Barnsley Main Colliery – South Yorkshire, England - Atlas Obscura

Barnsley Main Colliery

These ruins are a monument to the region's industrial heritage, and the site of England's worst mining tragedy.  

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On December 12, 1866, an enormous explosion shook the neighborhood surrounding what was then the Oaks Colliery. The explosion was caused by firedamp. The incident trapped the miners for around three days and took 361 lives.

Eventually, the site was amalgamated into the Barnsley Main Colliery, which operated until 1991. It now offers a rare surviving example of mid-century headgear and shaft winding structures, complete with rail tracks still visible in the concrete courtyard.

Beyond the historical significance as the site of a tragic disaster, Barnsley Main is among the few remnants that dot the English landscape after the dissolution of the mining industry. For centuries, mining dominated the economy of the region. The graffiti-covered brickwork and motionless winding gear now stand stark and stoic atop its wooded hill. They serve as an appropriate reminder of the heritage, lives, and fates of past generations.

The winding engine house and pit head structures are now Grade II listed buildings, and more recently the site has undergone some minor renovations including the clearing of debris and overgrowth. There have also been several information boards installed. 

Know Before You Go

There is no parking at the structure itself, but parking is available at the nearby Monk Bretton Priory, which is but a short walk away and well worth a visit itself, or park at the nearby Dearne Valley Park.