In the period that we now call the Industrial Revolution mining disasters wrecked the lives of thousands of South Yorkshire families and devastated entire communities.
The Husker pit flooding of 1838 in which 26 young girls and boys were killed shocked Victorian society and and was a significant factor in the 1842 Report on Employment of Women and Children in Mines; but earlier, long forgotten disasters are also explored.
The Barnsley area was particularly hard-hit during the middle decades of the century with major mining accidents, usually great explosions of firedamp occurring, for example, at Lundhill Colliery (189 men and boys killed); Oaks (361 fatalities, Britain’s worst pit disaster) and Swaithe Main (143 dead).
Scenes of grief, mourning and remarkable heroism provided spectacular copy for Victorian newspapers and magazines such as The Illustrated London News, focusing on the very uncertain and dangerous life of the miner.
Despite the importance and widespread occurrence of South Yorkshire mining disasters, which also included dreadful winding accidents and gas emissions, their story has never been told in a single volume.