On Saturday we visited the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. Our guide for the day was Simon Brookes who greeted us upon arrival before leading us to the Wood Hall on the first floor of the building. The room was simply breath-taking. There were stained glass windows at both ends of the room and paintings on every wall but what struck me the most were the beautifully intricate wood carvings situated throughout the room. It definitely felt like an academic environment even though the books were hidden behind wooden doors.
Our time at the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers was very informative. Simon was clearly very passionate about the history of mining which meant that he had no shortage of information to pass onto us, but the thing that I found most interesting was the story behind the building.
The building, Neville Hall, was built as a memorial for Nicholas Wood, a mining engineer. Nicholas, along with a group of engineers, believed that something needed to be done about the number of people dying in mines and so created an institute with the aim of preventing disasters in mines. This was the beginning of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.
Subsequently, Nicholas dedicated his life to working out solutions to the problems encountered during mine work. This also meant training future mining engineers to carry on his work and at the height of his teaching, Nicholas was training 300 mining engineers a year, to put this into perspective, at Durham university 30 students were graduating each year.
Every invention that contributed to mine safety is well documented, but perhaps where the learning and spark of creativity behind each invention came from is not.
It can never be truly known how much one person affected history, but I can safely say that mines became much safer places thanks to one man, his passion for education and his loathing of a needless, even avoidable, loss of life.