NEW HARTLEY. Hartley, Durham. 17th. January, 1862.

We will remember: path in the Hester Pit Memorial Garden
The plaque reads “In memory of the 204 men and boys who perished in the disaster at the Hester Pit, New Hartley on 16th January 1862.”
Two shifts were trapped in the mine by the iron beam of the pumping engine broke blocking the only shaft. This soon led to a law demanding that all pits had at least two shafts and a new colliery was opened to the north. The gardens were opened by Joe Gormley in 1976.

The Hartley disaster of the 25th January 1862 was one of the first great mining disasters of Victorian times to catch widespread public attention when upwards of two hundred men and boys lost their lives after a shaft accident at the colliery.

The Hartley Colliery, owned by Messrs. Carrs, was in the Great Northern Coalfield and gave its name to the steam coal that was produced there. The house coal was known as Wallsend coal. The coals from Hartley were shipped to the artificial harbour at Seaton Sluice by a primitive colliery railway, two miles long.

The shaft at Hartley was sunk eighty fathoms, in 1830 to three rich coal seams, the High Main was at thirty-eight fathoms and was four feet six inches thick, the Yard mine at sixty-five fathoms, three feet thick, and the Low Main at ninety-five fathoms. There had been problems in sinking the shaft. A manuscript left by an old pitman stated that an attempt had been made to build a steam boiler at Hartley during the last century. There had been “creep” around the shaft and a whole boatload of strong wooden baulks, cut to lengths, had been used at the pit top but this did not stop the creep and the work was abandoned.

The colliery was worked by means of one shaft although there was a staple from the surface to High Main and one from the Yard to the High Main. The shaft was twelve feet in diameter with three-inch planking forming the brattice down the centre. The Low Main was accessible only by the shaft which was bratticed down the middle. There were two men at the upper seam at the time of the accident.

There had been a depression in trade in the coalfield and the value of the steam coal had not been fully appreciated but when the demand for this coal was realised the colliery became profitable. Due to the drop in coal prices in 1857, four collieries, worked by Messrs. John Carr and Co., were put up for public auction at Newcastle on the 20th of July 1858. They were the Hartley Colliery, the Burradon Colliery, the Cowpen Colliery, and the Seghill Colliery, which was the oldest and sunk in 1822. There were three thousand acres of coal at the colliery and it was withdrawn from the auction when arrangements made between Messrs. Carrs and Lord Hastings. Mr. Carr also owned the Burradon Colliery and was not in good health.

The mine was subject to flooding and six or seven years before the disaster it was inundated. At the time the engineers thought that they had struck the sea and the pump was too small to do the job of clearing the mine. The pumping engine was installed four years before the disaster and at the time was the largest in the north of England. The cylinders were immense and it generated four hundred horsepower and lifted the water two hundred and forty feet up the shaft. The beam weighed forty tons. Even so, water was still a problem in the mine and it was only when they holed into the workings of the abandoned Mill Pit did the water become less of a problem.

The accident took place at 10 a.m. on Thursday 17th January when the great beam of the pumping engine broke without warning. It hit the brattice without doing any damage but then it rebounded against the side of the shaft and then fell down it carrying all the timber of the brattice with it. There was great consternation throughout the district. The night shift was coming up the pit at the end of their shift at the time only sixteen had let the pit and eight men were in the cage when the beam snapped and fell down the shaft.

The cage was shattered and debris cascaded down the shaft. Two men in the cage were killed when they went to the bottom and three died soon after. Two were not badly injured and rescued after a few hours. A lad named William Sharpe and his father climbed out of the broken cage to the pumps and held on to await their rescue. Dr. Davidson of Deval was in attendance at the pit top to give medical assistance to the injured as they were got out of the shaft. There were two hundred entombed men in the pit and weeping women were in attendance at the pit top. Mr. Charles Carr, the viewer at the colliery and the son of Mr. Carr and Mr. Humble, the resident viewer, were aided by Mr. G.B. Forster, the viewer of Cowpen and North Seaton, superintended the operations. On the Friday after the accident, Mr. Mathias Dunn, Her Majesty’s Inspector came to the colliery and with others made an inspection.

On the second day, cries were heard coming from below. The Yard Level was reached and by Friday night and the first body was recovered. It was that of a young man named Sharpe and by Saturday, the body of his father George was recovered by Ralph Robson. On Saturday Mr. Coulson, master of sinker of Durham, inspected the pit and it was thought that the debris was in danger of falling down the shaft. Two men were working at the debris with ropes attached to them and six or seven others were helping to remove the debris up the shaft. Two men at the surface kept the gin, jack and grab going to the impatience of the onlookers at the pit head.

At 9 p.m. on Saturday the men in the shaft heard the men in the Yard Seam but work was held up because the shaft wall had come away and the engine which was being used to raise the large quantities of timber and stone from below ground drowned the sounds of the men below.

On Sunday a large meeting of engineers and mining experts was held at the colliery. Most of the eminent names in mining and mining engineering were present at that meeting and the list read like a who’s who of mining in those days and no better plan could be thought of than to get the debris out of the shaft.

Late on Sunday all the stone and rubbish had been removed from the shaft with the greatest difficulty. At 2 p.m. on Monday. Mr. Coulson sent word up the shaft that he expected the men to be withdrawn from the shaft in four hours as he had seen some smoke in the shaft and he thought that those underground had lit a fire.

By Tuesday a hole had been made through the debris and the workers in the shaft could see the clack door of the pump but there was gloom among the rescuers that the men would be reached too late.

It was thought that there was foul air in the pit and this was confirmed by an accident that occurred at the pit. At about 4 to 5 a.m. a cry went up from the shaft that a man had been affected by stythe. Mr. G.B. Foster, one of the mining engineers helping with the rescue attempts describes it thus:

On Monday a new enemy began to develop. A vapour had been observed coming out of the pumps. During the night sinkers at each change of shift began to show symptoms of nausea on coming into the fresh air and it became evident that they were under the influence of some gas which produced these effects.

John Liddell of North Seaton and Richard Wilson had been at work in the shaft when some of the debris fell and the stythe had come through the clack door and overpowered them. They had been able to catch their implements and had been getting to the pit bank. Liddell came up first and had to be supported to a cabin on the surface by two men and behaved as though he was drunk. Dr Davidson saw to him and revived him with liquor. Wilson was brought up and he was in very bad condition. He had to be laid on the floor of the hut and bathed with water. Spirits were administered and he was taken to Mr. Emerson’s house by ambulance.

Richard Pickard, William Coulson, and Matthew Dodds were also affected, and three others who were brought up in a similar condition Thomas Fairbairn of Cowpen, Robert Fairbairn, and Ralph Maughan. Two master sinkers, Mr. Shields and Mr. Wilkinson were involved in the rescue. William Shields brought the men out and he was later to be the man that first discovered the bodies of the victims. The rescued were revived at the surface and had been working in the staple in the High Main Seam. They were brave men beyond all praise.  Operations were suspended until brattice was rigged in the shaft before they could continue and all hope for the men below had now gone. It was thought that it was a pit of corpses.

While there was hope and the work was going on in the shaft, there were several medical men at the surface. Mr. Anthony Davison was the colliery surgeon and was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and was assisted by Mr. Gilbert Ward of Blyth who was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England. Both men stayed at the pithead in the bitter cold and furnished supplies of food and blankets at the local schoolroom.

Among the other doctors that were at the scene were Mr. T. Dawson and Mr. White of Newcastle, Dr. Pyle and his son of Earsdon, Mr. Ambrose, surgeon of the discovery ship Endeavour, Mr. Nichol, Mr. McAllister, and Mr. H. Ward, the last four men volunteered to go into the furnace drift if their services were required.

A large crowd had gathered at the pithead and there was neither confusion nor noise. Around the pit buildings groups were gathered speculating on the fate of the comrades in soft undertones. Whenever the gin was required, there was no shortage of volunteers as the horses at the gin were worn out. When there was nothing to do, they stood around in the bitter cold, and from time to time, anxious women came from the village to see if there was any news of their loved ones.

The correspondent of the Newcastle Chronicle described the scene:

The flaming beacons on the high platform of the Hartley pit glare steadily in the eyes of the weary footed pedestrians approaching from Deval or from the nearer cottages. A thin covering of snow overspreads the ground and has changed the dark, brown, coaly roadways to a path of clear whiteness. The pit heaps are sky grey and the stillness of death reigns, broken only by the interminable orders from the gin, the crab, and the jack, which are heard through the morning air. Black figures bend their steps noiselessly towards the gleaming fires where groups of persons were sitting or reclining quietly, the fountains of their grief being well-nigh exhausted, and the anguish of their minds, great as it is, being almost overpowered by the sleepy influences of the hour. On the boilers and in all corners and crevices where shelter is afforded and warmth can be gained, miserable mortals cower and crouch down in silent wretchedness. some care for not even the slight comfort they derive from shelter and warmth and stand patiently exposed to the cold, in bleak open spaces. Women still come and go, pensive, sad, and heartbroken the interest waxes stronger and stronger, and everyone descending from the high platform, where it is supposed correct intelligence of the state of the working can be obtained, is humbly questioned on the vital subject. And they who reply shake their heads and say, “They are doing all that can be done but there is no further news”. On the platform misery and desolation rule, melancholy forebodings take the place of the cheerful looks of the officers, and every glance of the eye, each slight shake of the head, seems to presage evil. Meanwhile, the ponderous machinery works smoothly on, the ropes as thick as a man’s leg glide up and down like slimy serpents, and in the hollow depths of the pit, the lights burn distantly in a watery atmosphere.

The cloth brattice was finished and the shaft cleared of gas by the afternoon and the men resumed work and got into the workings. They found several dead bodies by the furnace and the air was bad. Near a door, they found a large number of dead men and boys as though they were asleep but it was the sleep of death.

The party went to the pit bank with this awful news and Himble and Hall went down again and returned half an hour later with the news that they had found only more dead bodies. Families were laying in groups, fathers clutching sons and brothers. All were asleep. Near the furnace, some strong men had died a horrible death. The corn bins were empty and corn was found in the pockets of the victims an unmarked pony was found dead with the men. The rescuers were affected by the gas and no work was done underground until the ventilation was fully restored.

Queen Victoria took a great interest in the events at the colliery and sent the following telegram to the pit:

Osborne, Jan. 22.

General Grey, Osborne, to the Viewer of the New Hartley Colliery, Shields.

The Queen is most anxious to hear that there are hopes of saving the poor people in the colliery, for whom her heart bleeds.

In reply, Mr. Carr telegraphed that there were faint hopes of the men or a portion of them, being recovered alive. An hour later another telegram was sent telling Her Majesty of the finding of the bodies.

A second message came from Her Majesty:

Osborne to South Shields.

23rd January 1862.

Sir C. Phipps to Messrs. Carr Brothers, Hartley, Newcastle:

The Queen has been deeply affected by the dreadful news from Hartley. Her Majesty feels the most sincere sympathy for the poor widows and orphans. What is doing for them? I write by tonight’s post.

Mr. G.B. Forster replied:

Measures have been adopted for the immediate relief of the poor people. A public meeting is to be held tomorrow at Newcastle for forming a permanent relief fund. There are 406 women and children left destitute.

The following letter written to Mr. Carr, the head viewer, by command of Her Majesty was read by the Vicar of Easdown at a large religious meeting held at the pit on Sunday:

Osborne January 23rd, 1862.

Sir, The Queen, in the midst of her own overwhelming grief, has taken the deepest interest in the mournful accident at Hartley and up to the last had hoped at least a considerable number of poor people might be have been recovered alive.. The appalling news since received had affected the Queen very much.

Her Majesty commands me to say that her tenderest sympathy is with the poor widows and mothers and that her own misery only makes her feel the more for them.

Her Majesty hopes that everything will be done as far as possible to alleviate their distress and Her Majesty will have a sad satisfaction in assisting in such a measure. Pray, let me know what is doing.

I have the honour to be your obedient servant.

C.B. Phipps.

The clergy visited the bereaved read them the letter and they found it a great consolation.

When the pit was entered, the party found all the men dead. Weymiss Reid described their reactions to the dreadful scenes that greeted them:

It is only that uncertain flickering flame that now has been quenched. With a dead silence, the people heard the winds which told them that they were widows, orphans, or childless. Job in all his calamities, could not have been more resigned than they and the audible “God help them all”, muttered upon the platform, was the only comment the address called forth.

On the recovery of the victim’s bodies. Reid again:

Some of the dead had died with a smile on their faces others frowning in terror or anger. Some were fresh and pure as the day upon which they left God’s blessed light, never to return to it again in life on others, the hand of the corrupter had been planted, and already dust was returning to its nature dust. They were strong men of gigantic mould still apparently engaged in a deadly struggle with the last adversary and there were children – weak and helpless, ever doomed to toil in everlasting darkness – clasped in the arms of loving fathers, who, even in their extremity, remembered those whom they had begotten.

The victims had left messages, some in pencil and paper, and others scratched with a nail on water bottles. James Armour who had taken charge of the men below wrote the following words in a pocketbook in pencil:

Friday afternoon at half-past two.

Edward Armstong, Thomas Gladstone, John Hardy, Thomas Bell, and others took extremely ill. We also had a prayer meeting at a quarter to two when Tibbs, Henry Sharp, J. Campbell, Henry Gibson, and William Palmer (The sentence is incomplete) Tibbs exhorted us again and Tibbs also.

On the Monday after the disaster, a large collection of tin flasks, candle boxes, and other of the miner’s articles were brought to the surface and all day long the heap was wistfully turned over by poor widows and orphans all trying to find something of their lost relative. On one of the tins was found scratched:

“Mercy, oh God!” and on another “Friday afternoon. My Dear Sarah, – I leave you.”

The events at the colliery drew wide national interest and many people expressed their views.

A letter under the heading, “The Heroes of Hartley”, was sent to the editor of the “Colliery Guardian”:


I am sure every Englishman will heartily re-echo the generous sentiments expressed by the Bishop of Durham at the meeting held in Newcastle on Friday last on which occasion his Lordship eloquently eulogised the noble conduct of those brave men who toiled amidst danger and discomfort to rescue their brethren buried in the Hartley pit. Drenched with water that descended the shaft and in momentary peril from the falling stones and noxious gases they bravely persevered in their disinterested and humane efforts and even when half carried away half suffocated by the “stythe” they were ready to return again and again to the scene of action. The ecumenisms pronounced upon these noble fellows by his Lordship and others are well deserved. They do honour alike to those of whom that are uttered and to those who utter them. But should the matter end in words? Would it not be a graceful act for the nation, by some substantial token of approval to acknowledge the heroic daring and fortitude displayed?

We adorn out military heroes with Victoria Crosses and medals of honour. Why not treat these heroes with equal consideration?

If a national subscription were opened I am sure the people of this country would respond heartily and joyously to the call, and a sum of enough or more than enough would be raised for the purpose. A gold medal might be struck and while we know that Her Majesty has taken a great interest in the efforts to rescue the unfortunate miners of Hartley and expressed so lively a sympathy with the bereaved ones may we not venture to hope that she would condescend wit her Royal hands to place upon the breasts of these humble heroes of the mine a decoration so well deserved and so hard-won?

I venture to trouble you with these remarks hoping that some of the influence may take the hint and initiate the movement.

Yours, &c.,


Wigan, Jan. 28th. 1862.

There were two hundred and four victims of the disaster. The male population of three hamlets has been swept away. All underground were dead and of those who worked at the pit, only twenty-five of the surface men remain alive.

A wife of one of the lost men was very ill with consumption. When he did not come home from work, she got worried but it was only after a day or two that he was told the news and this was her deathblow. She died on the Sunday and her remains were interred beside those of her husband.

Others who died:

  • John Ainsley, aged 19 years. His parents John and Elizabeth lived in Morpeth and were both blind.
  • William Alderton, aged 31 years who left a wife and two children.
  • William Allan, aged 36 years who left a wife and five children.
  • James Armour, aged 43 years. He was a back-overman. He left a wife and five children.
  • William Anderson, aged 27 years who left a wife and four children.
  • John Armstrong, aged 36 years. He left a wife and two children.
  • Edward Armstrong, aged 12 years. John was his father and John aged 10 his brother.
  • John Armstrong, aged 10 years. His brother and father were lost.
  • Abraham Atchinson, aged 20 years who left a wife and four children the youngest of which was four months old.
  • William Bannan. His name could have been Bann or Barron aged 24 years.
  • Mark Bell, aged 23 years.
  • Thomas Bell, aged 23 years.
  • Thomas Bell, aged 13 years and was a cousin of the above Thomas. His mother was widowed and he had four brothers and one sister.
  • John Bennett, aged 25 years. Two of the victims, John Coil and Patrick Sherlock lodged with him.
  • James Berwick, aged 34 years left a pregnant wife and two daughters.
  • John Berwick, aged 32 years and was brother to James. He left a wife who died of consumption in March 1862 and five children.
  • Robert Berwick, aged 30 years left a wife and three children.
  • Samuel Birtley, aged 24 years left a wife and two children the youngest of whom was born 21st January 1962.
  • Samuel Blackburn, aged 26 years who left a wife and one child.
  • John Broadfoot, aged 19 years.
  • Thomas Brown, aged 25 years who left a wife and a son.
  • Ralph Brown, aged 15 years and was Thomas’ brother. He was an orphan and had a brother. They lived with their sister-in-law who was married to Thomas.
  • George Brown, aged 31 years who worked as a brakeman on the inclined plane. He left a wife who was pregnant and two young children.
  • William Brown, aged 25 years left a wife and two children.
  • John Burn, aged 49 years let a wife and three children.
  • Thomas Burn, aged 14 years and was John’s son.
  • James Campbell, aged 18 years who left a wife and three children.
  • George Carling, aged 27 years who left a wife and four children.
  • Thomas Chambers. aged 55 years who left a wife and a daughter who was not in good health.
  • Clark Chambers, aged 19 years who was Thomas’ son.
  • Alfred Cheetham, aged 33 years who left a wife and two children.
  • Oswald Cleghorn, aged 24 years left a wife and three children.
  • Henry Clough or Cleugh, aged 47 years. He worked as a rolleyway man and this was his first day at work. He left a wife and three children.
  • John Coil, aged 28 years. He was an Irishman who lodged with the Bennetts.
  • Thomas Coil, aged 37 years. he was a deputy overman and left a wife and five children.
  • John Coulson aged 33 years who left a wife and four children.
  • Robert Coulson, aged 26 years left a wife three children.
  • John Cousins, aged 18 years.
  • Robert Cousins, aged 10 years and was John’s brother.
  • Philip Cross, aged 59 years. He left a wife and two children and his widowed daughter, who had two children living with them.
  • Philip Cross, aged 20 years who was Philip’s son.
  • John Davidson, aged 38 years. He worked as a rolleyway man who left a wife and three children.
  • William George Davidson, aged 11 years. Son of John.
  • Thomas Dawson, aged 49 years who left a wife, three daughters, and one son.
  • John Dawson, aged 12 years who was Thomas’s son.
  • Robert Dixon, aged 12 years. His mother had two other children and his father was in a lunatic asylum.
  • William Dixon, aged 27 years who left a wife and two children.
  • William Dixon, aged 34 years. He was a single man but he had a son who lived in Corbridge.
  • John Douglas, aged 25 years left a wife and an adopted child.
  • Patrick Duffy, aged 34 years who was an Irishman and left a wife and three children.
  • James Duffy, aged 10 years.
  • Allison Elliott, aged 29 years who worked as a stoneman. He left a widow and three children.
  • Edward Elliott, aged 19 years. His parents kept a public house in Choppington.
  • George Fairbairn, aged 33 years son of William.
  • William Fairbairn, aged 70 years, He left a widow, Margaret who was described as a “poor weak woman” who was left to live with her son Robert at Cowpen.
  • Henry Ford, aged 32 years who left a pregnant wife.
  • John Ford, aged 27 years who left a pregnant wife and a child.
  • Peter Ford, aged 12 years. He was the nephew of another victim, William Oliver. His 50 year old father was described as “an ailing man” and he had a brother and a sister.
  • Joseph Forester, aged 19 years. He was an orphan who lived with his aunt.
  • John Forester, aged 15 years and Joseph’s brother.
  • George Fulton, aged 25 years. He left a pregnant wife.
  • John Gallagher, aged 32 years who left a wife and two children.
  • Duncan Gallagher, aged 28 years. John was his brother.
  • Henry Gibson, aged 18 years.
  • William Gledson, aged 71 years who left a wife.
  • William Gledson, aged 43 years and was William’s son. He left a wife and a child.
  • George Gledson, aged 41 years who was another son of William. he left a wife and a child.
  • Thomas Gledson, aged 16 years and Thomas’ son.
  • Thomas Gledson, aged 36 years, son of William (Snr.) who left a wife.
  • James Glen, aged 18 years. he had a disabled father and four brothers and sisters.
  • William Glen, aged 14 years.
  • George Glenn, aged 12 years.
  • Patrick Gormley, aged 25 years.
  • Christopher Graham, aged 27 years who left a wife and two children.
  • George Hall, aged 28 years who left a wife and two children.
  • James Hamilton, aged 56 years. A Scotsman who left a wife and child.
  • James Hamilton, aged 12 years, son of James.
  • John Harding, aged 14 years.
  • Thomas Harrison, aged 16 years.
  • Frank Hauxwell, aged 25 years who left a wife and child.
  • George Hays, aged 41 years who left a wife and three children.
  • Thomas Hepple, aged 27 years.
  • George Hill, aged 31 years who left a wife and three children of which was in the Blind Asylum.
  • Robert Hill, aged 21 years, a stoneman.
  • George Hindmarsh, aged 30 years. This was his first day at work and he left a wife and five children.
  • John Hodge, aged 33 years, a Scot who left a wife and three children.
  • Andrew Houston, aged 34 years, a Scot who left a wife with a baby who was eight days old.
  • James Howard, aged 20 years. His father was a ventriloquist.
  • Joseph Humble, aged 33 years who left a wife and five children.
  • Peter Humble, aged 33 years who left a wife and two children.
  • Henry Hunter, aged 13 years.
  • Winsnip Jacques or Jacks, aged 24 years who left a wife and three children.
  • Joseph Johnson, aged 41 years left a wife and three children.
  • Robert Johnson, aged 42 years, brother to Joseph.
  • William Kennedy, aged 30 years who left a wife and three children, the youngest was born on 20th January 1862.
  • George Laws, aged 20 years, an onsetter who loved with his widowed mother.
  • Thomas Laws, aged 34 years. He lived with his widowed mother and younger brother.
  • John Liddle, aged 46 years left a wife and four children.
  • Thomas, George, and John Liddle, aged 18, 16 and 11 years respectively. They were brothers and John was their father.
  • Thomas Liddle, aged 41 years and was John’s brother. He left a wife and three children.
  • Thomas Liddle, aged 11 years, son of Thomas.
  • William Liddle, aged 40 years who left a wife and four children.
  • James and William Liddle, aged 15 and 17 respectively. They were William’s sons.
  • William Logan, aged 30 years, a Scot who left a pregnant wife and five children.
  • John Long, aged 15 years. His father was a blind miner.
  • Robert Long, aged 17 years and was John’s cousin.
  • Thomas Macauley, aged 38 years who left a wife.
  • Richard McClutchey, aged 24 years who left a pregnant wife and three children.
  • William McCracken, aged 24 years.
  • William McFarlane, aged 15 years.
  • John McKee, aged 55 years who left a pregnant wife and three children.
  • Adam McKee, aged 24 years, son of John.
  • Robert McMullen, aged 27 years. His wife died of consumption soon after the disaster and left a two year old daughter.
  • Peter Manderson, aged 50 years. He left a wife who was the sister of Joseph Humble the under-viewer.
  • Robert Marley, aged 23 years who left a wife.
  • Hugh Mason, aged 24 years.
  • Walter Miller, aged 43 years, a stoneman Who left a wife and five children.
  • William Miller, aged 34 years, a stoneman and brother of Walter. He left a wife and three children and at the time of the first payments from the Relief Fund, one of the children had typhus fever.
  • Andrew Morgan, aged 44 years. He was a widower with a daughter who went to live with her married sister in Fence Houses.
  • John Mullen, aged 36 years who left a wife and four children.
  • Michael Murray, aged 26 years who lodged with the Mullens.
  • Peter Nesbitt, aged 20 years. He was the nephew of Peter Manderson.
  • John Nicholson, aged 14 years.
  • Joseph Nicholson, aged 20 years and brother of John.
  • Joshua Nicholson, aged 52 years who left a wife and three children.
  • Robert North, aged 26 years who left a wife and two children.
  • George and Thomas North, aged 15 and 12 years respectively. Brothers.
  • Alexander North, aged 10 years.
  • William Oliver, aged 56 years, let a wife and daughter. He was the Uncle to Peter Ford.
  • John, James, William and Peter Oliver, aged 27, 21, 17 and 15 years respectively, all sons of William.
  • John Ormiston, aged 32 years who left a wife and two children.
  • William Palmer, aged 35 years who left a wife and three children.
  • William Pape, aged 14 years.
  • Thomas Pearson, aged 28 years.
  • William Redpath, aged 24 years who left a pregnant wife and three children.
  • Robert Reynolds, aged 33 years, a Scot, left a wife and five children.
  • Alexander Richardson, aged 22 years left a wife.
  • Hugh Riley, aged 30 years left a wife and two children.
  • Mathew Robinson, aged 30 years left a wife and two children.
  • Thomas Robinson, aged 42 years left a wife and three children.
  • Ralph Robinson, aged 36 years left a pregnant wife and five children.
  • James Robinson, aged 12 years. His father was a disabled miner.
  • Thomas Ross, aged 46 years who was a widower who had a daughter.
  • Edward Rowley, aged 33 years left a wife and three children.
  • John Rutherford, aged 25 years.
  • William Rutherford, aged 23 years brother of John.
  • Thomas Rutherford, aged 32 years left a wife and two children.
  • George Scarefield, aged 51 years lived with his parents and sister who “took fits”.
  • Thomas Sebastian, aged 19 years who lived with his widowed mother.
  • George Sharp aged 49 years left a wife and three children.
  • George Sharp Aged 15 years and George Sharp aged 13 years, both sons of George (snr.).
  • Henry Sharp, aged 44 years, a deputy overman who left a wife.
  • Thomas Sharp, aged 48 years, brother of Henry.
  • Patrick Sherlock, aged 14 years.
  • Robert Small, aged 19 years.
  • Francis Smith, aged 33 years who left a wife and five children.
  • William Smith, aged 19 years left a pregnant wife. He was a glassmaker of Seaton Sluice and was visiting the pit.
  • Edward Softley, aged 17 years.
  • Lionel Stainsby, aged 23 years.
  • William Stanley, aged 23 years.
  • Joseph Taylor, aged 36 years left pregnant a wife and two children.
  • William Telford, aged 29 years, a rolleyman left pregnant a wife and two children.
  • John Ternent, aged 44 years a deputy overman, left an adopted daughter and five children.
  • George Ternent, aged 15 years son of John.
  • George Thirwell, aged 27 years left a wife and two children.
  • William Tibbs, aged 32 left a wife and four children, two of whom were twins.
  • James Tierney alias Gallagher, aged 14 years.
  • James Tryer aged 36 years.
  • John Veitch, aged 21 years.
  • George Wade, aged 31 years left a wife and a two month old son.
  • Benjamin Walker, aged 21 years.
  • James and William Walker, aged 16 and 12 years respectively. Their mother was a widow.
  • Patrick Walpole, aged 30 years left a wife from which payment of relief was withheld. This was the only one of the suffers to which this happened. No reason was given.
  • Christopher, Thomas, and John Wanless, aged 20, 19, and 14 years respectively. Brothers.
  • James Watson, aged 38 years left a wife.
  • Joseph Watson, aged 16 years son of James.
  • John Watson, aged 38 years left a wife and four children.
  • Thomas Watson, aged 16 years son of John.
  • Thomas Watson, aged 34 years who left a wife and three children.
  • Robert Wears, aged 20 years.
  • Thomas Wears, aged 40 years left a wife and three children.
  • William White, aged 16 years who lived with is widowed mother.
  • John B. Wilkinson, aged 38 years, a rolleyway man who left a pregnant wife and three children.
  • George Wilson, aged 16 years an orphan.
  • William Wilson, aged 12 years.
  • David Wypher or Wyper, aged 24 years left a pregnant wife and a son who was “deformed and imbecile” and was granted relief up to the age of 18 years.
  • John Youll, aged 28 years left a wife and four children.
  • John Young, aged 25 years left a wife and two children.
  • Henry Younger, aged 33 years a deputy overman who left a wife and two children.

The funerals took place in Earsdon churchyard on 26th February and it was estimated at the time that there were about 60,000 people at the funerals of the victims, between noon and 1 p.m., carts lined with straw were driven slowly to the doors of the collier’s cottages and lifted onto them. Each cart carried five victims and made the journey to the churchyard surrounded by the relatives of the dead and the followers extended down the road as far as the eye could see.

Some of the victims, about ten, were buried at Cowpen and a few at Seghill but the majority were buried at Earsdon. The Duke of Northumberland gave a plot of land to the north of the church for the burials and this was later incorporated into the churchyard. The work of digging the graves had not proceeded as quickly as it should have and when the procession reached the churchyard only two-thirds of the graves were completed but the work was quickly completed.

The graves were dug in three parallel rows, one to the west which was an immense trench, the middle one contained a trench and in this thirty-three coffins were placed and smaller graves in which two or three bodies were buried and the third was of double of single graves with earth walls between them.

The Reverend E.R. Mason, the Vicar of the Parish and his Curate, Reverend D.T. Jones met the coffins as they arrived and read the service for the dead and it took until 3 p.m. to complete all the proceedings. After the service was finished the graves were filled and this took until late into the evening.

Mr. T. Wemyss Reid, wrote on the burial of the victims:

There is something dreadful in thinking of the desolation which the departing carts left behind them. That, which is merely a misfortune to the kingdom generally, has been the destruction of the village of New Hartley. With very, very few exceptions, every strong working man in the place had been carried away to his long home and there is only left a company of aged men, weak women and helpless children. When the place will recover from the paralysing shock it had received, if indeed it ever recovers, Heaven only knows. For many years to come babes yet unborn may rue the terrible occurrence of last Tuesday week.

At a meeting in Newcastle, it was thought that a sum of £17,000 would be required for the permanent relief of the widows and orphans but this sum was exceeded by the generosity of the public, particularly miners from other coalfields and private donations of eminent people including the Queen, who donated £200 and the Duke of Northumberland £300. Several £1000 had been subscribed in Northumberland alone and by the time the inquest was started, the Fund had reached £30.000, and subscriptions were coming at a rate of £1000 per day and eventually reached about £80,000.

Mr. W.F. Barymorean was appointed actuary for the Fund and 7/- per week was assigned to each widow and 10/6d. to a widow and child, 13/6d. for a widow and 2 children, 15/6d. for a widow and three children, 17/6d. for a widow and 4 children, 19/6d. for a widow and five children. The allowances would continue with no misconduct on the widow’s part as long as they remained unmarried and the children to age 15 years for girls and 12 years for boys. Infirm adults received 7/- per week. The widows would get £20 on remarrying and £3 for funeral expenses on dying with £1 for the death of a child.

The Fund was so large that the Hartley Fund to relieve the dependants of mining disasters was et up and over the next years was sadly used a very great deal.

Mr. S. Reed was the Coroner at the inquest which was held at Seaton Deval. The Home Secretary, Sir George Grey had instructed Her Majesty’s Inspector of Mines, Mr. Mathias Dunn to conduct an investigation into the cause of the disaster and Mr. Kenyon Blackwell was appointed to help Mr. Dunn and report in full to the Home office.

The single pit shaft was 12 feet in diameter and 100 fathoms deep with a substantial wooden brattice down the centre made of 3 inches plank on plank. The pumps were 24 inches in diameter and the shaft was blocked for 7 fathoms after the disaster.

Carbonic acid gas was thought to have been the cause of death of those entombed which could have been produced by the dying embers of the furnace. The Inspector said:

We would hope that the sufferings of the poor people would be of a specific character and unattended by violent pain.

This was the opinion of the jury on how the men met their deaths and they added:

The jury can not close this painful inquiry without expressing their strong opinion of the imperative necessity that all winding collieries should have at least a second shaft or outlet to afford the workmen the means of escape, should any obstruction take place as occurred at the New Hartley pit.

Those that were trapped were hungry, thirsty and weary but a new enemy appeared, gas.

Unlike many disasters that would happen in the mining industry in subsequent years, legislation was quickly enacted and stated that all collieries were to have two shafts.

There is little evidence in Hartley today of the momentous events that occurred at the colliery in 1862.


The Mines Inspectors Report, 1862. Mr. Mathis Dunn
The Illustrated London News.
The Graphic.
The Colliery Guardian, 25th January, p.67, 1st February, p.86, 8th February, p.106.
Great Pit Disasters Great Britain. 1700 to the present day.
Helen and Baron Duckham.

Information supplied by Ian Winstanley and the Coal Mining History Resource Centre.

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