Antiques discovery reveals Jarrow's tragic pit past

Glasses find marking pit horrors in South Tyneside go up for sale at Newcastle auctioneers

Paul Norris Rod Meek, from Anderson and Garland, in Westerhope, with the glasses to be auctioned.
Rod Meek, from Anderson and Garland, in Westerhope, with the glasses to be auctioned.

Wine glasses have been discovered which reveal a terrible two years in the mining history of a Tyneside town.

The four-inch high glasses from the 1830s are etched to commemorate an explosion at Jarrow Colliery which cost 42 lives and the hanging and gibbeting of miner William Jobling – the last man to suffer this fate in Britain.

The glasses were part of the personal effects of Edith Harris, who lived in Scotland but was from Blyth, Northumberland. She had inherited the glasses from her grandparents, who lived in Jarrow in the 1830s and may have had mining connections.

After her death the glasses passed to her nephew, William Ritson, of Cullercoats, whose widow Mileta considered giving the glasses to a charity shop as she sorted through items.

Instead she took the glasses to Newcastle auction house Anderson and Garland, who will put them up for sale on Tuesday.

Auctioneer Fred Wyrley-Birch said: “You would be forgiven walking past the glasses as standard 19th Century items worth a few pounds at a push. These however are engraved with local historic interest that the authorities would probably rather forget. They are a wonderful insight into the world of 19th Century miners.”

Newcastle City Council Jarrow Colliery C.1840. From a print in Newcastle Libraries' archive. The print shows the workings at pit head of the colliery in Jarrow. The pit was sunk in 1803 but was hardly ever used after 1851 when it was left to decay.
Jarrow Colliery C.1840. From a print in Newcastle Libraries' archive. The print shows the workings at pit head of the colliery in Jarrow. The pit was sunk in 1803 but was hardly ever used after 1851 when it was left to decay.
 

Jarrow Colliery had a woeful disaster record.

In 1817 an explosion killed six miners and 1826 another 34 died. In 1828 another eight miners were killed t the colliery and in 1830 an explosion left a death toll of 42.

The Times reported: “The explosion took place in Jarrow Colliery, and 23 men and 17 boys were instantly destroyed, and several others hurt, some of whom so severely that recovery is not expected. The men generally are of the married class, some of whom have left large families.”

In 1845 yet another explosion killed 39.

Unrest in the mines led to strikes and it was amid one such stoppage that William Jobling’s fate was sealed.

Mike Urwin The lifesize 'gibbit' in which William Jobling was put to death.
The lifesize 'gibbit' in which William Jobling was put to death.
 

He was convicted at Durham Assizes of killing 71-year-old local magistrate Nicholas Fairles near Jarrow Slake at the height of the 1832 miners’ strike in the Durham and Northumberland coalfields.

Jobling was with Ralph Armstrong, who a dying Fairles identified as his killer. Armstrong escaped and was never found.

Judge Parke in his summing up attacked the unions, saying: “Combinations which are alike injurious to the public interest and to the interests of those persons concerned in them. I trust that death will deter them following your example.”

After the execution, Jobling was taken from the scaffold, his clothes were removed and his body covered in pitch. He was then riveted into an iron cage, made of flat iron bars two-and-a-half inches wide. In a wagon, drawn by two horses, his body was taken to Jarrow Slake escorted by a troop of Hussars and two companies of infantry.

The gibbet was fixed near the spot where the murder was committed. Jobling’s body mysteriously disappeared and one theory is that fellow pitmen took it down, held a burial service, and lowered the remains into a nearby disused pit shaft.

A section of the gibbet is on show at South Shields Museum.

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