Communities clash after mining disaster memorial planned for Dewsbury

Community leaders have clashed after a new twist emerged involving a planned memorial for 139 dead miners.

By Sam McKeown
Monday, 20th January 2020, 2:26 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 3:19 pm

Shaun Maddox, a construction manager and Thornhill campaigner, has blasted the decision for a memorial to be built in Dewsbury town centre, for the 139 miners that died in 1893 during a horrific underground explosion at The Combs Colliery.

Read More

Read More
VIDEO: Details on Dewsbury mining disaster which was UK's 'biggest at that time'

Dewsbury Chamber of Trade president Paul Ellis and his team have been raising the cash for a bespoke memorial project, which includes a 'Combs Memorial Wood', for 20 years, which he said would cost around £40,000.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

Shaun Maddox, construction manager based in Thornhill, has opposed the decision to built the Combs Colliery memorial in Dewsbury

Mr Maddox said: "The memorial should be built in Thornhill because that's where the disaster happened.

"Thornhill's history should be remembered. By planning the memorial structure to be built in Dewsbury, it seems our community is slowly being chipped away at."

Mr Maddox has since started a petition to stop the memorial from being built in Dewsbury town centre.

In response, Mr Ellis said: "If the people signing the petition are really serious about their desire to have it in Thornhill, we'd be happy for them to take over the project.

The former Combs Colliery in Thornhill

"Many people may not know, but there's already a memorial in Thornhill in remembrance of the Combs Colliery Disaster, but no names are inscribed upon it.

"It was always planned this new memorial would be erected in Thornhill Churchyard, on Church Lane, where most of the men were buried, but after many years of working on the plan, the church decided it couldn't be done because it would have meant disturbing unmarked ancient graves."

Despite meetings with legal experts, architects, structural engineers, stone masons, council officers, and local clergy, Mr Ellis said a remembrance plague and stained glass window were suggested, but then rejected due to the church being a Grade 1-listed building.

Mr Ellis said the original plan was for 139 trees to be planted on the site of Combs Colliery with the names of each miner to be inscribed on a plaque on each one, and to be called Combs Memorial Wood.

Councillor Eric Firth, (Lab, Dewsbury East) Marilyn Shaw, of Dewsbury Forward and Paul Ellis, President of the Dewsbury Chamber of Trade, look at plans for the mining monument.

Mr Ellis said: "This plan for a Memorial Wood is included in our present lottery bid and will still go ahead if we get the grant to do it. It's important the community knows Thornhill was never left out of this plan.

"It'd be interesting to know what the people running this campaign had in mind when starting this petition.

"How were they going to follow it up? Were they planning to form a committee to fight for it to go to Thornhill? If so how were they going to go about it? How were they going to raise the money to do it?

"If those signing your petition would like to form a properly constituted committee we'd be happy to hand over to them the £4,000 to allow them to start work on a memorial wood project now without having to wait for the outcome of our bid."

Mr Maddox confirmed he wants to start up a committee to have the memorial in Thornhill and would put a foundation in place using his contacts as a construction manager.

The Thornhill construction manager said he is also looking at a piece of land between Frank Lane and Church Lane, which he considers as suitable for a memorial.