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New light cast on 19th century mining disaster

Over the last year numerous commemorative events have taken place to mark the 150th anniversary of the Oaks explosion in Barnsley, which remains the worst pit disaster in English history. However, the 1866 explosion wasn’t the only tragedy in the history of the pit.

An important handwritten ledger has recently been donated to Barnsley Archives relating to an earlier explosion at the colliery, in 1847. The disaster which has been overshadowed by the events of 1866, led to a significant loss of life. Some 73 men are thought to have lost their lives after firedamp (a flammable gas found in coal mines) had accumulated in old workings, and subsequently ignited leading to an explosion. The ledger includes minutes of all the meetings in the years following the disaster and details of all payments made to the widows of those who died.

Cllr Roy Miller, Cabinet spokesperson for Place, said: “We are delighted that this unique document has been donated to the collections of Barnsley Archives. It precedes the establishment of the formal Miners’ Permanent Relief Fund in Barnsley, but shows how the community worked together to help those affected by the disaster. It will be of great interest to coal mining historians and to those who had family working at the pit.”

Work has been undertaken to restore the ledger and it can now be viewed by researchers in the Archives Discovery Centre in Barnsley Town Hall.

For more information about the document please contact deviniaskirrow@barnsley.gov.uk