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18 June 2014
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'Reading the Queen's Letter' Emmerson

© Mining Institute
The Hartley Mining Disaster

In 1862, a pit disaster devastated the small, close-knit Northumberland mining community of New Hartley. Almost an entire generation of husbands and sons of working age were wiped out. One hundred and ninety-nine employees of the village’s Hester Pit were entombed alive, their only exit blocked by a fallen beam. The disaster sent shockwaves across the country, for the six days of their entombment, the nation was held in suspense, awaiting news of the village’s loved ones. But the news the country hoped for never came, all 199 were found dead in the mine likened to a “vast Golgotha”.

The real tragedy is that the accident at New Hartley could so easily have been prevented, if the pit had had two shafts instead of one, all 199 could have survived. This fact caused public outrage and prompted a vigorous campaign for the improvement of pit safety. The New Hartley disaster had far-reaching consequences for England’s miners: it spelt the end of one-shaft mines and marked the beginning of financial support for miners’ families. More...

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