A MEMORIAL pathway will be laid in south east Northumberland to commemorate one of the region’s worst ever mining disasters.
The accident, which happened on January 16, 1862, at the Hester Pit in New Hartley, claimed the lives of 204 men and boys, some as young as ten.
It was caused by a 43 ton beam used to de-water the mine suddenly breaking and plunging down the 600ft pit.
Debris blocked the only shaft, trapping the victims, who suffocated as rescuers took a week to reach them.
A public outcry resulted after the disaster when it was revealed that it could have been prevented if those underground had a second way out.
At the time it was Britain’s worst ever mining accident and it led to laws ordering mine owners to build more than one shaft.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the tragedy, local artists Russ Coleman and Rob Walton have created a memorial pathway of thoughts, feelings and reflections expressed through prose and poetry, which will be laid at the Hartley Pit Memorial Garden, New Hartley.
Words and lines have also been lifted from historical records of 1862, including newspaper reports, the subsequent Act of Parliament and the Queen’s letter.
Most importantly of all, the 204 names and ages of those who lost their lives in the disaster are also featured in the pathway.
The project was commissioned by the New Hartley Community Association and Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure.
Pupils from Seaton Sluice Middle School and New Hartley First School contributed to the artwork, as well as members of the New Hartley Art Group.
Joanne Burke, film and arts development officer at Queen’s Hall Arts, Blyth Valley Art and Leisure, said: “The wording within the pathway is thoughtful and moving and reflects historical, community and future perspectives.
“Reading the words will give you a lump in the throat.
“The new pathway works extremely well as a fitting memorial.
“It also works well as a stream of literature to follow along the walk to the pit head.
“The striking black surface and added colour lifts it all with a slight contemporary edge and energy.”
The official opening of the pathway will take place at the memorial garden on Saturday, September 8, at 2.30pm.