Pelsall's Black Gold
Pelsall Hall Colliery Disaster
The History, the Unsolved Mysteries and the Lasting Legacy
Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster is regarded as not only the worst mining disaster in the history of Pelsall, but in the history of the South Staffordshire Coalfield.
I first researched Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster many years ago and wrote about it for the Black Country Bugle. I then went on to publish a detailed article about the disaster in my own publication, Pelsall Times in 2001 followed by another written by Reg Neville in 2003.
My previous research on this subject was based on secondary sources, however for this project I decided to turn my attention to primary sources such as newspaper articles published at the time.
Attention to detail was remarkable as journalists provided a day by day account, and points of interest previously overlooked by previous researchers, such as an offer of assistance was made by telegraph by Messrs Hinks of Great Portland Street, London to send down divers with diving costumes which were effective either for water or foul air.’
Also, one journalist at least ventured into the mine with one of the exploring party to see first hand what the conditions were like underground and was able to describe exactly what the tableau of death was like. He saw 18 of the dead men and one of whom he described seemed to be kneeling in prayer.
Then there are the people of Pelsall, who the journalists have introduced to us, the survivors such as the young lad Jeffries, also known as ‘Squash’, who they interviewed shortly after his narrow escape. We also learn that the lad Thomas Coleman had curly hair.
The journalists also saw and quickly began to appreciate the heroic actions of the rescuers, such as Mr Ness, Mr Starkey, Mr Checkley, Mr Brookes and Mr Goring who in some of their articles, they state, should have been awarded the Victoria Cross and made everyone aware of who these people were and what they did.
Other journalists describe how crowds came from miles around, driven by a morbid curiosity to see the action of it all. We are told that extra trains were put on to accommodate them and that they were kept back by ropes, for their own safety. In lines, they viewed the decomposing bodies of the dead in the room behind the Station Inn, and stood the gut wrenching stench of the decomposing bodies.
However, that said, there is one glaring question. Who was the miner who was left behind? The one who is ‘Unknown and Not Found’ according to The Mining Inspectorate of 1873.
Despite overwhelming and published research, the mystery still remains.