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2017-01-12 Pretoria Pit Disaster..

[Report under construction]

On the 12th January 2017, our members had a splendid and enthusiastic talk by Mr Alan Davies about the Pretoria Coal Pit Disaster in Westhoughton in 2010. The personal experience of Mr Davies as an author, miner and archivist came though to give a most vivid recreating in the minds of those listening of the daily life and hardships of the working miners (both male and female) and the extreme effect of the disaster on the folk in the mine at the time of the explosion.



At the outcome of the enquiry it was determined that a rock fall caused some events; the covering and death of a miner under the rock fall, the breaking or exposure of the flame in the miner’s lamp which ignited gas (perhaps from the rock fall) which then ignited coal dust in a chain reaction to give an explosive flow of fire and gas through the mine workings.

They went to work, they did not come home.


Memorial in Graveyard
Memorial in Graveyard copy by Pam Clarke Westhoughton Local History Group


Death toll.

(Report with thanks to the website to which all readers are referred) See link:

The outcome was an official death toll total of 344 deaths, comprising 328 colliery employees and 16 contractors and their staff, which was set on 30 Dec 1910 (BEN [Bolton Evening News] 30 Dec 1910) some 6 weeks before the last body to be found was recovered. The Lancashire & Cheshire Miners Federation compiled a register of victims for relief fund use, and the BEN published this ‘complete’ list on 30 Dec 1910. Taking into account errors and duplication, this ‘complete’ list missed four names – Robert Curwen, John Prescott, Henry Price and Robert Whittaker. Despite strenuous efforts by exploration teams, only 343 bodies were recovered and 343 deaths registered. As late as 6 Mar 1911 the BEN reported that “Work is still being pushed forward for the recovery of the remaining body in the Pretoria pit, so far no trace of it has been found.” – no trace ever was found. 342 men and boys at work in the No.3 Pit districts at the time of the explosion were killed. One man (Richard Clayton) died in the Arley Mine at No.4 Pit, and one member of a rescue team (William Turton) died on the first day while attempting to put out a fire in the South Plodder District of No.3 Pit. Only one of the dead from the Yard Mine (Fountain Byers) lived long enough to reach Bolton Infirmary, where he succumbed to injuries next day (22 Dec 1910). A badly burned and shocked boy, Simeon Gibson, was found unconscious but still breathing near No.3 shaft by the first exploration team. He was sent to the surface but soon died. No one knows how long the other victims survived after the explosion. Some must have been killed outright by the blast, particularly in the shaft area. Others at the far end of the Downbrow District appear to have had time to travel 300 yards from their work places before lethal gas stopped them.

The talk illustrated the way of work and the conditions and ages of the employees in a vivid fashion and some links and photographs with permission appear below.



A book by Mr Alan Davies on the disaster is given below in the links.

See link:
The Pretoria Pit Disaster by Alan Davies, Paperback, Special Price:£13.49

Book cover The Pretoria Pit Disaster
Book cover The Pretoria Pit Disaster














Other Books by Alan Davies     [active link]


Local Memorial Service.

The Westhoughton Local History Group have a page and links to the event and there is an annual short memorial service.

A YouTube video of the 2016 memorial service can be viewed at:


Memorial.  At site above ground of the explosion point.


Site of accident stone by permission of


A short note on Mr Alan Davies.

Mr Davies was born in Atherton, Lancashire. The town had three collieries operating at the time, probably where Alan's interest came from, as well
as through family members working in the industry.
Alan worked in mining at five collieries, Parkside, Coventry, Bickershaw, Castle Drift, Wigan and was recently managing Hilltop Colliery, Bacup.
He studied mining at St Helens College, and art and design at Wigan and Bristol for four years gaining his B.A.(Hons).
He was Curator of the Lancashire Mining Museum, Salford for fifteen years until closure in 2000. He qualified as an archivist with
Liverpool University, and became in charge of Wigan Record Office until 2007. He working in various archives until 2011.
Recently returning to mining as colliery manager, Hilltop Colliery drift, Bacup, Lancashire’s last coal mine.
See the YouTube video on the Hilltop Colliery, Bacup mine.

Since then he has carrying on speaking to local societies and leading guided walks and researching books.
His other personal interests include flying light aircraft, aerial, general and underground photography,
writing mining historical works, riding classic motorcycles.



We, the members of Culcheth Local History Group, send him our sincere thanks for a good talk and an enjoyable evening.