Huskar Moorend Pit Colliery Disaster

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Date: 4 Jul 1838
Location: Silkstone, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Englandmap
Surnames/tags: Mining Disasters England Disasters
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This page gives the history of, victims and others involved in the Huskar Moorend Pit 1838 Coal Mine Inundation, Silkstone, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, West Riding of Yorkshire, England on 4-Jul-1838 with genealogy resources
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Huskar Moorend Pit Mine, Silkstone, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England - Coal Mine Inundation

4 July 1838


History and Circumstances

Area History

Silkstone is a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England. It is situated in the foothills of the Pennines, 4 miles from Barnsley and Penistone, 10½ from Wakefield, 39 from York, and includes the village of Silkstone Common. The earliest known written record of Silkstone is the Domesday Book of 1086, when Silkstone is referred to as a part of the manor of Cawthorne.[1] Silkstone Parish Council website provides an intesting history of the village. [2][3]

Silkstone Church with the Huskar Memorial to the Right

The Parish Church of All Saints and St James the Great in Silkstone dates from the 15th century, and there has been a church on the site since about 1150 AD. Silkstone parish originally included Cawthorne, West Bretton, Cumberland, Barnsley, Dodworth, Stainborough, Thurgoland, and Hoylandswaine. [4][5]

In 1809 a waggonway was built through the village by the Barnsley Canal Navigation Company, This early railway transported the coal from the collieries in the Silkstone valley to Barnby Canal Basin, Cawthorne. The coal was loaded onto barges and transported throughout the canal and river network to the towns and villages in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, some being shipped from the Humber to London and other east coast ports. A memorial commemorating the waggonway stands in the village. Today, the Wagonway is a scenic route ideal for country walks, with storey boards and information about local history. [6]

Silkstone Waggonway Memorial Plaque
Silkstone Wagonway Today
Mine History

Huskar Pit was a coal mine in the South Yorkshire Coalfield that was sunk to work the Silkstone coal seam. It was located in Nabs Wood, outside the village of Silkstone Common, in the then West Riding of Yorkshire. The Huskar Colliery was joined to the Moorend Colliery for the purposes of ventilation and was the property of Mr. R.C. Clarke of Noblethorpe.

The official name of the coal mine was House Car Colliery. Huskar is local dialect.

The Silkstone coal seam is at its shallowest in the Silkstone area. Mining was an important local industry, not only in Silkstone, but in the surrounding area. Wikipedia gives good description of the South Yorkshire Coalfield.[7]

Mine Disaster Circumstances

The 4th of July 1838 was a dreadful day in Silkstone's history. It was when 26 children between the ages of 7 and 17, working as 'hurriers' and 'trappers', were drowned at the local coal mine.

On the day of the disaster there was a violent summer thunderstorm from about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Hailstones and about two to two and half inches of rain fell.

In 1838 Huskar was connected to nearby Moorend Colliery, and used for ventilation. The pit had a shaft used for pulling coal to the surface by a steam engine. There was also a drift shaft (known as a "dayhole") which passed through old workings and lead to nearby Nabs Wood. This was sometimes used as an unofficial exit from the pit by the miners.

That afternoon rain put out the boiler fire and the engine could not be use to take the miners to the surface. A message was sent down the pit for all the miners to make their way to the pit bottom. This they did, but those working underground were not aware of the reasons for the emergency.

A clap of thunder may have been mistaken for an explosion. Forty-four children were working below ground and, ignoring instructions to stay where they were, decided that, if there had been an explosion, there was quick and safe way out by way of a ventilation drift to Nabbs Wood.

The stream in Nabs Wood which caused the Flood

At the bottom of the drift, there was an air door and the children went through this. As they made their way up the drift, a stream which was swollen into a rushing torrent by the downpour, overflowed down the drift. The children were washed off their feet and down to the door through which they had just passed. The water rose against the door and twenty six children were drowned. Some of the older children managed to escape along a narrow opening which lead to the Moorend Colliery to raise the alarm.

Twenty-six children died, their bodies thrown together near the door through which they had just passed. Joseph Garnett, the father of one of the children, was one who went in after the water had subsided and he found the body of his child. It could not be recovered until all the twenty six had been removed.

The children were taken to Thostle Hall where George Teasdale and a man named Buckley washed them and then they were taken to their homes in the village in carts.[8][9]

Investigation Report

The inquest into the disaster was held on Thursday 6 July at the Red Lion Inn, Silkstone by Mr. Thomas Badger of Sheffield, Coroner. The bodies had been viewed at their homes,

The Red Lion at Silkstone today.

Joseph Huskar, who lived in Huskar, told the court what happened on that fateful day. "Eleven of us were together and they all drowned but me. The water swam me down the day hole and through a slit into another board gate.

William Lamb said, "We did not know what we were going out for. We thought it was fire. The water washed the children down the day hole against a door, through which we had just come, and they were all drowned. If we had stopped at the pit bottom we should have been saved."

Commemorative Plaque outside of the Red LIon at Silkstone.

Uriah Jubb stated that "I was coming up the dayhole with Elizabeth Taylor and some other. We heard the water coming and me and Elizabeth Taylor got into a slot in the dayhole and we stopped there until we could get out. The water met the others as they were coming up and drove them against the door where they were drowned."

The coroner, Mr Thomas Badger of Sheffield said "‘It is now my duty to inquire whether any negligence had been used or any act of criminality committed by the parties, whose duty it was to render every assistance in their power towards rescuing the children from their awful situation. From the inquiries that have been made, I believe that there was no reason to suppose that such was the case, or that any act of criminality has been committed; and if the jury is satisfied, after the hearing the evidence, that such was a fact, they will have no difficulty in returning a verdict of accidental death."

After hearing all the evidence and the accounts of survivors, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death".[8]

Miner Victims

26 Lives Lost in the Huskar Moorend Pit 1838 Coal Mine Inundation
Name Age Status Comments Residence Approx DOB
George Burkinshaw 10 Child Brother of Joseph Burkinshaw who also died. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1828
Joseph Burkinshaw 7 Child Brother of George Burkinshaw who also died. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1831
Isaac Wright 12 Child Brother of Abraham Wright who also died. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1826
Abraham Wright 8 Child Brother of Isaac Wright who also died. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1830
James Clarkson 16 Child Brother of Elizabeth Clarkson who also died. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1822
Francis Hoyland 13 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1825
William Atick 12 Child Thought to be the brother of Samuel Atick but this is not certain. Dodworth, Yorkshire 1826
Samuel Atick 10 Child Thought to be the brother of William Atick but this his not certain. He is listed as Samuel Horne on the Huskar Monument. This may have been his name, although his death is registered in the name of Samuel Atick. Dodworth, Yorkshire 1828
Eli Hutchinson 13 Child Shown as age 9 on the Huskar Monument. Dodworth, Yorkshire 1823
George Garnett 9 Child Joseph Garnett, the father of George, was one who went in and found the children after the water had subsided. Thurgoland, Yorkshire 1829
John Simpson 9 Child Thurgoland, Yorkshire 1829
George Lamb 8 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1830
William Womersley 8 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1830
James Turton 10 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1828
John Gothard 8 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1830
Catherine Garnett 11 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1827
Hannah Webster 13 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1825
Elizabeth Carr 13 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1825
Ann Moss 9 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1829
Elizabeth Holling 15 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1823
Ellen Parker 15 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1823
Hannah Taylor 17 Child Hannah had a sister that might have been the Elizabeth Taylor mentioned by Uriah Jubb at the inquest, but there was also another Elizabeth Taylor living in Silkstone at the same time that could have been working in the colliery. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1821
Mary Sellers 10 Child Thurgoland, Yorkshire 1828
Elizabeth Clarkson 11 Child Sister of James Clarkson who also died. Silkstone, Yorkshire 1827
Sarah Newton 8 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1830
Sarah Jukes 11 Child Silkstone, Yorkshire 1828

The Legacy

The children's bodies were brought up from the pit and buried together in the churchyard of All Saint's Church, Silkstone. A memorial was erected bearing the names and ages of those who died. [10]

The Huskar Memorial, Silkstone Church Yard

Queen Victoria took an interest in the disaster and the loss of so many young lives in a pit was a factor in the setting up of the Royal Commission to enquire into women and children working in coal mines. Nationwide, the disaster shocked public opinion.

The resulting inquiry led to the 1842 Mines Act which sought to introduce some protection for child miners and meant that all girls and boys under the age of ten were prohibited from working underground.[11]

Kids out of the Pits
Benjamin Mellow, aged 46 years old., examined on the March 18th., 1841 told the Children’s Employment Commission:- “I am under ground steward to four of Mr. Clarke’s pits and I have the superintendence of above 90 colliers. We have had but one bad accident and that was on the 4th. July, 1838. It had been raining hard during a thunder storm to such an extent that the water came into the sough of the engine house and the engineer gave the alarm to the banksman who shouted out incautiously to put the light out and come out of the pit. The children and people were frightened, not knowing what was the matter. A number of children, either from the fright of from a desire to get a holiday, ran from the shaft towards the pittrail which forms a second outlet and this, together with the water escaping from the old workings, rushed down the pittrail and met the children who has passed a trap door, against which they were driven by the water and being unable to open it, 26 were drowned, 11 girls and 15 boys. The water by the marks it left could not have been above six inches deep in its stream down to the pittrail but it rose at the door and there they were drowned. Fourteen had got on before and they had passed sufficiently far to be safe. I am quite sure that the stream had never overflowed before. No man can prove it. The stream is very small and is dry nine months out of the twelve. If the children had remained in the pit or at the shaft, they would have been quite safe, the water never rose anywhere except just where they were drowned.” [8]

In 1988, the community of Silkstone Parish built another memorial in Nabs Wood, depicting two children at work underground. [10]

Nabs Wood Memorial
Nabs Wood Memorial
Huskar Memorial, Nabbs Wood, Silksone

In 2008, to mark the disaster's 170th anniversary, the event and subsequent inquest were turned into a play by Sylvia le Breton and performed by the local Grass Roots theatre group in Silkstone church. [12]

A novel by Alan Gallop about the event's history was published in 2003 (Sutton Publishing Ltd.), entitled "Children of the Dark: Life and Death Underground in Victorian England".[13], and Peter Bond wrote and performed a song, "Act of God", about the tragedy; the song is included on the 1979 album "See Me Up, See Me Down" from Highway Records.[14]

In 2010, a commemorative stained glass window crafted by local residents was installed in the church.[15]

The Huskar Memorial Window, Silkstone Church
The Huskar Memorial Window, Silkstone Church


  1. Open Doomsday
  2. Silkstone Parish Council
  3. Silkstone Wikipedia
  4. Silkstone Reflects on the Church Heritage
  5. Silkstone Genuki
  6. Silkstone Waggon Way Trail
  7. Wikipedia
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Wayback Machine
  9. The Sheffield Independent 7 July 1838 Findmypast
  10. 10.0 10.1 Silkstone Reflects The Huskar Pit Disaster
  11. Mines and Collieries Act 1842
  12. Grass Roots Theatre Group.
  13. Children of the Dark Book (Amazon)
  14. See Me Up, See Me Down
  15. Silkstone Reflects The Huskar Disaster Window
Bless These Little Angels.
Part of the Huskar Memorial Window from inside Silkstone Church
We Honor Those Who Were Lost, Those Who Helped & Those Left Behind
Page Complete
Additional sections not populated & deleted

18:00, 15 March 2019 (EDT)


On 3 May 2018 at 16:11 GMT Steve Webster wrote:

What an excellent story. A cutting reminder of what used to be. Well done.