The UK’s oldest surviving pit pony has died aged 36. Sparky has lived at The National Coal Mining Museum for England for the past 18 years. He previously worked down the mines at Ellington Colliery for 13 years before retiring in 1988. He died on 29 March following a short illness.

“Sparky was a wonderful pony; he wasn’t particularly patient and had a special kick for his stall door when it was time to go back to the field,” said a spokesperson for the National Coal Mining Museum for England. “His loss will be felt by museum staff, visitors and those who adopted him.”

There are only a small number of pit ponies surviving in Britain. The peak of employment for horses underground was in 1913, when 70,000 were working. Most pit ponies were stabled underground, only coming to the surface for the annual holiday or during long strikes or lockouts.

For more information about mining ponies or to make a donation to the Museum’s pit pony appeal in Spark’s memory, contact (tel: 01924 848806).

The National Coal Mining Museum website