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Date of March 2019 given for new mining heritage visitor centre at Betteshanger Park, Deal, on former colliery

By Sam Lennon

A fundraising campaign has been launched for the redevelopment of the former Betteshanger Colliery site.

Kent Mining Heritage Foundation launched the appeal for £250,000 towards a £1.8 million fundraising target for the Betteshanger Project near Deal.

Developlement manager Tamasin Jarrett said yesterday: "We're launching a public appeal to enable the community to play a part in the future of the Betteshanger Project.

The new Betteshanger visitor centre under construction
The new Betteshanger visitor centre under construction

"We are offering the opportunity for people to donate and receive their own, limited edition, miners' pit check and upload a photograph to become part of the huge collage of the Waiting Miner.

"We have already raised £1.3m towards the required £1.8m.

"We now just need the support of park users and our local community to get this amazing project over the line."

The public are invited to make a personal style donation through two main products.

An artist's impression of the site when it opens in March 2019
An artist's impression of the site when it opens in March 2019

Firstly there is the Waiting Miner Collage.

A photo tile can be bought for £10 to become part of a 5 metre tall mosaic of the image.

It will be displayed on the café wall a new £9.5 million visitor centre, which opens next March.

A second way is The Miners' Pit Check.

A miner's identification tag
A miner's identification tag

When the pits were mined, every miner had their own personal, numbered pit check.

From £50, a personalised, limited one can be bought and will be displayed in an installation at the entrance to the new Visitor Centre. The donor can choose their limited edition number, pit check shape and have their name engraved. They will also receive a duplicate as a keepsake.

Hadlow College director of finance Mark Lumsden-Taylor Picture by Matthew Walker
Hadlow College director of finance Mark Lumsden-Taylor Picture by Matthew Walker

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, chiarman of KMFH, said: "The way in which we manage our environment is changing.

"Why not build a flagship facility here in East Kent?

That was the question asked of me 10 years ago, and, 10 years later, we are building one of the longest buildings in Europe."

The new centre will be 175 metres in length, equivalent to the height of the London Gherkin building.

The new visitor centre under construction (3017000)
The new visitor centre under construction (3017000)

He added; "I'm really proud in saying ‘it's nearly finished' but this is only the start. This is about providing a proper, life-long legacy. Betteshanger is more than just this park, it is flagship regeneration project for the county."

The unique and ambitious project is currently in its first phase, which includes the development of the visitor centre, encompassing the Kent Mining Museum and Green Energy Centre.

Director of Betteshanger Sustainable Parks Richard Morseley said the building will provide retail and cycling facilities, education, conferencing, events, gardens and public spaces, as well as acting as an iconic gateway to the 250-acre country park with its exceptional leisure and recreation facilities.

Filmmaker Peter Williams has won awards for A Century of Coal (3025682)
Filmmaker Peter Williams has won awards for A Century of Coal (3025682)

Peter Williams is vice-chairman of KMHF development group said: "What we have here is a unique story, which is currently untold. We're working together to tell this story to generations of the future. This project was planned very carefully with three objectives; healthy living, sustainable energy and of course heritage."

Mr Williams is also producer of the documentary A Century of Coal, telling of the history on Mining in Kent, which was premiered in Deal last July.

Ex-miner Jim Davies
Ex-miner Jim Davies

Guests at the presentation went on a hard-had tour of the new centre. These included ex-miners such as Jim Davies, the last one to leave Betteshanger Colliery when it shut.

The pit closed in August 1989 and he was involved in the clear-up operation for the following seven months.

He said: "I was the very last one on the mining side to be employed there.

"From that August until about December we were salvaging certain bits of equipment but then we had to fill the shafts in."

He said of the redevelopment: "After many false dawns it has finally come to fruition."

Ex-miner David Fraser
Ex-miner David Fraser

David Fraser was at Betteshanger for 36 years.

He said: "I came down from Scotland with the family in 1948 and I was the only one of six boys who went to the pit.

"This development is immense. It's spectacular when you realise what was here before. It's amazing what they have done."

Betteshanger was the last of the four Kent pits by the late 20th century.

Spoil was kept on land now occupied by the existing park, east of Sandwich Road, and the colliery itself was on the western side.

Only one of its building remains.

Mr Lumsdon-Taylor announced the exact opening date as March 30, 2019

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