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Light dimmed on Dudley historical collection


Thirty-five years ago, a love of antiques and local history drove Ardel Prout to create a museum in Dudley Public School.

From mining artefacts to household items and police ledgers, the room contains more than 1,000 items from the seaside town’s past, which have been lovingly preserved and displayed.

However, waning interest and the school’s need to use the space will see it emptied later this year.

Mrs Prout, who had children at the school, established the museum with teacher Claire Ede with the initial goal of educating the students about Dudley’s mining background.

“When we first started it none of the children would have been aware there was a mine [under the football fields],” she said.

“There’s no obvious recognition so that’s why we started the history project, so the children would know that this was actually a mining community.”

Generous donations saw the museum not only acquire lamps, maps and associated items from the Burwood No. 3 mine (later Dudley Colliery), but other interesting pieces including a pram from 1936, Masonic Lodge memorabilia and an Arnotts adding machine.

Burwood No. 3 opened in 1888, stemming from South Burwood Colliery’s two others near Glenrock Lagoon. Its largest disaster occurred on 21 March 1898, when an accumulation of gas in the pit caused an explosion, which was reported to have been heard as far away as Belmont, Charlestown and Merewether.

Fifteen men and three horses died, however only 10 bodies were recovered before the mine was sealed and flooded due to the severity of the underground fires.
The recovered deceased were buried in Whitebridge, Sandgate and Wallsend cemeteries.

With the museum’s closure impending, Mrs Prout is now looking for the owners of the donated items, or descendants of the owners, so they can be returned.

“There’s heaps of stuff that I probably won’t be able to do anything with,” she said.

“If anyone remembers donating and they would like it back I need them to contact me, otherwise I’ll distribute it.”

Mrs Prout can be contacted on 4944 8393.

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