Pit casualties to be remembered

PIT WORKERS who lost their lives at Bilsthorpe Colliery-including the county’s only female fatality - are to be commemorated by a monument.

A two-year campaign has led to Bilsthorpe Heritage Society winning £16,000 funding to build the 6ft stone sculpture of a miner’s lantern.

Its plinth will list the 75 people who died while working at the village pit, including Josephine Fenwick - the only woman ever killed while working at a Nottinghamshire colliery.

The plan is the result of months of research by the society, which has painstakingly trawled records and chased funding applications.

Said society chair Trevor Goodman: “We decided the time had come to at least pay tribute to the people who lost their lives.

“We’ve not got a lot in Bilsthorpe but the one thing that made the village thrive was the pit.

“After it closed everything was knocked down and now unfortunately there’s nothing really there to say we even had a pit.”

The monument will be built on a small street park at the junction of Church Street and Crompton Road in the village.

Children from Crompton View Primary School in Bilsthorpe were asked to come up with three designs for villagers to choose from, with the lamp winning approval.

Megan Spencer’s brother William will be honoured by the monument after he died in a roof collapse in the 1950s.

“I’m really pleased,” said Megan (85), who lives on The Green in the village.

“I can still remember the day he died and it will be nice to have his name there for everyone in the village and everyone who visits to see.”

William was one of four brothers who worked at the pit, losing his life aged 23 on 4th February 1953.

Added Megan: “The momument is a lovely thing to have and it will be a nice landmark for the whole village.”

The pit opened in 1927 and closed in 1996, with 14 men killed in a disaster during its sinking in 1927.

Those who died in accidents above ground will also be remembered through the monument.

Jack Staton (77) lost his brother Fred in a freak accident in November 1954.

He died in hospital aged 22, days after being hit by a bicycle in the pit car park.

“With the pit gone there’s a risk the people who lost their lives there could be forgotten,” said Jack.

“I think Fred would be pleased. The safety there was always fairly good but with pit work there was always a bit of doubt in your mind; it was more dangerous than many people imagine.”

Mrs Fenwick (36) was a sawyer at the pit who died nine days after she was buried by a pile of pit props which fell on her in the timber yard in August 1959.

She lost her fight for life in hospital after her husband George, who also worked at the pit, had helped pull her from the pile. Another worker, John Wharmby (57), was killed instantly in the tragedy.

Also remembered on the memorial will be victims of more recent accidents, including three men killed in the 1993 disaster.

A planning application has been submitted to Newark and Sherwood District Council for the landmark, which won cash from local improvement and county council schemes.

Added Trevor, who himself worked at the pit from 1965 to 1993: “It’s important to achieve this because it’s a part of our history and without these men Bilsthorpe wouldn’t even be here.”

Anyone related to a worker killed at the pit who would like to check their relative is on the monument’s list is asked to contact the society on Mansfield 871366.