Human cost of Barnsley mining disaster told in new exhibition

Experience Barnsley museum curator Stephen Miller with a pit pony's foot, recovered from the disaster and turned into an ink well. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

Experience Barnsley museum curator Stephen Miller with a pit pony's foot, recovered from the disaster and turned into an ink well. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

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Human stories from the worst mining disaster in Victorian Britain will be told in a new exhibition to mark the 150th anniversary of the tragedy.

Opening at Experience Barnsley on Wednesday, the ‘When the Oaks Fired’ exhibition includes stories from survivors, rescuers, widows and children whose lives were changed forever by the 1866 Oaks Colliery Disaster at Hoyle Mill, Barnsley.

The Barnsley main colliery pit head is all that remains on the site today. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

The Barnsley main colliery pit head is all that remains on the site today. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

At the time, the death toll was reported as 361 but research coordinated by the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) since has revealed the names of 383 men and boys who perished.

Only six people survived when methane gas was ignited and caused a huge underground explosion on December 12, 1866.

A second explosion the next day killed 27 volunteer rescuers.

Stephen Miller, community officer at the DVLP, said: “Volunteer researchers have spent thousands of hours revealing the details of the victims’ lives. Through their skill and hard work we’ve been able to tell the story of the disaster from a completely new perspective.

“For the 150th anniversary their research stands out as fitting memorial.”

The exhibition will run until February 8 next year.

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