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Wallsend Colliery Pit Disaster 1835

Coal mining has always been dangerous. Sometimes there are accidents and no-one is hurt, or injuries are not serious. On 18th June 1835 there was an explosion at Wallsend Colliery that killed 102 men and boys as young as eight years of age.

The explosion happened over 150 m below ground, but was so violent that it blasted an empty corf out of the shaft at G Pit back onto the surface

There had always been gas in the pit but it was kept safe by good ventilation. Bad areas were blocked off with walls, doors and trapdoors and the workings were tested for gas by the overman before work started each day. He tested by watching a low flame on his safety lamp. On 17th June gas had been detected. On this day it was claimed that it was safe. Some workers said that there had been gas high in the tunnel and had warned others to take care.

It was thought that the explosion happened where two men were working with candles near to a door kept closed to keep out gas. Perhaps there was a gap, or maybe one of the workers opened the door, but they both died so no-one can tell.

Some miners were killed by the force of the blast, or badly burnt, but others were trapped because the shaft at Church Pit was blocked and they were suffocated by the gas.

Most bodies were found by 25th June, but one young trapper had been buried under a fall of stone and was not found until 11th August.

The dead were buried in an unmarked grave in St Peter's churchyard.

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22-Jun-2007 © North Tyneside Libraries 2007-8