Friday, 15 June 2012

Sunderland Miners

The monument at Wingate
Another story I found in Sunderland Library that day sent me off to Wingate in search of a vague story of spectral miners, but I came away with a much more substantial story, though one just as intriguing.

Back in October 1906 a devastating explosion tore through the Wingate Grange Mine. The blast took place in the Lower Main Seam, a place where coal dust was known to gather as a result of being blown off the loaded carts by the strong downdraft in the shaft. The area was cleaned regularly, but dust always gathered again. It is likely that a small blasting to remove a rock fall sparked off the coal dust and triggered the explosion. Four men were killed in the initial blast and 22 more died from inhaling fumes, burns and other causes. Over 50 pit ponies also died. Dozens of men were trapped in seams below the site of the explosion, but they were extracted safely the following day. We must all feel thankful that so many men were saved and deep sympathy for those who were not so fortunate.

After the blast a full inquiry was held and the tight knit mining community of Wingate held a collection for a memorial. The money raised was enough to pay for a fine stone monument designed by the architect Douglas Crawford and erected by the stonemasons Borrowdale Brothers of Sunderland.

It is this monument that I had heard was haunted. Apparently a grey figure has been seen drifting in the area nearby. The figure seems to be that of a man who stands beside the monument, then wafts slowly away and fades from view. Whether this might be the phantom of one of the victims of the explosion, or of a grieving relative, was unclear. I came to Wingate to investigate.

Beside the monument stands the Top House pub. Where better, I thought, to begin the investigations. The bar maid knew nothing of any ghosts, neither did anyone else. Oh well, sometimes ghosts do stop appearing.

from HAUNTED SUNDERLAND by Rupert Matthews.
Buy your copy HERE

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