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The Candlestick

Historic Remains Of Horrific Past

The Candlestick Chimney, at Whitehaven in West Cumbria is a remaining ventilation shaft for the former Wellington Pit. The chimney was built in 1850 by Sydney Smirke. It is ornate and Gothic in style.

When Harrington No. 10 Pit closed in 1968 a programme of shaft and adit filling was implemented to prevent gas migrating through the interconnected No. 10, William and Wellington Pits and reaching Haig.

After Wellington and Haig were isolated from each other, No. 3 shaft was left open to allow gas to vent. The decision was made not to erect pipe above the shaft but to utilise the old boiler flue and chimney of the Candlestick by laying a pipe from beneath the shaft cap to the base of the chimney to vent gas this way. Wellington Pit was the site of Whitehaven’s largest mining disaster when 136 miners lost their lives in 1910.

Wednesday 11th May 1910, still represents the blackest day in the history of the coal mining industry of Whitehaven. One hundred and Forty Two men and boys descended the mine for that evening shift at Wellington Pit and only six came out again to tell their story. Rescuers battled through the night and well into the following day to try to get through to the trapped miners but eventually the regional mines inspector ordered them to pull out.

He felt it was unlikely that anyone would have survived the explosion and fire and, despite strong opposition from some of the miners involved in the rescue operation, he ordered that the area should be sealed off to starve the fire of oxygen. Several months later the mine was re-opened to allow for the gruesome task of recovering and identifying the badly decomposed bodies.

The Edward Medal is awarded to people who have shown exceptional bravery in industrial rescues. 64 were awarded after the Wellington Pit disaster which is the most ever awarded in a single incident.

The Candlestick Chimney, Whitehaven
The Candlestick Chimney, Whitehaven

5 comments

    1. Sadly, the 1910 accident at Wellington Pit isn’t the only one to have hit Whitehaven. Over the past few hundred years, it is estimated that over 1,700 men women and children have lost their lives while working in the town’s collieries 😦

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      1. I didn’t realise there was so much coal mining in Whitehaven the area. Living in the Midlands I tend to think of coalfields in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and South Yorkshire where many communities have similar stories of tragic accidents.

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