How do monuments work to presence absent bodies which cannot be recovered? This is the task of cenotaphs of all kinds, but usually the discussion of such memorials focuses on conflict commemoration. Yet the remembrance of lost/irretrievable bodies is also a challenge faced by mining disaster memorials. The one I know best is one raised in 1982 to commemorate the 1934 Gresford Mining Memorial Disaster: the largest single loss of life of any 20th-century below-ground mining accident in Wales.
Previously, I’ve addressed how the disaster is commemorated within Gresford church. Indeed, the disaster isn’t commemorated in a single location, but through a network of memorial locales. Yet the site of the former mine shaft is the principal memorial focus. In my latest Archaeodeath YouTube video, I consider its setting, form, materialities and life-history as it has become augmented by memorial benches and ancillary plaques. Commemorating 266 lives lost, most of whom lie still far underground, entombed within the Dennis shaft of the colliery where they were trapped by a fire, this is a sad and evocative cenotaph that has had a lasting impact on the landscape and identities of those living in Wrexham and its environs.