“Some of the boys killed had clean faces and looked to be sleeping peacefully" - Wigan pit disaster memorial unveiled

The lives of dozens of Wigan men and boys who died in a local pit disaster will be permanently remembered by a poignant memorial.

A memorial stone and plaque has this week been unveiled at Hindley All Saints Church to remember the 62 men and boys who lost their lives when an explosion ripped through Springs Pit in Hindley Green.

The memorial at Hindley All Saints Church

The memorial at Hindley All Saints Church

The stone, which stands on the site where 42 of the victims remain buried, was revealed on Monday, exactly 150 years since the tragedy occurred.

After coming across an old photograph of a memorial card Keith Wood - a former miner and member of Hindley and District History Society, set about arranging a tribute to the men whose stories were largely untold.

A booklet released by the society explains the events of the fateful day.

“The first men found were burned,” it says.

“Others were brought out alive but died shortly afterwards despite the best efforts of Dr J G Brayton and his assistants.

“Most had left their working places evidently trying to escape.

“The ventilation system had been destroyed so the rescuers had to proceed with caution.

“Some of the boys killed had clean faces and looked to be sleeping peacefully.

“Many of those killed were related, there being several cases of brothers and several of father and son.

“Another man John Gerrard was brought out alive but was severely burned, he was taken home and died a few days later.”

Documents detailing the subsequent inquest into the deaths of the mine workers revealed that “no firm conclusion” could be reached as to the cause of the explosion.

Annette Baron, of All Saints Church in Hindley, said that the memorial serves as an important reminder of the lives lost in the incident.

“I didn’t even know there were several pits in the area at the time,” she said.

“Personally I have learnt quite a bit about it.

“It’s been very interesting to learn about the history of the area and it is important to remember them.”

The funerals of 41 of the 42 men and boys buried at All Saints Hindley took place on Monday, November 30 1868.

Although it was due to begin at 10am, there was a delay with issuing the death certificates and the ceremony did not start until 3pm.

On Monday dignitaries, parish church members and members of the history society gathered for a special service before the stone was unveiled.

Among the guests was Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue alongside Keith Wood.

Ms Fovargue MP said: “We gathered to remember a tragedy that took the lives of 62 people, many of them young boys.

“Our mining history is all too often scarred by disasters as befell Springs Pit.

“So I applaud Hindley & District History Society, All Saints Church and the local community on the 150th anniversary of the disaster for raising the funds to provide the memorial stone.

“The memorial will act as a fitting tribute and remind future generations of the debt we owe to the mining communities upon which Britain’s industrial strength was born.”