Opening times

  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday Closed
  • Thursday Closed
  • Friday Closed
  • Saturday Closed
  • Sunday Closed
More information

Opening times

  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday Closed
  • Thursday Closed
  • Friday Closed
  • Saturday Closed
  • Sunday Closed
More information

Opening times

  • Monday 10am - 5pm
  • Tuesday 10am - 5pm
  • Wednesday 10am - 5pm
  • Thursday 10am - 5pm
  • Friday 10am - 5pm
  • Saturday 10am - 5pm
  • Sunday Closed
More information

Opening times

  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
More information

Some of the museums are currently running to Winter season opening times.  To find out more, visit the Opening Times page.

Object in Focus: No. 3

Oak beam from the Hartley Pit Disaster

Oak bunton, c. 1862

The Hartley Pit Disaster claimed the most lives of any mining accident in the North East. 204 people died. This object was the cause of those deaths.

These fractured pieces of oak once formed a bunton or support for a series of water pumps in the Hartley Colliery.  In 1862 however, a beam supporting the pump cracked and this bunton fell over 90 feet from the top of the mine building and down the 12 foot wide mine shaft.  It smashed a lift cage to pieces, killing three men instantly.  More devastating was the general blockage caused by this object in the shaft itself.  20 tonnes of debris sealed the opening, entombing the 199 men and boys below ground.  They died of carbon monoxide poisoning over the next few days.

Miners from surrounding collieries assisted in the rescue.  It took six days to clear the blocked shaft, and the “gas and stench” emanating from the pit was at times so strong (according to one eye-witness) that the rescuers were severely hampered in their labours.

Two-by-two the bodies were brought to the surface and quietly laid out on the iron platform, a white sheet spread for each, and from there they were placed in open coffins filled with wood shavings – “their bodies [were] stiff, their legs bent, their hands blanched and withered… faces were ghastly pale and streaked with livid red.”  “One young man was recognised by his father, who was deeply moved, and as a last consolation, he stroked his hand gently over the face of his dead son before the body was put into the coffin.”

Woodhorn Museum has many artefacts associated with the Hartley Pit Disaster; this is the first of a series of posts on the subject on our Object in Focus page.

This artefact can be view by appointment at Woodhorn Museum.  For more information about our collections, contact:  collections@museumsnorthumberland.org.uk