Minnie Pit Disaster.

Percy Seymour HULSE

Percy Seymour HULSE Dec 1894 at Alsager's Bank 12th Jan 1918. Son of John Thomas HEATH (also a Coalminer) and Rebecca HULSE (married in Sep 1896 at N u Lyme, Civil). Percy's brother Laura HEATH = Reg HEATH 1907-1999 who was born at Tomfield's Fm. Horton & was my Grandad's brother. I found more out about this side of my family from Margeret PEARSALL nee HEATH at a HEATH family reunion at Endon in 2013. A year later I happened to be visiting the Museum at Apedale, Stoke on Trent with a friend & realised that on display was the full sketch plan of the Minnie Pit disaster, drawn up for the subsequent inquiry; this showed the exact location of Percy's body from where it was recovered. He was numbered 39 & nearby was his lamp No. 428.

Percy was one of 155 miners killed at the Minnie Pit disaster at Halmer End, Stoke. His body wasrecovered from the 'Seven Feet Seam' (Northern Section),Podmore Hall Colliery.

"On Saturday, 12 January 1918, 248 men were working underground when a huge explosion tore apart the Bullhurst and Banbury Seams. Within minutes 155 men died from the effects of the explosion, from roof falls or from inhaling poisonous gas. Rescue teams all across the North Staffordshire Coalfield were mobilised to search for survivors. However, Hugh Doorbar, Captain of the Birchenwood Colliery No. 1 rescue team, also lost his life two days later, bringing the final death toll to 156.

The explosions caused such devastation underground that it took 12 months to recover all the bodies from the pit. Large sections of the mine had collapsed, methane gas prevailed in the atmosphere underground and rescue operations were at all times aware that further roof falls or explosions could occur. In total 155 miners lost their lives.The main underground explosion killed 11 workers, while carbon monoxide poisoning took the lives of 144 others. Among the dead were 44 boys who were sixteen years old or younger. - Wikipedia

Memorial Recalls Victims

Fathers and sons who died in North Staffordshire's worst ever pit disaster were remembered with the unveiling of a new memorial in the 86th anniversary year. Almost 200 people gathered at the Minnie Pit site, Halmerend, to remember the 155 men and boys who perished in the explosion on 12th January 1918.
The pit wheel monument was unveiled on Monday 12th January 2004, the anniversary of the disaster. Community leaders attended the event to commemorate those who lost their lives in the massive underground explosion, which ripped the colliery apart, burying fathers and sons alive. I believe it was the longest rescue and recovery job ever done, using continuously, self-contained breathing apparatus. The last body being recovered 19 months after the explosion.

Newcastle deputy mayor Freda Myatt unveiled the memorial, which was paid for from a Lottery grant of £1.400. Archdeacon Godfrey Stone conducted the service.
Youngsters from Heathcote Primary School composed and read poems for the occasion, while pupils from Thomas Boughey High School read out the names and ages of all the men and boys who died. On the day of the disaster fewer than 100 of the 247 miners working on that day came up alive.
An exhibition on mining was displayed by Apedale Mining Museum at an event organised by the Halmerend Wildlife Trust. Trust chairman, Ike Williams, aged 79 said; it was a brilliant day, and so pleased so many people had turned up to pay tribute to the miners who lost their lives. It is important to remember our heritage and where we come from.
Forty-eight boys died under the age of 17 and 67 women were left widowed. It is important that we remember them.
Rootschat Casualties

The whole story of the disaster & it's aftermath for the Coal industry can be seen at this site: The Minnie Pit Halmerend
There had been numerous smaller explosions caused by a dangerous mixture of Methane, Coal dust & bad working practises before 1918 but apparently the lessons were not enforced until the Coal Mines Act 1911 when the law was altered to make the Mine owners liable for the first time. The Minnie Pit disaster appears to have been largely preventable but there again, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

By Mark Heath 05/02/2017.