners, and some of the mining buildings and landscapes. We have been working to rebuild an industrial landscape which they have never seen, but which occupied a large part of the landscape surrounding their home town.

A colliery winding house, recreated from archive photos.

Bringing together traditional archive research methods and the digital gaming platform Minecraft, the youth group is busy at work recreating a 3D version of Fernhill Colliery brick by brick in Minecraft. To find inspiration for their virtual colliery, the group has spent time combing through archives, visiting coal mining museums, speaking with former miners and Caroline Street inhabitants and doing hands-on archaeology where the houses on Caroline Street once stood.

The group will be learning how to read maps and historic photos, take photos, do photogrammetry, use GIS, dig archaeology and create films. They’re teaching us about Minecraft, Treherbert, living in Rhondda, and the best pizza and waffle toppings. At the same time, we’re all learning more about how the colliery worked and using heritage skills to explore what life was like at different points in history.

Working on the winding house.
Interviewing former residents of Caroline Street.
Archaeology of Caroline Street.

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