A very early Manchester football derby in support of a local mining disaster

Hyde Lane Colliery
Historically Manchester was in Lancashire but to the east in nearby Hyde, which in those days was across the county border in Cheshire, was Hyde Lane Colliery. It was located alongside the Lower Peak Forest Canal and what is now known as Manchester Road. It started extracting coal about 1794 following the completion of the canal and soon employed around 300 men.

Many people will know that Manchester City’s home football ground is now The Etihad Stadium which is also known as The City of Manchester Stadium. It was constructed to host the Commonwealth Games in 2002 but it’s actually built on the site of the former Bradford Colliery which was the nearest coal mine to the centre of the city of Manchester.

Interestingly, Manchester City’s links with a coal mine goes back much further.

Hyde Lane Colliery

The main shaft was almost 295 yards deep, and the coal faces worked were about a mile from the bottom of the shaft and 75 yards deeper along inclined fault lines in a labyrinth of tunnels. To get the coal from the coal face up to the bottom of the shaft pit ponies were used to drive a capstan which wound the full tubs (carts) up the inclines (known as jigs). Workmen who controlled the capstans and the movement of the tubs were known as ‘jiggers’ (and sometimes ‘jaggers’).

Before dawn on Friday 18 January 1889 the morning shift started at 05:30. 200 miners and seven pit ponies descended deep it the mine. 43 men, some as young as 14, with 3 ponies descended even further down an incline to work on the so-called Two Foot Level. There were 26 coal miners (extracting coal), 10 waggoners (very young miners who manoeuvred coal tubs in places where ponies couldn’t be used), four jiggers, one dataller (maintenance miner), and two pony drivers.

Hyde Lane Colliery was what was known as a ‘Naked Flame Pit’. It was well ventilated and normally had a good supply of air. There was no methane gas (known as firedamp) present and so, as with common practise, there was an agreement between the management and miners to use open candles to provide light.

Just after 09:00 there must have been a roof fall somewhere in the Two Foot Level. Although this didn’t cause any direct injuries it released firedamp which was ignited by the miners’ candles and caused a devastating explosion. Although there was some damage to tunnels, it blew out all the candles and significantly released a noxious flammable mixture of gases called afterdamp.

All the miners in the Two Foot Level were blown off their feet. Some struggled on their hands and knees in the blackness through a labyrinth of tunnels connecting other seams and disused workings to find their way to the main shaft often being driven back by the foul air until they eventually made it to safety. Others were only able to find their way to safety by following a current of air flowing up towards the shaft.

On hearing the explosion and noticing a tell-tale plume of white smoke coming from the shaft a team of rescuers immediately descended into the mine. They struggled through the afterdamp and roof falls to bring the 20 survivors including five injured, together with the three pit ponies to the surface. At the pit head local doctors treated the injured who mainly had burns to the head and shoulders. It took until 20:45 to recover the bodies of the 23 miners who had sadly been killed. Two days after the explosion the mayor of Hyde met with ratepayers and agreed to open a relief fund for the relatives of the deceased. In total, a sum of £6,907 was raised for the families.

At the inquest that followed it was concluded that there had been a release of afterdamp as a result of a roof fall and that the candles used for lighting caused the explosion, but all the deaths were caused by asphyxia and suffocation from the afterdamp. The jury returned verdicts of accidental death for all 23 miners and stated that such an explosion was purely accidental.

The pit reopened six days later at 05:30 on Thursday, 24 January 1889 with company supplied safety lamps instead of candles. The colliery continued to be used until around 1905.

At the time of this mining disaster organised football was in its infancy. However, several clubs had emerged in the Manchester area and were developing towards professionalism. Manchester now boasts two internationally famous clubs that bear its name, but in 1889 neither existed as such.

Manchester United
In 1878 the Carriage and Wagon department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR) depot at Newton Heath formed the Newton Heath LYR Football Club. Their ground was the nearby North Road Stadium. At first they only played matches against other departments and railway companies.

Newton Heath FC

One of their earliest recorded matches was on 12 November 1881 when 3,000 spectators watched a friendly with St. Mark’s (West Gorton). This is considered to be the first recorded meeting of the two rivals that eventually became Manchester United and Manchester City

Denied entry to the newly formed Football League by 1888 they became a founding member of The Combination. This was a regional football league which only lasted one season. Newton Heath then joined the newly formed Football Alliance, which ran for three seasons before being merged with The Football League. The ‘Heathens’ started the 1892–93 season in the First Division with their name shortened to Newton Heath FC. Success was difficult to achieve and after two seasons they were relegated to the Second Division.

In January 1902, with debts soaring the club was served with a winding-up order. Several investors were found, the club re-organised, and on 24 April 1902 their name was changed to Manchester United.

Manchester City
The church of St Mark’s in West Gorton worked hard to address the problem of community disorder in the area. Despite local heavy industry, unemployment in East Manchester was high. It was plagued with a multitude of poverty driven social issues including alcoholism, domestic violence and aggressive gang warfare known as ‘scuttling’. They had created a cricket team which by 1875 was flourishing. A problem was that there was no suitable alternative during the winter months. So, by late 1880 the cricketers had also formed St Mark’s (West Gorton) Football Club.

St Mark’s (West Gorton) Football Club

At the end of the 1883-84 season St Marks lost the use of their ground and merged with local rivals Belle Vue. It doesn’t appear to have been a happy union and the following season the two clubs split with St Mark’s becoming more organised joining the Manchester & District Football Association and moving further away from their religious beginnings with a new name of Gorton Association Football Club, the ‘Gortonians’.

Their football success though continued to be sporadic with local rivalries with the likes of West Manchester, Heywood Central, their former partners West Gorton Athletic, and the club which would evolve into their greatest rivals but then known as Newton Heath.

They struggled in cup competitions but in late 1886 they finally earned their first cup win with a 5–1 First Round victory over their former partners West Gorton Athletic. Their joy was short lived however, as they were given a Second Round tie against Newton Heath “the Heathens” who put them to the sword on 19 February 1887 with a ruthless 11-1 demolition.

At the end of the 1886-87 season they had to once again vacate their ground. They secured what at first sight seemed to be a less than ideal location near Ardwick railway sidings on Hyde Road. It was about 5 miles down the same road to Hyde Lane Colliery. They persevered and developed the ground into the Hyde Road Stadium. The first match at the new stadium was against Salford A.F.C. on 10 September 1887, but a grand event it wasn’t as Salford failed to turn up. Their move away from Gorton also saw an official name change to Ardwick Association Football Club.

In 1891 Ardwick won the Manchester Cup for the first time, defeating Newton Heath 1–0 in the final which proved influential in the decision by the Football Alliance to accept them as a member for the 1891–92 season. The Alliance merged with the Football League in 1892, and Ardwick became founder members of Division Two. The club was beset with financial troubles throughout the 1893-94 season but following a significant re-organisation on 16 April 1894 they emerged as Manchester City.

The early rivalry between Ardwick and Newton Heath, as it is today between their descendants Manchester City and Manchester United, was intense. As I’ve written above Newton Heath thrashed Ardwick 11-1 in 1887. In the Manchester Cup final on 18 April 1891 Ardwick won 1-0. But at Newton Heath’s North Road Stadium on 3 October that year Newton Heath put five passed Ardwick, conceding only a single goal in the first qualifying round of what was then the new premier tournament: the FA Cup.

However, back in January 1889 when Ardwick AFC’s Hyde Road Stadium was still in development the explosion at the Hyde Lane Colliery occurred. It’s not known how or why these two clubs got involved: perhaps some of the players or officials had relatives involved in the incident, but a friendly was arranged to raise money for the Hyde Lane Colliery disaster relief fund. It was played on 26 February 1889 at nearby Belle Vue Gardens. It was one of the first ever football matches to be played under floodlights.

The result was: Newton Heath LYR 3 – Ardwick AFC 2

The match raised £140 which went to support those affected by the tragedy.

Today there are no signs whatsoever of Hyde Lane Colliery. The canal bridge wall in the old colliery photo above still exists and attached to the canal path side there is an official blue plaque that commemorates the mining disaster of 1889.

Commemorative blue plaque at the site of Hyde Lane Colliery

Newton Heath LYR were formed in 1878 and became Newton Heath FC in 1892. They moved from their North Road Stadium to Bank Street Stadium in Monsall in 1883, changed their name to Manchester United in 1902, and in 1911 moved to their present iconic Old Trafford Stadium.

St Mark’s (West Gorton) were formed in 1880, became Gorton AFC in 1884, Ardwick AFC in 1887, and were renamed Manchester City in 1894. They played home games at their Hyde Road Stadium until 1923 when they moved to the Maine Road Stadium in Moss Side. Their final move was in 2002 to the City of Manchester Stadium.

Manchester United & Manchester history and stadia

As with Hyde Lane Colliery nothing remains to be seen of the North Road, Bank Street, Hyde Road, or Maine Road Stadiums though interestingly the City of Manchester Stadium is very close to the site of Newton Heath’s Bank Street Stadium. A red plaque commemorates the stadium, but the area around North Road has gone through several developments including a school (also now gone) which once had a red plaque attached to the wall, but it was stolen and never replaced.

Commemorative red Plaque at the sites of Newton Heath FC’s North Road (no longer exists) and Bank Street stadiums

No plaques commemorate Ardwick AFC’s Hyde Road or Maine Road – perhaps there should be?

In another of my blogs I give am account by Ian Niven Manchester City Honorary President and die-hard supporter of his best ever Manchester City game – it was of course a Manchester Derby.


Manchester United

Manchester City

Hyde Colliery Disaster

One thought on “A very early Manchester football derby in support of a local mining disaster

  1. Another excellent blog although as a City fan I could have done without being reminded of the double digit defeat.


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