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The Pretoria Pit Disaster occurred on 21 December 1910 when there was an underground explosion in the Pretoria Pit, Hulton Colliery, Westhoughton, Lancashire, North West England.  Of the 2,500 employees of the Hulton Collliery Company at that time, 344 were killed when methane gas released by the previous day’s roof collapse  ignited, causing the explosion.

Explosion in the No. 3 Bank Pit

The explosion occurred in what the Hulton Colliery Company formally referred to as the No. 3 Bank Pit.  Locally, it was known as Pretoria Pit and it had five seams.  They were called Trencherbone, Plodder, Yard, Three-Quarters, and Arley Mines.  900 people clocked in for the day shift on 21 December 1910; 345 of them descended into Plodder, Yard, and Three-Quarters Mines.  The explosion occurred at 07:50, in the Plodder Mine, when sparks from the No. 1 switch on the face of the Plodder Mine ignited a cloud of methane gas.

Aftermath

Of the 345 people in the No. 3 Pit, only four were brought alive to the surface.  One of these died right away, a second died the next day.  One rescuer perished in the No. 3 Pit, and one man was killed in the No. 4 Pit though the rest of the miners in this pit escaped.  In total, 344 men and boys were killed when the Plodder Mine of the Pretoria Pit exploded, making this the worst mining disaster in Lancashire history and the third worst in UK history.

Many of the victims in the Pretoria Pit disaster were related to one another, and therefore many local families suffered multiple losses.  A total of 145,000 GBP were raised to provide financial relief for the victims’ families.

A memorial to the victims of the Pretoria Pit disaster exists in Westhoughton, four miles southwest of Bolton, and a memorial service is held there each year.  Artifacts from the Pretoria Pit Disaster  remain on display in the Westhoughton Central Library.

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