MINING disasters which left the North East reeling will be recalled at a site just yards from one of the collieries involved.
An exhibition, Into the Mouth of Hell, opens tomorrow at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum in Wallsend and will examine four separate pit calamities.
The Roman site is adjacent to the location of Wallsend Colliery, whose remains were uncovered as part of archaeological excavations in the area.
Wallsend was the scene of a disaster in 1835 when 102 miners were killed.
Among other disasters on which the exhibition focuses are Hartley pit in Northumberland, where 204 lives were lost 150 years ago and Felling, in which 92 died 200 years ago.
The fourth disaster in the exhibition is that at Heaton Main Colliery in 1815, when 41 men and 34 boys were entombed when water from old workings burst into the pit.
The youngest victim was seven years old and the oldest 82. A total of 77 children were orphaned.
Trees representing each victim were planted at The Spinney in High Heaton, which has survived as a public open space adjacent to the new Heaton library. The children’s area in the library is separated from the adult section by a ceiling-to-floor glass screen, featuring artwork designed by local artist Kathryn Hodgkinson and inspired by The Spinney memorial trees.
Geoff Woodward, manager of North Tyneside Museums, said: “Mining was enormously important in the history of the North East but it often came at a tragic cost. These terrible disasters devastated whole communities.”
The exhibition, which runs until September 9, also examines the lessons that were learned that led to safety improvements. There are also links to today’s relentless search for energy sources.
Geoff said: “We are also looking at how far people will go and they risks they will take to get energy, such as the Fukushima nuclear power station episode in Japan where communities are still at risk from the desire and the need for energy.
“There are parallels with the risks of mining in the 19th Century and its impact on communities.”
The exhibition is part of the programme to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Hartley pit disaster.
Meanwhile, young people are working with volunteers from a local business to paint a large mural commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Felling Pit Disaster.
The mural, which is being created by young people from Felling-based Christ Church Youth and Community Project and volunteers from paint manufacturer AkzoNobel’s Felling site, will go on the embankment wall facing Felling Metro station in time to mark the 200th anniversary of the disaster on May 25.
AkzoNobel, Gateshead’s largest private sector employer, also provided funding and some of the paint for the project.
Suzanne Prak, assistant outreach officer at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “The group has worked with a professional artist to design and paint the mural, showing elements of Felling’s past and present. The mural also forms a memorial to the 92 people who died in the explosion at John Pit in 1812.”
The Rev Trevor Davidson, from Christ Church Youth and Community Project, said: “The young people have been working well with older people in the community to produce this major piece of art work which will be a lasting legacy and part of the continued community development that we are working for in Felling.”