BARNSLEY documentarian Dave Cherry has developed a knack for unearthing those stories in danger of being lost to the history books.

His film on the Pogmoor air crash, in which a brave Australian pilot in the Second World War crashed his failing Whitley bomber to narrowly avoid nearby terraced houses in what is now Pogmoor Rec, raised hundreds for Barnsley Hospice last year.

And Dave’s latest project explores another tragic event from the early 20th century - albeit one which is tragic due to, Dave believes, an act of injustice rather than one of sacrifice.

On January 11, 1908, 16 children - aged four to nine - were killed in a crush on the staircase of Barnsley Public Hall.

There were several hundred youths in the hall that afternoon, as the World’s Animated Picture Company put on a special children’s matinee, and many of these had squeezed into a gallery on the hall’s upper floor.

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It was common at the time for seats, sold for a penny, to be taken by more than one child due to a combination of childhood enthusiasm and profit-chasing - but an attendant, seeing the gallery was packed, began to turn children back down the stairs.

Numerous possible contributing factors have been put forward for the incident - which also saw 40 injured children taken to Beckett Hospital - with the several flights of stairs making it impossible for the attendant to see those children continuing to rush up to the gallery and no other staff present.

Whether show organisers deliberately over-sold the event, and their bypassing of the usual payment desk at the bottom of the stairs in favour of taking pennies at the top, were also discussed at a public inquest held at Barnsley Town Hall only six days after the event - which Dave’s film openly questions.

“My mate got hold of the minutes of the inquest,” he said.

“They held it in the town hall, and it was a complete whitewash.

“The incident happened on the Saturday, the children were buried Monday to Wednesday and then the inquest took place on Friday.

“They gave a verdict of negligence - not even criminal negligence. It should've been manslaughter. Today, it would've been.”

Dave’s film, the product of months of research with his friend John Timmis, includes a dramatisation of the inquest produced with the help of Barnsley College lecturer Donna Turner - who worked with Dave on his play ‘The Old Club Trip’ - and drama students.

The ‘Stairfoot Rarndabart’ singer had planned to film at The Civic, built on the former site of Barnsley Public Hall, and hoped to find the location of the original staircase - before the coronavirus outbreak postponed his plans.

Civic chief executive Helen Ball said: “We’re pretty sure the staircase and the door have been removed and probably some time ago. We have an idea of the possible location where they would have been based on photographs, but not much more.”

Dave added: “I've had everybody and their grandmother helping me, because everyone realises how important a story this is. The whole town is behind it.

It's a little piece of history that's sadly been shoved away.”