The price of coal

This blog takes a very brief look at the ‘price of coal’, particularly as highlighted through a simple postcard image of a 1938 of a Derbyshire well-dressing.

It’s an image of a Barlow well-dressing of 1938, bringing home the terrible price paid in the May 1938 Markham Colliery disaster, when 79 lives were lost after an underground explosion.  The previous year nine lives at had been lost in an explosion at the same colliery – our second photograph shows a line of hearses assembled on Ringwood Road at Brimington ready for the funerals of the some of the victims of that year’s disaster (courtesy the late Alan Wetton and Brimington and Tapton Local History Group).

This post card of a 1938 well-dressing at Barlow would have been a poignant reminder of the Markham colliery disaster of that year.
A sad scene at Ringwood Road, Brimington. Hearses wait to take part in the 1937 Markham Colliery disaster funerals.

Many local people will still remember the 1973 disaster, also at Markham colliery, after a critical component in the cage winding gear failed. The descending double deck cage carrying 29 men crashed on wooden baulks at the pit bottom with the result that 18 men died and the remaining 11 were seriously injured.

Victoria County History uses both contemporary newspaper reports and official publications to document these disasters in our history of local communities. But we don’t replace work done by local people to document the price of coal in their own communities.

There were, of course, other serious disasters in the coalfields throughout the country and more locally, including Creswell (1950 – 20 men killed) and Glapwell (1933 – 14 men killed). Particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries death and serious injury was an everyday occurrence in the coalfields.

At Markham, which finally closed in 1994, the new Markham Vale has grown up on the site of the old colliery. The three disasters and the lives lost at Markham are commemorated in a growing series of sculptures on a mining memorial trail (our final photographs). You can find out a lot more about this trail and the Markham disasters at

Memorial stone at Markham Vale.
Part of the ‘Walking Together’ mining memorial trail, commemorating the 1937, 1938 and 1973 Markham Colliery disasters.