Arthur Markham Memorial Prize Essays

Scope and Content

Essays written by mineworkers for the Arthur Markham Memorial Prize administered by the University of Sheffield, submitted during the period 1932-1993

Administrative / Biographical History

The Arthur Markham Memorial Fund was founded by Dr Violet Markham in memory of her brother, Sir Arthur Markham, Bart., and was administered by the University of Sheffield from 1927 until 1993. The University Calendar for 1946-7 described the Prize, which the Memorial Fund made possible, in the general list of prizes awarded in the University thus:

'Arthur Markham Memorial Prize of the value of 25, offered for the best essay on a prescribed subject. The competition is open to manual workers in or about a coal mine in England or Scotland or Wales, earning weekly or daily wages. There is no limit of age'. However, in the early years of the competition 100 had been disbursed in prize money, and by 1961 the amount being paid out had once more risen, to 161. In practice the Prize would often be shared between two or more entrants. Writers were free to submit entries in more than one year, and some entered several essays over a period of years. The 70 scripts in this collection, a relatively small number of those which are recorded as winning Prize money or receiving a commendation, are all that now remain on file.

Both Markhams shared the belief that there was much untapped mental and creative ability among the mining communities of England, Scotland and Wales. The Prize was designed to encourage literary expression amongst mineworkers, and was offered for the best literary composition, essay, poem, short story, opening chapter of a novel, or play. It was open to men or youths who, at the time of composition, were employed as manual workers in or about the coalmines of Great Britain and who earned a weekly or daily wage. Alternatively, men or youths who had been employed in this way but had been injured in their employment were also eligible to submit an entry. The first award was made in 1927, the competition running until 1993. The Prize was awarded by the Council of the University on the recommendation of the Examiners, being the Vice-Chancellor, the Professor of English Literature, and an External Examiner.

Sir Arthur Basil Markham, Bart. (1866-1916) was the son of Charles Markham who was part owner of the family mine, Markham Main Colliery, in Chesterfield.. On his mother's side he was the grandson of Sir Joseph Paxton, designer of the 1851 Great Exhibition's Crystal Palace. He was educated at Rugby School, and from 1900 served as Liberal M.P. for the Mansfield Division of Nottinghamshire, being created a baronet in 1911. Arthur Markham's technical skill, commercial insight and courage helped the development of considerable parts of the English and Welsh coalfields. He is also credited with saving the Bullcroft Colliery Company's pit in South Yorkshire by winning a three-year fight against flooding.

In 1994 selected essays were published in an anthology Pitmen Born & Bred: Award Winning Stories from Britain's Coalfields, edited by Mike Kirkup, a former mineworker and himself a prizewinner in the competition.

[Notes compiled from University records and Who's Who].



Access Information

Available to all researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Library by Student Services Department in July 2001


Description prepared by Lawrence Aspden

Other Finding Aids

Essays on file listed. A separate list of winning and commended entries is also available

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright: The individual authors


Selected essays have been published in an anthology Pitmen Born & Bred: Award Winning Stories from Britain's Coalfields, edited by Mike Kirkup (1994)