In 1833 the first shaft at Haswell Colliery was sunk, it was between Haswell and Haswell Plough. This saw hundreds of miners from around Britain flock to the area. New houses, churches, schools, pubs and shops were all built to accommodate their needs.
The miner’s strike of 1844, however, left the village divided. Haswell was regarded as blackleg pit as it recruited "scabs" in place of union men, causing much resentment among the locals. "Things had never been worse," recalled historian Lewis Burt in The Echo back in 1964. "Unrelenting poverty was everywhere. Barefoot children begged for bread" adding "But it wasn't only the poverty, though that was bad enough, it was the recrimination, the malice, the spite, the ill-will and the hatred."
It took the mining accident of September 28, 1844, to reunite the village. A huge explosion ripped through Haswell Colliery on that day and 95 men and boys perished. Many 10 year-olds were among the victims, including John Barrass, who was on his first visit to the pit. His father, William, also died.
"Those killed by the flame were blackened and scorched, some barely recognisable even by their nearest relations," said Mr Burt. "Those killed by choke damp showed no expression of pain. Twenty putters were found lying clasped hand in hand, huddled together in that long last sleep of death."
In Haswell's Long Row, every house except one lost loved ones. In one house, indeed, two coffins stood on the bed, one on the dresser and one on the floor. "Haswell was no longer a village of malice; it was a village of mourning. It had taken the Angel of Death to draw them together in a bond of common sympathy," said Mr Burt.
A government report was produced by Charles Lyell and Michael Faraday which showed that the explosion was caused by coal dust igniting.
The mine closed in 1895.