Robin Hood pit was situated at the Half Way House on the Leeds, Wakefield Road, Rothwell. It was about four miles from Middleton Broom Colliery as the crow flies. Middleton was a small pit in comparison with others, about five hundred people work there. Robin Hood had been even smaller. It was now worked out of coal, but maintenance men worked regularly to keep the pit in good order. There was still development work in progress and the surface was being landscaped.
Soon after the underground connecting road from Middleton to Robin Hood was completed Ben W. took me down it. As we were walking Ben began to confide in me about the nature of the road and why it had been built:
As has been discussed it was primary an escape route for both pits. But just as important pits were being connected with the Atom Bomb in mind. Underground shelters were envisaged as protection against the bombs. In those days people were beginning to realise Atomic bombs could rain down on the British Isles. The cold war had started. I was finding this a little hard to believe. I could understand the importance of an escape route. If a disaster incapacitated the two shafts, miners could then be directed to the nearest other shaft. Atom Bomb shelters were another matter.
We eventually reached the Robin Hood pit bottom. It was much like the one at Middleton; I remember looking up the shaft at the small circle of light at the surface. It looked much shallower than at Middleton. There was an onsetter in attendance and he offered to wind us out. Ben declined saying, “We must push on.” We headed off in another direction from where we had come; occasionally Ben looked at what I assume to be a plan of the Robin Hood workings. I was wondering if he had got us lost, for I had no idea of the way back, when we turned a corner.
*Confronting us was a metal air door. I had never ever seen anything like it. It was not locked but it hung on great hinges with a large bolt and hasp type device at the side. On going through this door we were met by a second similar, but much larger, door. Once through this one we entered a roadway that was about twenty feet in height (6m). The roof was curved at the top like normal roadways but that was where the similarity ended.
The concrete walls were smooth. They were painted a light beige colour. Everywhere was spotlessly clean, not a speck of dust anywhere. The floor had a kind of red polished non slippery surface. There seemed to be no air movement but the air was fresh and clean. The roadway was well lit by fluorescent tubes set in the roof. There was no sign of any weight problems on the roadway. If I did not know better I could swear I was not down a pit at all. I was amazed and I think Ben was, because although he had prior knowledge of its existence, it was the first time for him to see it also.
“What do you think of it?” he asked.
“Amazing, what is it”
“It’s an atomic refuge.” he explained, “In the event of miners becoming trapped down the pit they can survive down here. Although it is by no means finished, it will be stocked with food and all the essentials for living down here for long periods. Eventually there will be sleeping, preparation of food and office accommodation in-built.”
The roadway was about two hundred yards long and at the end were doors similar to the ones we had come through initially. We did not go through them but retraced our steps and headed back to Middleton.
I have often wondered about the air circulation down in that place, the steel doors were unlike any air doors I had ever seen, there seemed to be no air circulating yet the air condition was perfect.
As we headed back Ben said, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, it is not a secret but until it becomes common knowledge keep it to yourself.”
And I did for many years after.
* The details of this have been confirmed by Secret Leeds member “Loiner in Cyprus” who states: “It’s there. I’ve seen it… I was an apprentice at the time and the fitter I was working with at one point took me to see it. He said not to mention that I’d seen it as we’d get [in trouble] for skiving. It was referred to by him, and other miners, as the Robin Hood drift. It was very big compared to the other roadways underground and was rendered i.e. no props, rings or other supports were visible”. He goes on to say, “The questions I raised at the time was how would you get out if the pit head gear was blown away? Without adequate ventilation there would be a build up of gas. The face closest to the drift, North East 2 I think, had a problem with gas and did have a gas pump installed in the middle gate to elevate the problem.”