19 Aug 2021
Hartley Colliery Disaster Memorial
Earsdon, North Tyneside
This is a
Current status is
Still in situ at the Church of St. Albans, Earsdon
"Memorial to the memory of 204 miners who lost their lives on 16 January 1862 in the New Hartley Pit at Seaton Delaval when the 42 ton cast-iron pumping engine beam fell down, striking, as it fell, the ascending cage containing 8 men. The miners working in the galleries below were trapped underground as the explosion blocked the shaft. By the time the shaft had been cleared it was too late. The miners had suffocated. 60,000 people watched the funeral procession. An inquest was held on 3 February at a local chapel. Coroner Stephen Reed was assisted by Kenyon Blackwell, ex-industrialist Inspector. The disaster was instrumental in the passing of legislation requiring mines to have at least two means of escape. The Coroner's inquest also recommended that colliery engine beams should be made of "malleable [wrought] iron instead of cast metal". The disaster happened at Hester Pit of Hartley Colliery, the site of which is marked in the village of New Hartley in Northumberland (NZ 301 771). The memorial is a tall corniced pedestal of sandstone ashlar with egg-and-dart cornice and cord moulding, supporting a tall obelisk. Inscription on east side: ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF THE 204 MINERS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN HARTLEY PIT, BY THE FATAL CATASTROPHE OF THE ENGINE BEAM BREAKING 16TH JANUARY, 1862. On the other sides are biblical quotes and the names of the dead. The youngest was William Davidson aged 11. Round-coped dwarf wall surrounds step to monument. Graves for the deceased were dug on land donated by the Duke of Northumberland next to Earsdon churchyard and became part of the extended cemetery."
The map above details the Earsdon area at the turn of the 20th century. The memorial is not labelled, though is in the approximate area of the 'stone' label just to the north of the main village. Earsdon is of a similar size today, and hasn't grown with the rest of North Tyneside. Many of the buildings are also extant, though Earsdon Colliery to its west has no trace.
The second map, from 1920 presents a similar picture. A row of terraces have been contructed to the east and East Holywell Fenwick Pit is at its largest extent. The spoil heap can still be seen today from the village.
Once again, the idyllic nature of Earsdon is preserved in this map from the 1940s.
2021 photograph of the memorial standing pride in place in the St Albans Church yard.
Children as young as 11 and 12 perished in the disaster. It was only 20 years after the Mines & Collieries Act had passed, so goodness knows how many more may have perished if women and children were still permitted to work down the pit.
Photograph of a wreath still adorning the decorative barriers around the memorial.
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