Felling Colliery, also known as the John Pit, was certainly established well before the 19th century and before the first Ordnance Survey maps appeared in 1858. The pit closed in arch 1931 and is shown on the 1939 O.S. map as ‘disused’. The Low Main was a depth of 612 feet, one of the deepest in the area at the time.
It was at this colliery that the disaster of 1812 took place. At 11.30 a.m. on 25th May 1812, there was an explosion in the John Pit which killed 92 men and boys, three quarters of the mine’s workforce. Their ages were between 8 and 65 years. 43 were aged18 or under. Debris and coal dust covered the roads so thickly that footprints were visible and the noise of the explosion could be heard from as far away as Sunderland.
The disaster led to the formation of the Sunderland Society for the Prevention of Accidents, at the instigation of Rev. John Hodgson, the Vicar of Jarrow and Heworth. Within 3 years, safety lamps were introduced, having been developed independently by Humphrey Davy and George Stephenson.
A plain obelisk, commemorating the dead, stands near the west gate of Heworth churchyard.