Thursday, 26 June 2014
This is Eric (or was it Ernie?) He's a Welsh pony, one of a few that are kept at the National Museum of Coal Mining for England in order to educate visitors about their crucial role in the coal mines. Ponies were used in mining from the very earliest days, at first walking endlessly in circles powering the winding-engines (gins) that raised the coal up the pit shaft to the surface from below. By the mid-1700s they were being used underground too, pulling sledges and later wheeled tubs filled with coal. At the peak in 1913 there were 70,000 ponies working underground. The number diminished as mechanisation increased and the last pit pony retired in 1994. They were stabled underground and only saw daylight for a few weeks each year, but they were generally well-looked after; a good working horse needed to be well fed and well shod.