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St Albans, Earsdon

St. Alban's Church, Earsdon was consecrated in 1837. The name Earsdon is derived from the much earlier name of Erdesdun (hill of red earth). Before 1259 the church was under the care of the monks of Tynemouth who in their turn were ruled from the great Benedictine Monastery at St. Albans. This could explain how Earsdon's church became dedicated to the first British Martyr. In 1874 Lord Hastings of Delaval Hall presented two lancet windows, His Lordship had obtained the glass from Hampton Court Palace in 1840. It is believed to have been made originally by the famous Galyon Hone in 1531 at the order of King Henry VIII. Traces of Tudor crests and arms can be clearly seen. The superb frontal was made by a parishoner in memory of her parents and in honour of all the saints.

On 12 January 1862 occurred the dreadful Hartley Mine Disaster, the memorial stone can be found at the north east side of the church. 204 men and boys lost their lives in the Hester Pit of Hartley Colliery following the breaking of the engine beam above the single shaft of the mine. The fractured cast metal beam fell into the shaft bringing massive amounts of debris in its wake and blocking the shaft. A large number of miners were underground at the time, it being a changeover time for shifts at the colliery. The workforce were trapped for many days, whilst frantic attempts were made to unblock the shaft, sadly to no avail for when access to the workings were made some six days later all 204 miners had sufforcated in the foul underground conditions.

The memorial to this tragedy was erected in Earsdon Churchyard where some of the dead were laid to rest; the churchyard was too small to hold all the bodies and the adjacent field was also used for the burials. The funeral cortege is reported to have been so long that as the first group of mourners arrived at the church the last had not left Hartley village over two miles away. The monument is a tall corniced pedestal supporting an obelisk. The names and ages of the dead, a number as young as eleven, are inscribed on the faces of the pedestal and show the harrowing effect to the community and on individual families of the disaster. The monument bears biblical inscriptions and words recording the cause and date of the "fatal catastrophe".

The event was instrumental in the bringing forth of legislation in August 1862 requiring all mines to have alternative means of access, in effect two shafts, to prevent a further tragic occurence of this nature.

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