Tuesday, 22 November 2011

If you go down to the mines today....

Today we are moving away from the history of the Together Trust to have a look at some of the work being done by the charity to ensure its records are being protected for the future. So how do we do this? By going down the mines…

All dressed up.

Last week I made the 40 minute journey across from Cheadle to the small town of Winsford in Cheshire. Here lies home to DeepStore, a records management storage facility. The store lies 150 metres underground in the void that was created when millions of tonnes of salt were removed from Salt Union’s rock salt mine in Cheshire, Britain’s largest salt mine. DeepStore is currently around the size of 700 football pitches and continues to grow every year.

                                                    Lots and lots of salt.

In the last few months the Together Trust has moved around 2000 of its boxes across to DeepStore. Here they will spend the rest of their days amongst other happy boxes, safe in the knowledge that the mine is naturally free from the dangers of ultraviolet light, vermin or flooding. The mine also maintains a constant temperature making it ideal for the storage of paper records.

With all this in mind we donned a blue safety jacket, yellow hard hat, torch and oxygen pack and stepped into the entrance of the mine, excited to see our precious boxes in situ amongst other eminent collections. The first obstacle was the lift. Maintenance that day meant we were stepping into No. 5 shaft for our descent into the pit. No. 5 shaft is normally meant for the transporting of salt, not people, and as the tiny cage creaked into sight it was easy to see why. The vision of five tiny people stood in a sardine can sprung to mind as we squeezed our way in. As the lift started winding downwards we were suddenly immersed into pitch blackness. It was an experience similar to the Tower of Terror. However I count myself lucky to be descending in this way. In 1844 when the mine was first opened the miners used to be lowered down the shafts in buckets! 

The entrance of doom.

Being down in the vast caves of the salt mines is certainly a different experience to walking into the small warehouse that previously stored the Together Trust's records. As you walk through the mines you can still see signs of its 167 year old history. As we approached the area which still contains the original two shafts of the mine, our eyes  focused on the old wagon tracks. Two wagons, which would have transported the excavated salt back up to the surface, still remain. Until the introduction of electricity to the mine in the 1930’s, tallow candles were used to light the way. Bundles of these can still be seen in the old cavity of the mine today. It certainly brings history to life. 

Ye old wagons on the track.
The main benefit to the Together Trust itself is knowing our precious records (which will represent our history in the future), are secure for many years for come. And it certainly makes a trip to the ‘store’ much more interesting!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! A few years ago my husband's father contacted the Together Trust for records of his father's time with them (James Glanvill Street)and he was told that his records were transferred to Barnardos. Barnardos say they could find no records. Is it possible that the Together Trust might have some records about James down in the mines?


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