THE family which owns the land on which the Pretoria Pit disaster took place have come under fire for refusing to contribute to a memorial to the tragedy.

This year, Westhoughton will mark the 100th anniversary of what was the third biggest mining disaster in British history, killing 344 people.

Family members of the victims will come from across the world for the centenary, and local organisations have pledged thousands of pounds to the event.

But the affluent Hulton family, which has owned the site where the disaster happened for centuries, will not give a penny to the memorial events.

Leader of Westhoughton Town Council, Cllr David Chadwick, said he is “appalled” by the decision.

He said: “I firmly believe that the Hulton family has an obligation to make a contribution to what we are doing.

“I am flabbergasted, I thought they would have felt duty bound and I am quite stunned, appalled in fact.”

When the explosion happened at 7.50am on December 21, 1910, the colliery was located to the south of Hulton Park on the land of Sir William Hulton.

An official report into the disaster, Redmayne 1911, concluded that a damaged safety lamp ignited gas pouring from a roof fall.

The exploding gas triggered an explosion through No3 Pit, reaching as far as a mile away, but the Hultons were not blamed for the shortcomings.

Cllr Chadwick said: “I just feel that they have an obligation to support the event, although they were cleared of the blame. The town is still scarred 100 years on.”

The Hulton Park estate — 1,000 acres of land between Chequerbent, Over Hulton and Atherton—is now under offer after being on the property market since April.

The estate has been advertised by agents Smiths Gore as a site for housing development or leisure facilities, with a price tag of £8.5 million.

It is currently owned by Hugh Butterfield, who lives in Jersey and inherited it from the last of the Hulton family, Sir Geoffrey Hulton, when he died in 1993.

A member of Westhoughton History Group, who worked for Sir Geoffrey and Lady Hulton for more than 30 years, said: “If Sir Geoffrey were alive today, he would have definitely have contributed.

He used to help the schools and other organisations to keep the community going.

“But Hugh is only their nephew and he has never been here, I don’t think he wants anything to do with it.”

A spokeman for Smiths Gore, which represents the Hultons, said the family did not want to contribute to the memorial and they did not wish to comment on that decision.