Published: 15:54, 05 April 2022
| Updated: 15:56, 05 April 2022
The county’s rich mining heritage was discovered by a new generation with the long-awaited opening of Kent Mining Museum.
Rapturous applause sounded as the ribbon was cut on the new £1.7million attraction at Betteshanger Park in Deal on Saturday.
Celebrations included a colourful parade from school children who showed off their painted banners, followed by speeches and music from Betteshanger Colliery Welfare Band and Snowdon Colliery Welfare Male Voice Choir.
Excited youngsters delved into the past as they explored the museum and its interactive displays, before trying their hands at craft-making.
While others, like Jim Davies, the last miner at Betteshanger who oversaw its final closure, relished that the story of local miners was finally being told.
Mr Davies, a trustee of Kent Mining Heritage Foundation (KMHF), has been the custodian for the story of the Kent Coalfield and a driving force behind the museum’s instigation and development.
He said: “We are so happy to finally have this museum.
"We didn’t want lots of dusty cases with old objects in.
"We wanted an exciting and interesting museum which tells our story and will have changing exhibitions and activities to cover all of the themes of our rich story and heritage.”
The museum sits inside a new £6m visitor centre.
It is the first facility of its kind in Kent, telling the unique story of the county’s mining communities and the former Betteshanger Colliery.
Its interactive exhibits aim to educate, inform and challenge perceptions about the history, using a combination of video and audio content from the miners themselves, as well as displays of historic mining collections.
The project - which has been plagued by delays including money troubles under previous owners Hadlow College and then coronavirus - has been driven forward by the park’s new owners Quinn Estates, in partnership with the KMHF.
Mark Quinn, CEO of Quinn Estates, said: “We took on this development two and a half years ago and it’s brilliant to see it open. I’m so proud of what the team has delivered.
“I wanted to thank the dedicated ex-miners Stuart Elgar, Jim Davies, Jim Crews, Paul Hathaway for entrusting to us their vision of what they wanted to create, they’ve been brilliant.”
The museum and its staff have been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with further support from Quinn Estates.
A new cafe, The Lamp Room, has also opened within the visitor centre.
Betteshanger Park is open 8am to 5.30pm and is free to enter.