THE TIMES, JANUARY 24, 1928
A GRIM “POP.”
Memories of the Lundhill Explosion
A GHASTLY SCENE.
OLD LADY’S VIVID RECOLLECTION.
The writer of Wombwell Notes last week remarked that it would be interesting to know how many people there are still living who remember the Lundhill Colliery explosion, 71 years ago last Sunday.
A West Melton correspondent has promptly taken up the matter, and writes:
“Mrs. Elizabeth Ashton Counting Houses, West Melton Fields, has vivid recollections of the Lundhill explosion. She is still in the house where she livid when
the disaster occurred. Mrs. Ashton will be 83 in March. She has living four sons and four daughters, 37 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. She has occupied the house continuously for 77 years, except for a short period on her marriage 63 years ago to her first husband, the late Mr. William Beardshall. Her second husband was the late Mr. John Ashton who died last August. They celebrated 35 wedding days together. Mrs. Ashton was 11 years of age when the explosion occurred, and was at home with her parents.”
A representative of the “ Mexboro’ and Swinton Times” found Mrs. Ashton at a picturesque cottage adjoining Lion’s Lodge at the cross roads between West Melton and Elscar. This and the adjoining cottages were styled the “Counting Houses” by reason of the fact that they originally formed the headquarters of a number of small pits that once thrived in the neighborhood. One was Westfield Colliery and another was known as the Planting Colliery. The later stood in a planting in the angle formed by the Elscar and Wentworth Roads, behind the “Counting Houses”. The Melton seam was worked at all these pits. Most of them were called the “Lords Pits” through the fact that they were owned and worked by Earl Fitzwilliam. Mrs. Ashton was able to confirm all the details previously given us, and added much new information to what has previously been collected and written about regarding the Lundhill explosion.
Mrs. Ashton was 11 years old at the time of the explosion, and was living at home with her parents. She recollects that they were making “herb beer” at the time and the first intimation they had of the explosion was a loud “bang”. Her father had remarked in a jocular way that a cork had blown out of one of the herb beer bottles. They examined the bottles, but found they were all right It was shortly after this that they saw a lot of scared looking people coming from West Melton, and rushing past the house in the direction of Lundhill. Looking toward the colliery they could plainly see the smoke and flames belching out of the pit shaft. At the time
of the explosion Mrs. Ashton’s father worked at Lundhill and was one of the first to volunteer for the rescue party. He was not, however, allowed to go down the pit, as the “Lord’s” men were told that the danger of another explosion was too great. Mrs. Ashton herself actually saw the dead bodies laid out at the colliery. She had gone there with a number of women in order to identify the victims. This however, they were not able to do. “They were as black as coal, and it was impossible to tell one from another.”
Mrs. Ashton mentioned that one of the victims was a certain Charles Milner, the landlord of a public house then existing at Westfields, West Melton. Few people remember this hostelry. Milner and his wife had not been on the best of terms, and his wife resolutely refused to go to the pit to identify his body. “We tried to pick him out,” said Mrs. Ashton but we couldn’t.” Mrs. Ashton relates that Milner had a premonition of the disaster which he described as “a queer dream” He did not wish to go to the pit but his wife insisted on his doing so.
“Milner is buried amongst the unrecognized ones in a large grave in Darfield church yard. Mrs Ashton recalls that prior to the Lundhill disaster there was a colliery explosion at Tingle Bridge Hemingfield in which 11 men were killed outright, and two from Broomhill died afterwards. She mentioned that this occurred on St. Thomas’s Day, adding that the date was stamped on her mind because on St. Thomas’s Day in years gone by the tenants used to have a large piece of beef allowed them from Wentworth House.
Touching upon these old customs of hospitality, Mrs. Ashton said “I was just telling my son here that this was “ Collop Monday.” She explained that “ Collop Monday” was the day before Shrove Tuesday, and that each year it was the practice of the tenant to receive “ Collops” of ‘bacon from Wentworth House, “That custom has now stopped,” she observed with a note of lamentation in her voice. “It used to be very thick and very fat, but it was always very welcome. ‘ We should like to have some now.”
The cottage in which ‘Mrs. Ashton resides used to be a stable. Her father moved into it 78 years ago. It is a comfortable little homestead, and might be envied by many people occupying modern dwellings. Mrs. Ashton is the mother of a well known Wombwell townsman, Mr. William Beardshall.