An Inundation of Heaton Colliery

Extract from report - full version available in Resources

Extract from report

May 3rd 1815, a dreadful accident took place in Heaton Main Colliery, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne...In the course of time these old workings had become entirely filled with water, which, at about half-past four o'clock on the morning of the above day (Wednesday) broke through the coal in the north-west part of the present colliery,...and inundated the workings. Some of the men who were working near the spot where the water forced its entrance, ran immediately to the shaft, and happily escaped out of the pit...The water rushed in with dreadful rapidity, and flowing naturally to the lower parts of the workings, soon cut off the only means of escape....

Exertions were immediately made to reach the spot where the men were supposed to be, from some other workings, but without success,...

By this catastrophe seventy-five persons (forty-one men and thirty-four boys) lost their lives, together with the whole stock of horses, which were down at the time.

From various difficulties, the bodies of these unfortunate men were not arrived at until upwards of nine months from the time of the accident...

On the 6th of January, 1816, the first human body of the sufferers was brought to bank, in a state of great decay; but ascertained by the neckcloth to be that of William Scott,...there were ten human bodies, and the carcases of two horses found. The water had never risen so high as the above workings...

Memoir of William Thew

One of the sufferers in the inundation of the Heaton Colliery, 1815.

Willam Thew was the second son of John and Elizabeth Thew, and was seventeen years of age at the time of the catastrophe. His father, and an elder brother, aged twenty, named George, perished with him.

To contemplate seventy-five human beings all at once incarcerated in a living tomb, with the appalling prospect of a lingering, though certain death. They had not died from hunger, as they had killed one of the horses and had cut slices off its hind quarter, some of which were found in the caps and wallets of the men, unconsumed. They had likewise an abundant supply of spring water. The exhaustion of the atmospheric air by the influx of water bringing with it foul air, was no doubt the cause of death, probably in a day or two at the most...

Candle tin box
She readily recognized William's body by his fine auburn hair;...when in one of his pockets was found his tin candle-box, on which, in the darkness of the suffocating pit, or only with the dim light of his Davy lamp, the dear boy had, with a nail, engraved on his candle box, the following touching and consolatory epistle:-

"Fret not, dear mother, for we were singing while we had time, and praising God. Mother, follow God more than ever I did:" and then on the other side, which, it is supposed, must have been dictated by his father, as it bears his signature, though he could not write: "If Johnny is saved, be a good lad to God, and thy mother"John Thew

Activities & Resources

Incident Report

The original full report of the disaster.

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Candle Box Engravings

Images of the candle box engravings.

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Worksheet & Activity Tasks

Extracts of the report and a group activity.

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