“The Oaks pit is on fire
These terse few words on a
telegram to the offices of a firm
of mining engineers in Derby
were to set off a chain of events
which were to have profound
effects for many people.
The telegram was sent from the Oaks colliery,near Hoyle Mill, in Barnsley, on the afternoon of December 12th 1866, to Mr. J.T.
Woodhouse, senior partner in a firm of mining engineers,who had
responsibility for the pit, amongst many others in the area.
As Mr. Woodhouse was away in London on business, it fell to the junior partner, 37 year old Parkin Jeffcock, to take action.
In his 16 years experience in mine management he was no stranger
to disasters from fire ,flood or collapse, & had led many rescue expeditions at mines all over the country. So, advising his partner of the situation, he called by his home at Duffield to pack a case & have a quick meal, & caught a train to Barnsley.
Arriving there late evening, he found there had been a great explosion, the coal seams were on fire, & a great many dead were already been brought out of the pit . Parkin went down at once with a party of volunteers to assess the situation, & worked all night & well into the next day,despite pleas for him to take a break, putting out fires, searching for survivors, restoring ventilation.
Then another greater explosion occurred, killing Parkin & all but one of the volunteer rescue party.
The disaster claimed the lives of 361 men and boys, 40 ponies and was the worst mining disaster in 19th century Britain.
Of the 340 persons in the pit on Dec12th, only 6 survived. 27 were killed the following morning, including Parkin Jeffcock.
The mineshafts had to be sealed to quell the raging fires, & were not reopened until October 1867, when Parkins legless body was found, together with his rescue colleagues. He was buried at Ecclesfield , where his family had been prominent members of the church for many years.
Parkin Jeffcock was born at Cowley Manor on October 27th 1829, the eldest son of john & Catharine Jeffcock, Catharine being the daughterof john Parkin of Mortomley Hall, where the family had lived since the time of Henry VIII. She, being the last of the line, gave her son the name Parkin, a reminder of the family name.
He was educated at Mr.Rider’s school at Grenoside, then at Grange School at Sunderland,followed by private tuition under a clergyman at Rockley Old Hall,with the intention of taking Holy Orders at Oxford.
Unlike his younger brother, John Thomas, who had followed himin his education & become a prominent churchman, Parkin felt the the Clergy was not for him & reluctantly informed his parents.