The Library's object of the month for December 2010 is a serviette commemorating the mining disaster at Pretoria Pit, near Bolton, on 21 December 1910. Many talks and other commemorative events to mark the centenary of the disaster are taking place in Westhoughton this November and December.
Lancashire's worst pit disaster and Britain's third largest loss of life from a single mining accident happened at the No. 3 Bank Pit belonging to the Hulton Colliery Company.
The pit, known as the Pretoria Pit, was situated on Hulton Park land on the border of Atherton and Westhoughton. The explosion occurred at 7.50 am on Wednesday 21 December 1910. 344 men and boys died.
The full day shift had just begun and 898 men and boys were working below ground at that time.
The Westhoughton district nurses, Nurses Gallimore, Jones, and Green, worked continuously, and Sarah Morgan, a pit brow worker, was on the scene for fifty hours attending to the welfare of the colliers and looking after the dead. On top of the coffins were placed any articles that might identify their owners - tea cans, belts, clogs, scarves, stockings, and even a solitary apple. Among the belongings was a watch stopped at 7.50 am, which is on display in Westhoughton Library.
A relief fund was set up for families and dependants. A total of £145,000 was raised. This napkin was sold as part of the fundraising effort.
Taken from The Pretoria Pit Disaster 1910 by Ken Beevers
"Between Christmas Day 1910 and New Year's Day 1911 the different cemeteries presented appalling sights which no one will forget: the hearses, the mourning coaches, the long funeral processions, the throngs of bereaved widows and orphans, relatives and friends, the hundreds of visitors, all of them making their way to the last cold resting places.
To see the people in tears, to hear the sobbing and sighing of the wives and children, brothers and sisters, was something beyond human endurance".
Rev. A L Coelenbier, Rector, Sacred Heart Parish, Westhoughton, 1 January 1911.
Click here for more information about miners' working lives
Resources about the Pretoria Pit disaster in the library collection
Alan Davies, The Pretoria Pit disaster: a centenary account (2010) - Shelfmark: I49
Pam Clarke (compiler), 344 victims of Pretoria Pit: some facts (2010) - Shelfmark: AG Mining Box 1
Andrea Jane Finney, 344: based on the diaries of Elizabeth Gore 1844-1923 (2010) - Shelfmark: I49
Tim Macquiban and Norma Ackers (eds.), Mining disasters of the Leigh area (1975) - Shelfmark: AG Mining Box 4
Richard AS Redmayne and Samuel Pope, Reports on the explosion which occurred at the No. 3 Bank Pit, Hulton Colliery, on the 21st December, 1910: I. report of a formal investigation under Section 45 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, into the causes and circumstances of the explosion by R. A. S. Redmayne, H.M Chief Inspector of Mines, II. report on the proceedings at the inquest, by Samuel Pope (1911) - Shelfmark: AG Mining Box 6
Colliery merger reports (SUBJ/MINING/2)
Report on a proposed merger of Richard Evans and Company, Sutton Heath and Lea Green Collieries, Sutton Manor Collieries, Collins Green Colliery, Hulton Colliery, St Helens Collieries Company and J & R Stone - Shelfmark: T26