Hartley Pit disaster poster

Contributed by i godfrey

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The Hartley Pit Disaster, Northumberland 1862. A poster describing the beam of an engine used to pump water from a mine which broke and fell down the shaft, trapping the workers inside. It took six days for the debris to be removed, by which time all of the 199 men underground had died from asphyxiation. The event devastated the local close knit community. It led, within the year, to both the forming of the Miners Permanent Relief Fund and the passing of an Act of Parliament which made it law for all mines to have two shafts to enable both rescue and ventilation in the event of an accident in one.
The poster is a family heirloom. (My great great grandfather was William Shields, a master shaft sinker and one of the named rescue party.)
It comments on how reliant mining communities were on the mines and their owners; how safety reform came after the disaster rather than preceding it; how safety and profit contend for funding and the Victorians' almost hubristic faith in technology.

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  • 1. At 14:46 on 14 March 2010, Ian godfrey wrote:

    Hi very interesting i am also I Godfrey and my grandfather was William Shields Godfrey i have just recently visited the grave of master sinker William Shields.

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  • 2. At 20:27 on 16 March 2010, Ian godfrey wrote:

    It would seem we have the same great grandparents as William Shields is also my great great grandfather i have just discovered both graves recently.you can contact me on [Personal details removed by Moderator]

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  • 3. At 16:29 on 6 April 2010, i godfrey wrote:

    My grandfather was Robert, was yours Jack, his brother? Where is the graveyard where William Shields is buried?

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  • 4. At 11:27 on 1 June 2010, kate_vogler wrote:

    I too have this poster at home. My great great Grandfather was William Shields. A medal was awarded to him for his rescue effort during the disaster. I saw it, many years ago,in the northern HQ of the Union of Mineworkers.
    Catherine Shields. (My email address is [Personal details removed by Moderator] ).

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  • 5. At 11:02 on 2 June 2010, i godfrey wrote:

    As the contributor of this object is there any way I can get in touch with the two people who have had their e mail addresses removed from their comments by the moderator?

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  • 6. At 22:47 on 2 June 2010, SimonToddMusic wrote:

    I recently wrote a song about this terrible incident, a demo of which can be found on the player on my myspace page. My intention is to record it as a part of a forthcoming EP in the very near future. Click the myspace link from my website simontodd.co.uk if you'd like to hear the song in its demo form.

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  • 7. At 17:49 on 9 June 2010, Robert Godfrey wrote:

    William Shields grave is in Cowpen Crematorium Cemetery in Blyth, Northumberland. If you wish to view it, look me up and I can show you where in the cemetery. Nearby is the grave of his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Frederick Godfrey (my great grandparents). Their children were William Shields, Frederick, Robert, Thomas and John George (Jack, I think). I also have census records for William Shields.

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  • 8. At 20:01 on 19 June 2010, Robert Godfrey wrote:

    I have placed a couple of photographs of William and his wife Margaret (nee Jobson) on Flickr. Search for "William Shields" to view them.

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  • 9. At 16:25 on 6 October 2010, julianturner wrote:

    In the church yard in Earsdon there is a large monument to those lost in the Hartley Pit Disaster. What is moving is the number of deaths of young teenagers who were sent to work at 13 and 14 yrs of age. Clearly many were also from the same family.
    In the programme "Who do You think you are?" some of Kate Humble's ancestors were closely involved on this disaster.
    There is a link for the monument below

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  • 10. At 22:20 on 11 January 2011, michs wrote:

    Dear Ian Godfrey,
    I am researching the history of Russian Church in London, and am very eager to find out more about your grandfather William Shields Godfrey.

    In July 1935 a large icon of St Nicholas, painted on a zinc sheet, was given to the Russian church in London. The following record was left in the church register: 'An icon of St Nicholas the Wonderworker was given to the church by Sea Captain W. Godfrey, of 35 Hedley Avenue, Blyth. He said he brought it from Soviet Russia, saving it from desecration by a stone-throwing mob'.
    Having researched the records in the National Archives I came across a record of William Shields Godfrey in 1901 having passed an exam qualifying him as a sea captain in merchant navy. It would be great to learn more about your grandfather's voyages in 1918 - 1929.

    Best regards,
    Michael Sarni

    Dear moderator, is it at all possible to provide Mr Godfrey a link to my email address?
    Many thanks for your help.

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