Commemorative napkin, Wellington Pit Disaster 1910
This paper napkin commemorates the Wellington Pit Disaster of 1910. On the evening of May 11th an explosion and fire killed 136 men. It was the worst mining disaster in Cumbria’s history. The large scale of this disaster devastated the local community. The Wellington Pit was a dominant feature of Whitehaven’s industrial landscape. The Pit towered above the harbour, and its gothic lodge and vast “candle stick” air vent chimney were imposing structures of the town’s skyline. The Pit was sunk in 1838 and finally closed in 1932.
Whitehaven was built from wealth accumulated by the coal trade to Ireland. Most of all the coal burned in the grand houses of eighteenth century Dublin was extracted from Whitehaven mines. Coal mining made the fortunes of mine owners and the influential Lowther family. Whitehaven’s planned Georgian town was constructed using money earned from coal. The houses on Duke Street, Lowther Street and James Street stand as relics of a prosperous age. It is clear why coal was nicknamed the ‘black gold’ in Whitehaven.
Yet for most miners, the pits provided a wage to feed themselves and their families. Whitehaven coal miners could often be found as far as 5 miles under the sea in treacherous conditions. Work was exhausting and uncomfortable, but mining was a vocation for generations of Whitehaven men. Strong family involvement in mining built a close community in the town. Whitehaven contained several ‘fiery’ pits and mining disasters killed hundreds of men. Such events had a catastrophic impact on a population whose lives were often so personally associated with the pits.
- Mining was a central part of life in Whitehaven, and the town's wealth was build on coal or 'the black gold'.
- Some pits were unstable, and accidents like the Wellington Pit Disaster in 1910 were often on a catastrophic scale, killing hundreds of workers. These had a huge impact on the town, where mining families were interconnected, and had a strong community bond.