A new exhibition at the Museum of Wigan Life in Lancashire commemorates the 100th anniversary of the county’s worst ever mining disaster, and the third worst in British history.
On December 21, 1910, about 900 men and boys were working on the day shift at the Hulton Colliery No. 3 Bank Pit, Westhoughton, known locally as the Pretoria Pit. Just before eight o’ clock in the morning, flames shot out from the main shaft, following an explosion below.
In all 344 miners were killed. As ever they were drawn from tight-knit communities around the pit. One local woman lost her husband, four sons and two brothers. An inquest jury decided that the probable cause was that an overheated safety lamp had ignited gas and coal dust.
The worst mining disaster in British history occurred at Senghenydd, near Caerphilly, less than three years later, on October 14, 1913. A total of 440 miners died after an explosion there. The chief inspector of mines said there had been ‘a disquieting laxity in the management of the mine’, and the manager was fined £24 for five breaches of mining regulations.
For more on both disasters, see A Disastrous History of Britain. The exhibition at Wigan entitled ‘Don’t go down the mine’ runs until March 22, 2011.