Men killed in Leeds explosion to be remembered on anniversary

The great grandson of a miner who was one of 63 men and boys  killed in an underground pit explosion in a Leeds village is helping keep their memories alive ahead of the 125th anniversary of the tragedy.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 6:00 am
Chris Baker and Dennis Best have created an information leaflet on the history and legacy of the Peckfield Pit disaster in Micklefield.

Dennis Best's great grandfather Walter Winfield and two of Walter's brothers were killed in an underground explosion at Peckfield Pit, Micklefield on April 30 1896.

Dennis, 75, and friends Ashley Land and Chris Baker have created an information leaflet on the history and legacy of the disaster.

Dennis, a former pony driver at the old Peckfield Colliery, said the leaflet also includes a map for an informative heritage walk around the village.

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The aftermath of the pit explosion.

Dennis wrote about the legacy of the disaster on the leaflet: "As the heartache gradually became more bearable they moved on into a new century with a will and resolve that would become the pride of Micklefield.

"A hospital day carnival was created that would raise funds to ensure a bed at Leeds General Infirmary for any miner injured at the Peckfield Colliery and this would become a tradition that lasted almost fifty years."

Dennis, who worked at Peckfield Colliery between the ages of 15 and 20, said: "The explosion happened on a Thursday morning at 7.20am.

"They had just got down the pit and they were starting to work when the pit blew."

Dennis wrote a play about the tragedy called 'Josh's Funeral', which was performed during the centenary of the disaster at Micklefield Miners' Welfare Club, where the victims' bodies had been laid out and identified.

Local councillors James Lewis, Mirelle Midgley and Mary Harland had hoped to work alongside residents on a series of events to remember those who lost their lives and the families who were left behind.

Covid meant the plans had to be cancelled, leading to the leaflet being created.

Ashley Land wrote about the history of the disaster on the leaflet, which was was designed by Micklefield resident Chris Baker

The leaflets will be delivered to all Micklefield households this month.

Councillors, residents and former miners are working on a series of events to be held in the village next year to commemorate the anniversary.

Coun James Lewis (Labour, Kippax & Methley) said: “My colleagues, councillors Mirelle Midgley and Mary Harland and I would like to pay tribute to those who lost their lives at the Peckfield Mine disaster.

“It is a shame we cannot hold public events to commemorate the disaster at this time as we know that this means a great deal to local residents.

"We hope this leaflet will help people pay their respects in their own way and inform younger generations of this tragic event.

“We are grateful to the hard work of Dennis, Ashley and Chris in bringing the leaflet together. We hope to post it out to residents in early April."

A memorial plaque commemorating those who died was unveiled on the centenary of the disaster in 1996.

It was mounted inside Micklefield Miners' Welfare, a social club which served the community for decades.

In 2002 the plaque was relocated to the Blands Arms at Micklefield after the social club closed.