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Ian Winstanley's Scrap Book
The Coal Mining History Resource Centre Page Page 1

Sheilah - My Paternal Grandfather was a part of the Howe Bridge Mines Rescue Station
Andrew Turner - Is William Henry Hill in the Howe Bridge Rescue Station picture dated 1911?
Ian Winstanley - Tragic Record That Made Me Weep
John Hayworth - Howe Bridge Team photo
Wendy Lapinsky - My great, great uncle, George Sargeant, died in the pit disaster. Any Photos?

Tragic Record That Made Me Weep
Wigan Reporter 27th Dec. 2000 - Pretoria Pit Disaster 1910

In the first Wigan World of the New Year, I take you to foreign places, To Westhoughton.

And without shame, I admit that I wept when I read this port in a new book which details the life of the district and the terrible disaster at a pit there.

I had known of the explosion at the Pretoria Colliery but - locally overshadowed by the disaster at Abram's Mapole pit - I had never considered it in depth.

What caught my eye was a report that after the disaster in Westhoughton, there were so many funerals that one bride groom had to be married at five in the morning.

Pretoria PitDoesn't that bring it all home?

The disaster underground happened between Christmas 1910 and New Year's day 1911, different cemeteries in Westhoughton presented "appalling sights".

The words of rector Coelenbier of Sacred Heart on January 1, 1911.

He was to add: "No-one will ever forget the sights . . . the hearses, the mourning coaches, the long funeral processions, then throngs of bereaved widows and orphans, relatives and friends, the hundreds of visitors, all of them making their way to the last resting places.To see the people in tears, to hear the sobbing and sighing of the wives and children, brothers and sisters, was something beyond human endurance."

In all there were 336 deaths and an eye-witness at the time said the explosion caused "smoke and fumes to belch like a living volcano out of the two shafts, flinging the timber and debris into the air, some to land on the adjoining winding house, followed by a huge cloud of dust which settled over the surrounding area.
"The ground around the pithead vibrated and the dull, heavy roar was heard for up to four miles around."
At the time almost 900 men were working underground - only four bodies were unidentified.

Jim Staveley was the only survivor of Pretoria Pit Disaster

The Disaster

18 Jan 2018
My Paternal Grandfather, William Albert Jay, was a part of the Howe Bridge Mines Rescue Station

My paternal Grandfather, William Albert Jay, lived in Lilford Street, Atherton. He was a member of the Howe Bridge Mines Rescue Team at Howe Bridge. He had been one of the team who helped rescue the survivors (and recover the bodies) at both the Maypole and Pretoria mining disasters for which he received medals, he had a series of silver ‘bars’ and a St. John’s cross for his work with the organisation. 

I have recently found out that my maternal great grandfather, Samuel Marsh, was the Foreman at the gas works in Atherton, he died attempting to rescue a worker in the gas storage container. The Mines Rescue was called out to help.  It would be ironic if my grandfather had tried to rescue my great grandfather before my parents were born.  Do you know where records would be kept if they survive?

Rescue Station
Howe Bridge Mines Rescue Station, Lovers Lane, Atherton, Greater Manchester

YouTube Click Here to go to Howe Bridge mines Rescue Station, YouTube

Howe Bridge Mines Rescue Station was the first Mines Rescue Station on the Lancashire Coalfield opened in 1908 Howe Bridge, Atherton - Operational from April 1908 until November 1933.

See Wikipedia

From: Andrew Turner
Sent: 17 March 2011
Is William Henry Hill in the Howe Bridge Rescue Station picture dated 1911?
I'm researching an ancestor of mine whose name was William Henry Hill (born 1866) and shown on the 1911 census as an Instructor at the Howe Bridge Rescue Station and resident with his family at the station at the time of the census.

Have the individuals in the picture of 'Howe Bridge Rescue Team 1911, Lancashire' on page 3 of the website been identified as I would be very interested to know if William Henry Hill is among them ?

Kind regards,

Andrew Turner.

Thanks for your reply and for sending my mail onto John who has just been in touch to identify my relative in the picture which is great news.

Much appreciated for all your help.

The Gentleman who is shown at the back wearing a peaked cap (4th from left) is Sergeant Major W.H.Hill.  he is the one who is face on with grey hair and a small mostache.  Sgt Major Hill was in charge of the training of the rescue teams that came out of Howe Bridge.


John Hayworth
7 October 2007
Howe Bridge Team photo
I have an original copy of the photo on page 3 of the Howe Bridge rescue team. My Great Grandfather is the man on the far right, William Alfred Ewins.

They were involved in the rescue attempt at the Pretoria disaster in 1910. Both he and his brother, Walter, received the Hulton medal and are featured in the article concerning the presentation ceremony in 1911.

Many thanks

John Hayworth

Howe Bridge rescue team William Alfred Ewins Sergeant Major W.H.Hill

Howe Bridge rescue team
My Great Grandfather is the man on the far right, William Alfred Ewins.

William Henry Hill, is on the back back row, 4th from left wearing a peaked cap
Hover over face for name -

William Albert Ewins, Standing, Walter Ewins
This is a photo of my Great Grandfather and his brother who were both members of one of the
rescue teams that went into the Pretoria pit.  In this photo they are in their St John's Ambulance uniforms and are wearing their Hulton medals.

Seated My Great Grandfather William Albert Ewins, Standing, Walter Ewins.

Peter Wood
18 December 2006
Pretoria Pit Disaster

To let you know that the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk project in conjunction with the Westhoughton Local History Group has just published a comprehensive documentation of the Pretoria Pit Disaster . Click below

There is much factual information and maps about the pit and the disaster, though the main focus has been on gathering data about the 344 men and boys who died.

Our information is based on records of fact, not on annecdotal evidence, hearsay and faded memories and we hope will lay to rest some of the misconceptions that inevitably arise when a catastrophe of this size happens.

Peter Wood & Pamela Clarke


Wendy Lapinsky
13 April 2008
My great, great uncle, George Sargeant, died in the pit disaster.

Hi my great, great uncle died in the pit disaster. I have only just recently found out he was George Sargeant. He was only young, with a wife and 2 kids. I was wondering if there were any photos of the miners so I could see what my uncle looked like?

He is buried in Westhorton cemetery. His wife was called Mary Ann and his children were William and Amelia.

Regards Wendy

From:                        Wendy Lipinski
Sent:                        12 August 2013
Subject:                   Re.George Sargeant

Hi a few years ago I was searching for information regarding my great uncle and I got a response from Georges grandson (see below) on here but he couldn’t get hold of me due to changing my email so I’m hoping if you can email him my new email please.

I would like to contact him because he has pics I would love to see.

I can’t click the link for his email.

Thank you Wendy Lipinski.

Thanks again.

Sent from Samsung tablet

Alan Sargeant
20 Dec 2009
My Great-Grandfather George Sargeant, died in the pit disaster.
I have only just found your site and enjoyed reading through it. I noticed there was a request from a Wendy Lapinsky asking about George Sargeant who was killed in the Pretoria Pit Disaster. I believe the anniversary of the disaster is tomorrow. I am Alan Sargeant and George Sargeant was my Great-Grandfather. My grandfather was William Sargeant - the first of his two children.

Do you have Wendy's email address - or could you forward mine on to her as I believe we have some old photos of George with Amelia (who we knew as Milly) and William.

All the very best to you and your site. A great idea.

Alan Sargeant
Moray, Scotland.

Tried emailing Wendy but she must have changed her email address. If you read this Wendy please get in touch.
PS I come from Hopeman, Morayshire but left when I was 8.
George Sargeant was 28 and a Collier working at Bank No.3, Pretoria. He died along with 344 others.