Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Simple Stone Marks Pit's 92 Deaths in a Day

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Simple Stone Marks Pit's 92 Deaths in a Day

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVE MORTON Nostalgia Editor

Felling Colliery in 1900 AMID the roar of 21st century life sits an oasis of Tyneside calm.

A stone's throw from the ever-busy Felling Bypass and just across the road from Heworth Metro Interchange is St Mary's Church.

Opened in 1822, for generations of local people it has been a place of baptism, worship and, ultimately, burial. Countless thousands of Felling and Gateshead folk have been laid to rest in the church's sprawling cemetery.

But, among the acres of marble and granite reminders of former lives stands a monument which marks one of the worst disasters in the region's history.

Just after 11.30am on May 25, 1812, an explosion ripped through Felling Colliery, killing 92 miners out of the 128 who worked there.

The sound was heard miles away and the nearby village of Heworth was covered in a sheet of dust, so thick that footprints were left in it.

An account of the disaster, written by M.A. Richardson some years later, graphically recalled: "As soon as the explosion was heard, the wives and children of the workmen ran to the working pit; wildness and terror were pictured in every countenance.

"The crowds from all sides soon collected to the number of several hundreds; some crying out for a hus-band, others for a parent or son, and all deeply affected with an a mixture of horror, anxiety, and grief."

Nobody entered the shattered pit for six weeks. The bodies were recovered slowly over the course of the summer.

Of the 92 who died, 91 were buried at St Mary's - most in a mass grave, side by side and two coffins deep.

Today, close to the church's main entrance gate, you'll find the names of the dead on the simple, nine-foot tall memorial.

Looking back on an age when workers' rights were non-existent and life came cheap, it is still shocking to recall how many children worked in dangerous, unforgiving coal mines - often shoulder-to-shoulder with their fathers. …

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