Wrexham Council homepage

Closure

On January 1st 1947 Stafford Cripps' call was answered. The mines were nationalised. The new owners and new legislation in 1954 made safety in mines a priority. Time though was running out for Gresford Colliery. Under threat from 1969, Gresford closed in 1973.

The closure of the colliery triggered a renewed campaign for a memorial to the miners killed in the disaster. Emotions ran high, especially when the headgear was demolished to make way for new industrial development. Surviving relatives felt the miners would soon be forgotten. After a long campaign, a memorial was unveiled in 1982.

Cyril Challoner and Teddy Andrews, two survivors of the explosion, by the Gresford Memorial.

The colliery has gone, but the disaster lives on in people's memories. The fate of the Gresford miners captured the nation's sympathy on September 22nd 1934. It has never lost it.

The disaster has an iconic status. The Ballad of the Gresford Disaster and the Gresford Hymn are well known. Poems and plays have been written in English and Welsh. These responses have been heartfelt and nostalgic, but frequently also highly political. Performances in 1940 of Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood's The Last Edition, a radical play about the disaster, were halted by the police and the producers fined for breach of the peace.

The Gresford Colliery Disaster Memorial in the grounds of the Gresford Social Club.

The disaster has become the most memorable date in Wrexham's history. Historians still question the hearsay, the superstitions and the confusion surrounding the story of the disaster. However, these folk memories, while being a response to the trauma and the tragedy, have become the real memorial to the miners who died.

The Last Coal from Gresford Colliery. Picture Courtesy of Daily Express, Manchester

Finally the Inquiry may have been inconclusive, but Wrexham people know where the blame for the disaster really lies.

You have heard of the Gresford Disaster,
The terrible price that was paid,
Two hundred and sixty-two colliers were lost
And three of the rescue brigade.

Down there in the dark they are lying.
They died for nine shillings a day.
They've worked out their shift and it's now they must lie
In the darkness until Judgement day.

Excerpts from the Ballad of the Gresford Disaster

There is enough evidence to show that the colliery owners made the deliberate decision that the true cause of the explosion should never be known and sealed the area. The least we can do now is to give the victims and their families the truth.

Ted McKay, former North Wales Miners' Agent, 2004