A short time ago I was sent a link to a song written by a friend about a Chateau in France where we meet most years and dedicated to my husband, Ben.
This reminded me of a cd we had been given in late November 2010 and one of the tracks I found very moving, as from our house you are very close to the mining shaft which was used in the rescue mission of the Lofthouse Mining Disaster – one of my friends was in the team sent in just after to access the damage. I also remembered a lady with whom I worked many years ago, her son was a miner in the Lofthouse Colliery, lucky for him he was not at work that day. In Woodkirk Churchyard, only a few miles away, there is a memorial to some brothers who were killed in a mining accident in Morley.
Anyway, The Hester Disaster of 1862 – It was a normal day, the same as many others. The men went to their work, the women went about their tasks and the children did what children at that time did, but this day would end very different from any other day in this, the small community of New Hartley.
That day, the 16 January 1862, the fore-shift was just coming to an end there was over 200 men and children down the Hester, whose only entry and exit was via a single shaft. During the process of lowering the new shift and bringing the old shift up to daylight an engine been snapped and fell into the one and only shaft, totally blocking the men’s exit with debris.
At this news, you can only imagine how the families of the trapped miners felt on hearing the news of the tragedy. And it would be a very long 6 days before the rescuers, lead by Mr William Coulson, managed to dig down with the hope of rescuing some of the men and boys. How they must have felt when they were met with 204 people who were family, friends and fellow workers, who would never know the sensation of seeing daylight again after working in the dark for so long.
One of the men down ‘The Hester’ that day was George Hindmarsh, a man in his early 30’s, married with 4 young children. In the 1861 census George and his family were living in Colliery Row, Bedlington where he probably worked down the local pit. By the New Year of 1862 George and his family were in New Hartley and on 16 January 1862 was George’s 1st day at work and his last. George along with the other brothers, sons and dads was laid to rest later that month.
Listen to John Leslie’s moving composition Brothers, Sons and Dads performed by Sawdust Jacks
Other sites about ‘The Hester’ you may find interesting
Names and mine information can be found here
Illustrated London News transcripts for the disaster
The Hartley Pit Disaster article in Tree Magazine 1993