Gresford: The Anatomy of a Disaster by Stanley Williamson

By Stanley Williamson

The worst catastrophe of the North Wales coalfield – one of many worst within the heritage of the British mining – happened in 1934, killing 256 males and devastating a small group. Stanley Williamson’s account attracts on his personal interviews with the bereaved and people excited about the rescue, in addition to the experiences of the following inquiry and the files of the North Wales Miners’ organization. Williamson covers the inquiry, and the real concerns it raised, intimately and charts the way Sir Stafford Cripps, representing the North Wales miners, introduced an assault most often social and commercial method of which the used to be a part.

"An clever and well-informed documentary narrative of the catastrophe and the authentic inquiry."—The monetary background Review

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Extra resources for Gresford: The Anatomy of a Disaster

Sample text

The 1840s in North Wales were a watershed in more ways than one,4 for by the time an economic revival had taken place the main current of industrial development had, like the channel of the Dee, shifted its course. The iron industry had largely moved away to areas such as the Black Country and South Wales, where better communications offered easier access to larger markets. Fortunately for North Wales its untapped coal resources included the profitable Main Seam which was well suited for gas manufacture and household purposes and for which local outlets could be found; it is no coincidence that towns in Denbighshire and Flintshire pioneered developments such as the use of gas for street lighting.

But whatever dreams and ambitions the success of Wilkinson and his associates may have prompted the North Wales coalfield was clearly destined never to play a major role in the national economy. In 1892 a correspondent to a local newspaper pointed out that North Wales contributed a mere one-and-a-half per cent of the output of all British coalfields. It is against this perspective that the events of the succeeding half-century must be viewed. By the 1840s the ruthless exploitation of the more easily accessible deposits on the western upland of the coalfield had exhausted them, and technical problems, chiefly flooding, had brought production at other pits to a halt.

CHAPTER 3 The Coalfield The North Wales coalfield extends in a shallow arc from the Point of Ayr, at the north-western tip of the Dee estuary, southward through Clwyd (formerly Flintshire and Denbighshire), and ends a mile or so inside the boundary of Shropshire, near Oswestry. It is about 45 miles long and 9 miles across at its widest point. The geological strata in this corner of Wales dip steeply eastward, producing a sharp and dramatic landscape, as limestone outcrops north of Llangollen give way to the rounded sandstone mountains which present their long eastern slopes to the Dee Valley and the rich pasture-lands of Cheshire.

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