Liverpool Mercury, June 10th 1878
Terrible Colliery Explosion at Haydock
In brief :-
The loss of life which occurred by the explosion on Friday at Messers Richard EVAN’S and Co’s colliery at this village has not been so great as stated, the rough estimate made on Friday estimated 230 dead, since then careful inquiries have been made by the colliery officials it is now estimated deaths will not exceed 182, adding to this the 16 injured, the killed and maimed is raised to 198. The accident is thus the most dreadful which has ever occurred in the Lancashire coalfield. The accident almost equals in magnitude that at the Hartley Colliery, in 1862 when 202 lives were lost and that at the Blantyre pit where 209 persons were killed. The catastrophe at the Oaks Colliery, Barnsley, in 1866 when 360 lives were sacrificed, is the only one record by which it is surpassed.
The disaster has been a terrible blow to the whole district, the accident has produced everywhere a feeling of consternation. It was believed that in the Wood pits, the dangers of coal getting were reduced to a minimum, the coal being worked, the Florida, is not of a fiery nature, it is true it gives off gas, but, only in small quantities. The management inspired every confidence, no blasting took place the coal being won by the pick, the men being provided with special safety lamps, constructed with a view to them not being opened by the miners, fastened not with the padlock but with a metal plug that could not be withdrawn. If a miner cut the plug in two and opened the lamp it would certainly be detected, as he could not replace the plug.
The arrangements for ventilation were of the most complete character and since the mine was opened some years ago it has been worked without any explosion or mishap of any consequence. The Florida coal is what is in the Pemberton district is known as the 4ft and was reached at 200yds from the surface. Some 43yds further down lies the main delf mine, which has been worked to some extent, whilst deeper still is a coal measure which known here by another name, is the fiery 9ft. This dreaded seam which in other parts of the Lancashire coalfield has caused much loss of life has not yet been opened, but, its close proximity to the other seams may help to account for the explosion. On the south side of the downeast shaft is a fault beyond which the lie of the measures is materially altered. The Florida coal is here found many yards deeper in the earth and tilted up at a considerable angle. To reach this point of the seam which is known as the lower Florida, a tunnel has been constructed commencing some 50yds from the mouth of the shaft, it is arched with stout masonry and is some 250yds long, dips, sharply, the incline being 1yd in 5yds.. The end just touches the lower Florida coal, but as the seam lies at an incline in the opposite direction, the workings are all up-brow. The brow is in two portions, one called the lower jig, the other the upper jig. At the end of the upper jig is the highest part of these workings and from this point the main gallery runs almost at right angles. At the opposite end of the main gallery the workings again take a turn and ultimately join the brow at the top of the lower jig, thus completing the air course. Though the area of these workings is not extensive they accommodate a large number of hewers and a considerable amount of coal was being brought to the surface. Practically this was the only part of the mine in operation.
From the appearance of the airways and the levels it is believed the explosion occurred somewhere in the interior of the workings, and the quantity of gas fired was very large, the horrible blast being spread in an instant through every part of the workings, killing every man and boy who was then, then having rushed to the mouth of the tunnel and up the tunnel to the shaft. A number of empty wagons in the tunnel at the time were driven by the force of the explosion into the roof bringing a part of it down, although it was composed of three courses of brick. By the time the blast reached the mouth of the shaft its force had been spent, accounting for the absence of damage at and about the shaft. The force of the blast was tremendous in the workings and the tunnel, not a single man nor boy who was in or beyond the tunnel has escaped alive. Some 16 men and boys who were brought up injured, and a few who escaped unhurt were either about the mouth of the shaft at the time or in the main delf workings on the other side of the colliery. Where the large quantity of gas which ignited came from is at present a matter of great doubt.
It is difficult to believe that the Florida coal would give off such a large quantity of gas, wherever it came from it came rapidly, a sudden outburst. The usual examination of the mine was made in the morning before the men descended, from the fact that the men proceeded to work at the usual hour it is assumed no great accumulation of gas was seen. A theory which has met with some acceptance is that the gas came from the 9ft seam. It is believed by the arrangement of the strata at or about the fault this dangerous seam may have been brought into close proximity of the lower Florida, if this is so all that would be necessary to account for the explosion would be the tapping of this coal. There are several ways in which it may be tapped, by the hewers with their tools, or by a fall in the goaf or old workings, this theory is the only one which covers all the facts. There remains the question of ignition, as to which there is much mystery, as with regard to the source whence the gas came. The blow-shot theory, has no application here, as the use of gunpowder in the mine was absolutely forbidden. The open light necessary for the ignition of the gas must on this occasion be sought, either at the ventilating furnace or at the safety lamps used by the men, few will take into consideration as a ground of conjecture the terrible possibility that a workman in the mine where blasting is forbidden and safety lamps only allowed to be used may have wickedly struck a light. As to the furnace, several serious difficulties in the way of attributing the ignition to that cause are to be found, they will not be removed till a careful examination of the return air-ways has hitherto taken place. The majority of the suggestions as to the origins of the disaster tend towards the lamps, a lamp has been opened, been defective or injured, or the explosive mixture has been driven through the gauze at such a speed as to cause the flame to go outside. This theory was raised in the recent Pemberton disaster by two eminent mining engineers, Mr ARMSTRONG Consulting engineer of the colliery and Mr BRYHAM of the Rose Bridge Colliers, Wigan.
The object was to recover the bodies as soon as possible there has been great destruction wrought in the mine, in many places large falls from the roof, particularly near the tunnel and the up-brow where the force of the blast was severely felt. The bratticing has been destroyed at various points and the ventilation completely disarranged, the falls from the roof have continued rendering the tasks of the men underground highly dangerous, before the dead could be brought out and the mine examined, it was necessary to clear the roads and restore the ventilation.. This has proved tedious a large body of men have been engaged, directed by some of the most experienced mining engineers in the country, Mr J. L. HEDLEY Inspector of Mines, Mr CHADWICK, Manager, Mr C. PILKINGTON a member of the firm, Mr CRIPPIN of the Brynn Hall Colliery and others were at work throughout Friday night, but made little progress.
In the early part of yesterday morning they sent up 20 bodies, they found in the tunnel and junction of the tunnel at the up brow. At 10.30 am yesterday, Mr CHADWICK Manger, Mr J. GERRARD, Ince Hall, Mr W. PICKARD Miner’s agent, and other gentlemen went into the pit to make a thorough examination, they were shortly joined by Mr HEDLEY and Mr Joseph DICKENSON Inspector of Mines for the Manchester district who had special instructions by the Home Secretary to attend. The party proceeded along the tunnel and on reaching the up brow found a large accumulation of gas, it was at its densest at the angle of the brow with the main gallery, near the goaf, the highest point of the workings. There was so much gas lodged in this place they found it impossible to proceed, , the current of air passing in the working was then directed to this spot., the ventilation, however, was so much deranged that pressure of air on the gas was comparatively slight, the party was obliged to retreat. Consultations were then held as to the best way of improving the ventilation, it was decided to put in two steam jets and erect stoppings so as to concentrate the ventilation on the part of the workings where the greatest quantity of gas prevailed.
The erection of stoppings went on vigorously all night with relays of masons and labourers, two steam jets were got to work by 8.30 this morning, Mr HELDLEY who has scarcely been out of the mine since he arrived on Friday evening, direct the operations all night, assisted by Mr PICKARD who had also been most active and industrious in the mine since the explosion. When the two jets were at work it was found that 12,000 cubic ft of air was passing through the pit per minute. The repairs to the sides of the levels and the brow, and the erection of stoppings had the effect of concentrating this augmented current of air on the places full of gas. With the same object of improving ventilation the upcast shaft was today stopped up by being covered with planks and tarpaulin, the effect of this to drive all the return air to the chimney, creating a stronger draught through the workings. The ventilation in the main delf and the upper Florida seams has also been throttled, with the same end in view, care being taken to prevent anyone entering these mines with a naked light or match.
The examination was resumed in the forenoon, Mr CHADWICK, Mr DICKINSON, Mr COOK of the Moston Pits, Mr Isaac BILLINGE and others found themselves able to proceed further than before. Near the top of the jig brow 4 bodies were found and sent to the surface, a short distance beyond this point they found themselves in the midst of the dead, the remains were moved to the mouth of the shaft and brought to the surface during the night for obvious reasons.
The score of dead bodies brought up on Friday night and the four found today were taken to a shed near the colliery offices, prepared for their reception. Here the remains were laid upon tables for identification. In nearly every instance the clothing had been torn or burnt from the body, it was replaced with other clothing and wrappers, only the face and hands were left visible. Though all had been done to spare the friends of the deceased any unnecessary pain, the remains present a ghastly and dreadful spectacle. Nearly every face is terribly burnt, several almost past recognition. Upon some the most distressing expressions of agony, as if at the instant preceding death, there was an awful consciousness that all hope was gone. Most of the men have their hands uplifted as if to protect their faces. During the identification of the remains there were agonising scenes, one woman with a baby in her arms, on recognising her husband, fell sobbing upon his cold and motionless breast, and would not be pacified. As fathers, brothers and sons were found and identified expressions were shown of the deepest grief, not withstanding that some time had elapsed since it was known that all had perished. The number of widows and orphans left to mourn the disaster is very large, a rough estimate places the number of widows at 100 and children 300. In a large number of instances, 2, 3, and 4 members of a family have perished, every breadwinner in fact has been swept away.. The father perhaps the collier the sons datalers [day wage men ] or drawers for him. The case of the BOON family is melancholy and distressing Nathan BOON the father had been twice married and had nine children, several are young and dependant on him for support 4 or 5 sons worked with their father in the mine, the father and all the sons who worked with him have been killed.
Considerable difficulty has been experienced in preparing a correct list of the dead, especially with regard to the drawers, who, being employed by the miners, do not appear upon the books of the company. There is no doubt 250 men and boys began work on Friday morning, but a number of these being on the night shift left work before the explosion occurred. The latest computation of deaths made by the colliery officials is 182, made up as 64 colliers, 64 datalers and 55 drawers, adding the 16 brought up injured and who still survive, we have the total of 198, probably all who were in the mine at the time of the disaster.
We append a list of the dead, prepared by the colliery clerks, which should be accepted with caution as some may hereafter prove to be living.
George SWIFT, Collier, Old Field Rd, Haydock, married.
Richard CHORLEY, Collier, Haydock, married, 3 children.
Daniel WILSON, Drawer, Lyme St, Haydock, single.
John GREEN Jnr, collier, Earlestown, married.
Richard EVANS, Collier, Haydock, single.
Thomas THOMPSON, Collier, Flora St, Ashton, married, 3 children.
Thomas CLARE, Collier, Gibraltar Cottages, Newton, married, 5 children.
Robert KEY, Collier, Stone Row, Haydock, married, 4 children.
Peter HUGHES, Collier, Weint, Haydock, married, 4 children.
William BAINES, Collier, Tollbar Cottage, Haydock, married, 7 children dependant.
James FAIRHURST, Haydock, married.
Richard GREEN, Lyme St, Haydock, married, 5 children.
George GREEN, Pony driver son of above.
------ GREEN, Drawer another son of the above.
James ROBINSON, Collier, 28 Row, Haydock, married, 3 children.
John PILLING, Collier, Greenalls Row, Haydock, single
James BOON Snr Lodge Lane Ashton, married 4 children
Nathan BOON, Collier, Penny Lane Haydock, several children dependant.
Isaac BOON, Collier, Haydock, married 1 child
John BOON, Thomas BOON, Joseph BOON, William BOON, drawers all sons of Nathan BOON above.
Bernard NOLAN, Collier, New Boston, Haydock, married, 3 children
John TURTON, Collier, Earlestown, married, 5 children
Peter SHARPLES, Kenyon Lane, Haydock, married
OWENS and OWENS , drawers, stepsons of the above
Evan MEREDITH, Collier, Earlestown, widower, 3 children
Thomas PIMBLETT, Collier, Lyme St, Haydock, married, 5 children
PIMBLETT, Drawer, son of the above.
Edward PIMBLETT, Collier, brother of Thomas, Lyme St, Haydock, married, 4 children
Jonathan JOHNSON, Collier, Haydock Green, married, 4 children
Joseph JOHNSON, Drawer, son of above
Thomas CAWLEY, Collier, Ashton, married 4 children
Joseph WHITTLE, Collier, Old Boston, Haydock, married, 2 children
James GERARD, Collier, Parr, St Helens, married 4 children
John ROBERTS, Collier, Heath Lane, Ashton, 1 child
William LEYLAND, Collier, 28 Row, Haydock, married
George EVANS, Collier, Market St, Earlestown, married, 4 children
Jonathan ROWLEY, Collier, Lyme St, Haydock, married, 5 children dependant
Henry ROWLEY, Pony driver, Jonathan ROWLEY Jnr, drawer sons of above.
James WILD, Collier, Penny Lane, Haydock, married, 2 children
Edward WATERWORTH, Clothier, New Boston, Haydock, married, 6 children dependant
Henry WATERWORTH, Thomas WATERWORTH, Drawers sons of above
William TURNOCK, Collier, 28 Row, Haydock, married, 4 children
John HAYES, Collier, Haydock, married
Llewellyn LLOYD, Collier, Earlestown, married 2 children
Daniel GITTINS, Collier, Ashton, married, 3 children
A boy drawer for the above
Peter MILLINGTON, Collier, Crow Lane, Newton, married 2 children
John EVANS, Collier Earlestown, married 6 children
James GREENALL, Collier, Kenyons Lane, Haydock, married, 6 children
Thomas SHARPLES, Collier, Vista Lane, Haydock, married
Ralph ASHCROFT, Collier, 28 Row, Haydock, married, 2 children
James ASHCROFT, drawer, brother of above, Lyme St Haydock
James ASHCROFT, Collier, Haydock, widower, father of the two preceding men
John WELDING, Collier, Barbers Square, Ashton, married
John KING, Collier, Earlestown, married
William SMITH, Collier, Crow Lane, Newton, married, 3 children
William ROBERTS, Collier, Heath Lane, Ashton, married 3 children
John EDWARDS, Collier, Earlestown, married, 2 children
Edward EVANS, Collier, Earlestown, married 5 children
Thomas PILKINGTON, Collier Kenyon Lane, Haydock, married
William WALPOLE, Collier, Toll Bar, Haydock, married
Thomas HARRISON, Collier, Haydock, married
Roger BANKS, Fireman, Wood Pit Cottages, married, 4 children
George MILLINGTON, Fireman, Newton Common, married
James LYON, Dataler, Kenyons Lane, Haydock, married, 6 children
Joseph HINDLEY, Pony lad, Old Boston, Haydock
Thomas WOOD, Bricksetter, Cat St, Ashton, single
Thomas DIXON, Jiggerman, 28 Row, Haydock, married, 2 children
Thomas WINSTANLEY, Pony lad, Ashton
Michael KING, Dataler, New Boston, Haydock, married, 4 children
Michael ROACH, Dataler, Hazelgrove, Newton, married with family
Michael ROACH Jnr, dataler, son of above, married, 1 child
William WILCOCK, Dataler, Kenyons Lane, Haydock, widower
William FAIRHURST, Bank rider, Crow Lane, Newton, married, 1 child
Edward ROGERS, Dataler, Earlestown, married, 2 children
James MC GOVERN Dataler, Crow Lane, Newton, widower
Robert ROGERS, Dataler, Earlestown, single
Edward SUTTON, Tunneller, Ashton, married, 4 children
Joseph DEARDEN, Jigger, Clipsley Row, Haydock, married, 3 children
Thomas REID, Dataler, Gibraltar Cottages, Newton, married, 2 children
Brian LYNCH, Jiigger, Ashton, single
William SMITH Sen, dataler, Earlestown, married 3 children
William, DEARDEN, Dataler, Crow Lane, Newton, single but supporting his aged mother
Samuel WINSTANLEY, Collier, Battersbys Row, Haydock, married [wife a cripple] 2 children dependant
William WINSTANLEY, Pony driver, and James WINSTANLEY drawer sons of above
Joseph TWISS, Dataler, 3 Smithy Row, Haydock, married 3 children
James TWISS, Collier, brother of above, Haydock, married, 3 children
Edward TWISS, Drawer, supposed son of James
Peter TYRER, Dataler, Old Weint Haydock, married, 3 children
John CONWAY, Dataler, Earlestown, single
George HALES, Dataler, 28 Row, Haydock, single
James BARNES, Dataler, Crow Lane, Newton, single
Joseph CATTERALL, Dataler, 28 Row, Haydock, single
George POWELL, Dataler, Earlestown, married 3 children
John JONES, Dataler, Earlestown, single
George MORTON, Dataler, lodging in Haydock, wife and family in Hanley
George DANKS, Dataler, 28 Row, Haydock, single
Benjamin PILLING, Jigger, Greenalls Row, Haydock, single
Joseph GRIFFITHS, Pony driver, Earlestown
[?]Henry WATERWORTH, Dataler, Cunliffes Houses, Haydock, married
James PEAKE, Pony driver, New Boston, Haydock
John HINDLEY, Pony driver, Old Boston, Haydock
James BIBBY, Dataler, Haydock Green, single
Thomas SHAW, Dataler, Earlestown, single
William UNSWORTH, Dataler, 28 Row, Haydock, single
John WELDING, Dataler, Summers Yard, Ashton, married, 5 children
William WELDING Pony driver son of above
Frank MOLYNEUX, Dataler, Vista, Haydock, widower one child living
John MOLYNEUX, Dataler, Vista, Haydock, single
John EVANS, Pony driver, Earlestown
William SMITH Jnr, dataler, Earlestown, single
James WHITTLE, Dataler, Old Boston, Haydock, married with children.
William BARNES, Dataler, Crow Lane, married, 5 children
Henry BANNER, Dataler, Lyme St, Haydock, married, 7 children all unable to work
William MC GLYNN, Dataler
Woodville JONES, Dataler, Spring Terrace, Haydock, single
William JAMESON, Pony driver, Earlestown
Charles REDMOND, Dataler, Haydock, married
Peter ROACH, Dataler
Thomas MELLING, Dataler, Kenyons Lane, Haydock, married
Thomas ELLIS, Dataler, Kenyons Lane, Haydock, single
James SHAW, Dataler, Earlestown, single
John REDFORD, Pony driver, Haydock Green
William BLEARS, Pony driver, Earlestown
Job SWAIN, Jigger, Clipsley Lane, Haydock
Thomas DOWNS, Collier, Earlestown, married
Charles GREEN, Collier, Earlestown
Enoch BOOTH, Collier
Joseph NORBURY, Collier
James LEYLAND, Collier, married
John JOHNSON, Collier, Tollbar, Blackbrook, married
William CONNOR, Collier
John SWIFT, Drawer
Ellis ROGERS, Drawer
A youth called, “Canary” drawer
A youth called, “Slop”, right name supposed Thomas ARNOLD
John BYROM, Drawer
John BAINES, Drawer
James HINDLEY, Drawer
“Joe” drawer to Enoch BOOTH
Thomas WHITTLE, Drawer
John KNOWLES, Drawer
Joseph JOHNSON, Drawer
James CLIFFORD, Drawer
Thomas SKIDMORE, Drawer
Martin WHAYLIN, Drawer
James DEARDEN 30 Clipsley Rd, Haydock
James HEATON, Ashton
Peter MELLY [or MELIA] 30 Laurence St, Earlestown
John BRADY, Summer Yard, Ashton
Richard BATE, Park Rd, Parr
George PARR, Double Locks
Michael NOLAN, Haydock
William TITHER, Haydock
Michael CHORLEY, Haydock
James LEVESLEY, Haydock
John NOREROSS, Haydock
Thomas HAZELTON, Haydock
Matthew LOWE, Haydock
Thomas WOODWARD, Haydock
James MARSH, Ashton
John LEYLAND, Haydock
With the exception of LEYLAND who is badly burned, all these persons are suffering from the effects of afterdamp.
The following explorers are also suffering from the effects of afterdamp, Charles DAVIES, Noah PICKERING, Timothy WINSTANLEY and Alfred TAYLOR.
Up to this evening only 19 of the 24 bodies brought up have been identified, those identified are John MOLYNEUX, Haydock, single, William JAMESON, Earlestown single, Edward SUTTON, Ashton, William WILCOCK, Haydock, Thomas SHAW, Newton, Michael WHALING, Neston, James LEYLAND, St Helens, Joseph HINDLEY, Haydock, Henry WATERWORTH, Haydock, Thomas DIXON, Dataler, Haydock, John EVANS, Viaduct St, Newton, William BLEARS, Newton, Joseph GRIFFITHS, Newton, James BARNES, Newton, John EVANS, Regent St, Newton, Henry WATERWORTH, Drawer, Haydock, Edward WATERWORTH, Collier, Haydock, Robert ROWLANDS, Newton, Evan MEREDITH, Newton.
A telegram was received by the Home Secretary by Mr HEDLEY by which Mr CROSS said, “At once make every effort to save the survivors if any, at any cost, I await particulars with deep anxiety. Express much sympathy from me. You will of course, communicate with me fully.” Mr HELDLEY replies as follows, “We have done our best to save life, but, unfortunately all hope was lost at first. We have had consultations of mining engineers as to best means of recovering bodies. Owners and all interested thank you for your kind sympathy.”
Copyright 2002 / To date