A mining disaster on 22 September 1934 at Gresford, now a suburb of Wrexham, was one of the worst in British history. It is commemorated in the district in several ways.
Henry Dennis and his son Henry Dyke Dennis developed the pit at Gresford from 1907. Its shaft was
697 m deep, the first coal was produced in 1922, and in 1933 it employed 2200 men, working on three shifts. In difficult economic circumstances there was much pressure to increase productivity. The mine made losses in 1929, 1932 and 1933. Safety measures recommended by government were not implement, notable the direction in the Coal Mines Act of 1911 that a mine should have two main intake airways, one of which should not be used for haulage of coal. It applied to new mines, but was only recommended to existing pits such as Gresford.
An explosion occurred at 02.00 on Saturday 22 September 1934, when more mem than usual were working on the night shift because of an eagerly awaited football match in the afternoon. In total some 266 men died, including 3 rescuers and one man on surface killed by a secondary explosion. Only a handful of men escaped and only eleven bodies were recovered. So fierce was the fire that firefighting had to be abandoned on the Saturday evening and the affected part of the mine was sealed. The public response to the disaster was profound. More than half a million pounds was raised by an appeal, and the London press, usually hostile to miners, treated the victims and the rescuers as heroes. Subsequent the remaining miners who were not on the night shift faced unemployment, and it was not until January 1936 that production was resumed, although the section where the explosion took place remained sealed. The subsequent public enquiry was inconclusive. Henry Dyke Dennis did not attend. Colliery officials, unlike the miners, had been retained by the company and continued to be paid, and most testified in favour of the company. Miners were reluctant to speak of the widely-expressed fear that the pit was unsafe, for fear of blacklisting. Gresford Pit continued in production until 1973 and one of the memorials to the disaster is the wheel from the headstock which is preserved in the industrial estate that replaced the surface buildings.
The victims are commemorated in ballads and a hymn and in a memorial in All Saints, Wrexham, one of finest medieval churches in Wales. The A N Palmer Centre holds the original copies of a Book of Remembrance, and a Memorial Gallery comprising pictures of victims from the Wrexham Leader newspaper. Copies of both are also available online.