Kent Mining Museum opens at Betteshanger Country Park near Deal and admission is free

by Sam Williams

The long-awaited Kent Mining Museum has opened.

Based at Betteshanger Country Park, near Deal, the £1.7m, free-to-enter museum pays homage to the county's mining heritage.

Kent Mining Museum opens today
Kent Mining Museum opens today

It sits inside a new £6m visitor centre, which will host a series of workshops over the coming weeks as part of the Easter break fun.

The first facility of its kind in Kent, the museum tells the unique story of the county’s mining communities and the former Betteshanger Colliery.

Its interactive exhibits will 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.

Youngsters can also dress up in mining kit as they explore the museum.

In addition to the museum, visitors will be able to enjoy new experiences around the 250-acre country park including a huge new mining-themed play area, and The Lamp cafe and bar.

A brand-new Heritage Trail that will traverse the land’s colliery connections will also open next year.

Miners at Betteshanger Colliery. Picture: BBC
Miners at Betteshanger Colliery. Picture: BBC
Inside The Lamp Room which is Betteshanger Park's new cafe
Inside The Lamp Room which is Betteshanger Park's new cafe

The project - which has been plagued by delays including money troubles under previous owners Hadlow College and then coronavirus - have been driven forward by the park’s new owners Quinn Estates, in partnership with the Kent Mining Heritage Foundation (KMHF).

The museum is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players.

Chair of the KMHF, Stuart Elgar, said: "This museum isn’t about a nostalgia trip for elderly miners or their children - it’s for our grandchildren and future generations.

"The story of the 5,000 or so migrating miners is unique in the British coalfields, and it is important that it is kept alive."

Coal was first discovered in Kent in 1890, but it wasn’t until 1912 that four successful East Kent Colleries were established: Tilmanstone, Chislet, Snowdown and Betteshanger.

Betteshanger was the largest Kent mine, first reaching coal in 1927 and was ‘home’ to 1,500 miners.

It closed in 1989, the last of the Kent pits to close.

Betteshanger Country Park was established in 2007, when the former coal mining spoil heap was transformed into a public space for people to enjoy.

Quinn Estates’ plans for new homes at Cottington Park
Quinn Estates’ plans for new homes at Cottington Park
The Wave at Bristol. A similar surfing experience is proposed for Betteshanger Country Park. Photo: The Wave, Bristol
The Wave at Bristol. A similar surfing experience is proposed for Betteshanger Country Park. Photo: The Wave, Bristol

The site was acquired in 2019 by developers Quinn Estates, and is now a visitor attraction, events space and centre for sporting excellence, attracting around 150,000 people per year.

Last year, plans emerged to build a new Wave Garden, which would provide surfing experiences, at Betteshanger, as well as a 5* hotel, with 56 rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.

Quinn Estates are also proposing to build a new housing development close by, named Cottington Park.

This would include 975 homes, a two-form entry primary school, a park-and-ride with electric buses linking to Deal railway station and other improvements to local roads.

Mark Quinn, CEO of Quinn Estates, added: “The Kent Mining Museum is of huge importance to the local community, and the UK’s coal mining heritage."

Betteshanger Country Park is open daily from 8am to 5.30pm, and is free to enter.

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