A MINING historian has uncovered unpublished material of the Pretoria Pit disaster, including actual film footage and photographs.

Alan Davies, who regularly holds history walks around the ruins of Hulton Colliery, will be showing the Pathé news film, recorded at the time of the disaster, at a forthcoming event.

Mr Davies has spent years trying to find the footage, which shows the colliery with it's pit headgears, relatives waiting for news and rescue men heading into the shaft.

He first became aware of the fact cinematographers had been at Pretoria Pit around 40 years ago when he heard a recording by the North West Sound Archive in the 1960s.

The audio was of a miner who walked to the colliery when he heard the explosion on December 21, 1910.

A piece written for the Over Hulton Community Group stated: "Around a year ago the Pathé News film turned up in the collections of the British Film Institute in London, labelled 'Bolton Mine Disaster, over 300 killed'.

"This title would never have been used for anyone searching for the film but recent cataloguing and digitisation of records has opened up items hidden in this way."

"Alan paid for the film to be transferred to the North West Film Archive in Manchester to view it, all one minute of it.

"After coming across initial reluctance to allow him to have a copy a year of gentle persuasion finally led to a copy being made with strict conditions on copyright.

"He was only allowed to use the film for personal use, in presentations and on his guided walks.

"The film shows the colliery with it's pit headgears, relatives waiting for news, rescue men heading to the shaft, a group including the Mayor of Bolton, the colliery manager and the Rev Coelenbier, priest at Westhoughton."

As well as the film, there are also 20 new photographs that have been taken on the surface and below ground at the colliery.

These were recently discovered in the Glovers Manchester Electrical Company archive at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

The statement continued: "Glovers visited the colliery after the disaster to check their electrical equipment had not been at fault.

"The Inspector of Mines John Gerrard showed them round the surface and below ground and it's thought the Inspector took the photographs, which show enormous blast damage to various features hit by the methane and coal dust explosion.

"For mining historian Alan, author of the Pretoria Pit disaster centenary account in 2010, these new discoveries are astonishing and add greatly to his and those attending his presentations' knowledge of the disaster, especially the moving footage."

The footage and pictures will be displayed during an illustrated talk with Mr Davies at the Over Hulton Conservative Club on Wednesday, January 17 at 7pm.

The discovery of the material comes just weeks after the 107th anniversary of the disaster, which killed 344 men and boys.

Services were held at the memorials at Ditchfield Gardens, Westhoughton and in Broadway, Atherton on Thursday, December 21.

Maroons were fired at Ditchfield Gardens at 7.50am — the time the disaster occurred.

It was followed by a service at St Bartholomew's Church at 10am where wreaths were laid at the Pretoria Pit monument.

Cllr Samantha Watkin, mayor of Westhoughton, said: "It was touching to see so many in attendance at both the early morning service at Ditchfield Gardens and the church service afterwards.

"It makes me immensely proud that we as a town still commemorate such events that had a devastating impact on the local community.

"I think it is important that we never ever let what was the greatest mishap of this town disappear."

Down the road in Over Hulton, an ex-miner called Tony Hogan discovered two metre sections of railway track in the ruins of the colliery.

Mr Hogan, who has been instrumental in looking after the Pretoria Pit memorial in Broadway, Atherton, approached Over Hulton Community Group chairman John Bullen.

The pair came up with the idea of using the tracks to add to the memorial.

They were taken to the blacksmith at the Astley Green Mining Museum who decided to create a mine cart to go with the tracks.

The display has been completed and was due to be installed yesterday at the memorial.

Mr Bullen said: "It is absolutely fantastic and the work that Tony has done on that memorial is just amazing.

"There were 344 people who were killed in 1910. This helps to keep their memories alive."