On the first floor of the Museum, under a perspex box for protection, is an item that itself was used for protection.  This woven wicker and leather helmet came to us from Belstone where it was originally used in the mines there during the 1800’s. Sadly there were accidents sometimes down there where brave men toiled for hours in the darkness.

Rock falls were not uncommon and those above ground had to organise a rescue mission. All they had at their disposal were picks and hands and two items that were used to carry out the injured. This amazing helmet was placed over a casualty’s head to protect them from hitting themselves against rocks while being removed or to stop other falling debris.  I am not sure how strong it is but it would probably protect an unconscious lolling head from walls or from, not too large, falling stones. We also have at the Museum the narrow folding canvas chair that the injured were sat in to assist with removing them from the mine shaft. We have no idea who made these helmets, but they were obviously very skilled at working with wicker.

Sadly, not many have survived the rigours of time, but I was interested to discover that the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum in Scotland and a museum on Lewis, also have very similar helmets on display. However, they describe them as Coastguards’ Helmets or Cliff Rescue Helmets. They believe these were standard issue to coastguard stations all over the country, but they also do not know where they were made. I wonder if they used a similar chair to pull casualties up the cliff faces.

So, the question is, was our helmet made for mining or did someone see the Coastguard using them and thought that it would also be useful for mine rescues? We may never know but if you have any more information about these items, please do get in touch with us at the Museum and why not visit and see the helmet up close, it really is worth inspecting