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Easington Colliery Disaster Memorial (including memorial screens, communal grave areas, raised beds and former colliery equipment)

A Grade II Listed Building in Easington Colliery, County Durham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.7902 / 54°47'24"N

Longitude: -1.3302 / 1°19'48"W

OS Eastings: 443166

OS Northings: 544125

OS Grid: NZ431441

Mapcode National: GBR MF41.TN

Mapcode Global: WHD5S.JVSN

Entry Name: Easington Colliery Disaster Memorial (including memorial screens, communal grave areas, raised beds and former colliery equipment)

Listing Date: 25 August 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1437889

Location: Easington Colliery, County Durham, SR8

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Easington Colliery

Built-Up Area: Easington

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Easington Colliery

Church of England Diocese: Durham

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Summary


Easington Colliery Disaster Memorial of 1953-4.

Description

Easington Colliery Disaster Memorial of 1953-4.

The memorial comprises two memorial screens, located at the E and W boundaries of the garden of remembrance. The larger E screen is 0.82m high and 1.05m long and consists of two ashlar plaques within a coursed rubble surround. The horizontal plaque bears a life sized bas-relief of a miner in profile, wearing his working dress including helmet and head lamp, and carrying a Davy lamp. The name of the sculptor is not recorded. An adjacent plaque bears the inscription ‘REMEMBER BEFORE GOD THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR / LIVES IN THE EASINGTON COLLIERY DISASTER IN / MAY NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY ONE TO WHOM / THIS GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE IS DEDICATED’. At the base is a cross mounted on a piece of coal. The screen is flanked by two coal trucks set on short lengths of track.

The smaller W screen comprises a rectangular plaque with flanking bas-reliefs of Davy lamps and coursed rubble panels, the whole set within an ashlar frame. On the plaque is incised in Roman capitals 'THIS TABLET IS ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF / EIGHTY THREE MEN WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE / EASINGTON COLLIERY DISASTER / TWENTY NINTH MAY NINETEEN HUNDRED & FIFTY ONE / SEVENTY TWO GRAVES ARE IN THIS CEMETERY / THE FOLLOWING NINE MEN ARE BURIED ELSEWHERE / FREDERICK CARR · RICHARD CHAMPLEY · JOSEPH GODSMAN / ERNEST GOYNS · HERBERT GOYNS · JOHN HARKER / JOHN WM HENDERSON · STANLEY PEACEFUL · STEPHEN WILSON / ALSO TO THE MEMORY OF TWO BRAVE MEN / JOHN YOUNG WALLACE AND HENRY BURDESS / WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN PERFORMANCE OF DUTIES / AS RESCUE WORKERS AND WHO ARE BURIED ELSEWHERE’.

The garden of remembrance is a rectangular, E–W oriented enclosure defined by a low beech hedge. It is located on the main N–S axis of the cemetery, immediately N of the Easington Colliery War Memorial. To the E are two rectangular areas of lawns and a raised bed with rounded ends. The latter features a coal cutting machine, painted red and mounted on short lengths of track. At the centre of the Garden are four raised flower beds of squared and coursed rubble. Rising from the S-W bed is a cross formed from four miners’ picks.

To the W are the two rectangular areas of communal graves, divided by stone borders into a total of 72 individual grave spaces. They are marked with raked stone tablets which record the name and age of death in Roman capitals.

History

The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire and the new towns leading the way in public patronage. Thus public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20, however, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.

A pit was first sunk at Easington in 1899 and the first coals were drawn in 1910. The mining town of Easington Colliery developed in the first half of the C20 as terraced houses, schools, shops, pubs and places of worship were erected for a growing population. By 1951 some 2,235 people were employed underground and 652 on the surface. The Easington colliery disaster of 29 May 1951 started when a spark from a cutting machine ignited a pocket of gas in one of the seams, creating an explosion which resulted in the deaths of 83 men, including two rescue workers. It was one of the worst mining accidents in the North East of England and triggered safety recommendations from the Mines Inspectorate and the reconstruction of the Colliery.

Over the following weeks the bodies of the victims were recovered and 72 men were laid to rest in a communal grave at Easington Colliery Cemetery. A memorial fund was opened and a garden of remembrance incorporating the communal grave was designed by R Wood, the architect of the Durham Division of the National Coal Board (NCB). The garden was built in 1953-4 at a cost of £3,000 and inaugurated on 29 May 1954, the third anniversary of the disaster. Its two memorial tablets were unveiled by EHD Skinner, chairman of the Durham Division of the NCB and Sam Watson, General Secretary of the Durham Area of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Easington Colliery was closed in 1993 and the pit shaft headgear demolished the following year. At this time a coal cutting machine and two coal trucks from the colliery were installed at the memorial.

Reasons for Listing

The Easington Colliery Disaster Memorial of 1953-4, sited at Easington Colliery Cemetery, Crawlaw Road, Easington Colliery, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic interest: the stone memorial screens are skilfully executed, and the bas-relief of the miner is eloquently rendered in a social realist style;
* Historic interest: as a poignant witness to the tragic impact of the 1951 Easington Colliery Disaster on this community and an expression of the region’s mining heritage;
* Group value: with the Easington Colliery War Memorial (Grade II).

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