Photography by Katie O'Neill
Michael Doherty is one of the last remaining former miners to have worked at Manchester’s Bradford pit. Born and bred (in 1937) in Bradford, East Manchester, just five minutes away from the pit, Michael, known as Mick, began working there in 1955 aged 18, and spent almost 14 years toiling underground until its closure in 1968.
Bradford Pit, c1928
The mine employed around 1,500 people when it closed, many living in the neighbouring areas of Beswick, Clayton and Newton Heath. Known as the ‘pit in the city’, the seams dug by the miners have been described as a 'spider’s web of tunnels' which stretched for miles underground. Dating back to the early 18th century, it was a thriving part of the UK coal industry for more than 350 years providing power and fuel for Manchester and the surrounding areas.
The colliery pit head (Photo: Salford Advertiser)
Bradford miners (Photo: Bradford Pit Project)
The area, known as Eastlands, was a wasteland for many years before its redevelopment in the modern era with what was then the City of Manchester Stadium and the surrounding facilities being built in the late 1990s ahead of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. It has being constantly developed since.
Michael at the newly installed Bradford Pit Memorial
Michael explains that mining was a family tradition. “My dad William worked 20-years down Bradford Pit on the coalface. My grandad Michael worked 57 years down Bradford pit, I think he was the longest serving miner underground at Bradford”.
The miners always worked with a smile on their face. They knew it was hard work and dangerous work but they wanted to get the work done, they were great lads, all with hearts of gold.
Talking about the memorial, Michael says. “I felt like something needed to be done to keep the name Bradford alive and remind people of the miners. It was going for over 300 years and we need to remember all the men, women and children who worked down there during that time”.
However, former miners believed the history of the area was being quickly forgotten. In 2013, the Bradford Pit Project was initiated by Lauren Murphy, whose Grandad Alan Evans also worked at the mine. Michael’s determination for the pit’s legacy to be recognised was one of the projects driving forces. A successful proposal to develop a memorial was put forward to Manchester City Council and the memorial was installed and unveiled to the public in 2021. Positioned at the corner of the Ethiad Campus it serves as a permanent reminder of the Bradford Pit and all of the people who lived and worked in the mining community.
THE SHOOT: The Bradford Pit Memorial, Beswick, Manchester
The memorial commemorates the colliery that used to stand on the site now occupied by SportCity and the Etihad Stadium.
Student reflection: Katie O'Neill
It was an absolute pleasure to meet and photograph Michael. He greeted us with a big smile when we arrived at the Bradford Pit Memorial and he wasted no time in telling us of his experiences as a miner at the colliery. All of the photography was centred around the memorial and Michael kindly abandoned his wheelchair to stand and pose for the camera. It was a bright but overcast day which eliminated any harsh shadows and allowed me to photograph Michael from different angles against the detail of the memorial. Michael brought along some mining artefacts including a davy lamp which was a really interesting addition for some of the shots.
Michael & Katie
I managed to get a real selection of images which captured both his personality and the importance of the location. Michael was a real pleasure to photograph and a worthy addition to the project.