Wrexham County Borough 77 - Wrexham - Breakfast at the Miners Rescue Centre


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May 8th 2022
Published: May 9th 2022
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So what's going to happen in the football match this lunchtime ? That was the direction of the conversation over breakfast . But not breakfast at home . We had a date at the Cae Ras for the penultimate match of the football season . We lie in second place behind Stockport County the team above us who look to be on the way to winning the league and promotion . It was a Sunday match which is highly unusual . A match that if Stockport win will make them champions . And we don't want that do we ? . Most matches are Saturday afternoons or midweek on a Tuesday . This one is being televised as it is seen as the game of the season . Over a bacon sandwich and two cups of coffee we wondered which team would turn up. The one that hammers the opposition and should be top of the league or the one that disappoints us when they drop points to easy opposition. The team who lose in the dying moments of the game .

Football conversation was lightened from time to time with talk of holidays . We need a new insurer as ours currently does not cover any of the Balkan states . Some insurers cover Montenegro with no trouble at all but we are finding none that wish to insure us in Albania . So how do we get to where we want to go for our next holiday ? So many plans but many obstacles in the way . We could change our insurer and drive to Montegnegro and many offer Serbia as normal . As we drank our coffee we thought we could miss Montenegro and go to Greece via Italy on the ferry but did we want a long overnight on a dirty old ferry ? Then it was back to football again .

We were sitting in an unusual building . A cafe that was a bit ramshackle with a few tables scattered round and run by volunteers. A cafe inside the Miners Rescue Station in the middle of Wrexham . The building was in a terrible state and had a long history of neglect . It had been built and maintained in response to the Coal Mines Act of 1911 where all mines were told that they needed a rescue centre to co-ordinate mine rescues. The owners of mines were made to open two shafts to the mines rather than one toa aid rescues. It was built close to the Great Western Railway station in the town. The red brick building was in constant readiness for any issue that occurred in the local coal mines . A superintendent lived in the house built next door and there were also aviaries for the mine canaries , stores for equipment , showers, training galleries and humidity chambers that were used for rescue training . Conditions down the local coalmines could be replicated and men from this rescue centre were used to reopen the Gresford Colliery following the disaster where 266 men lost their lives . So the centre has a history and is Grade II listed . Bu that did not stop the owner from trying to demolish it . The story like many things in Wrexham defies belief .

Why were we here ? We had to find somewhere to go before the match and the centre was just up the road from the football ground . It was open , it had a small museum space and a cafe to have breakfast . We had read that they had also taken a delivery of 266 bricks inscribed with the names of the men who lost their lives in the Disaster . Their ages , jobs and addresses all carved in gold lettering . The bricks were there in readiness to be used to build a brick wall in the centre hallway. . As one of our relatives is still buried down the pit following the disaster it seemed appropriate to visit the centre . The official grand opening of the wall would be 22nd September the anniversary of the disaster .

We were met by one of the volunteers who showed us the humidity chambers describing how they worked . He took us behind the scenes to the areas used by the fire service when the building had ceased to be used for mine rescue . He explained how everything worked describing the darkness , the smells and the smoke . . The plan was to renovate the building and use it showcase and tell the story of the Gresford Disaster . They had purchased the building which was in a poor state of repair . It would take some years and a lot of money to bring the building back into use . A barrier from the Kop at the Racecourse had been donated to the Rescue station as it too held an important part in the history of mining in the Wrexham area . Many miners had swapped their shifts that day to go to the football match . This included my own grandfather . Wrexham still have the date 1934 printed on the back of their shirts and have a one minute silence on the Saturday closest to the Disaster . In the back room were maps showing the sites of the explosions, an old wagon from the colliery and pictures of the rescue . We could not take pictures of the map which showed clearly the underground workings.

The middle of the building was used for craft and art events and an area specifically for Halloween events . We were told the story of the owner who bought the building with a view to knocking it down and building flats on the site . He threw the lunette which stated the name and use of the building on a compost heap and went away on holiday . Whilst away he sent the JCB in and the back of the building was demolished . At the time the building was in the process of being listed as an important reminder of coal mining history in Wrexham and nationally . It was the only one that remained . The JCB was stopped in its tracks . The next morning early the JCB turned up again and work to demolish began . What they did not know was that the building had been listed overnight and a vigilant neighbour phoned the police . They turned up and the building was saved . The fine for demolishing or damaging a listed building is 20K and possible imprisonment . The fine for the owner ended up as £2000 and £1700 compensation to help rebuilding what had been damaged . A paltry fine and the money going nowhere near bringing the building back to life .

We left the building with thoughts about how much history is going and glad to think that eventually if they can raise 50K they will be able to put the lunette back in its rightful place . And the match . Stockport turned up with 1200 supporters who were very vocal and as always brought their plastic sheep to taunt us . The ground was full 10,120 . Capacity crowd and we did what we needed to . Spoilt Stockports day by not just beating them but giving them a good hiding . 3 - 0 a good end to the day .

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