Senghenydd Colliery Disaster
The Senghenydd Colliery Disaster, also known as the Senghenydd Explosion, occurred in Senghenydd, near Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Wales on 14 October 1913, killing 439 miners. It is the worst mining accident in the United Kingdom, and one of the most serious globally in terms of loss of life.
The demand for Welsh steam coal before World War I was enormous, driven by the Royal Navy and its huge fleet of steam battleships, dreadnoughts and cruisers, and by foreign Navies allied to Britain and the British Empire. Coal output from British mines peaked in 1914, and there were a correspondingly large number of accidents around this time. The worst was at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd and occurred as a result of a coal dust explosion that travelled through most of the underground workings.
The explosion was probably started by firedamp (methane) being ignited, possibly by electric sparking from equipment such as electric bell signalling gear. The initial explosion disturbed coal dust present on the floor, raising a cloud that then also ignited. The shock wave ahead of the explosion raised yet more coal dust, so that the explosion was effectively self-fuelling. Those miners not killed immediately by the fire and explosion would have died quickly from afterdamp, the noxious gases formed by combustion. These include lethal quantities of carbon monoxide, which kills very quickly by combining preferentially with haemoglobin in the blood. The victims are suffocated by lack of oxygen or anoxia.
The Four Memorials
Four memorials to the disaster are located in Senghenydd. The first is outside Nant-y-parc Primary School, which is built on the site of the old mine. At St. Cenydd Comprehensive School is a list of names of those who died from the explosion, and they have a truck of coal as a memorial. There is a memorial placed in the local pub, the Green Pint. Finally a new memorial garden is being constructed next to the Nant-y-parc school site and is hoped to be opened in October 2013 for the centenary anniversary.
- Duckham, Helen and Baron, Great Pit Disasters: Great Britain 1700 to the present day, David & Charles (1973)
- Brown, John H., The Valley of the Shadow: An account of Britain's worst mining disaster, the Senghennydd explosion, Alun Books (1981)
- Phillips, J. Basil, Senghennydd: A Brave Community, The Old Bakehouse (2002)
- Wilson, Matthew, The Senghenydd Explosion, Your Family Tree, September 2006: 28-30.
- Senghenydd: A History in Photographs
- Virtual Tour of the Aber Valley
- Gathering the Jewels: The Website for Welsh Cultural History
- Senghenydd Postcards
- Coal Mining History Resource Centre
- South Wales Police Museum
- Wales on Air: The Senghenydd Tragedy
- BBC Radio 4, Making History, 7 October 2003: The Senghenydd Colliery Disaster, 1913 STREAMING AUDIO
- Welsh Coal Mines - brief histories of all Wales' pits