Mining is a dangerous job and accidents happen frequently. Before Health & Safety legislation and better medical care, these accidents often proved fatal. The following demonstrates the various ways in which accidents can happen at mines.
Woman standing by a coal pit slipped and fell in.
Woman drawing coal up a shaft fell in.
Woman in a man's arms going to see a coal pit, had a fit and fell out of his arms into the bottom of the pit.
Woman fetching stone from a coal pit fell in.
1786 - Wrockwardine Wood
Woman standing by a coal pit slipped and fell in.
1788 - Shifnal
Woman standing by a coal pit slipped and fell in.
1798 - Wombridge
Woman working on a pit bank slipped and fell in.
1798 - Dawley
Woman working on pit bank slipped and fell in.
1799 - Great Dawley
Woman standing by a coal pit fell in.
1803 - Bog Mine
Elizabeth Jones aged 13 fell into a shaft.
An old ballad records that on the night of January 2nd 1810, the Meadow Pit accidentally caught fire. At the time there were 13 men and 8 ponies underground but all were got to the surface without injury - unlike a search party the next morning. The depth of the pit was given as 720ft. The ballad states that on the next morning four persons went down to see what state the pit was in and "what best to do, but the sulphur becoming too powerful for the air, all were suffocated". They left 19 children fatherless, one widow pregnant and two infirm.
While cheerily around
the glowing fire
Later on 6th April 1810, it is recorded that G Ward and T Roberts were killed whilst descending the shaft. Many other accidents occurred at the pit during the next 112 year life but none seem to have involved such a loss of life as those above. It is, however, difficult to determine which official accident reports relate to this mine since the Madeley Wood Company registered most of its incidents and production figures under the composite name "Madeley Wood" irrespective of which of their pits was involved.
1848 May 29th – Lodge Colliery
The colliery was the property of Mr. Botfold and eight men were being lowered to their work. When they had gone down about 50 yards, the shaft broke and they were hurled down the shaft to their deaths. The inquest found that the machinery was defective. There were 8 victims.
1856 July 3rd - Coalbrookdale
The colliery was owned by Couttwell and Lewis and the explosion was due to neglect by the management of the Special Rules for the ventilation of the colliery. The lamps were not locked and there was no single main ventilation door. All the men who were underground at the time were killed in the explosion. The victims were :-
Noah Vaughan, collier, aged 20 years.
William Parker, roman, aged 20 years.
James Morgan, aged 19 years, a collier.
George Morgan, aged 28 years, a roadman.
Samuel Jenkins, aged 20 years, a collier.
William Lewis, aged 13 years, a haulier.
David Williams, aged 25 years, a collier.
Robert Arnold, collier aged 22 years.
George Greenway, aged 22 years, a collier.
Hopkin Lewis, aged 31 years, a fireman.
Richard Ketherall, aged 23 years, a collier.
George Greenaway and Hopkin Lewis were killed leading the rescue
1858 - Wombridge Colliery
A 12 year old girl fell down the pit.
1858 Colliery Guardian March 13th – Lower Spring Pit
On Saturday last, an explosion of firedamp occurred at the Lower Spring Pit, belonging to the Lilleshall Company. It seems that two men went down into the pit to complete some “holeing “ they had left unfinished the day before; they were followed by a boy, who carried in his hand a lighted candle. He was about to light another candle when an explosion took place. One of the men and the lad were suffocated, and when brought up were quite dead. The other man had a narrow escape for his life. The inquest was adjourned.
1858 Colliery Guardian March 20th – Lawn Colliery
On Saturday an explosion of fire-damp took place at the Lawn pits, belonging to B. Botfield, Esq., M.P. Two men, when about to leave the pit in the morning, after their night’s work, came in contact with a portion of carburetted hydrogen gas, which immediately fired, and one of them was so much injured that he died about two o’clock on Wednesday last.
1858 Colliery Guardian March 20th – Randlay Pit
On Tuesday last an accident of a serious nature occurred to a young man named Joseph Bailey, in one of the Randley stone pits. It appears that the young man at the time was standing with his back to the face of the work. A quantity of earth fell from the roof, burying him. No doubt was entertained of his death, but one of the chartermasters, Noah Rhodes, who was upon the bank at the time, went down, and, with others, succeeded in extricating him, after an hour’s hard labour. They had the gratification of finding that life was not extinct; air, it is supposed, by some means had access to the unfortunate fellow. He recovered sufficiently to walk home shortly after.
1858 Colliery Guardian October 9th - Willey Pit
on Monday morning last an accident occurred at a small shaft on Lord Forester’s estate, near Willey Park, by which a man named Lawrence Lloyd was killed, and another named John Hill, severely injured. The shaft is one of a number sunk to reach some inferior coal that lies near the surface, and it is customary when the pit is about to be abandoned and filled up, to abstract the trees or timber from the workings. The men were so employed when the accident occurred, a quantity of earth falling upon them.
1858 Colliery Guardian October 23rd – Collier’s Side Mine
A fatal accident has occurred at the Aston Lime Works, near Newport, through a fall of stone, by which three persons lost their lives, and another received serious injury. It appears that the pit in which the fatality occurred is an old one, and that parts of the old work are very loose and unsafe, large masses of stone having on several occasions slipped down, but without any previous fatal result. The unfortunate individuals who have met their deaths in this case are James Plant and Thomas Maddox, who have left wives and large families, and William Jarvis, a youth about nineteen. Robert Withington, a man bordering on seventy years of age, is also very much cut and bruised, though it is hoped not dangerously. When the fall took place, the other men in the pit rushed to the spot, and found the poor fellows completely buried under the stone. After various attempts to extricate them, it was resolved that holes should be bored in the stone for the purpose of blasting it, and by this means in about two hours the bodies were got out, crushed in a most frightful manner, the head of one poor fellow being completely torn from his body.—At the inquest several of the miners were examined. Their evidence was to the effect that the stone which fell had been loosened by blasting; but no one in the pit had any idea that it was insecure, having tested it with their bars. They were proceeding to blast it again when the whole mass fell, without any warning, burying the unfortunate men beneath it.
One of the managers, Mr. Bennett, was also examined. He stated that he had implicit confidence in the experience of the witnesses Greenfield, Jones, and Stones, and could trust his life with their judgment, and had often done so. The jury also considering their evidence to be fully relied on, returned a verdict of accidental death. The stone which fell upon Maddox and Plant weighed upwards of six tons, and Jarvis was struck with a separate piece, weighing about one ton.
1859 Shrewsbury Chronicle May 27th – Old Park Pit
On Monday last, about noon, while a collier named Thomas Amos, was at work in a coal-pit called the Pudley-Hill Coal Pit, Old Park, belonging to Messrs. John Garbett & Co., under the Old Park Iron Company, a portion of the roof of the pit fell on him, injuring him so seriously that he died shortly after being taken home. The unfortunate man had only resumed work a short time from injuries received at a previous accident. He has left a wife and six children to mourn his loss.
1859 Shrewsbury Chronicle May 27th – Pudley Hill Pit
On Monday last, about noon, while a collier named Thomas Amos, was at work in a coal-pit called the Pudley-Hill Coal Pit, Old Park, belonging to Messrs. John Garbett & Co., under the Old Park Iron Company, a portion of the roof of the pit fell on him, injuring him so seriously that he died shortly after being taken home. The unfortunate man had only resumed work a short time from injuries received at a previous accident. He has left a wife and six children to mourn his loss.
1859 Wellington Journal May 28th - Old Park Pit
On Tuesday last an inquest was held by R D Newill, Esq., coroner, at the Old Park, on view of the body of an unfortunate collier, named Thomas Amies, aged about 40 years, who, whilst engaged at work in a pit belonging to the Old Park Company on Monday last, met with an untimely death by the fall of a quantity of rock and earth from the roof of the working in which he was engaged. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death.
1859 Wellington Journal May 28th – Old Park Pit
On Tuesday last an inquest was held by R D Newill, Esq., coroner, at the Old Park, on view of the body of an unfortunate collier, named Thomas Amies, aged about 40 years, who, whilst engaged at work in a pit belonging to the Old Park Company on Monday last, met with an untimely death by the fall of a quantity of rock and earth from the roof of the working in which he was engaged. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death.
1861 Colliery Guardian January 19th – Grange Colliery
An inquest was held at the Crown Inn, Dawley, on Tuesday, upon the body of William Evans, who met with his death by an explosion of gas. The pit is naturally liable to sulphur. A feeder also was known to exist near where the explosion took place, and water having broken in a few days since the air passages of the mine had become stopped. Under such circumstances, one would imagine the greatest caution would have been used ; but, unfortunately, this does not appear to have been the case. The deceased, William Evans, whose duty it was, as “ doggy” of the pit, to see that the works were safe, upon approaching the dangerous part of the works, on Monday morning, took with him his light instead of leaving it behind him, while three men—Jones, Guy, and Maiden—also fearfully burnt, and now in a very precarious state, instead of remaining at a distance till informed of the safety or otherwise of the mine, followed closely upon the heels of the deceased. These men carried with them naked candles, and there appears to be some grounds for believing that the deceased carried, in addition to his lamp, a lighted candle also. The consequence was an explosion that shook the works, killing the doggy and frightfully burning the men whose names are above mentioned. The inquiry was adjourned till Saturday for the attendance of the Government inspector of mines.
1861 Colliery Guardian January 26th - Grange Colliery
Three more men have fallen victims to the fearful fire at the Grange Pit, being the whole of the four men injured. Inquests were held on Friday and Saturday last, at the Crown Inn, Dawley, and at the Queen’s head, Lawley Bank. Mr Wynne, Government inspector of mines, attended, and, having caused plans of the workings to be prepared, required the attendance of the several juries at the latter place, and proceeded to examine witnesses as to the state of the mines, the means of ventilation, etc. At the close of the investigation, a verdict of “Accidental death, occasioned by the explosion of fire-damp,” was recorded.
1861 Colliery Guardian August 24th – Langley Pit
On Tuesday morning last, two men, both named James Corbet, had a narrow escape from being drawn over the pulley at one of the Langley Field pits. The men were just going down, and the engineman pulled them up for that purpose, but pulled them so high, that finding themselves against the pulley they jumped out, and it was fortunate they did so, for the cage, as it is called, was drawn completely over, pulling down a portion of the frame-work. Fortunately the men escaped with a few bruises. The runner had not been withdrawn, otherwise the men might have fallen down the shaft. The fellow at the engine appeared half asleep when remonstrated with.
1861 September 9th – Donnington Wood Colliery
The colliery was owned by the Lilleshall Company and was at Wrockwardine. Three men and two boys were killed when the flat chain broke. The accident occurred just as the men had finished work and were returning to the surface. The cage was six yards from the bank when the rope broke and the victims fell 80 yards to their deaths at the pit bottom. Those who lost their lives were :-
Thomas Swift aged 23 years,
Thomas Foulke aged 14 years,
Thomas Davies aged 14 years,
William Worral aged 36 years, married with six or seven children
Henry Swift aged 19 years, brother to Thomas.
The inquest into the deaths took place at the Lambs Inn, Wrockwardine when the jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ with the recommendation that the Company should employ someone to look after the ropes and ‘those things
1862 December 29th – Dark Lane Colliery
The colliery was the property of the Lilleshall Company and 12 men and boys lost their lives when a coupling box at the end of rope broke and the box fell 290 feet to the bottom of the shaft. Work was suspended and it too most of the day to get the bodies to the surface. Those who died were, J. Guy and 11 others including nine men and three boys.
1863 – Lightmoor Mine
A woman rode on a skip into the shaft and was killed.
1864 – Lilleshall Mine
A girl called J Jackson fell down the shaft while banking for her father.
1864 September 27th – Madeley Wood Colliery
The Colliery was the property of John Anstice and Company and was between Ironbridge and Madeley and mined ironstone. It was also known as Lane Pit. Three men and six boys were killed when a skip detached while ascending the shaft. The skip in which they were travelling fell through a scaffold which was made of six inch oak. As soon as the disaster was heard of, a crowd of hundreds gathered at the pit head. The pit was 250 yards deep. Those who lost their lives were :-
Edward Wallett, married with four children,
Benjamin Davies and John Tranter, married with six children.
The boys, William Onions, Joseph Maiden, John Farr, John Jones, William Jarrett and Francis Cookson.
The inquest was held before Mr. E.J. Bartlam, Coroner. Joseph Vaughan, the engineman, said that all was going well when he suddenly felt the weight go off the engine. The Coroner instructed the jury to bring in a verdict that the men were ‘Accidentally Killed’. In his Report, Mr. Wynne commented- “The number of accidents and lives lost is the same as last year but this is not satisfactory to me, for so long as the present system of open shafts without guides, continues to prevail, so long will men fall from the surface, from part way down, be struck by falling things from the surface and by things falling from part way down. in this, as in all other things, improvements are prevented by the ignorance of the parties in charge of mines, who set their faces against all improvements, and in some cases, push their ignorance so prominently forward as to say, “They would not go down the pits if their masters introduced guides.”
1865 – Wombridge Colliery
A bankwoman called M A Taylor fell down the shaft.
1870 - Dark Lane Colliery
B Wall, 28 year old horsekeeper, killed when drum got out of gear while descending.
1870 - Dawley Colliery
J Roberts, 18 year old hooker-on, killed when struck by brick falling out of the side of the shaft.
1870 - Granville Colliery
S Ashley, 23 year old collier, killed in a gas explosion.
1870 – Harcourt Colliery
A boy called R Jones who worked as a hooker-on killed when he fell into the sump.
1870 – Lightmoor Pit
A boy called S Collier killed by a fall of roof.
1870 - Priorslee Colliery
G Davis, 50 year old hooker-on, killed when he fell down shaft. J Martin and 2 others killed in gas explosion.
1870 – Shorthill Colliery
S Arsters, 40 year old collier, killed by fall of roof.
1870 Iron and Coal Trades Review August 24th – Dark Lane Colliery
Mr Summers, chief agent for the Dark Lane Collieries, was summoned by Mr Wynne, Government inspector of mines for the district, for not having provided adequate ventilation to disperse noxious gas, in consequence whereof an explosion had taken place on the 22nd June. Mr Bartlett, solicitor, of Wolverhampton, appeared for the defence. Mr Wynne said that, by the explosion mentioned, one person had been killed and another severely injured. The managers of the colliery were aware that on the day previous to the explosion there was gas in the pit, and they took but temporary, and, as it proved, inefficient means to remove it. By the Act of Parliament the owner or principal agent of a colliery was liable to a penalty if proper ventilation was not provided to dilute and render harmless the noxious gas which accumulates in the pits.
Enoch Owen said he was a workman at the Dark Lane Colliery. He was in the pit on the evening before the explosion, and there was so much gas in it that he was compelled to leave. He reported this to a man named Price. On the 22nd June he went down again, and after some time there was an explosion which killed his brother and injured Price. Richard Stanley said he was at work in the pit on the day preceding the 22nd of June. The men declared it unsafe, and made representation to that effect. The candles were taken away and lamps provided. If gas was in the pit it would rise to the top. The explosion was a severe one. By Mr Bartlett: Witness was working in the same place on both days, but did not perceive any gas. In consequence of the representations made as to the unsafe state of the pit, the night men who should have gone down were not allowed to do so. On the next morning air pipes were laid down. Witness saw John Owen (the deceased) working with a candle before the explosion. Price had been sent for to another part of the pit, and as it was his duty to clear away the dirt which Owen threw off, the latter went for him, the dirt having accumulated so as to impede work. When the two men had returned, an explosion took place. Witness was of opinion that while Owen was working, the gas could not accumulate, but that it might accumulate during the absence of a few minutes. The pipes ought to have dispersed the gas if they had been kept clear.
It was witness’s opinion that deceased might have thrown the dirt on the pipes so as to cover them up. If the mouth of the pipes had not been covered, he did not think an accident could have occurred. He saw the pipes on the day after the explosion; they were embedded in dirt. By Mr Wynne The dirt ought not to have been there. It was Price’s business to remove the dirt away. So long as the men worked in the hole it could not well be filled with gas, but in their absence gas would accumulate. Mr Bartlett said he believed he could dispose of the case by showing that the managers of the colliery had taken every precaution to prevent the accident. The last witness had told them that so soon as there was any apprehension of danger the precaution was taken of not allowing the night-men to go down the pit. On the following morning ventilation was secured which proved effective from eight o’clock till some hours afterwards, when the explosion took place. The deceased was working with a naked candle for some time, and had there been gas about, it would have made its presence known. The accident could not be accounted for in a better way than had been done by the last witness, that the dirt had been unknowingly thrown in the mouth of the pipe and stopped the passage of air. This would not have occurred had Price been present, but he had been called to another part of the pit where he was told there was an accumulation of gas. The matter had been thoroughly sifted at the coroner’s inquest, when, had there been culpable neglect on the part of the chief agent of the company, a verdict of manslaughter would certainly have been returned by the jury. He contended, therefore, that the managers of the colliery had taken every precaution which lay in their power, and that the defendant had not infringed the first general rule of the Act of Parliament under which he was summoned. James Darrell, under-agent, said that on the 21st June he surveyed the place where the explosion occurred on the following day, and he was of opinion that the precautions thereupon taken were such as were calculated to ensure safety. After a few minutes consultation the Bench decided that due care had not been taken to avoid the accident, and they inflicted a penalty of £5, and £1 7s. 10d. costs.
1875 September 11th – Donnington Wood Colliery
The colliery was the property of the Lilleshall Company and Mr. C. Greene was the manager of the colliery. At the inquiry the first witness was a sinker named James Hancock who was repairing the pit on the day of the accident. The ventilation seemed perfect and there were no unusual smells. Thomas Hart also a sinker had gone round the workings and saw nothing unusual. Henry Guy, chartermaster at the pit, had examined the pit thoroughly on the Friday before the disaster and found nothing untoward. On the day of the accident Guy saw the eleven who were killed go down the pit but, as he was otherwise engaged he did not hear any of the signals. James Hayward a collier at the pit thought that the smoke coming from the shaft was more than usual when the men descended. When no answer was received after the lowering of a horse into the mine there was cry of ‘Fire’ from the downcast shaft and Guy and other men went down the pit. The signalling apparatus was in perfect order but the men had been let down into a foul atmosphere which had overcome them. They found that to reach the men, who were in the inset, a special roadway had to be made. A sinker, William Pitchford was the first to discover bodies. There were two and where they lay the air was good bit there was some smoke in the atmosphere. At the inset the air was so foul that it extinguished the lamps. The men who died were :-
The inquest into the deaths of the eleven men was held at the George Hotel, St. George, Shropshire before Mr. Newhill, Coroner. John Torrington, the engineman at the colliery, thought that more smoke than usual was coming up the pit shaft on Saturday but he thought it came from fires lighted by the sinkers. There had been a 6 feet ‘tree’ set near where the bodies were found and the chartermaster knew that fires could start in the slack and from men and boys using candles. The chartermaster of the downcast shaft, Jabez Dorricott said that the workings there had always been good but the clod in the airways had recently fallen. About twenty six years before he had known of a fire in the gob. Mr. S.B. Gilroy did not think that there had been an explosion but that the men had died from inhaling smoke that had been emitted from the coal where the roof had broken down in the airway or had escaped from old workings. The cause of the fire was spontaneous combustion and he thought that all possible human precautions had been taken and there as no one to blame for the accident. The Coroner summed up and the jury brought in a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ and added a rider that- “They were of the opinion that the signal for the descent of the second band of men had not been given and that if it had the men might have been saved.” The Coroner then read a letter from Mr. Lloyd, the General Manager of the Lilleshall Company expressing their desire to adopt practical suggestions for the prevention of such lamentable accidents and also the concern of Earl Granville, the Chief Proprietor of the mine, at the nature of the catastrophe, sympathy for the bereaved widows and children and a wish by His Lordship to relieve the distress. The letter went on to say that a plan for raising funds had been submitted to the Earl for his approval.
1880 - Priorslee Colliery
Sarah Daniels, 26 year old banker, was crushed by the cage at the pit top.
1881 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News March 4th - Madeley
On Friday last week a man named Richard Rogers, residing at Dawley, and employed by Messrs Buckley and Bowen, charter-masters at one of the Madeley Court Companies coal pits, met with a serious accident. Rogers is what is known in collieries as a "level filler," and whilst at work a quantity of earth fell upon him from the roof, breaking his leg. The poor fellow was at once extricated from his perilous position, taken up the pit and conveyed home in a cart. Medical aid was sent for and Mr L Webb, the field surgeon, was quickly in attendance, and rendered the sufferer every assistance. Rogers is going on as well as could be expected.
1881 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News May 21st – Woodhouse Colliery
On Monday morning an accident occurred at the Wood House Pits to a man named Henry Hoof, living at the Old Park, who is engaged as a miner at the above pits. From some cause the unfortunate man got crushed between the tub and the wall of the pit. He was immediately conveyed home, and Dr MacCarthy and his assistant were speedily in attendance. It was found that the injury consisted of a severe fracture of the thigh and the man is in a dangerous state.
1881 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News May 28th – Meadow Pit
A man named Henry Wilson residing at Ironbridge, received severe injuries at the Meadow Pit on Tuesday by fall of roof. The injured man was conveyed home in a cart and lies under the care of Dr T L Webb, the field surgeon.
1881 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News August 20th – Coalbrookdale
On Monday last Thomas Ellis, a miner, living at Dawley, and working for the Coalbrookdale Company, met with a serious accident in one of the Company's pits. A shot of gunpowder had been placed for the purpose of getting coal, and a fuse had been employed. Ellis seeing that the charge had hung fire, went towards it, when it exploded in his face, seriously injuring his eyes and head, and also his hand. He was conveyed by train to Salop Infirmary, where his injuries were attended to, and found to be such as to necessitate his remaining an in-patient.
1881 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News August 27th - Broseley
On Tuesday morning last a young man named James Hall met with a severe accident at a gin pit worked by his father, near the Stocking, The unfortunate young man was injured by a fall of roof, which injured his back most severely. He was taken home and attended by E. Glover Bartlam, Esq, but the injuries to his back are of so serious a nature that he lies in a precarious state.
1888 HM Inspector of Mines Report June 22nd – New Hales Pit
There were five wagon roads leading onto a longwall face in the Clod Coal Seam, beyond the fifth there was an ‘end’ and a ‘snicket’ airway, the air was coursed around this end by having a regulator door to allow enough air to trickle through to keep it clear, but avoid short-circuiting of the whole. A fireman reported to the underlooker named Skitt, that he had found an accumulation of blackdamp in the end. Skitt collected his Davy safety lamp and supposedly taking two nearby miners with him went to clear it. When they did not return a search was made, Skitt’s Davy lamp had been hung up in fresh air before the accumulation was reached and the blackdamp was still in the end. The searchers closed No 5 road with sheets, the air then circuited around the end and 3 bodies were found. They had been overcome by the blackdamp.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News February 16th – Meadow Pit
On Monday, Mr John Pritchard, who is employed by the Madeley Wood Co. as engineer at the Meadow Pits, met with rather a severe mishap. It appears one of the iron plates forming the floor of the engine-house had been removed, and Mr Pritchard entering the engine-house, fell through the aperture, and sustained severe injuries to his arm and shoulder. Fortunately no bones were broken.
The fatal accident, which cost 7 lives, was caused by the breakage of a steel winding rope at George's Shaft about 6.15am on 6th March 1895. The rope worked in a shaft 252 yards deep and was almost solely used for raising and lowering men. The winding system consisted of two separate cages, each of which had its own rope passing over pulleys on the headgear to the same drum. The ropes were wound on the drum so as to bring one cage to surface at the same time as the other cage was at the shaft bottom. The rope in question wound on a 7ft diameter drum and passed over a pulley on the headgear which was 8ft 8ins in diameter. Both the drum and pulley were too small for a rope of this circumference and they should have been at least 12ft. The weight of a cage and chains was 14cwt and 7 men were allowed to ride at once. The working load of the rope would thus be about 25cwt, exclusive of the rope itself, and this was within the specification. On the morning of the accident George Williams, the engineman, raised steam and ran the cages 3 times through the shaft as a test. He then raised 2 cage loads of night shift men before lowering the morning shift. It was while the third cage load of 7 men were going down that the rope broke, just after it had passed over the pulley and the cage half way down the shaft. An examination of the broken ends of the rope clearly showed the cause of breakage to be internal corrosion. It was so severely corroded where the breakage occurred that the inside was practically rotten and not fit to carry the weight of the rope alone. There was also considerable internal corrosion in that part of the rope, which fell down the shaft, but the part remaining on the drum was still in good condition. The engine, drum, pulleys, cages and conductors were all in good working order and there was nothing to suggest that the accident had been caused by anything other than the internal corrosion of the rope. The latter was examined daily by a fitter named Ed. Edwards and his written reports were always that the rope was "all right". At the inquest, he said that no broken wires were visible and this appeared probable since none were seen on the part of the rope left on the drum or on the companion rope, which had been bought at the same time.
It is obvious that the maintenance on the ropes was unsatisfactory by present day standards. It was not known when, or how often, they had been re-capped and there was no regular time or person appointed to grease them. Edwards said that the rope had not been re-capped for 3 years and the 'rope oil' used as a lubricant appeared to form a stiff crust on the surface without penetrating much. Although the shaft was not very wet, the mine water was said to corrode iron. It was apparently the practice of the engineman, when the cages were not in use, to keep them about half way down the shaft. This meant that the same part of the rope was then always on the pulley and it was at this point that it broke. One of the miners giving evidence said that he and others were afraid of the rope but no complaint had been made. The verdict was "accidental death caused by the breakage of a defective rope" and the jury thought that the rope had not been properly looked after and had been used too long. Although the Mines Inspector felt that the company and their agents should be censured, there was no breach of the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act as it stood at the time. More recent legislation stipulates that a winding rope must not be used for more than 31/2 years and would probably have required it to be galvanised in these conditions. Re-capping is required at intervals not exceeding 6 months and the pieces cut off must be examined for internal corrosion. This job must be done by a person appointed by the manager and the results entered in a special book. At intervals not exceeding 20 days, the wire must be cleaned, checked for broken wires and examined closely at intervals of not more than 300ft or at other places liable to excessive wear. It is therefore unlikely that this accident could have occurred under present legislation and, if it did, the management could be heavily fined or imprisoned.
The Wellington Journal of 1895 includes a report by W Holyoake, a Snailbeach miner, given at the inquest “I went with seven others down the mine in the second cage. There was no jerk in going down. When we got down we lighted our candles and waited till the next party should come down. In two or three minutes we heard the cage coming down. The noise was like thunder. The cage crashed down with the bodies in it. The cage was smashed up. The rope came down on top of the cage. We signalled up at once and proceeded to take the rope away by drawing it along the level. The rope was knocked about. We had to knock the cage to pieces to get the bodies out. There was no sign of life in any of them. I had every confidence in the rope and it always looked perfectly safe." The top part of the winding rope recoiled out of the shaft and George Williams the engineman had a narrow escape. Members of the day shift waiting at the shaft bottom were treated to the sight of the 7ft 6ins high cage reduced to a mere 18ins by the smash and yet, when the rescue party descended the ladders to recover the mutilated bodies, it is said that a watch worn by one of the dead was still ticking. After adjustments to the winding engine, the bodies were brought to surface in the second cage.
The Rev. Cope visited the bereaved families after the disaster and his "assurances that the exit of the departed was a glorious change" apparently gave much comfort. He subsequently published a booklet about the disaster, which concentrated on three of the victims who were lay preachers. He made much of the spiritual guidance they exerted on their fellow miners and their virtuous lives, they were said to quote from hymns at every opportunity. The funeral procession was of immense length, even though the journey to the graveyard was long and there was deep snow on the ground. Large numbers of poorly clad miners were reported as taking part in the procession.
Like most mines of that period, Snailbeach had its share of dangers but the general standard of shaft maintenance seems to have left a lot to be desired. The daywork book of 1862 has several references to "boiling composition and tarring wire ropes for winding engine" - not a very effective remedy for preventing corrosion and wear! There was also another rope breakage in 1897 but this time the cage was fortunately empty. On this occasion, the 400 yard rope consisted of two lengths spliced together with couplings. One length, only 2 years old, broke close to the coupling and dropped the cage 40 yards. One of the twin winding wheels was removed towards the end of the 19th Century, leaving just a single one to wind with.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News March 9th – Gitchfield Pit
Yesterday, about 3-45 p.m., Benjamin Hinsley, engine driver at one of Messrs. Exley & Son's clay pits in Jackfield, suddenly fell down dead whilst in the act of screwing the steam valve of the engine. Dr Anderson, of Broseley, was promptly in attendance, but his services were of no avail. Deceased was an unmarried man, and about 60 years of age.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News April April – Meadow Pit
A young man named Spendlove, whilst working in the Meadow Pit on Wednesday, was knocked down by a horse that bolted. The unfortunate fellow was badly bruised about the head and face. He was attended by Dr Webb.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News June 22 – Shaw’s Pit
The town was thrown into a state of excitement on Tuesday when a false report rapidly spread throughout the district that someone had committed suicide by jumping down a pit shaft. It appeared that when the colliers went to work at Shaw's pit, belonging to the Madeley Wood Co., they observed written on an iron plate close to a disused pit, "I have gone down the pit, dear. You will have to do without me. O Lord, help me." The colliers came to the conclusion that someone had committed suicide, and returned home. The pit has since been dragged, but no body was discovered, and the authorities have come to the conclusion that the writing was nothing but a hoax.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News July 6th – Kemberton Colliery
A collier named Anderson, living at Broseley Wood, had his left arm broken on Monday when working at a pit belonging to the Madeley Wood Co. Dr Webb attended to the injury.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News July 6th – Kemberton Colliery
On Wednesday morning, Alfred Pugh, eldest son of Mr Thomas Pugh, collier, Station Road, had his leg broken in several places by the fall of a quantity of earth when working in the pits at Kemberton, belonging to the Madeley Wood Company. Pugh was conveyed home in a cart, and his injuries were attended to by Dr Webb.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News August 17th – Hill Pit
Frank Davies (Madeley Wood), whilst charging a hole at Hill Pits Colliery, belonging to the Madeley Wood Company, on Monday, was badly burnt about the hands and arms, and he was conveyed home by his comrades, and attended to by Dr Webb (club doctor).
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News September 7th – Dark Lane Colliery
An inquest was held before Mr J V T Lander, coroner, on Saturday, at the Schoolroom. Priorslee, on view of the body of Benjamin Thomas Rushton, aged 17 years, who was killed on the previous day in one of the Lilleshall Company's pits at Priorslee. Mr Moses Rushton was foreman of the jury. John Rushton stated that he was a miner, residing at Priorslee. He identified the body viewed as that of his son, Benjamin Thomas, aged 17 last birthday. On the Friday morning the deceased left home shortly after five o clock; he then appeared to be in very good health. He was employed by the Lilleshall Company, and worked at the Dark Lane Pit, under Mr Cadman. He went there to work on Friday morning. About ten o'clock the same day his other son came to him and asked him if he had heard anything about Ben, and he replied, "No." He was then told that he had been killed in the Dark Lane Pit. Witness then fainted away, and remembered no more. He saw the deceased when he was laid out. Deceased had worked in the Dark Lane Pit for about four or five years as a driver, and was quite competent to drive horses. For the last three or four nights the deceased had seemed very much troubled in his sleep about his horse, and calling out that it wouldn't go. John Hawkins deposed that he was a miner, residing at Old Park, and employed by the Lilleshall Company at Dark Lane Pit. On Friday morning the deceased went to work about a quarter to six. Witness went down the pit with him. Deceased was a driver. About eight o'clock witness saw deceased cutting the horse very badly, and warned him, because the cutting was kicking very much. Witness also told him that unless he stopped it he would have to go out of the pit. Witness then went away.
Shortly afterwards a boy named Samuels went to him and said that the deceased was smothered. Witness went and found the deceased about 100 yards from the bottom of the pit in his two-double, and about 15cwt. of stuff on him. There were three slabs on him. The slabs came from over the bars that were supporting the roof. Witness had them removed off him. He was quite dead. It would be about five minutes from the time he (witness) warned him of cutting the horse and when Samuels went and told him about the accident. The deceased had driven the horse for some time he was quite competent to drive horses, but thrashed them very much, and the horse in question when thrashed would kick very badly. If the deceased cut the horse and it kicked against the side of the pit, that would cause the slabs and soil to fall from the roof. Witness stated that it was part of his duty to examine the roofs and roads, and see after the drivers. He examined the place on Friday morning, and the road where the accident happened, and found it quite safe. He had made no examination since the accident. By the Foreman: Time deceased was not carrying out any extraordinary work nothing more than usual. Alfred Rhodes stated that he was a firemen, and resided at Old Park. He was employed by the Lilleshall Company at the Dark Lane Pit. He examined the roads and roofs in that pit on Friday morning as usual, and was quite satisfied that they were secure. He saw the deceased on Friday morning driving the horse in question. Witness was told what had happened. When he got to the place he found he was quite dead. Witness examined him, and found a mark on his head and on his nose. Beyond that he made no further examination. He (witness) had warned the boy not to thrash the horse. He could not account for the roof giving way; it might have been caused by the horse kicking against the side. The horse was a kicker when he was flogged, but when he was not flogged he would go all right. Witness considered Rushton quite capable of driving horses. By the Jury : When he got to the place after the accident he found the horse standing near to where the body was lying. The Coroner summed up, and the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," there being no blame attached to anyone.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News September 28th – Kemberton Colliery
On Thursday morning, William Bates, a single man, residing in Park Street, Madeley, had his back badly hurt whilst working at the Kemberton Pits. He was about cleaning up, when a lump of coal dropped out of the slip on to his back. The young man was conveyed home by his comrades, and Dr Webb attended to the injury.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News November 9th – Waxhill Barracks Colliery
An inquest was held before Mr J V T Lander, coroner, at the Barley Mow Hotel, St. George's, on Wednesday, on the body of Alfred Lees, aged 19 years, who died from injuries received in the Barrack Pit, St. George's, on the previous Friday [1st Nov.]. Mr Thomas Falshaw was foreman of the jury. Mr Makepeace, Assistant Government Inspector of Mines, was present. Mr Hulett represented the Lilleshall Company, with Mr Charles Sylvester, the underground manager. Mary Ann Fox deposed that she was the wife of Thomas Fox, and resided at New Buildings, St. George's. She identified the body viewed by the jury as that of Alfred Lees, a driver, who had been employed by the Lilleshall Company at the Barrack Pit. On Sunday [3rd Nov.], hearing that Lees had been hurt, she went to ask how he was, when the mother asked her to go upstairs and look at him. She went up and asked him how he was, but he could not speak. He seemed in great pain. She saw him again on Monday [4th Nov.], and remained with him. His death took place between one and two. James Weston stated that he was a miner employed by the Lilleshall Company at the Barrack Pit. On the first of this month he saw the deceased at his work. Witness that morning was engaged in leading one of the horses to and fro with the tubs; it was not part of his duty to lead horses, but this horse had that morning run away and upset the tubs, and he (witness) had been ordered to walk in front of him to prevent him from doing it again. He met the deceased each time at a place called the shunt, where they exchanged tubs, the deceased taking the full ones on, and witness returning with the empty ones. At this place they had to change horses. When witness got to the shunt about 10 o'clock he found the deceased waiting. The driver of the empty tubs was a man named Pickering. Witness held the horse's head whilst Pickering uncoupled the horse from the tub. Pickering in doing so dropped the tailing chain, and thus witness could not turn the horse straight round on to the empty road. At this time Lees came on with his horse to fasten it on to the tubs which Pickering had taken his horse from.
Pickering's horse was then standing with his hind legs in the road where Lees wanted to put his horse. Lees, however, to shift the horse struck it across the back of the legs, and said, Stand over." The horse immediately kicked out and caught Lees in the lower part of the stomach. Witness asked the deceased if he should take him to the bottom, and he said "Yes." He (witness) was then removed to another part of the pit to take the place of a man who had seen put in Lees's place, and did not see him again. Enoch Pickering deposed that he was a driver in the Barrack Pit. He remembered Friday, the 1st of November. He was driving in the Barrack Pit on that day, taking full tubs to the shunt, where he met the deceased with empty ones. They then exchanged horses. The time when the accident happened the horses were uncoupled in the ordinary way. Lees then took his horse to fasten it on the full tubs. Witness's horse had not quite turned off the road where Lees wanted to go, which was in consequence of the chain having dropped. Lees did not ask for the horse to be removed, but struck it. The horse kicked straight out and caught him in the stomach. By Mr Makepeace: There was plenty of room to turn the horse round, and plenty of time to have done it before Lees got up, only the chain dropped. Daniel Watkin stated that he was a fireman employed by the Lilleshall Co. in the Barrack Pit. On the day in question he saw the deceased and Pickering meet at the shunt and uncouple horses. Weston was holding the head of Pickering's horse because that morning it had run away. Weston had partly turned the horse round when Lees took his horse up to hook on to the full tubs. He saw him strike Pickering's horse, which kicked and caught him in the stomach. The deceased did not ask Pickering or Weston to take it out of the way. He knew very well it would not stand the whip. There was no delay at all in turning Pickering's horse round. Dr McCarthy deposed that he was called in on the 1st inst. to see the deceased, who told him he had been kicked by a horse. He was quite collapsed. Witness had him put to bed and attended him, He seemed to go on very well until Sunday, when peritonitis set in, from which he died. Peritonitis would be the result of the injuries. Verdict, "Accidental death," the jury adding that there was no blame attached to anyone.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News November 23rd – Styche’s Colliery
Mr J Fox, a married man, was following his occupation in the Stych's Colliery on Wednesday, when he cut his hand with a clod piece. Blood-poisoning resulted, and he is now under the care of a local doctor, and progressing favourably.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News December 7th – Halesfield Colliery
On Monday morning, as a married man named Briscoe was working at the Halesfield colliery, a lump of coal dropped on his hand, the club surgeon (Dr Webb) being obliged to amputate the thumb.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News December 14th – Halesfield Colliery
On Tuesday, at the Madeley Court Colliery, William Hayward received a blow on the foot when following his occupation, and on Saturday, at the Halesfield Colliery, Thomas Kelsey by some means got his knee and eye badly hurt. Dr Webb is attending both men.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News December 21st – Kemberton Colliery
An elderly married man named Davies, whilst working at the Kemberton Colliery yesterday, accidentally slipped off the siding, and was badly hurt. He was taken home by his comrades, and attended to by Dr Stubbs's assistant.
1895 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News December 21st – Court Field Pit
On Saturday, as Mr William Tranter was working in the Court Field pits, a large lump of coal fell on his hand, necessitating his attendance at the surgery of Dr Webb, Ironbridge, who discovered that no bones were broken, although the hurt was a bad one.
1896 HM Inspector of Mines Report – Exley’s Mine
Man killed when he fell off tub when riding in shaft 32 yards deep.
1896 HM Inspector of Mines Report – Grange Colliery
Man killed by roof fall.
1896 HM Inspector of Mines Report – Granville Colliery
Man killed by roof fall.
1896 HM Inspector of Mines Report – Highley Colliery
Man killed when crushed by tub on surface.
1896 HM Inspector of Mines Report – Snailbeach Mine
Man had an arm broken when trapped between a wagon and the cage. An engineman was injured when he slipped getting out of a hopper underground and fell onto the tippler. A youth was killed when crushed riding on the beam of the pumping engine.
1896 HM Inspector of Mines Report – Woodhouse Colliery
Man killed when run over by tub and another killed roof fall.
1897 - Cruckmeole Pit
A collier was burned by an explosion of firedamp, ignited by his candle.
1897 - East Roman Gravels Mine
George Pugh, aged 55, was killed by an explosion of a shot of gunpowder while he was attempting to unram it.
1897 – Grange Colliery
A banksman was injured as he was pushing a tub into the cage.
1897 - Hinksay Pit
A brakesman was killed during shunting.
1897 – Muxton Bridge Colliery
A miner was injured when he was struck on the head by debris while blasting.
1897 – Overton’s Pit
A collier was struck on the knee by a piece of roof and died of blood poisoning.
1897 – Priorslee Colliery
A man was killed while demolishing a building at an abandoned pit when a wall fell on him.
1897 - Rock Colliery
A collier was injured when a length of doubles (winding chain) fell down the shaft.
1897 – Snailbeach Mine
A miner fell off a ladder but survived a 24ft fall into the sump. A loco stoker called Edwards was killed when he was run over and crushed by a low flat wagon pushed by a locomotive.
1897 - Turners Yard Mine
A miner was killed by a fall of stone while working in ancient gob.
1897 - Woodhouse Colliery
A man was killed when he was crushed while putting a full tub onto the cage.
1898 Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News April 2nd – Pudley Hill PIt
On Saturday an inquest was held by Mr J V T Lander, coroner, on view of the body of Richard Rowlands, a miner, who was killed under shocking circumstances. Mrs Rowlands identified the body as that of her husband. He was employed by Mr Ferriday at Pudley Pit. On Thursday he went to work, and Mr Watkiss brought him home hurt. John Freeman said he was working with deceased repairing at the pumping-shaft. All went well through the day until about seven in the evening, when deceased must have slipped and fell down the shaft about 30 yards. Witness then descended and got him up. Witness thought it was a pure accident, as deceased was an experienced man, and was quite sober. Sarah Ann Watkiss, of Old Park, said she laid the body of deceased out. His left leg and right thigh were broken and his head was bruised; he had made no complaint or reference to the accident. The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from injuries received through failing down the pit accidentally, and added a rider that in their opinion men should not be allowed to do such work without a safeguard being provided, such as a belt.
1898 Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News May 28th – Madeley Court Colliery
When working in the Madeley Court Colliery on Tuesday, John Maiden, Finger Road, Dawley, was seriously hurt, and had to be conveyed to his home and attended to by Dr Procter.
1899 Shrewsbury & Wellington Journal May 20th – Fish House Pit
On Monday morning about 8.30 a serious accident occurred to a youth (about 14), named Alfred Gough (son of Charles Gough, Severn side, Ironbridge), who was employed in a coalpit at the Fish House, Broseley, worked by Mr Richard Jones of Ferney Bank, Broseley. It appears that Gough was passing along the tramway when there was a slight fall, of earth, caused by a slip on the side, and before he could get out of the way it fell upon him, fracturing one of his thighs, besides other slight injuries. Dr Jacobsen was immediately sent for, and he was promptly in attendance at the pit, but for more effectual examination of his patient he had him conveyed to his surgery, where he, together with his partner (Dr Holt), did all that was necessary in the case, and upon their advice he was sent to the Salop Infirmary, his father and his employer (Mr Richard Jones) accompanying him. It appears that shortly before the accident the place where the earth fell was examined and thought to be safe.
1899 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News June 3rd – Tankerville Mine
An accident which had a fatal termination, and which has caused considerable sorrow in the neighbourhood of Roman Gravels, has recently occurred. On Tuesday evening a man named John Grove, aged about 44 years, who was well accustomed to work in the pits, went on duty at the Tankerville mine at six o’clock. The mode of transit from one level to another was by means of ladders, and while descending one of these it suddenly collapsed, and Groves was precipitated a distance of about 20 yards. A fellow-workman named Thomas Edwards went to his assistance, and found him in an unconscious condition, but still alive. Groves was at once conveyed to the surface, and afterwards to an adjacent cottage, but died within three-quarters of an hour. Examination disclosed the fact that he was terribly injured. One of his arms was broken and his ribs were fractured badly. Deceased unfortunately leaves a widow and 10 children. He was a very steady, industrious man, and as will be seen from a report of the Gravels Friendly Society Anniversary, held yesterday and given elsewhere, appreciative and sympathetic references were made to him by those who knew him best. Alterations are being carried on at the mine, and it is stated that a chain must have caught the ladder the deceased descended, and pulled it from its foundations, so that it easily gave way to the weight of the deceased, he being a man of considerable size.
An inquest on the body was held yesterday at the Sun Inn, Roman Gravels, by Mr R E Clarke (coroner). Prior to the opening of the inquiry the Coroner and Mr Atkinson (H.M. Inspector of Mines) visited the scene of the accident, and made a thorough inspection of the plant used and of the mine in which the fatality occurred. Evidence was given by Sarah Groves, widow of the deceased, who deposed that her husband’s wages recently had been £1 per week. William Titley, who worked with the deceased, said someone shouted from the 28th fathom that the chain-an iron one, weighing about 4 cwt.-had broken. They at once went to the level mentioned, and made preparations to repair the chain. Deceased coming to the top to the blacksmith’s shop for a new link, which he subsequently brought down. They started to descend lower, deceased going first. They got down one ladder and deceased went on as if to use the second, when witness beard a crash. Deceased’s light (a candle carried in his hat) went out and witness then shouted, but received no reply. Witness then looked about to see what had happened, and discovered that the ladder on which the deceased was descending the mine had disappeared. Deceased was afterwards found lying on a stage about 15 yards from the bottom of the mine with the chain near him. He was taken to the surface at once, but expired before he actually landed. By Mr Atkinson: The chain had been in use about 20 years ; but be had never known it brought up to be repaired.- By the Coroner: He had not heard any direct complaints about the chain, but the men on the bank had said that, it was not so good as it had been. Thomas Edwards, agent of the mine, said he was down the workings on Tuesday, and found everything right. He had received no complaints as to the state of the ladder. The chain had been repaired twice during the six months he had been at the mine, but it had never been brought to the surface for the purpose of repair, because the men did not travel when it was working. At the conclusion of the evidence the jury consulted together in private for some time, and then passed the following verdict:- “We find that the deceased came to his death accidentally, but we are of opinion that the Mine ought to be carried on under more modern principles and with more regard to the safety of the men, and that the shaft should be put in proper, repair before again being used as a roadway for the men."
1899 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News July 8th – Station Pit
On Saturday morning a miner named William Knight (57) was killed by black damp at the Station Pit, Oakengates, which belongs to Sir Thomas Meyrick, Bart., and is being worked by Messrs. Hopley Brothers. It appears that the deceased, with another man, a sinker, named Thomas Evans, entered the bucket at the pit for the purpose of descending to the bottom. When three feet from the bottom Knight exclaimed, “ Oh Lord, Tom,” and fell to the ground. Evans, who also suffered from the black damp, tried to lift Knight into the bucket, but could not, and he was drawn up to the surface. However, he made a praiseworthy attempt to rescue his comrade by descending the shaft a second time, but again he was unsuccessful, and about a quarter-of-an-hour elapsed before the unfortunate man was drawn to the surface, when life was found to be extinct. On Monday Mr J V T Lander (coroner) held an inquest on the body at the Falcon Inn, Oakengates, when a remarkable story was related. Mr W N Atkinson (Her Majesty’s Inspector of Mines) was present. Mr S B Dean, solicitor, Wellington, represented the deceased’s relatives, and Mr J Ferriday appeared on behalf of Messrs. Hopley. Thomas Knight, collier, living at Church Street, Oakengates, said he was working at the Round House Pit on Saturday morning. He was told that he was wanted as there was bad news for him. Witness said, “My father is killed.” He went to the Station Pit, and was told that the air was pure to within three feet of the bottom of the shaft. The deceased was in good health up to the time of his death, had been a collier nearly all his life, and was an experienced workman.
John Jones, who was engaged at the Station Pit as a banksman, said he heard Evans tell the deceased not to get out of the bucket; but he did step out when about three feet from the bottom and step on to another bucket. When Evans came up he said, “Knight is lost at the bottom,” and witness understood that he was killed by the black damp.- By Mr. Atkinson : The pit in question is an old one, which was being cleaned out. Witness was leaning over the top of the shaft to listen if the men shouted. They both took lights down with them. He heard Evans stout, “Pull up! “ and witness passed the word to the engineman. That was about five minutes after the bucket had stopped. Evans seemed scared when he came to the top. The men did not send a light down the pit before they went down themselves that morning. They had been working there three days. Evans and a man named Hassall, the under-manager, went down the pit and brought the deceased up.- By ,Mr Dean : There had been no inspection of the pit that morning. They tied a chain round Knight’s body and pulled him up.- A juryman (to witness): What proof have you that Knight got out of the bucket before he got to the bottom of the shaft. - I could see him. Thomas Evans said he went down the pit with the deceased, and they examined as they went down. When witness saw the pipe disconnected at the bottom he told Knight to remain in the bucket. He did not do that, however, but got out when three feet from the bottom, and stepped on to a full bucket. He immediately exclaimed “Oh Lord, Tom,” and fell down. Witness tried to lift him up, but could not. He came up for fresh air, and afterwards went down again by himself, but that time he could not get out of the bucket because of the black damp. After some minutes had elapsed Hassall and witness went down again. Knight was then dead. They put a chain round him, and he was pulled to the top. The black damp affected witness very much. They both had candles.- By Mr. Atkinson: He was a sinker, and appointed to the pit as chargeman to make an examination. The last pipe near the bottom had become disconnected, and the result was that the air would not circulate further than the bottom of the pit. Both the lights were burning, and they always carried the lights.-Mr. Atkinson : Why don’t you send a light down first? -We don’t do that.- Mr. Atkinson Then it is possible for you to get into the black damp before you know that damp exists. That has happened to many unfortunate men who had as much experience as you.- Witness: I have never sent a light down first.- Mr. Atkinson: Is it not the safest course to adopt?- Witness: The safest and best thing to do is to prove it yourself- Mr. Atkinson You may think so; but you are quite mistaken. If you had lowered a light you would have known there was damp at the bottom.-
Witness: You cannot prove it until you have proof that there is damp.- Mr. Atkinson : Of course you can soon prove it by killing yourself. Don’t you know that when dealing with an old shaft it is safer to send a light down first?- Well, yes, I think it would be.- Mr, Atkinson : I hope you will take that precaution in future.- In reply to further questions, the witness said he did not say anything to Knight when he got out of the bucket. Deceased was at the bottom for about a quarter-of-an-hoar.- Mr. Atkinson : If you had sent for help first it would have been better.- In reply to Mr. Dean, witness said the lights were burning up to the time deceased fell, but admitted that when they were really at the bottom the lights were out.- A juryman: Is there any way of proving the existence of damp at the bottom of a pit?- Mr. Atkinson : The simplest way is to send a light down, although there is nothing in the rules stating that a light must be sent down. Both the men might have been killed. Dr. Wilkinson said he was called to the Station Pit a few minutes before seven o’clock, when he saw the deceased in an outhouse. Artificial respiration was resorted to, but the man was dead and must have been dead from the time he was brought to the surface. He had made a post-mortem examination of the body and attributed death to suffocation. Mr. Dean called two witnesses:
1899 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News September 30th – Snailbeach Mine
On Wednesday, at noon, a miner named Richard Crowther left his comrades in the Snailbeach Lead Mines for the purpose of coming up to attend the funeral of a former workman at the mines. In doing so the poor fellow met with a dreadful accident, for shortly afterwards his body was found dreadfully crushed not far from the cage. No one was with him when the accident happened, but it is supposed by some means the man must have been dragged under the cage while it was in motion, and thus got crushed to death. Deceased was chief pitman of the miners, and had worked at Snailbeach many years. Great sympathy is felt with Mrs. Crowther and the family, who are much respected in the neighbourhood.
1902 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News Saturday July 5th – Kemberton Colliery
An aged collier, named Dunning Dawley, whilst working at the Kemberton Pits yesterday (Friday) was accidentally thrown out of the Basket, and broke his arms.
1902 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News July 12th – Stafford Colliery
A pit accident of a terrible character occurred at the "Stafford" Collieries of the Lilleshall Company on Saturday, which are situated between St. George's and Shifnal. It appears that an engine-man named William George Cartwright (38 years of age) and two other men, William Pickering and Daniel Williams, were engaged in doing repairs to a valve, a portion of the pumping apparatus in a water shaft. They had just completed their work, and were preparing, to ascend the shaft, when the beam upon which they were standing collapsed, and Cartwright was precipitated to the bottom of the pit, from which his lifeless body was taken out in a terribly-mangled condition a short time afterwards. Pickering also dropped down the shaft, but he missed striking against the sides of the boring, and though immersed in the water up to his neck, he managed to cling to a rod until he was rescued from his perilous position. The third man, Williams, had a miraculous escape, as he also was standing upon the beam, but at that portion which stood firm. He shouted, and was able to pull the bell wire, and was speedily brought to the surface. Williams and other men descended the shaft, and Pickering and the body of the unfortunate man Cartwright were brought to the top. An inquest on the body of Cartwright was opened at Priorslee on Monday evening, before Mr. J. V. T. Lander (coroner). The representatives of the Lilleshall Company present were Mr. J. Greene (underground manager), Mr. N. T. Beech (chief colliery manager), and Mr. J. Frith (colliery engineer). - In opening the proceedings the Coroner said he understood another man also was injured in the accident, but it was hoped he would recover. He was given to understand by Mr. Beech that there was every chance of that now, and it might be the jury's wish to hear the evidence of that man. In any circumstances he did not propose to continue the inquiry that evening, as it was one of those cases in which they should hear the Mines' Inspector. - Mr. Beech said the Inspector had been to the place of the accident, but had had to leave to catch a train. - Mr. Edkins, printer, of Priors-lee, having given evidence of identification, and the jury having viewed the body, the inquiry was adjourned.
The inquest was resumed yesterday at the George Hotel, St. George's, before Mr. J. V. T. Lander (coroner). Mr. Stokes (H.M. Inspector of Mines) was present, and Mr. Beech again represented the Lilleshall Company. Daniel Williams was the first witness called. He said he was an engine man living at the Rock Terrace, St. George's, and was employed under the Lilleshall Company, at the Stafford pits. On Saturday afternoon, he was working with the de-ceased who was screwing up a door in connection with the pumps in the pit shaft at Stafford Pits. Cartwright and Pickering were on the one side, and witness on the other. They were all standing on two planks, which were always in the shaft. The planks were examined, and appeared to be all right on Saturday. They were placed on bearers, which gave way, and the plank on which Pickering and the deceased were standing fell down the shaft. The two men were on the same plank and fell together a distance of about 59 yards. Witness said that as soon as he missed his comrades he worked his way up to the top. John Williams then went down the shaft with him. They found Pickering first at the bottom, but could see nothing of Cartwright. They got Pickering up to the top. Witness did not go down again. John Williams, Jabez Minor, and Joseph Minor fetched the deceased up. When they brought him to the surface he was quite dead. His leg was broken, and the back of his head injured. The bearer breaking would cause the accident. They could have had whatever timber they wanted, for the bearer, but they considered it to be quite safe. The bearers were sometimes corroded with the water, but the sinkers usually examine them. - In answer to the Inspector, witness said he was not responsible for the examination of the shafts; it was the sinkers' work, and John Fletcher was the chief. They generally went down once a week to see if every-thing was alright. -In reply to a juryman the witness said he had his back to the other two men when they fell. There were belts provided by the company at the Old Yard, but none at the colliery and, as far as he was given to understand, the men objected to wear them. He thought it would be an extra safe-guard for them, but the men thought they would get entangled in them. He had also instituted a weekly examination of the shafts.
John Williams, St. George's Buildings, a, foreman employed under the Lilleshall Company, said the deceased was going to change what they called a pillow clack in the pump, and for that purpose had to go down 50 yards. He would rest on scaffolding and bearers. Pickering and the last witness were with the deceased. They were all on the two planks. Witness did not know what had happened until Williams shouted up "get ready". Williams told witness the bearer had broken and the others had fallen down the shaft. They got Pickering up first. That would be about 10 minutes after the fall. Cartwright was in the water, about six feet deep, at the bottom. He was quite dead. They always inspected the place when they went down; they made a weekly examination. They also had to stand on the planks to make the examination, which was made the day before the accident happened. They felt all round and stamped on the planks, and their orders were to make a thorough examination. The corrosion would make a difference in the sound. They had belts, but they had never been used. The men did not care to use them. If any man wanted one he could have it, as they were provided for them. He had never troubled about one for himself .-In reply to the Inspector the witness said he could not say who was responsible for the examination of the, shaft. They made the examination themselves generally. The thickness of the corrosion on the bearers was about half-an-inch, and the size of bearer would be 5 feet by 4 feet. The examination they made was stamping and hitting with the spanner. He had never used a pick, but he thought a sharp instrument would be better. It was seen that the bearer after the accident was in a very bad state. The deceased was a competent man at his work.
Noel T. Beech, residing at Muxton, near Newport, and manager for the Lilleshall Company, said he was well acquainted with the Stafford Pits. He received a report of the accident on Saturday, and proceeded to the pit. He went down the shaft and saw what had happened. He saw the ends of the bearer had given way. The wood part was hard and the inside decayed. The place was examined once a week. He had caused a weekly examination to be made because he deemed it necessary for the safety of the men, and also to ensure the efficiency of the pumps. Fletcher was the foreman, and his last examination was made the day before the accident happened. He did not say in his report that there was anything wrong. It was quite evident the timber was decayed. Witness had examined the place since the accident. Witness heard what had been said with regard to belts. They were provided at his suggestion, and recommended by Mr. Atkinson, H.M. Inspector of Mines, but the men objected to them. There was nothing in the Act to compel the men to use the belts. The deceased would have been alive nosy had he worn one of the belts. Cartwright was a very good steady workman, who knew his work well. Witness now suggested the use of the iron instruments, whereby the timber had to be examined by probing one end, and using the hammer at the other. He also thought iron girders instead of wood girders would be better.
John Fletcher, a sinker in the employ of the Lilleshall Company, said it was his duty to examine pit shafts (the winding pits chiefly), and the watering pits when he was called upon. He knew the Stafford Pit, and had examined that shaft the day before the accident. He examined the brickwork and turned the water in the pumping shafts. He did not examine the bearers. When he saw any not safe he changed them. He had put some in this shaft, and planks. He examined by sight and did not hit it at all. He had not changed this particular plank nor bearers. They got corroded. He generally tapped but did not probe into them; he did not know that he was responsible for the examination of these pumping shafts, bearers, and planks. John Williams was the man to look after the pumping shaft timber. There was nothing wrong the day he went down that he saw. He believed the bearers wore good enough to carry the planks, but he knew now they were not Had he have tapped them he should have known whether they were right or not, but. he only sighed them.- In answer to the Inspector witness said he was foreman over the men of the winding shaft, but not the pumping shaft. He understood his duties well in the winding shafts, but not he the pumping shaft. He was only called in to assist in the latter. Mr. Beech said he had heard the evidence of the last witness, and he said he considered it was the engineman's duty to examine, and Fletcher should have examined the same. These shafts were distinct from the winding shafts. When Fletcher was called to go to any shaft it was his duty to examine the whole of the shaft. By sight was not sufficient -He (Mr. Beech was not bound by any regulation to make a weekly examination of these pumping shafts, but he had carried it out himself. He now saw that it could be improved upon, and it should be done. The bearer broke off close to the brickwork on one side and across the bearer on the other. This completed the evidence, and the coroner having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death", and added to that verdict the following rider : -"That in future there should be more stringent measures with regard to the examination of these pumping shafts". Mr. Beech said he would convey the jury's remarks to Mr. Parrott, his chief, and he was sure the suggestion would be acted upon. The inquiry then terminated.
1902 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News December 6th – Stafford Colliery
On Thursday Sir. J. V. T. Lander (coroner) held an inquest at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Dark Lane, touching the death of John Samuels, aged 59, a collier. The deceased, who was employed under the Lilleshall Company at the Stafford Pits, was accidentally burned on November 25th. Mr. W. N. Atkinson (his Majesty's Inspector of Mines) and Mr. Stokes (his assistant) were pre-sent, and Mr. N. T. Beech and Mr. Greene represented the Lilleshall Company. Ann Whittington, wife of William Whittington, Dark Lane, Dawley, said she was present when the deceased was taken home. He was then suffering from burns over the face, back, arms, and all over his body. He said it had happened in the pit, but did not say how. He made no complaint of anybody or anything. Dr. McCarthy was called in. and had attended him since.
Charles Rigby, a lamp-cleaner, employed by the Lilleshall Company at the Stafford Pits, stated that he knew the deceased, and last saw him at work on the 25th November. Witness's duties are to clean, light, and lock the lamps, and he locked the lamp the deceased had that morning. No one else is allowed to have the keys, but witness. Witness remembered giving the deceased his lamp, and he went to work. The next witness heard was at breakfast time the same morning, when some men told him that a man had got burned. He went to the place and then saw the lamps, and all were locked, including that given to deceased. Witness was told there had been an explosion, but could not say what was the cause of it. - In answer to the Inspector. Witness said he knew Samuels's lamp by the number. All lamps were locked in the same way as shown by the lamp produced. He could not say how they would be able to unfasten these lamps without a key. He had never found any lamps unlocked, and had no reason to think that the men tampered with these locks. If a miner wanted to open his lamp he would have to steal a key out of the lamp room. There were two loose keys there and two fast ones.
John Corbett, a fireman, employed at the Stafford Pits, said he saw the deceased when he came to work. It was the duty of witness to examine the lamp locks. He examined the deceased's, and it was fast, and appeared all right in every way. Witness thought deceased must have done something to his lamp. If the lamp went out it was deceased's duty to send it to the lamp station for witness to put it right again. Witness was satisfied the lamp was perfectly fast when deceased had it given to him. Absalom Pitchford, also a fireman, employed at the same place, stated that he set deceased, on the morning of the accident, to get some coal down. Witness had been down previously and examined the place, and after he heard there had been an explosion, he went, in company with the under-manager, Mr. Green, to the place. He was present when the lamps were examined, which appeared all right. Witness said there was a slackness of the ventilation, but he thought it was safe enough for the men to work. It must have been gas that caused the explosion. If the deceased's lamp was unfastened it was sufficient to cause the explosion, or if a man struck a match that would do it. - In answer to the Inspector, witness said he was in this place about 4-45 that morning to examine before the men commenced their work, and he made a report of examining the workings, and finding them safe. He found no gas anywhere that morning. John Churm said he was working with deceased, but could not account for the explosion. The deceased was blown and burnt all over his body and arms. Deceased's lamp was afterwards found to be in two parts. Witness saw the deceased screwing his lamp on again. Witness said they were aware that the lamps were, dangerous. This lamp, if opened by the deceased, would cause the explosion. Witness was sure the deceased had had it undone, but how he could not say. Witness saw nothing more than' usual in the ventilation that morning. He had never heard of lamps being unfastened in these pits.
James Tonks said he was working in No. 5 stall. He knew the deceased, who was in No. 6. Witness said he had his lamp given to him in the usual way. Witness said he felt a gush of hot wind on the Tuesday morning, and was rather shocked at first. He ran towards the way end, and returned with his mates. They saw the deceased, who had several marks on his face, body, and arms. Witness asked him what had happened, but all he said was "James, my lamp". Witness saw his lamp in two parts about a yard apart. Deceased must have taken it off himself. Witness told Samuels at the time that he ought to have known better than interfere with his lamp. He admitted doing it, and he asked witness what he had better do, and witness told him to own up to the truth. He could not say whether he had or not. - In answer to the Inspector, witness said this was the first time he had known a lamp to be undone. The men were not searched before entering the pit. John Greene, assistant manager, said the case was reported to him, and he afterwards visited the place to make an examination. There were no signs in No. 5 or 6 stall of gas, but there was gas in the air road leading to No. 6. When there had been an explosion they generally expected to find gas. He considered there was plenty of ventilation. The deceased unfastening his lamp would cause the explosion. He had endeavoured to find out what had caused it, but could not. He did not think the men were in the habit of opening their lamps. - In answer to the inspector, witness said he knew there were' other lamps, and much better ones, with lead plugs. - The Inspector recommended the use of these lamps, as it would be impossible to open them, once they were fastened. Deceased told witness that he could not give him any idea how the explosion happened. This completed the inquiry, and the Coroner, in summing up, said it was a miracle something serious had not happened to all the other men. From the evidence the deceased had no doubt opened his lamp, and the evidence of Tonks showed clearly that the cause of the explosion was due to the opening of this particular lamp. He felt sure any suggestion the jury wished to make would be considered by the Lilleshall Company. The jury in returning a verdict of "Death from shock, the result of injuries accidentally received by burning", added to their verdict the following rider: "That in the opinion of this jury the burning was caused by an explosion of gas in the Stafford Pits, which was brought about by the deceased unfastening his lamp, and they recommend that the Lilleshall Company should adopt some better means of securing the lamps". Mr. Beech said the recommendation of the jury should be brought to the notice of Mr. Perrott, and the inquiry then terminated.
On Tuesday morning 26th April 1904 at 3.30am, a new wooden pump rod was being lowered down the shaft to replace an older one. The rod was 46ft long, 13 inches square and said to weigh 25 tons. It was attached to the rope of a capstan by lashing a 7/8 inch chain once around the rod about 13ft from the end and then passing it through the jaw of a hook on the end of the chain. Three men were placed in the shaft cage a short way down the shaft to guide the rod through the pit top as it was lowered. Although it had been in the lashing for 1( hours before lowering without problems, as soon as movement downwards commenced the rod slipped its lashing and, as it fell down the shaft, took the cage with it. All three men in the cage were killed and further pumping became impossible. On Saturday 30th April the Wellington Journal reported the accident and, under the heading "Feared loss of valuable horses", said that due to the incident water had had to be re-directed from the pumping shaft to the coal winding area. Unfortunately in the Clod and Top Coal Seams within this area there were 19 horses which had not been fed since Monday 25th and it was impossible to get to them. There was 5ft of water in the Lower Clod Coal inset but on the morning of publication efforts were being made to convey food to the horses using a raft. "All the horses belong to Mr William Cooper the Chartermaster and it is feared some will not be got out alive".
On Saturday 7th May the newspaper reported the men had succeeded in reaching the 19 horses which had been imprisoned without food for over 4 days. The men had had to wade through water up to their armpits in order to reach the horses. "It is very gratifying to state that they were successful and that the horses were in fairly good condition". During the week up to the 7th, workmen had succeeded in putting in a new pump rod and on Thursday 5th about 8.00am the "big water engine" was put into motion. Shortly afterwards a further accident occurred involving the cage and rods so pumping of water had to be suspended. Again, it had become impossible to get to the horses to feed them. Regarding the out of work miners, a miners' meeting decided to give 10 shillings to each of the members of the Federation (Union) and for the non-members a collection would be made. On Saturday 14th May, the newspaper reported the inquest. It added that pumping was still impossible and that the 19 horses had not been fed since the meal on Saturday 7th May. There was, however, happier news about the unemployed men, "a good number of the workmen have been distributed to the Freehold, Grange, Woodhouse and Stafford Pits".
On Saturday 21st May there was a heading "Mine horses rescued". After 10 days without food, miners had managed to get to the starving horses. One was found to be dead and the rest in a very bad condition. In fact 3 more had died since the rescue on the 17th. The horses had been fed only once between 25th April and 17th May. No further reports have been found in the newspaper but work did resume at the colliery and in fact continued for a further 75 years. The fate of the remaining horses was not recorded. At the end of the year, the Mines Inspector Mr Atkinson reported that he believed the method of securing the rod to the rope had not been as good as it should have been. A more usual and safer method of lashing was to pass the lashing chains twice round the rod and through a link, instead of a hook at the end of the chain. The pumping engine at Granville was built in the 1860s, reputedly by the Lilleshall Company. It was of the Cornish type with 74 inch cylinder, 10ft stroke, steam pressure 24 lbs per square inch, condensing, worked 3 sets of pumps, lowest 9 inch diameter lifting type, middle and top 14 inch diameter forcing, raising water from 600ft. It was removed early this century.
1905 Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News January 2nd - Highley Colliery
A horse driver, Alfred Davies aged 17, was burned in the pit by paraffin oil. The drivers used small torch lamps fed with paraffin oil and were allowed free access to a tank of the oil, from which they were in the habit of taking supplies in bottles and tins. When the accident happened a boy was filling a lamp from an old fruit can, the oil in which caught fire and he dropped it, and the burning oil fell on the legs and feet of the deceased, whose clothing was oily and he was so severely burnt that he died next day. After this accident the use of paraffin oil for the drivers lamps was abandoned and Colza oil substituted for it.
1906 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News June 30th – Woodhouse Colliery
A shocking and fatal accident occurred to a miner named James William Clift, employed in the Woodhouse Pit, St. George's, near Wellington, last Week, and on Monday Mr. Coroner Lauder investigated the circumstances attending the poor fellow's death. Joseph Clay, a fireman, said deceased was working in stall No. 60. Witness examined the stall before deceased commenced to work, and as far as he could see there was nothing wrong. He spoke to deceased after the accident, and deceased said he was getting a few coals when it fell on him. He examined the place after the accident, and found that about a ton of coal had fallen. The accident occurred in the airway. The place was properly supported in accordance with the regulations. He could not account for the fall of coal. Deceased had no right to fetch the coal from the airway, and should not have been there. He found a dresser there; deceased would not require a dresser to get the loose coal out. By finding the dresser there he thought deceased had been "pulling" the coal. He had no business to do that, and there was no necessity for deceased to fetch the coal from the airway. Harry Ferriday stated that he was working with deceased. He had not been working half-an-hour when he heard him call out, "Oh dear, pull me out". He went to deceased, and found him in the airway buried up to his waist. The roof had fallen in, and about a ton had come down. They were not sent to work in the airway. From the Saturday till the Tuesday morning a quantity of coal had fallen, and deceased went to get it out. Dr. Johnson stated that he attended deceased, and found him suffering from severe injuries to his back. Death was the result of the accident. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death”. The remains of the unfortunate man were on Tuesday interred in the Parish Church-yard, Dawley. The funeral was largely attended, as the deceased was much esteemed. He leaves a widow and a large family, for whom the greatest sympathy is felt.
1906 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News November 10th – Meadow Pit
Mr. F.H.Potts, Coroner, held an inquiry on Wednesday concerning the death of Arthur Turner. George Turner, father of the deceased, a colliery winder residing in Park Street (Madeley), said that his brother Charles brought home the deceased saying he had fallen into boiling water at the Meadow Pit. The lad was scalded from the knees downwards. Dr.Reynolds attended the injuries, and the boy up to the time of his death. Deceased told a witness that in saving his little brother he fell into the water himself. The water was about a yard deep. Deceased had been at the Meadow Pit playing cricket with other boys. There was no public footpath or road within 80 yards of the place where he fell in. The hot water from the boiler of the pumping engine was emptied into the ditch once a month, and they were emptying the boiler when the deceased fell in, James Sherwood and George Jenks, 2 little boys, also gave evidence, Jeanette Ward, wife of a banksman, stated that she saw from her window deceased fall into the water. The Jury returned a verdict of "Death from scalds, accidentally received."
1908 Mines Inspector Report – Waxhill Barracks Colliery
At the Barracks Pit, Donnington Colliery, (Shropshire), on 8th July, a foreman sinker was killed under somewhat peculiar circumstances. The shaft in question, which is 285 yards in depth, is only used at intervals of from four to six weeks for access to a water level for purposes of inspection and repair; and on each of these occasions an engineman is sent on the previous day to get up the steam, examine the engine, and get it into working order. The engine has a single horizontal cylinder, 18 inches in diameter, with a stroke of 3 feet, the slide valve being worked by a single eccentric. The winding drum is cylindrical, 10 feet in diameter, working on the second motion, the ratio of gearing being 3 to 1. A strap brake, fitted with wood blocks, grips the lower half of a brake rim bolted to the flywheel, and is worked by a tramp passing down through the floor. A similar brake grips a rim on the cheek of the winding drum, and is worked by a lever placed 4 feet to the left of the reversing lever.
On the date named deceased was ascending in the cage, after having examined the shaft and started another man to make some repairs in the water level. The cage was raised at the usual speed, and when it reached a point about 50 yards from bank, the engineman raised the eccentric rod out of the catch and shut off steam, thereafter shifting the slide valve with the hand lever. When the cage was about 25 yards from bank, he applied the flywheel brake, by pressing down the tramp, which, however, he alleged, stuck about 5 inches above its usual position.
Finding that the speed of the engine was not being sufficiently reduced, he applied the drum brake, but as the cage was then at or near the mouth of the shaft, he turned back to the engine, slightly opened the throttle valve, and tried to stop the engine by throwing the steam against the piston. Unfortunately, in the excitement of the moment, he appears to have lost his head, and so shifted the hand lever that the steam accelerated, instead of retarding, the engine. The cage went up rapidly on the pulley, tilted over and fell on one side. Deceased, who was on the lower deck, was jerked out, fell to the ground and rebounded into the shaft, falling to the bottom. The engineman had never previously known the brake to stick, or appear to be in any way defective. The engineer examined it immediately after the accident, and found it in perfect order. “I examined it carefully on the following day and failed to find any evidence that it had stuck, or reason why it should have failed to act.” The engineman, who was 71 years of age, had been employed in this capacity at the colliery for 50 years, during 30 of which he had worked over sinkers, and he had never had an accident before. The manager, engineer, and sinkers all expressed their perfect confidence in him. The accident would probably have been prevented if a detaching-hook had been in use.
1910 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News December 10th – Kemberton Colliery
A gloom was cast over the town of Madeley when it became known that a shocking disaster had occurred at the Kemberton Colliery, the property of the Madeley Wood Colliery Company, on Sunday night, whereby seven lives were lost. Eleven men, under the charge of Fireman George Gough, were to have gone down that night to do some repairs in preparation for the 200 or 300 miners who should have begun work in the early hours of Monday morning. At the time for descending the shaft, however, only nine men and youths had put in an appearance, and the fireman directed that two of the men should await the arrival of the absentees, and go down into the pit by the next cage. The signal was given for the descent, and when the cage had gone down about forty yards the rope suddenly snapped, and the cage containing the men was precipitated to the bottom of the shaft, some 800 feet below, with terrible consequences, the seven, miners being dashed to pieces. The colliery manager was summoned, and help was soon forthcoming. When the rescue party descended the pit by the other shaft they saw a shocking spectacle, the bodies being so mangled as to be almost beyond recognition. They were brought to the surface and placed the engine room for identification, and here some heart-rending scenes were subsequently witnessed, when the widows and families of the men and other relatives and friends were summoned to the spot.
The victims were George Gough, Prince Street, Madeley (who leaves a wife and four children); Arthur Wilton, Park Lane, Madeley (wife and two children) ; Richard Rogers, Victoria Road, Madeley (wife and two children); Thomas Glenister, Dawley (wife and eight children) : Alphonso Stanley, Shifnal, 19, single: Randolph Cecil Miles, Prince Street, boy 14; and Albert Jones, Church Road, Dawley, boy 14. Up to the present the reason of the rope breaking is wrapped in mystery. It had been duly tested as late as Sunday morning, the day of the accident, and appeared to be in perfect condition. The breaking strain of this particular rope is said to be 60 tons, and at the time of the accident the total weight of the cage and its occupants would only be about 30 cwt. The other pits owned by the Madeley Wood Colliery Company were closed for the day on Monday; and political meetings arranged to be held in the district were cancelled by Captain Forester. Mr. Henry and Mr. Stanier, who have each sent messages of sympathy with the bereaved relatives of the victims of the accident. The Madeley Wood Company has received the following telegram from Mr. H. Johnstone, H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines:— "I am desired by the Secretary of State to convey to the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives through the unfortunate accident in the Kemberton pit shaft on Sunday night an expression of his great regret and deep sympathy."
The inquiry was opened by Mr. Coroner Lander and a jury on Tuesday. Mr. Hugh Johnstone, H M. Inspector of Mines, and his assistant, Mr. Wynne, were present, and also Mr. Phillips, solicitor, Shifnal, in addition to the colliery managers. Before the inquiry was proceeded with, Mr. Phillips, with the Coroner's permission, said that he had received a telegram from Sir Arthur Anstice as follows:— "I wish my deepest sympathy expressed at inquest today to wives and families of poor miners and boys killed". Mr. Phillips also spoke of the sympathy which the company extended to the relatives in their sad bereavement, adding that no words would adequately express their feelings. The Coroner and jury would he rendered every possible assistance to arrive at the truth and the exact cause of the accident. Mr. Latham, on behalf of the Miners' Federation, said he had also received numerous telegrams of condolence, and on behalf of the Federation expressed his deepest sympathy. Mr. Hugh Johnstone intimated to the Coroner that he had received a message from the Home Secretary, condoling with the bereaved relatives and friends of the unfortunate victims. The bodies were then viewed, and after formal evidence of identification had been given by William Fletcher, bank foreman, who lives at Madeley, the inquiry was adjourned until Friday week, when it will be reopened at the Police Station at Shifnal.
On Thursday in very stormy weather, with rain continuously falling, were laid to rest in Madeley Parish Churchyard, four of Sunday night's victims, viz., George Gough, Arthur Wilton, Richard Rogers, and Randolph Cecil Miles. At the request of the Mayor (Alderman A. B. Dyas) business was suspended during the obsequies. Shops were closed, and every cottage throughout the town had its blinds drawn. The whole town was in mourning, whilst hundreds of mourners of the general public made their way to the recently-restored Parish Church, where an impressive service was conducted by the Rev. E. Bulstrode Pryce (vicar), assisted by the curate (the Rev. R. Gillenders). The streets were lined with interested spectators, and at the graveside nearly the whole of those present (2,000) were moved to tears. The bodies were conveyed to the colliery manager's (Mr. J. Cock's) residence, and a procession of the whole of the Madeley Wood "Field", numbering 1,000, with tradesmen and others, pathetically wended their way to the old church, the line of the route being crowded with the inhabitants of the district. The evidence of William Fletcher, banksman, who identified the bodies at the original inquiry, was read over.— In answer to Mr. Johnstone, witness said he had nothing to do with the rope. It was his duty to overlook the men and women who worked at the top. It was about 16 months since the rope was put on. It was wound off a reel on to the drum. There was no kinking whatever. All that he knew about the accident was that he was called to the pit to receive the bodies when they were brought up.— In reply to questions put by Mr. Willcox, witness said it was the duty of the fireman to examine the shaft. The fireman's name was Tranter. Witness did not know whether he examined the shaft daily. Sometimes the examination was made by another fireman named York. He did not know who examined the shaft on the day of the accident. He could not tell who examined it that week.— In answer to the Coroner, witness said he did not know whose duty it was to examine the shaft on the day of the accident.
John Cox, Madeley, said he was manager for the Madeley Wood Colliery Company at Kemberton Pit. The depth of the shaft was 338 yards, and the diameter eight feet. There was one double-deck cage, each deck carrying one ton. The cage was attached to the rope by two wire guide-rods, each 1 1/8 inches in diameter. The rope was of the best plough-steel, was made by Messrs. Haggie Brothers, Limited, of Newcastle. It was first put into use on August 16th, 1909; and it had been in use 15 months. It was re-capped in December 1909, and again in April, 1910; and at each re-capping the rope was found to be in excellent condition. The chain was made up of six strands, each strand made up of seven wires, each wound round a core of smaller wires, and each strand was wound round a central core of galvanised steel wires. The drum round which the rope was wound was 15 feet in diameter, and was of wood. The rope on the downward was tested in January, and broke at 61.8 tons. The last upcast rope was on two years. It was in good condition, and had since been winding water. The rope was examined every morning by the rope examiner, and a report was made in writing. The report on December 4th was that the machinery was safe, and that the headgear, ropes, and chains were good. That report was signed by the engineman and Stephan. No broken wires were reported. He never knew of any injury to the drum. During the 16 months the rope had been working dally, and also about two hours at night. The ordinary working load was 3 tons 11 cwt., with cage, in all about five tons. The number of men authorised to ride in the cage was eight on the top deck and six on the bottom. At the time of the accident there were seven men in the cage; and the total weight of the load would be about 27cwt.
In answer to Mr. Johnstone, witness named four possible causes of the accident. He was first informed of the accident at 20 minutes to 11 at night on December 4th, by two men, John Oswell and Arthur Dudley, who knocked him up. They told him the rope had broken, that the cage had fallen to the bottom of the pit, and that seven men had been killed. He sent for assistance, and arrived at the pit at three minutes to eleven. It was about one o'clock on Monday morning when they got to the bottom of the pit, where they had to clear away a lot of wreckage before they could get to the bodies. The last body was brought out before four o'clock on Monday morning.— Examined by Mr. Willcox, witness said there was no evidence whatever to indicate the cause of the accident. The most probable reason was that the cage might possibly have caught "the legs", and did not get clear. The top of the pit was lighted by a 32-power incandescent light. If the cage was out of repair that might tend to cause the accident. The cage was repaired on the morning of the accident.— Mr. Willcox called the attention of witness to certain entries in the book for several days in succession, reporting that repairs were needed to the cage. Witness said all those reports were attended to, and, when it could be done, a patch was put on until such time as the cage could be taken out and the work done. The banksman made the entries as to repairs being required, so as to relieve himself of any responsibility. It was not because of repairs being wanted that the accident occurred. The cage had been repaired on the morning of the accident; it was then put into thorough repair. He saw "the legs" on the day before the accident, and they were then in perfect working order. The distance between "the legs" and the cage, when the former was fastened was between five and six inches on each side. The width of the cage was four feet. There was no evidence in any part of the shaft that the cage had rubbed or knocked. All the seven men who were killed were on the top deck of the cage. In answer to Mr. Symes, witness said the engine-man, George Richards, was a competent, steady, and thoroughly reliable man. Mr. Phillips questioned witness with respect to the entries in the book referred to by Mr. Willcox. Witness explained that the fact that no entries were made as to repairs having been done did not necessarily mean that the repairs had not been attended to. The reports were sent across to his office, and he went through them. When it was reported that any repair was needed to the cage, he examined the cage himself; and, having satisfied himself as to what was required, he would give the blacksmith orders to repair it. If the part of the cage which needed attention was not an important part which had to carry weight, they put a patch on it, until they could get the cage taken out. As a rule, he did not examine the rope daily; but he received a report thereon from the banksmen, and satisfied himself that it was receiving proper attention. No complaint was made to him about the rope.
In answer to the Coroner, Mr. Cox said he found that pieces of the broken end of the rope had been twisted off, and taken away by people as keepsakes; and he immediately took steps to recover them. The Coroner said the fact that the wires had been taken away before the rope was examined was contempt of court. There was no doubt whatever that the company were ignorant of it; and Mr. Cox did all he could to recover the wires as early as possible. The breaking off and taking away of pieces of wire made it more difficult to ascertain the cause of the accident. The people who took those wires had rendered themselves liable to prosecution; and they ought to know it. Mr. Henry Green, an inspector in connection with Lloyd's Testing House, Birmingham, gave evidence as to the result of his tests of the rope. Taken as a whole, the rope was ample to carry the weight put upon it. In his opinion, the rope had caught some fixed object, which had broken it. It was not likely to break as a result of its carrying merely a weight of five tons. Mr. Stephen Dixon, Professor of Civil Engineering in the University of Birmingham, gave lengthy evidence as to his tests of the rope. It went to show that there was no defect in the rope. Mr. Sproston (who was watching in the interests of the makers of the rope) said the evidence he had proposed to call was very similar to that which had been given by Mr. Green and Professor Dixon; and he therefore thought it was not now necessary to call it. Mark Davies said he was an engineman in the employ. of the Madeley Wood Colliery Company, in whose service he had been between 15 and 16 years. He had been an engine-driver 10 years, and had been engaged at the winding engine at the Kemberton Pit six months. He was in charge of this particular engine on December 4th. He started that morning at twenty minutes past six. He examined the machinery, and made an entry of the fact in a book provided for that purpose. The entry was "machinery safe". It was the machinery for winding the cage up and down the pit. It was a part of his duty to examine the machinery, and to report if there was anything wrong.
The rope inspector examined the rope, as he always did before any men entered the cage. That was satisfactory. The horse fetlers went down, and after that he was drawing water for an hour. Two pumpers went down at eight o'clock. After that the blacksmiths and banksman were repairing the cage. When they had finished their work, the cage was, in his opinion, perfectly safe for taking the men up and down to their work in the pit. After that, he drew the pumpers up; and at twelve o'clock, repairs were done to the other cage. Two rivets were taken out and put in again. He saw that done, and it was satisfactorily completed. He loosed the cage to the bottom: and, at half-past twelve, he went home to his dinner. He returned again, at ten minutes past ten at night. He went to the engine, and drew the cage from the bottom of the upcast shaft. The seven men got on to the cage to go down the pit. When it was about three or four revolutions from the top, there was a sudden snap, which almost brought the engine to a standstill. As far as he could judge, though he would not say for certain, the cage was then about 30 or 40 yards down the shaft. When he felt the sudden check to the engine, he stopped it to ascertain the cause. Some men ran over to him to where he stood, and told him that the rope had broken, and that the cage had fallen to the bottom of the pit. He found that was so; and sent for assistance.— In answer to Mr. Phillips, witness said the manager called his attention to the fact that pieces of wire had been twisted off the broken end of the rope. He afterwards recovered pieces of the wire from a man named Barker, Jack Gregory, Ted Heighway of Aqueduct, and Tom Lysons, of Aqueduct. Mr. Johnstone called the attention of witness to special rule 161, relating to the duties of an engineman, namely, "When lowering or raising persons he shall use extra care, and after an intermission of working of four hours, shall run the ropes of the put up and down before lowering or raising persons".
Witness said he did not know of the rule until after the accident, but he had heard of it since. He worked by the same rule by which they had always worked. In answer to a question by Mr. Symes, witness said that, when there had been an inter-mission of work four hours, he always ran the ropes up and down before lowering into or raising people out of the pit. That was the practice at the pit; and he observed it on the day in question. George Richards, Prince's Street, Madeley, said he was a stoker employed by the Madeley Wood Colliery Company. He went to work at six o'clock in the morning of December 4th. He stoked the engine for Davies. For a little more than a year he had been in the habit of acting as a banksman on Sundays. He was not on the bank till ten o'clock on the night in question. He attended to the boilers in the morning. He went to his dinner. He returned at a quarter past one, and was there till five next morning. The cage was at the bottom of the pit; and Davies pulled it to the top when he commenced work. It was no part of his duty to examine the cage. So far as he knew, the cage and the rope were in good working order. The deceased men came to the pit about ten o'clock. When Davies was ready, witness went to act as his banksman. The pithead was lighted with electric light, and that was in working order, and he could see the men. When all was ready, he gave the signals. Davies started them, and they all went down. He held the props back between the time of his giving the signal and the men being lowered down. Nothing seemed to him to go wrong. The cage passed down the entrance to the shaft in the ordinary way. The first he knew of the accident was when he heard a crash over his head. That was almost immediately after the cage had gone out of his sight The crash was like breaking wood. To the best of his knowledge, "the legs” were in working order, and the cage was in working order.
William Stephan said he was a banksman at Kemberton Pit, and had been employed by the Madeley Wood Company 25 years. He had been a banksman 17 years; and he knew what the duties were and copies of the special rules were kept at the pit, and each of them had a copy supplied to them. He had read his copy. One of his duties was to make and send in a report every morning. On this particular Sunday, he went to work at six o'clock in the morning. He examined the rope before the men went down into the pit. It was in good condition. He left at one o'clock. The cage went up and down three times while he was there. John Adams, Aqueduct, said he was an on-setter in the employ of the Madeley Wood Colliery Company. On the day in question he was at work in the Kemberton Pit. He came out at twelve o'clock. So far as lie could see the condition of the cage was then all right. Richard Tranter said he was a fireman in the employ of the Madeley Wood Colliery Company. It was a part of his duty to examine the shaft. He made an examination weekly; and, if there was anything to report, the entered it in a book at the colliery. It was six months since he last had to make a report. The last time he examined the shaft at the Kemberton Pit was on the Monday before the accident. He was down the pit on the Sunday morning to examine the workings. He did not make a special examination, but he noticed it as he went down, and he could not see anything wrong. If there had been anything out of place, he would have noticed it. John Oswell, Madeley, said he was a collier at the Kemberton Pit. On the night in question, he went to work at ten o'clock. He did not go down the pit because the seven deceased men got into the cage before him. The cage had gone out of his sight before the rope broke.
Mr. Wynne, Assistant Inspector of Mines said he had examined the shaft of the pit, and did not find anything to account for the accident. He had examined a part of the rope, but found nothing the matter with it except ordinary wear. After the Coroner had summed up the evidence, the jury retired, and after an absence of twenty minutes, returned a verdict of "Accidental death" They also called attention to the fact that the engine-driver, the banksman, and the stoker did not seem to be conversant with the special rules relating to their respective duties. They further suggested that the Colliery Company might adopt some device for safeguarding the persons who had to travel up and down the shaft. Sir Arthur Anstice said the suggestion of the jury would receive the attention of the company. The hearing of the inquiry extended over six hours.
1911 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News January 21st – Court Field Pit
A sad fatality took place at Madeley on Tuesday. Benjamin Bennett, an engine-driver, 60 years of age, was engaged in Madeley Court Field in the afternoon assisting in the repairs of a rod in the pump shaft. Whilst working he got very wet, and came up the pit to change himself, for which purpose he went into the engine house. Having changed his attire, he came out of the engine-house, and walked towards the pit mouth, where, missing his footing, he fell down the shaft, a distance of some 100 yards, and was killed instantaneously. The body was subsequently recovered and taken to the poor man's home in Court Street. The sad affair created much consternation in the neighbourhood. Deceased leaves a widow and two grown up children, who have the deepest sympathy of the inhabitants. Last evening at the Madeley Institute Mr. Coroner Potts held an inquest on the body. Mr. C. W. Pearce (manager) represented the company, and Mr. F. H. Wynne (Newcastle), inspector of mines, was also present. Harriett Bennett identified the body as that of her husband, who, she said, was an engine-driver, 61 years of age, and in the employ of Mr. W. H. Foster. William Price, head engine-man, Court Street, Madeley, stated that he was in charge of the machinery at the water pit, Madeley Court, and also the pumping plant. On Tuesday, deceased went down the pit with another man named Wallace Smart about one o'clock, as something was wrong with the pumping-rod. They came up for dinner, and went down again to withdraw the bucket from the lift, which was done. Smart and Bennett were in the cabin, and witness asked them to descend the pit and disconnect the bucket from the rod. They changed their clothes, and he had the pit uncovered for them; in fact, he went and told them that everything was ready, and that the pit was uncovered. Bennett's jacket was wet, and he lent him an article to put on. Deceased followed him from the cabin, but witness did not see him fall down the pit.
Moses Lowe, Aqueduct, labourer, stated that he was working with deceased and others that day. He saw Bennett walk straight into the pit is if he did not see it. Deceased had asked him that morning if he could see any mark on the left side of his head, and witness said that he could. Deceased told him that he had been cutting a pig up that morning before coming to work, and that something hit him on the head. Witness believed that deceased's mind went for the moment. Edward George Baugh, miner, employed at the Court Works, stated that he saw deceased's body in the pit on the bottom scaffold. The pit was about 58 yards deep. He assisted in bringing the body up. Police-constable Wakeley also gave evidence. The Coroner, in summing up, said he was of opinion that there was a certain amount of mystery about it, yet it seemed to be very clear, and it might have been a case of mental aberration. The verdict of the jury was "That deceased accidentally fell down the pit and was killed." The jury handed their fees over to the widow.
1911 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News February 4th – Kemberton Colliery
Within two months nine people have lost their lived in Madeley, and quite a gloom was cast over the neighbourhood again on Tuesday, when it became known that another fatality had occurred in the Kemberton pits belonging to the Madeley Wood Company. It appears that as George Edward Griffiths, motor-engine driver, was engaged at his work, an electric rope surrounded his neck, which was badly burnt, as was also his face. Artificial respiration was tried by the field doctor and others, but without avail, and deceased expired within two hours. The body was subsequently conveyed to his parents' residence in Prince Street, Madeley. Deceased, who was 33 years of age, was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. George Griffiths, who have the sympathy of the whole town in their bereavement. About 11 years ago deceased injured his spine and a hip in one of the pits. Last evening Mr. F. H. Potts (borough coroner) held an inquiry into the circumstances at the Madeley Institute. There were also present Mr. Wm. Saint (H.M. Inspector of Mines), Mr. W. Latham (Miners' Agent), Mr. J. C. Cadman (managing director of the colliery), and Mr. J. Cocks (engineer). George Ed. Griffiths, father of the deceased, said he lived at 81, Prince Street, Madeley, and was a boot maker. Deceased worked at Halesfield pit all Monday night, came home, and returned to work soon after 5 o'clock on Tuesday morning. His body was brought home about mid-day on Tuesday. Harold Bowen, assistant fireman at the Halesfield Colliery, stated that deceased was employed there as motor engine driver, and on Tuesday, he began to work at 6 o'clock in the morning. At about 8 o'clock the engine stopped, and he (witness) went back to see what was the matter. He then heard something like a fuse burning, and found that there was a current going through the loose wire in the cable road. Deceased was lying face downwards on the wire. Witness assisted in getting deceased out of the cable road, and artificial respiration was employed for 2½ hours without avail. Deceased never showed any signs of life. He did not know where the loose wire came from.
By the Inspector: The hauling rope had been spliced on the Monday night, and the wire produced was like the hauling rope. By the foreman: He could not see why the engine stopped. By Mr. Latham: He could not say whether Griffiths had any signal given him to stop the engine. He did not see any more loose pieces of wire about the pit. William Yale, Aqueduct, employed as on-setter at the Halesfield pit, stated that he was working in the pit on the haulage road about 8 o'clock. He went to the last witness’s assistance after he had disconnected the cables. He did not see the loose wire, neither did he know how it came to be where it was found. Harry Bullock, fireman at the Halesfield Colliery, said that he went down the pit about 4-30 a.m. on Tuesday, and inspected the workings, and he was about 150 yards away from the motor at about 8 o'clock. He noticed the rope stop, but could not tell why. He helped to get deceased out to the main haulage road, and commenced artificial respiration, until the doctor arrived. Deceased showed no signs of consciousness. Richard Davies, colliery fireman at Halesfield pits, stated that he inspected the haulage road early on Tuesday, and found the cable in order. He saw no loose wire about. Frederick Jones, Madeley, electrician in the employ of the Madeley Wood Company, stated that deceased was a reliable man. He went down to the motor house at about 9 o'clock, when they were trying artificial respiration on Griffiths. He examined the cable and found there was a leak of current in the armouring. He could give no reason for deceased to be where he was found. He had no right to be where he was, unless the current was off. Death, he considered, was due to deceased coming into contact with the live wire. By Inspector: He had tested the cable on the previous Saturday for leakage, and found none. The Coroner said that there was no doubt that deceased came in contact with the live wire, and was killed by the electric current.
The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death." Mr. Cocks, on behalf of the Madeley Wood Company, expressed their deepest sympathy with the relatives of the deceased, who, he added, was an efficient workman.- Mr. Latham endorsed the observations of Mr. Cocks, as also did Mr. Pope on behalf of the jury. The father of deceased returned thanks.
1911 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News March 25th – Kemberton Colliery
Mr. F. H. Potts, Borough Coroner, on Friday last week held an inquest at the Institute, Madeley, concerning the death of James Henry Dudley, 56, a collier. Clara Dudley, wife of deceased, living at Prince Street, Madeley, stated that her husband had been in the employ of the Madeley Wood Company ever since he was a boy. On the 23rd October last year he was working, at the Kemberton pits, when he was injured by a fall of roof, and his leg was badly cut. He went on working till December 2nd, when he complained of being in pain, so she called in Dr. Droop who ordered him to the Broseley Hospital. A week later he underwent an operation. On March 1st he was discharged from the hospital apparently all right but he had not resumed his work. On the Monday after he left the hospital, witness said, deceased complained of pain in the back of the head. He kept getting worse, and on the 7th inst. Dr. Droop saw him and ordered him to bed. He gradually got worse and died on Wednesday night. Dr. Droop stated that when he first saw deceased, he was suffering from a violent pain in the stomach, which he thought was partly due to the rupture. He saw him constantly in the hospital, and he appeared perfectly well when he came out; but he complained of a slight cough. On the 7th inst. he found that deceased was suffering from influenza. The jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes."
1911 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News October 28th – Freehold Colliery
A fatality, occurred at the Lilleshall Company's Freehold Pit, St. George's, on Monday, when George Wolley, Booth's Cottages, Priorslee, was killed by a large fall of roof.
Mr. Coroner Lander opened the inquest on the body on Tuesday at St. George's, and remarked that it was another of those sad accidents which unfortunately could not be avoided. He proposed that day to take only formal evidence of identification, and adjourn the inquiry, in order to give His Majesty's Inspector of Mines an opportunity to attend. Mary Ann Woolley, wife of deceased, said that deceased was 34 years of age. He was an experienced collier, and had been accustomed to the work all his life. On Monday morning witness received a message that deceased had met with a serious accident. This was conveyed by Mr. Lane, one of the company's workmen, and witness was later told by her father that he was dead. In reply to the Coroner, witness said that deceased had been employed as a staller, but she knew nothing of the accident. Previous to the accident witness added her husband had never complained of the work. This was the only evidence taken, and the Coroner said that he felt sure that the jury would like to join with him in expressing their deepest sympathy with the wife and family in their bereavement. The inquiry was then adjourned until Wednesday next.
1911 Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News November 4th – Freehold Colliery
On Wednesday Mr. Coroner Lander reopened the inquest on the body of George Woolley, a collier employed by the Lilleshall Company, who was killed in the Freehold Pit on the 23rd. October by a fall of coal. Mr. F. H. Wynne (assistant inspector of mines) attended. Mr. N. T. Beech and Mr. C. Jones appeared on behalf of the Lilleshall Company, and Mr. W. Latham represented the Miners' Federation. Roland Guy, miner, Donnington Wood, employed by the Lilleshall Company, said that on the 23rd October he was working with deceased, and at the time of the accident was five or six yards away. Deceased was wedging down the coal in what was called the buttock when the roof fell, some five or six tons falling on him. Witness called for assistance and helped to get deceased out, but he was then dead. In reply to Mr. Wynne, witness said that the coal was about three feet from the last setting, of timber. Deceased would have to get about another yard or four feet of coal down before he could set another post. The posts were set about a yard apart. Witness could not say how many sprags were buried, but there was one that he knew of. There were four slips. One of these was visible before the accident, but three of them could not be seen until after. Re-examined by the Coroner, witness said that the fireman was J. Haseley, and he had examined that particular place about a quarter past one the same afternoon as the accident, and at that time passed it as safe. The one slip that was visible was guarded against.
In reply to Mr. Latham, witness said that there was plenty of timber if it had been required. Witness further added, in reply to a question by Mr. Beech, that the fireman, after making his examination, had told deceased to put another tree in this particular place, the one there having given way. This was done straight away. Benjamin Lane, miner, employed by the Lilleshall Company, said that he was working alongside deceased on the day of the accident. Witness was filling a tub, and deceased was trying to drop some coal into the buttock, and was knocking a wedge in the face when witness heard the fall. The trees that were set were about 4ft. 6in. in length, and about a yard apart. It was in consequence of the three invisible slips that the fall occurred. When the place was examined by the fireman it appeared to be safe. Joseph Haseley, the fireman, said that he was on duty at the Freehold Pit on the day of the accident. He had seen the place where Woolley was working, and had examined it that morning in the usual way, and passed it as safe. He (witness) made another examination of the place at a quarter past one the same afternoon. There was one tree cracked on the gob side, and this he pointed out to deceased. At that time there was only the front slip visible. Deceased at once set another tree, and it then seemed sufficient. In reply to Mr. Wynne, witness said that he did not think it was possible to have prevented the accident. Albert Taylor, Donnington Wood, underground manager at the Freehold Pit, also gave evidence. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."
At the start of 1912, new headings were being driven in the south west district and a motor house was created close to the pit bottom for the haulage. On Friday 12th January, 50 year-old Thomas Homer started work at 10.00pm in a heading in the south-west district. He was working about 50 yards from the top of a jig with John Brewer. At about 1.30am they noticed that the air quality had become poor as smoke would not clear from the shots they had fired. They withdrew to the jig to eat their snapping and see if the air improved. Circulation of air depended on the integrity of a system of sheet iron tubes or troughs as the district was not well-enough developed for the construction of normal return airways. At 2.00am the air was still bad, and by 2.30am they descended the jig to find that the troughs were not working. Arthur McKale, a horse driver then told them that the troughs had been fractured at 1.00am by a shot fired at the motor house. Ferriday had been told of this and arranged for repairs. When he found that no suitable air pipes were available he set off himself to the opposite end of the pit to get some. Crucially he failed to warn anyone in the south-west district that there was no ventilation; indeed he had not been in that district since the change of shift. Furthermore, when his shift ended at 3.00am he left without seeing that the work was complete. Back at the jig bottom, McKale and Homer remained behind whilst Brewer went to investigate the progress of repairs. On finding that they were still not finished, he sent word for all men to come out of the south west district. Homer unfortunately went back up the jig with McKale to fetch his clothes. As they then walked out at about 3.45am, Homer collapsed close to the pit bottom and died. Ferriday was summonsed and whilst others attempted artificial respiration, he tried to revive Homer with brandy. Unsurprisingly, this was ineffective. It was unclear whether death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning, lack of oxygen or some other cause.
Ferriday was duly censured by the inquest jury for neglect of duty, admonished by the coroner, dismissed by the company and prosecuted for two breaches of the Coal Mines Regulations. He did indeed show a fair degree of incompetence and it would be interesting to know just why he gave up an undermanager's job to come to Billingsley in the first instance. However, a number of other factors also emerged. The most serious was that the Company were only employing two deputies to cover three shifts; Ferriday from 5.25pm to 3.00am for afternoons and nights, a second man from 5.35am to 2.50pm. It was obviously impossible to provide adequate supervision or liaison with such a system. Russ was made the scapegoat for this method of working and was prosecuted by the Mining Inspector. Alfred Gibbs died later that year and Frank also seems to have left the company soon afterwards. Whether the accident was connected with his departure is not known, but the many years later the Gibbs' family were convinced he had been badly treated by the Billingsley Colliery Company. An obvious question is to what extent Russ and his team were under pressure from the directors to cut corners. The Company did have a style that antagonised a number of local interests. The following year they were humiliated in court by the local union over a number of cases of unfair dismissal and injury compensation and they also fell out with the local district and parish councils. As far as I can tell, Russ was not regarded with any malice by the local miners and I suspect the Company was rather lucky that the Inspector did not aim any higher with his prosecutions.
After the accident, Mrs Homer was lent £8 by the company for her husband's funeral and then awarded £130 compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. £15 was given immediately to allow her to buy a cow for her small-holding and the rest was to be paid in £2-10-0d instalments per quarter. The Homers lived at Far Forest, 15 miles from Billingsley and Homer lodged close to the mines with a Mrs Badger. Ironically her husband had been the last man to be killed at Billingsley back in 1876, an accident also blamed on the manager. The south-west district produced very little coal with its only face being abandoned in 1913. The mine was taken over in 1915 by the Highley Mining Company; Russ left to take up an appointment with the Assam Railway and Trading Company, surviving the torpedoing of his ship, the Persia, in 1916. The Highley Mining Company appointed Arthur Lebeter as his replacement but closed Billingsley in 1921; Lebeter was killed in a drift mine at Chorley in 1924. The fate of Ferriday is unknown. It appears that little work was done in the south west after Homer's death. From the published accounts it is obvious that Homer was working on a level at the top of a jig. The district is described as follows in the Inspectors report : -
"Two miners were employed at the face of what had been a level road, but for 37 yards next the face it had a dip of 8o; 77 yards back from the face a jig had been driven for a distance of 33 yards, rising at 36o, and from the top of the jig a rise level had been driven back for 46 yards. Deceased and his mate worked at the face of this rise level". The report also says that the iron tubes extended for 450 yards from the pit bottom, and that the motor house was 120 yards from the downcast. The dip of the strata at Billingsley was predominantly about 1 in 8 to the east.
1920 Shrewsbury Chronicle June 4th – Moat Hall Colliery
The Shrewsbury Borough Coroner, Mr. R.E.Clarke, held an inquest at the Royal Oak, Hook-a-Gate, near Shrewsbury, on Wednesday, on the body of David Titley, of Hook-a-Gate, who was killed by a fall of stone whilst following his employment as a miner at the Moat Hall Colliery, near Shrewsbury, the previous morning. Mr. T.H.Bull, Government Inspector of Mines, and Mr. Wm. Latham, Shropshire Miners’ Federation, were present. Evidence of identification was given by Joshua Titley, Meole Brace, who said he was employed at the pit head at Moat Hall Colliery. His brother was aged 52, and he lived at Rose Cottage, Hook-a-Gate. Deceased had been employed at the Moat Hall Colliery as a miner for about 20 years, and was one of the most experienced men down the mine. He was survived by a widow and six children, the eldest of whom was about 15 and the youngest five. Witness had never heard his brother complaining about the workings at the colliery, nor as to there being an insufficient number of props. Witness worked down the mine himself a number of years before the war, and he always found that there were plenty of props. He had never known the mine to be dangerous from slipping; and he believed there had never before been a fatal accident there since the colliery began. Richard Jones, Lyth Bank, said he had worked at the Moat Hall mine for 8 years as a coal miner and he was working along with the deceased on the previous day. Deceased had finished “clearing up” about 7-10 am, and having been underneath the “low” and examined the whole working thoroughly he reported that everything was all right. Witness and he then commenced to “put the pack on,” and the next thing he (Witness) heard was a shout. He turned round and saw a great clod of dirt or stone on the ground with the deceased lying underneath. The weight of the stone was anything from a ton to 25 cwts, Continuing, witness said there were plenty of props provided at that particular place, but there must have been a fall in the roof. There was plenty of assistance at hand to extricate the deceased from beneath the stone, but he was quite dead when he (witness) returned later with a stretcher.
Replying to the Government Inspector, witness said he did not notice a slip anywhere before the accident. The stone fell quite suddenly without any warning. There were three props under the roof and they were all properly set. There were plenty of spare props about seven yards away from Where they were working had the deceased thought fit to want them. Replying to Mr. Latham. Witness agreed it was much safer to have the “brow” nearer the coal face than have it six yards back as it was in this case. The Coroner said the evidence pointed to the accident being a purely accidental one, and said his Verdict would be accordingly, but on the suggestion Of Mr. Latham he agreed to hear the further evidence of the fireman. Mr. Latham said he did not suggest there had been negligence, on the part of anybody, but he thought the Coroner should have the testimony of the fireman to ascertain whether or not the Mines Regulations had been strictly carried out at this particular colliery. Wm. Ed. Carswell, Rose Cottage, Annscroft, fireman at the Moat Hall Colliery, was called, and was interrogated by the Government Inspector. Mr. Latham, after the first question had been put, remarked : “That’s better —Mr. Bull gets his living at this kind of thing,’ Mr. Coroner.” Witness said he thoroughly inspected the place where the last witness and the deceased were working and he was perfectly satisfied that it was safe. He was surprised at the accident happening as it was not possible to see a slip before. Witness was satisfied with the supplies of timber, and he thought a slip was the cause of the fall. The Coroner returned a verdict of “accidental death.” and expressed his sorrow for the widow and family. He had, he said, Known the family a good many years, and one of the deceased’s brothers had worked for him. Mr. Latham remarked it was a pity that in these civilised times the widow would receive only the statutory £300 with which to support her six children. he did not think it was the right thing. The Coroner: “Well, I suppose if I got killed I should have nothing for my family.” Mr. Latham said he doubted it as the authorities would see to that.