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Astley Deep Pit Disaster

On the afternoon of Tuesday, 14 April 1874, 152 miners started their night shift at 3:00pm.

The underground explosion occurred at about 8:00pm in Half Moon Tunnel, which was accessed via Engine Brow and the 600 yard Cannel Tunnel where 61 men and boys were working.

At about 7:00pm it was noticed that there were slight falls of dirt from the tunnel roof. Four miners were immediately detailed to make the roof safe, helped by a steam engine and tenter. It is likely that this was a portable steam engine and it may be that it was used to pump water away that was entering the tunnel.

For better illumination, this repair work was conducted with open flame lamps and at about 7:50pm the roof began to groan and creak. Before long the pit props, that were shoring up the roof, collapsed. This allowed pockets of gas above the roof to escape into the tunnel and when this came into contact with the open flame lamps and steam engine firebox there was a huge explosion. This set alight the surrounding timber lining of the tunnel and then spread along it, burning a stable that was in its path.

The ensuing fire burned for another two days. It was still raging 24 hours later and it was not until 2:00am on Friday that it was finally extinguished. Only seven miners managed to escape from the vicinity of the explosion but a further 91 men and boys, working in other areas, were affected by it, many being badly injured in making their escape.

The official explanation of the disaster was an explosion of fire damp, ignited by fire (open flame) in old workings, caused by a fall of ground (roof) and inadequate ventilation. National Archive Ref. HO 45/9361/32915 dated 1874. Accident at Astley Deep Pit, Dukinfield. ‘HO’ refers to the Home Office.

Glossary of miners' occupations

Roll of the 54 Miners who died

Announcement of a Sermon for those who lost their lives

Sermon

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Roll of 18 miners who were injured or entombed

Roll of rescuers who worked in short shifts because of the dangerous working conditions
The names of only a few of these are known

Description and Location:
A blue plaque commemorating the 54 men and boys who died in Astley Deep Pit on Tuesday, 14 April 1874 as a result of an underground explosion.

Woodbury Crescent, Dukinfield.

Inscription:
TAMESIDE METROPOLITAN BOROUGH
THE ASTLEY DEEP PIT DISASTER
14th April 1874

This plaque is located over the shaft where an appalling
gas explosion occurred in Astley's Deep Pit, once
reputed to be the world's deepest coal mine.

A previously burnt tunnel was temporarily being repaired when
the roof collapsed and pockets of unknown gas were
ignited by open flame lamps.

The explosion killed 54 men and boys, making this
Tameside's worst mining disaster.

Unveiled by The Mayor of Tameside,
Councillor Brian Wild JP
on 10th May 2001.

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