Huskar Colliery 1838
HUSKAR. Moorend Pit. Silkstone, Barnsley. 4th. July 1838
The Huskar Colliery was joined to the Moorend Colliery for the purposes of ventilation and was the colliery was the property of Mr. R.C. Clarke of Noblethorpe. The day was hot and sunny but a violent thunderstorm raged from about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Hailstones and about two to two and half inches of rain fell.
The pit had a shaft used for pulling coal to the surface by a steam engine and in a wood there was drift which was used for ventilation. The rain put out the boiler fire and the engine could not be used to take the men to the surface and a message was sent down the pit for all the miners to make their way to the pit bottom.
The children, boys and girls, who worked in the mine, decided to wait until the engine was working again. They had then spent nine hours underground. Forty of them decided to go out of the pit by way of the ventilation drift to Nabbs Wood.
At the bottom of the drift, there was an air door and the children went through this. As they made their way up the drift, a stream which was swollen into a rushing torrent by the downpour, overflowed down the drift. The children were washed off their feet and down to the door through which they had just passed. The water rose against the door and twenty six children were drowned. Some of the older children managed to escape along a slit which lead to the Moorend Colliery.
James Garnett, the father of one of the children, was one who went in after the water had subsided and he found the body of his child. It could not be recovered until all the twenty six had been removed. They were taken to Thostle Hall where George Teasdale and a man named Buckley washed their faces and then they were taken to their homes in carts.
The boys who died were-
George Burkinshaw aged 10 years.
James Burkinshaw aged 7 years, brothers
Isaac Wright aged 12 years.
Amos Wright aged 8 years, brothers.
James Clarkson aged 16 years.
Francis Hoyland aged 13 years,.
William Allick aged 12 years.
Samuel Horne aged 10 years.
Eli Hutchinson aged 9 years.
John Simpson aged 9 years.
George Barnett aged 9 years.
George Lamb aged 8 years.
William Walmseley aged 8 years.
John Gothard aged 8 years.
James Turton aged 10 years.
The girls who died were-
Catherine Garnett aged 8 years.
Hannah Webster aged 13 years.
Elizabeth Carr aged 13 years.
Anne Moss aged 9 years.
Elizabeth Hollin aged 15 years.
Hannah Taylor aged 17 years.
Ellen Parker aged 15 years.
Mary Sellars aged 10 years.
Sarah Jukes aged 8 years.
Sarah Newton aged 8 years
and Elizabeth Clarkson aged 11 years, who was buried at the feet of her brother.
Benjamin Mellow, aged 46 years old., examined on the March 18th., 1841 told the Children’s Employment Commission:-
“I am under ground steward to four of Mr. Clarke’s pits and I have the superintendence of above 90 colliers. We have had but one bad accident and that was on the 4th. July, 1838. It had been raining hard during a thunder storm to such an extent that the water came into the sough of the engine house and the engineer gave the alarm to the banksman who shouted out incautiously to put the light out and come out of the pit.
The children and people were frightened, not knowing what was the matter. A number of children, either from the fright of from a desire to get a holiday, ran from the shaft towards the pittrail which forms a second outlet and this, together with the water escaping from the old workings, rushed down the pittrail and met the children who has passed a trap door, against which they were driven by the water and being unable to open it, 26 were drowned, 11 girls and 15 boys.
The water by the marks it left could not have been above six inches deep in its stream down to the pittrail but it rose at the door and there they were drowned. Fourteen had got on before and they had passed sufficiently far to be safe. I am quite sure that the stream had never overflowed before. No man can prove it.
The stream is very small and is dry nine months out of the twelve. If the children had remained in the pit or at the shaft, they would have been quite safe, the water never rose anywhere except just where they were drowned.”
The inquest into the disaster was held at the Red Lion Inn, Silkstone By Mr. Badger of Sheffield, Coroner. The bodies had been viewed at their homes and Joseph Huskar who lived in Huskar, told the court what happened on that fateful day.
“Eleven of us were together and they all drowned but me. The water swam me down the day hole and through a slit into another bord gate.”
William Lamb said-
“We did not know what we were going out for. We thought it was fire. The water washed the children down the day hole against a door, through which we had just come, and they were all drowned. If we had stopped at the pit bottom we should have been saved.”
Uriah Jubb stated that-
“I was coming up the day hole with Elizabeth Taylor and some others. We heard the water coming and me and Elizabeth Taylor got into a slot in the day hole and we stopped there until we could get put. The water met the others as they were coming up and drove them against the door where they were drowned.”
After hearing all the evidence and the accounts of survivors, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death".
Queen Victoria took an interest in the disaster and the loss of so many young lives in a pit was a factor in the setting up of the Royal Commission to enquire into women and children working in coal mines.
There is an inscription on the old monument in the churchyard of the Parish Church, Silkstone which records a disaster in the district. It reads-
“Take heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”
The inscription on the east side reads-
“This monument was erected to perpetuate the remembrance of an awful visitation of the Almighty, which took place in this Parish on the 4th, day of July 1838.
On that eventful day, the Lord sent forth his thunder, lightening, hail and rain, carrying devastation before them, and by a sudden eruption of water into the coal pits of R.C. Clarke Esq., twenty six beings, whose names are recorded here were suddenly summoned to appear before their maker.
Every neglected call of God will appear against thee at the day of Judgement. Let this solemn warning then sink deep into thy heart and so prepare thee that the Lord when he cometh may find thee watching.”
The inscription on the north side-
“Boast not thyself of tomorrow”.
The mortal remains are deposited in the grave as under-names.
First grave beginning at the North End.
G. Birkinshaw Age 10 years.
J. Birkinshaw Age 7 years Brothers.
J., Wright Age 12 years.
A. Wright Age 8 years Brothers.
J. Clarkson Age 16 years.
F. Hoveland Age 13 years.
W. Attick Age 12 years.
S. Horne Age 10 years.
E. Hutchinson Age 9 years.
G. Garnett Age 9 years.
J. Simpson Age 9 years.
G. Lamb Age 8 years.
W. Womersley Age 8 years.
J. Turton Age 10 years.
J. Gotherd Age 8 years.
The inscription on the west side-
“There is but a step between us and Death”.
The inscription on the south side-
“Therefore be ye also ready”.
The mortal remains of the females are deposited in the graves at the feet of
themselves as under-named,
O. Garnett Age 11 years
H. Webster Age 13 years
A. Moss Age 9 years.
E. Parker Age 15 years.
E. Hollings Age 18 years
T. Taylor Age 17 years
M. Sellars Age 10 years.
E. Clarkson Age 11 years.
S. Newton Age 8 years.
S. Jinks Age 10 years”
One hundred and fifty years after the disaster, funds from the Silkstone Parish Council made available for the upkeep of the Old memorial to the children and a new memorial was dedicated at the site of the disaster.
This accident claimed the lives of 26 people.