THE HUSKAR PIT DISASTER
THE HUSKER PIT DISASTER of the 4th of July 1838 and the first Mines Act of 1842.
Silkstone Colliery was the site of an accident in 1838 when 26 children were drowned as they tried to escape from the Huskar Day-Hole, part of Silkstone’s Moorend and Huskar Pit workings, during a summer thunder-storm, about a quarter mile from Silkstone Waggonway where it passed close to Moorend Pit.
Adults and children had gathered first at the bottom of the Moorend shaft but the heavy rain had put out the fires in the steam boilers which powered the engine to lift them out of the Mine.
When they arrived at the Husker Pit bottom they found the same had happened there. Impatient to escape and thinking there was a risk of a firedamp explosion, the children put out their lights and made their way to the Husker Day-Hole, where the mine workings came to the surface through a sloping tunnel.
About 40 children were climbing a steep Drift through a fault in the Silkstone Seam, a climb of about 15 metres at between 1 in 6 and 1 in 4, when the door gave way, releasing tons of water and sweeping children off their feet down the steep slope to another ventilation door at the bottom, where they were trapped in the flooded tunnel and were drowned.
Fourteen children scrambled into a slit where a trapped pocket of air saved them, but twenty six children between the ages of seven and seventeen lost their lives.
A small hollow in the ground in a beautiful South Yorkshire Wood now marks the Site of the Day-Hole where the Disaster took place.
This accident was reported in the National Press and, with many other fatal accidents which had already occurred in Mines, brought the scandal of Children working underground to the attention of the Public.
In 1842 The Royal Commission of Enquiry into the Conditions of Children employed in Mines and Manufactories produced a Report, which was later to become The Mines Act.
Lord Ashley, later to become the 8th Earl of Shaftesbury, proposed a Bill “to make Regulations respecting the age and sex of children and young persons employed in the Mines and Collieries of the United Kingdom” which prohibited, amongst other restrictions, the employment underground of all females and males below the age of 10 years.
The Monument in Silkstone Churchyard which was erected in 1841 by R C Clarke, the mine owner who provided on the 3rd April 16 quarts of ale “to Mason Edward Bailey when setting the Monument”.