MARCH 22, 1962, is remembered in Burnley as the blackest day of the century in local mining.

For an explosion ripped through the Union Seam at Hapton Valley Colliery that morning and 19 miners lost their lives.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of that fateful day and a memorial service will once again be staged to remember them.

Former miner, officials and families will gather at the memorial stone in Burnley Cemetery for the service at noon, on Sunday, March 19.

It had once been envisaged that such services would cease after the 50th anniversary, but so many of the miners' children and grandchildren still wish to attend, that it has been continued.

Hapton Valley had always been known as 'Happy Valley', but the huge underground explosion which rocked it that day, changed all that.

Sixteen miners were killed instantly and many more hurt - three of them died later in hospital - as rescue teams and emergency services raced to the scene and ambulances queued in line as men were brought to the surface.

Among the heroes that day was nursing sister Maud Waggett, who put on overalls and helmet and went to the coal face, along with stretcher parties, to give morphia to the wounded and dying men.

Shortly afterwards she was joined by the pit doctor, Dr Francis Halliwell.

Relatives clustered with the Bishop of Burnley, The Rt Rev G. Holderness, and other clergy in the yard for several hours until the last of the victims were brought out.

Hapton Valley Colliery began life in 1853, when two shafts sunk in an area, which was well proven for coal - there were scores of shallow workings alongside the Habergham Brook and in the sides of Hambledon Hill.

It became known as Spa Pit for a while because of a mineral spring close by.

Output was around 600 tons of coal a day, which was dug from the face by miners with picks and shovels.

Around 1910, work began on two new shafts number three and four, one more than 500 feet deep.

There was a major emergency in 1957 as a new seam was being opened out, when large quantities of water burst through the floor - at the rate of 700 gallons a minute - and caused extensive flooding and it happened again in 1964.

It was in 1981 when the NCB announced that the colliery was to close.