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David Starkey, historian, is first Patron of Kent Mining Heritage Foundation, which is involved in the Betteshanger Project

By Sam Lennon

The historian David Starkey has become the firs Patron of the Kent Mining Heritage Foundation.

It is helping build the Kent Mining Museum, and a green energy centre and upgrade the leisure and recreation provisions at the former Betteshanger Colliery.

This is called the Betteshanger Project and the Foundation is working with Betteshanger Park, the Hadlow Group and Aylesham and Elvington and Eythorne Heritage Centres to support it.

David Starkey.
David Starkey.

The project , based near Deal, is already in its first phase, and includes a new £9.5 million visitor centre, encompassing the mining museum and energy centre.

It will provide retail, cycling facilities, education, conferencing, events, gardens and public spaces.

It will also act as a gateway to the 250-acre country park. .

Mr Starkey said: "This is an important project, both for Kent and particularly for the area south of Canterbury, embracing Dover, Deal and Thanet.

Historically, the story of the growth of the Kent Coalfield, once coal had been discovered accidentally when they were trying to dig a tunnel linking Britain to France, will be told in the first Kent Mining Museum."

During 100 years of mining, the Kent Coalfield, Betteshanger, Chislet, Tilmanstone and Snowdown, was at the heart of the East Kent community, employing more than 150,000 men that dug more than 100 million tonnes of coal.

Dr Starkey continued: "It is a unique story, because nowhere else, I believe, were tens of thousands of miners recruited and gathered together in an agricultural county which had absolutely no tradition of mining

"Their integration with, and isolation from, the predominantly agricultural community is fascinating. Secondly financially, the contribution this Project will make to what is one of the most disadvantaged communities in Europe, is absolutely vital and deserves everyone's support."

The KMHF recently celebrated reaching £1million of the £1.8 million needed for the Betteshanger Project.

Artist's impression of the Betteshanger Project. Submitted picture.
Artist's impression of the Betteshanger Project. Submitted picture.

It ganed funds from corporate sponsorship, grants from trusts and foundations, and individual donations. Recent supporters of the campaign that helped the foundation reach £1 million, include the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Rochester Bridge Trust and the Roger de Haan Charitable Trust.

When complete, the project is expected to provide £6.2 million a year into the local economy.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, chairman of KMHF, said: "We are delighted to welcome Dr Starkey on board as our first Patron.

" To get someone, who is so passionate in his field but also so recognisable in the historical world is a huge boost for the work that KMHF does."

David Starkey is also a well-know radio and TV personality, appearing on programmes such as the BBC Radio 4 debate show The Moral Maze and regularly on BBC1's topical discussion programme Question Time.

He has also presented several successful l history documentaries. including The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Monarchy.

His books have included The Inventory of Henry VIII: The Transcript and Magna Carta: The True Story Behind the Charter.

Betteshanger was the last of the Kent collieries to shut, ending production in August 1989.

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