Caerphilly Pit disaster
As the mining industry declines in Britain the nature of the work and its inherent danger is slipping out of the national consciousness. But there are events which should remain firmly part of our heritage as reminders of the toll that coal mining too often took on those labouring underground, and on the communities to which they belonged. The Senghenydd disaster of 1913 is one such, the worst mining disaster in British history.
Senghenydd is just north of Caerphilly. Its Universal Colliery, consisting of two separate pits, as with most of the Welsh coalfield produced high quality steam-coal, much in demand for the burgeoning steamship trade and of course in the seemingly inevitable run-up to the Great War for British Dreadnoughts. Pits were worked to the maximum as demand was sky-high.
Just before 8.15am, two hours into the morning shift, a huge explosion tore through one of the workings. As the pit was sealed shortly after the disaster the precise cause is not known, but it appears probable that sparks ignited a methane pocket, which raised coal dust that ignited in turn, and so on through the pit. Dust clouds were blown high into the sky, and flames for a brief moment followed them. In all 439 of the 935 men working that day died: some were blown to pieces by the force of the blasts; others were suffocated.
Rescue efforts brought the injured and shocked survivors to the surface where crowds gathered from the village, from nearby Caerphilly, and from Cardiff less than 10 miles away, perhaps 40,000 anxious onlookers at one point. Those descending to help risked their own lives in the now fragile tunnels and shafts. Next day, when it was felt certain no further survivors were left the authorities blocked up the pit. The bodies of many of the victims were thus never recovered.
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From Susan (smith)Hoffmann on 11th February 2011
my real grandfather died in this mining disaster when my mother was only 2, they lived in south wales and my grandad use to walk here from caephilly, I visited this when I was there 3 years ago, such a sad expierance, I plan on going there with my husband this November, I now live in the usa and my mother has been long gone.y grandfather was a williams I think his name was Patrick.
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