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Service planned to mark 150th anniversary of Oaks Colliery mining disaster

Victims of what is believed to be England’s worst mining disaster will be remembered with the unveiling of a memorial in Barnsley.

Official figures say 363 men and boys died in the 1866 Oaks Colliery Disaster at Hoyle Mill, Barnsley. However researchers claim the final death toll when two underground explosions devastated the mine was 383.

Today marks 150 years since the disaster and events observing the anniversary will take place across Barnsley to remember those who lost their lives.

At the heart of the remembrance service will be the unveiling of a new memorial, a sculpture designed by local artist Graham Ibbeson which will be placed in the town centre. It has been commissioned by People and Mining and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The newly formed Barnsley Main Heritage Group will also be lighting a beacon from the spoil tip at 1:15pm, the time of the first explosion, and placing wooded crosses naming the victims.

Meanwhile, a memorial to all those killed which was raised at Christ Church, Ardsley, in 1879 has had its stonework restored on the 150th anniversary.

Other events taking place include:

  • Formal gathering at the Town Hall on the evening of 12th December will include talks, readings and the showing of a film. Present will be ancestors of those who died, dignitaries, and the local community - along with volunteers and groups involved in the anniversary.
  • Commemorative events will close with a talk at St. Edward’s, Kingstone, at 2pm and a special service at St. Mary’s, Barnsley, at 7pm on Wednesday 14th December.

“The Oaks Disaster was a terrible tragedy that shocked not just the local community, but the whole world. 150 years on it’s a testament to the people of Barnsley that this anniversary will not be forgotten. It is of particular poignancy for me as my Great, Great Grandfather, John Riley, was one of the volunteers who risked his life to search for survivors.”

– Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council

Click below to watch a video report from James Webster: