Wednesday, 1 July 2015


Ralph Widdrington was born in 1757 and baptised at St Bartholomew's Church, Longbenton, Northumberland. He went on to marry Catherine Bowdon in 1780 at the same church. They are my 5x Great Grandparents. 

Ralph and Catherine's marriage entry.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
The couple were blessed with many children over the years. Their names were Mary, Robert, George, Ralph Jr, William, Anthony, Henry, Bowdon and Ann. The latter was born when Ralph and Catherine were both in their mid-forties. 

Sadly their eldest daughter, Mary died in 1803 aged 23. By some miracle, Catherine fell pregnant once again when she was around the age of 58, something which is highly unlikely, but not impossible. The baby was named Mary and later baptised on 15 January 1814 at All Saints, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. By the time of Mary's birth, the family had moved from Longbenton to the nearby Heaton. This second Mary is my 4x Great Grandmother. 

Mary Widdrington's baptism.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
When Mary was just over one year old, a huge tragedy occurred on 3 May 1815. Her father and brothers had went to work down the Heaton Main Pit. Some old workings had "become entirely filled with water" eventually breaking through the coal face, causing the pit to quickly flood. 

Some of the pitmen working nearby ran to the shaft, and were able to escape. Mr Millar, the under-viewer of the colliery was informed and ran off to give warning to the men and boys working in the higher part of the pit. However, this "was not accomplished." The water quickly rushed to the lower parts of the pit, cutting off the only means of escape. The water rose to the depth of about nineteen fathoms. 

Immediately efforts were made to reach the part of the pit where the trapped miners were through some of the old workings. This was without success due to the old shafts being blocked up with earth. Numerous other rescue attempts were made, but they were all unsuccessful. 

Seventy-five miners died; thirty-four being merely boys. Three of the men were Ralph Widdrington, and two of his sons Ralph and Henry. The miners died either due to starvation or "want of respirable air."

There were multiple problems and difficulties concerning bringing out the bodies of the unfortunate miners; the first of which was finally brought out about nine months after the accident. Soon after the bodies of the other deceased miners were found and buried. The majority were buried at Wallsend, but some were buried in the parish churchyard at Longbenton. 

Ralph Widdrington Jr was found first. He was later buried at Longbenton on 20 February 1816. Ralph Jr died leaving a widow and three children. His youngest was born posthumously and named Ralph in his honour. 

Ralph Widdrington Jr's burial.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
Ralph Widdrington Snr and his other son, Henry were presumably found together as they were buried on the same day; 15 March 1816 at Longbenton. 

The burials of Ralph Snr and Henry Widdrington.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.
Ralph and Catherine's youngest child Mary went on to marry Bertram McKeith in 1838 at the age of 24. Although Mary barely knew her father, she honoured him by naming her only son Ralph Widdrington McKeith.

Ralph's widow Catherine never remarried, eventually dying in December 1842. She was aged around 86 years. 

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