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Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 16:40 UK
Barnsley mining disaster depicted in Silkstone window

By Mick Lunney
BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire

The names of children who died in the 1838 pit disaster
The names and ages of the children who died in the disaster

A storm caused a torrent of water to flood part of Huskar pit near Barnsley in July 1838, taking the lives of 26 children.

One account recalls the young children who were working as miners at the time, had mistaken a clap of thunder for an explosion in the mine. Fearing a collapse, they fled to what they thought was an escape passage, only to die as water poured in.

The tragedy caused horror across the nation and prompted a change in employment law to protect children from working in such conditions.

Although over 170 years have passed, the tragedy has not been forgotten. A stained-glass window depicting what happened is now in place at Silkstone Parish church where most of the children are buried.

Original memorial of the 1838 Huskar pit disaster
The original memorial of the 1838 Huskar pit disaster

The grand stained glass window has been put together with the help of Barnsley Adult Learning over an eight month period. Over 200 members of the community have created the window measuring over 2.4 metres tall.

The Vicar of Silkstone Parish Church, Simon Moor, says it's been created thanks to countless hours of labour by volunteers: "At the bottom of the window is the flood water and there's an inscription of each of the names of the children, along with their age.

"Although we've got the memorial in the churchyard, we didn't have anything inside the church and this seemed a fitting way of doing that and celebrating their lives."

The anniversary of the tragedy falls on July 4 2010. A special ceremony and flower festival have been arranged with the new window taking centre stage.

Former church warden, Jim Travis, is one of those who has helped create the window: "At first we were very apprehensive about the project as it's absolutely unique and the church was turned into a mini-production for many months. Many of the children have still got links with families in the area."

Silkstone stained glass window being made at the church
The community decided to create the window after the 170th anniversary

To fit the window, a specialist team from York was brought in to make sure the hard work of the volunteers was given a final expert touch.

The sun rises at the back of the church and sweeps along the window during the day, dappling the pews with light from the image.

Memories of the unfortunate day in 1838 will continue for a long time to come in Silkstone. Vicar Simon Moor concludes: "The memorial outside is one thing, but this window is more of a celebration of the children who lost their lives."

Dry stone walls for pit disaster

In August 2008 Les Young, a dry-stone-waller from Barnsley, repaired the walls in Nabs Wood near Silkstone as a tribute to the 26 children who died in the Huskar Pit Disaster. Read more.


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