Dudley Colliery Explosion

21/03/1898 - Dudley Colliery

Monday 21st March 1898 around 7.15 am 15 men and three horses went down the Borehole Seam at the Dudley pit (prior to 1891 this mine was called South Burwood Colliery). Around 9.20 am a huge explosion was heard as far away as Belmont and a rumbling underground as far away as Newcastle.

Coal dust filled the air for more than 15 minutes, when it had cleared it was realised the pithead roof had been partially blown off, the shaft cage had been propelled from the bottom of the shaft 30 feet into the air, lots of other destruction and trapped men inside. The local town folk ran to the pithead hoping for survivors but the loss of life was inevitable given the extensive underground damage, smoke and poisonous gases. Although there was little hope of survivors the rescue team worked late into the night. They did manage to bring the body of Thomas Dorrity to the surface about 9 pm. The difficult and dangerous task of clearing the pit shaft and searching for survivors continued and after nearly 2 weeks 10 of the 15 bodies were recovered. The mine was flooded and there were still fires burning underground. The decision to close the pit was made and it was not re-opened until 17th June. Newspapers at the time reported on the dangers of the mining industry and this explosion was one of many world-wide. The official inquiries and inquests found there to be a n accumulation of a huge volume of gas in the pit to be the major cause of the disaster. The only comfort for the townsfolk at this time was that there were not more men killed as only the shift men and some officials were underground. Normally there could be up to 200 working on-site.The majority of the victims were buried in Whitebridge Cemetery with the exception of Hetherington and Dorrity who are buried at Sandgate and Green and Humphreys buried in Wallsend Cemetery some headstones have been vandalised but some are still able to be visited today.

Source: Lake Macquarie History

Other Information

In March 1898, a violent underground explosion at the Dudley mine resulted in the death of fifteen miners. Rescue attempts were prevented due to fires in the mine which ultimately led to the mine being flooded. Evidence given at the investigation (regarding the presence of fire-damp and inadequate reporting practices) is examined. The impact of the disaster is considered, including the introduction of regulations requiring miners to be equipped with safety lamps.