WM College wood carving learner, David Willis has used his new found craft to highlight important history of his hometown and the local coal mining community. His wooden sculpture ‘Coal Miner’ was created as a memorial to the coal miners of Brown Edge, a village in the Staffordshire Moorlands near the North Staffs coalfield and impressed local organisations so much it is now on permanent loan at The Chatterley Whitfield Heritage Centre.
As a child growing up near the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery, David witnessed some of the 3,000 men employed at the mine return daily from work with coal blackened hands and faces. Most the men in David’s hometown were miners, including his dad and both grandads and his uncles also worked at the pits. During his school years he also knew of three boys who went to work down the pits aged just fifteen.
Growing up in such a strong coal mining community David was inspired to create a piece of artwork which marked this poignant part of local history. His sculpture ‘Coal Miner’ depicts a miner hunched over hard at work and is carved out of a solid cube of teak wood, using exceptionally sharp gouges, not too dissimilar to tools used by the miners in the pits.
In 2022, David offered his carving to his hometown Village Hall to be exhibited for the summer. It became a talking point for the many groups who meet there and was later taken to Chatterley Whitfield Colliery for their Annual Heritage Weekend. Chatterley Whitfield Colliery is an industrial time capsule that is widely acknowledged to be the last- remaining, complete, deep coal mine site in Britain and has been designated by Historic England as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Having seen David’s ‘Coal Miner’ sculpture on display, the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield Group asked if it could be exhibited on permanent loan, and it is now housed in the Heritage Centre at the pit, alongside other artists such as Rob Pointon and John Ball. The Chatterly Whitfield Heritage Centre is free to visit and open Thursdays and Saturdays. Explore Chatterly Whitfield by Abandoned Engineering here and Hidden Britain by Drone here.
If you fancy your hand at wood carving why not try one of our wood carving courses?