Village History

New Hartley as it is now called is a Mining Village that grew up around the Hartley Colliery Hester Pit which was opened around 1845, with three main streets Cross Row, Long Row and Double Row, with a Methodist Chapel serving the villagers Spiritual needs.

It was in the Village that on that fateful day of 16th January 1862 that a tragedy took place that shocked the mining communities of the UK and throughout the world.

Pit shaft showing blockageOn the 16th January 1862, it was during the change from the fore-shift to the back-shift when nearly all of the two shifts were still down the pit, that the beam of the pumping engine that kept the pit clear of water broke in two and 20 tons of cast iron plunged down the shaft striping the brattices and rocks and blocking the one and only shaft.  It took several days of heroic effort by rescue teams to reach the entombed men and boys  -  all to no avail all were dead.  All in all 204 men and boys perished in the disaster. Either when the beam plummeted down the shaft or as a result of being entombed.  A fitting Memorial to all of them is at St. Albans Church, Earsdon.  Additionally the everlasting memorial is that Parliament quickly passed a law ensuring that all future pits opened had to have two shafts.

A VERY good history of New Hartley as a Mining Village is contained in a very good booklet written by Eileen Raper, and produced and sold in aid of St. Michaels Church.  Copies of this booklet can be obtained by calling the contact number 0191 2372210.

If anyone is interested in the village history or is a descendant of the pit disaster would they please contact John Seymour via

There are other very good accounts of the disaster in the following books: Memoir of the Hartley Colliery Accident 1862 by Mr. T. Wemyss, printed and published in 1912 by Andrew Reid & Company Akenside Hill Newcastle Upon Tyne, Eyewitness The Great Northern Coal Field by Mike Kirkup carries a day by day account of the events of the disaster, John Elliott McCutcheon’s Book, The Hartley Colliery Disaster, 1862. Foreword by the Rt. Hon. Lord Robens of Woldingham.

Further information can be obtained from the Durham Mining Museum , Northumberland and Durham FHS , Pitworks

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