Mining in Kent exhibition – Book a Tour!

We will be holding a series of guided tours of the Mining in Kent exhibition. Join us on a tour to find out more about the exhibition, hear about the exhibition highlights, and get the answers to any questions you might have about mining in Kent!

The exhibition tells the story of the history of mining in Kent, from the early days of discovering the Kent coalfield to the impact of the 1984 Miners’ Strike. Illustrated by original archive material from Special Collections and Archives we explore the main coalfields in the county and what life was like for a Kent miner. We look at the history of miners’ strikes in 1926, 1972, 1974 and 1984 and how these were portrayed by cartoonists in the national press. We take a deeper look at the impact of the 1984/1985 miners’ strike in Kent and the different forms of support that arose for the miners and the mining community, from Kent students to stand-up comedians.

Tours will be led by Karen Brayshaw (Special Collections and Archives Manager) or Beth Astridge (University Archivist).

Tours will be held on:


  • Wednesday 10th July 12pm – with Karen Brayshaw
  • Monday 22nd July 1pm – with Beth Astridge
  • Friday 9th August 12.30pm – with Karen Brayshaw
  • Tuesday 10th September 12.30pm – with Beth Astridge
  • Thursday 26th September 12.30pm – Karen Brayshaw

If you would like to join us for a guided tour of the Mining in Kent exhibition – please  email to book your place!

Two yellow stickers with red and black text reading "Support the Miners, NUM, Stop Pit Closures"

NUM Support the Miners stickers, from the Richard Richardson Mining Collection

Mining in Kent: An Exhibition exploring the history of mining in Kent

2024 marks both the 40th anniversary of the 1984 Miners’ Strike, and the 100th anniversary of the cutting of the first mineshaft at Betteshanger Colliery, the largest of Kent’s mines.

Front page of a Kent Area National Union of Mineworkers Leaflet titled Solidarity with the Miners, with the title in red text above an image of miner wearing a miner's helmet and head lamp, and the caption 'Coal Not Dole' at the bottom.

Kent Area NUM Leaflet – Solidarity with the Miners (Richardson Mining Collections, Box 6)

Using archive material from Special Collections and Archives, this exhibition tells the story of the history of mining in Kent,  from the early days of discovering the Kent coalfield to the impact of the 1984 Miners’ Strike.

The exhibition showcases material from the following archive collections:

  • The Richard Richardson Mining Collection
  • The British Cartoon Archive
  • The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive
  • The Labour and Socialist Newspapers

With thanks to Beth Astridge and Karen Brayshaw – and especially to our volunteer Amy Green, who have worked on the research and curation of this exhibition.

We will be publishing several blogs of the next few months giving further insight into some of the stories and items on display in the exhibition. So do keep checking here for further blog entries!


Cartoon showing the ups and downs of Arthur Scargill's leadership of the miners' strike with him moving up ladder in March 1984, and sliding down a snake in March 1985.

Nicholas Garland in this cartoon illustrates the rise and fall in the prospects of Arthur Scargill and the NUM from the beginning of the strike in 1984 to the end in 1985. (Reference: British Cartoon Archive, NG2969, Nicholas Garland, Sunday Telegraph, 12th March 1984)



Preserving ceramics – a work placement project

We welcomed three university students to the archives earlier this year to work on ceramic objects in our Holt Bairnsfather Collection and Graham Thomas Collection. The students were joining us on work placements as part of their studies, and were asked to complete a number of tasks to help us preserve, catalogue and make accessible these collections:

  • Reviewing: Carrying out a condition report for each item in the collection and photographing each item
  • Cleaning: Using conservation materials to gently clean the items to ensure they are free of dust and grime
  • Repacking: Creating custom enclosures for each item using plastazote and ‘Really Useful Boxes’
  • Listing: Creating descriptions for each item in a spreadsheet that will be imported into Calm, our Collection Management System

You can find out more about these collections on our catalogue:
Holt Bairnsfather Collection
Graham Thomas Collection

Harvey (Canterbury Christ Church University)

Working on the Bairnsfather Collection has been my first experience working as a part of an archival team. It has been an amazing experience and has taught me a lot about not only how working in an archive works but also about a part of history that I did not know a lot about before starting my placement here.

The work I did as part of the team was cataloguing, filling out condition reports, and packaging the items that were to be added to the collection. When cataloguing and completing condition reports it was vital to note down every important detail which people might find important when looking to study these items. Fully assessing the condition was also important as it could be that a detail that someone wanted to look at is damaged, or it could help the archival team know what needed to be handled with a little extra care. When looking into the items to write up their description I learned a lot about not only the items themselves but also about the history surrounding them. This was history I was unlikely to look into myself as I am more of a medievalist.

The beginnings of packaging being constructed

The process of creating protective packaging for the items was a very interesting one as it was not something I had considered as a part of working in an archive before this point. It was one of the reasons for which I applied to do my placement at the Kent Special Collections and Archives department. The way I created the packaging for the items changed throughout my placement.

The figure of President Wilson, depicted holding an ammunition shell.

At first I took measurements at every new layer of plastazote (the main material used in the creation of the packaging). However, by the end, I would measure the first layer and then use that as a template for the rest of the layers. Using scraps of the foam was also a way in which I could make layers on particularly unique shapes of items as it was easier to use the smaller, already-cut pieces than it would be to cut out new ones.




Overall, I found my time working with the Bairnsfather Collection to be very rewarding. The skills and history I learned are invaluable and I look forward to going back and helping out again.

Nirvanna (Canterbury Christ Church University)

This post is dedicated to commemorating the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives department and their continuative effort to make unique historical collections available to the benefit of wider society. This department houses and stores over one hundred and fifty collections which range from materials including memorabilia, ceramics, and publications. Throughout the duration of my time working alongside this department, I assisted with the archival processing of the Graham Thomas Collection.

The Graham Thomas Collection

This collection was gifted to the University’s Special Collections and Archives Department by the former lecturer in politics Dr Graham Thomas, after he passed away in April 2023. Dr Graham Thomas was an active participant in the founding of the British Cartoon Archive in the early 1970s. His addition to the Archives consists of the personal items he acquired throughout his lifetime, relating to theatre and cartoons, including the political and cartoon ceramics that will follow in this post.

F.C.G “Toby” Jugs

Fig 1. Pictured is the F.C.G “Toby” Jug Collection depicting seven of the eleven allied war leaders, President Woodrow Wilson depicted in navy blue to the left, Marshall Foch in the centre and David Lloyd George on the right.

A large part of this collection is the political memorabilia collected by Dr Thomas in the form of ceramics. An example of this is the F.C.G “Toby” series pictured in figure 1. This collection represents the full series created by political cartoonist Sir Francis Carruthers Gould in 1917, depicting eleven allied war leaders as decorative ceramic toby jugs. These figures include Winston Churchill (pictured in figure two below) and President Woodrow Wilson (pictured in figure one above), both of whom were widely influential during World War I.

Figure two: pictured Winston Churchill Soane and Smith Toby Jug, 1918, © University of Kent Special Collections and Archives

The accumulation of this series has proven to be a rarity as, upon research, only a limited number of each character toby jug was produced by the makers, Wilkinsons Ltd. Accompanying the figures of the Toby jugs is documentation explaining the release of this toby series as pictured in figure three below. The documentation briefly states that during the time the series was released, there was an increase of demand leading to a ‘reserve list’ for subscribers enquiring after these unique pieces, which consequently required buyers to pay a high price for them. With their existence being in demand from consumers it prompted the producers Soane and Smith to destroy the moulds after their creation so that others could not attempt to replicate them.

Background of Political figure ceramics

The use of ceramics to depict images has been historically significant to convey wider societal opinions on specific subject matters. For modern-day political artists, ceramics and cartoon depictions will be created with the intention to capture the common thoughts and reactions to the affairs of political leaders. The narrative behind these creations has followed the attempt to admonish their audience using satire to question political thought and encourage subversion in the public.

Fig 3: Documentation of a poster promoting the release of the F.C.G “Toby” Series © University of Kent Special Collections and Archives.

The importance of archiving and housing records of such suggestive ceramics is so that there is an inclusive record of public opinion. Not only the fact of historical events, but the lasting effect of politicians on public lives. Many of which, during their time period, did not have a voice to change or challenge governmental authority on their own.

Concluding thoughts

In credit to the Special Collections and Archives department, the artefacts they collect continue to increase the exposure of unknown stories to the wider public. Thus, allowing the general public to access resources that sustain the education of past culture for current and future generations.

Further Reading

Books: Edith Garcia, Ceramics and the Human Figure, (A&C Black Visual Arts, 2012).

Open Access Articles: Deniz Onur Erman, ‘Ceramics and Humour,’ Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, Vol. 51, (2012), p 413.

Its Inmates Absurd: The Velvet Underground at the University of Kent 1971

This is a guest blog from our volunteer Peter Stanfield, Emeritus Professor of Film at the University of Kent. Peter has been studying our editions of the University of Kent’s student newspaper ‘InCant’ to build our knowledge of the bands and artists playing on the University Campus in the 1960s and 1970s. If you have any memories of this gig – please do let us know! Email


Its Inmates Absurd: The Velvet Underground at the University of Kent 1971

“After about the first two years we got talking. . .”

– Maureen Tucker on rehearsing with the Velvet Underground

As a live proposition, The Velvet Underground, sans Lou Reed, existed for an improbable 2 ½ years, which included two tours of Europe in 1971 and 1972. In England, Autumn 1971, most of their gigs were on the burgeoning university and college circuit. On November 4, they made an appearance at the University of Kent. The big recent attractions on campus had been The Who, Eliot Dining Hall, May 1970 and in March 1971, in the Sports Hall, Led Zeppelin. More generally, student entertainment was provided by middle-ranking progressive rock bands – Mick Abrahams, Colosseum, Blodwyn Pig and local heroes Caravan. Kent alumni Spirogyra were an ever present feature. In all likelihood, the bookers thought the Velvet Underground would fit right into this scene. For their drummer, Maureen Tucker, the VU were always the exception to such trends.

Image of Maureen Tucker, holding drum sticks, playing the drums for the Velvet Underground.

Image of Maureen Tucker playing in the Velvet Underground at the University of Kent, InCant Student Newspaper, 17th March 1971

The Velvets performed in the Rutherford Dining Hall to a positive response, if the reviewer for the student paper InCant was any indicator. He or she considered them to be a ‘genuine rock and roll band in the American sense, as opposed to the likes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath’. The reviewer delighted in their choice of covers ­ – Dixie Cups’ ‘Chapel of Love’ and standards ‘Turn On Your Love Light’ and ‘Spare Change’. Lou Reed songs ‘Sweet Nuthin’, ‘Sister Ray’, ‘After Hours’ and, the ‘beautifully corny’ (!?!), ‘White Light/White Heat’ were highlights, with the latter described as ‘funky’ by Doug Yule. InCant’s critic agreed.

Black and white image of an article from InCant student newspaper about a Velvet Underground gig showing two photographs of performers and text descriptions

Review of Velvet Underground gig, InCant Student Newspaper, November 17th 1971.

The interview with the only original member of the band, Maureen Tucker, is a peach. Asked about the shifts in the line-up, she said:

It’s been such a gradual change that to me anyway there’s been no apparent effect. After about the first two years we got talking . . . it was a mutual agreement that we were kind of getting sick of going on stage playing 30 minute songs. It’s just not original after a while, so Lou (Reed) started writing more four minute songs, rock and roll songs. Now it’s even more regular rock and roll than it ever was.


What happened to Nico? She wanted to go off on her own and be a big star

Image of a text article from InCant newspaper about a performance by the band, Velvet Underground

News item on the Velvet Underground concert, InCant student newspaper, Nov 17th 1971

Like most of the events held by the Student’s Union, The Velvet Underground gig lost money; the organisers putting lack of interest, it was suggested, down to the fact the band’s line-up had changed. On that basis they had tried to cancel but were unable to break the contract. Steeleye Span proved to be a bigger draw.

Black and white image of a performer singing at a microphone playing a guitar. He is wearing jeans, a white mickey mouse t-shirt and a thin scarf or tie around his neck.

Image from news article in InCant student newspaper, Issue No 70, 17th November 1971, p6

Back in April 1971, student Helen Chastel had provided InCant with a review of Loaded, soon to be released in the UK. It is one the best summaries of the VU I’ve read.

Proposition: for consistent and versatile genius in rock the Velvet Underground (or V.U.s to the cognoscenti) are equalled only to Dylan and the Stones. Don’t ask questions if you dispute it, write your own review. If you deny it, you are a Quintessence or Andy Williams fan and not worth bothering with.

Helen clearly didn’t think they belonged with the progressive mediocrities. She was a total fan, she’d bought her copy of Loaded in Washington last Christmas while on an exchange to the States and she knew someone who knew Lou Reed – ‘virtuoso extraordinaire, ex-child prodigy, now repudiator of drugs and hippies, mythical recluse . . . Sainthood is all in the mind.’

How many recognise themselves in the line ‘The deep sleep of a suburban upbringing can be shattered by sudden exposure to such a group’? Faced with VU & Nico, Helen ‘saw darkness of which I knew nothing, saw an extreme weariness, people born to die. Eliot (her college at Kent) life became petty, its inmates absurd.’ Reed, she wrote, had a ‘clear and cliché-less view of modern city life’, White Light/White Heat extended even further ‘into a chaos of light, blood, heat and noise . . . The third album is a surfacing, a return to verbal precision’. . . Lou Reed, Saint of the City. Helen Chastel, Saint of VU fans. . .

Image of a text article from a student newspaper titled "Velvet Underground", by Helen Chastel

Review of the Velvet Underground album ‘Loaded’ by Helen Chastel, published in InCant, the University of Kent Student Newspaper, issue No 62, 17th February 1971, p6.

On that same tour of British Universities, the VU entertained Warwick University’s student cohort. Genesis P-Orridge’s COMUS providing support (they also played at Kent in May 1972). Ad and review from the Warwick Boar student paper.

Image of an advert for gigs in Warwick

Gig advertisement for Warwick University

‘The Velvet Underground from whom great things were expected . . .’ Like at Kent, attendance fell below expectations.

Image of an article reviewing 'Ents' at Warwick University including two photographs and a text description of the gigs

Review of ‘Ents’ at Warwick University including the Velvet Underground


For Peter’s original blog see the following link:

Oral History Student Volunteers – Get involved!

Local Stories: Memories of Hopping around Brook and Wye, Kent. 

Do you…

  • Have an interest in oral history?
  • Want to receive free training in conducting oral history interviews?
  • Have an interest in local history or the history of hopping and hop picking in Kent?

If so – come and get involved with this fantastic new project in Special Collections and Archives – where you will interview people from the Brook and Wye area about their memories of hopping.

Special Collections and Archives are working in partnership with Brook Rural Museum on a project for students to explore local peoples’ memories associated with the experience of hop picking and farming in and around Brook and Wye, Kent.

Volunteering on this project will provide you with skills in oral history interviewing (with training from an experienced oral historian) and associated tasks, such as making transcriptions and recording summaries. Most interviews will take place in the villages of Brook or Wye, and expenses for travel will be available. Some aspects of the role can be carried out remotely.

The project will take place between March and June 2024 and will conclude in late 2024 with an exhibition in the Templeman Gallery and at Brook Rural Museum showcasing extracts from the oral history interviews.

Please get in touch at to express an interest and receive information about the application process,. You can also talk to us in Special Collections and Archives if you need more information –

Places on this project are limited – and applications need to be in by 16th February 2024.