Colliery explosion, at Haydock, No 18 pit, 1850

Colliery explosion, at Haydock, No 18 pit, 1850

Liverpool Mercury, Nov 12th, 1850

Colliery explosion at Haydock

A fatal explosion took place on Thursday at No 18 pit, the property of Messers R. EVANS and Co, at Haydock. 8 dead bodies were taken out of the mine immediately after the accident, and 2 men have since died, making 10 sufferers by this fearful calamity. On Friday a coroner's jury was summoned and after viewing the bodies and hearing the evidence Mr Thomas LITHERLAND, the underlooker, Mr HEYES, the coroner, adjourned the inquest in order that the Govt mine inspector might be summoned.

At the adjourned inquest yesterday, Mr HEYES, the coroner attended with Mr C. E. DRIFFIELD the Dept coroner, Mr Seymour TREMENHEERE, the Government Inspector. The jury assembled at Mrs Martha HARRISON'S, the sign of the Ram's Head Inn, in Haydock.

The first witness called was LITHERLAND the underlooker, who deposed, on the morning in question he heard a noise and proceeded to the spot, where he found the explosion had taken place. He descended the pit and found the dead bodies of eight men, Joseph LEATHERBARROW, aged 39, of Haydock, who has left a wife and three children, Thomas WATERWORTH, aged 15, a drawer, Joseph SMITH of Haydock, aged 21, a drawer, Richard COTHAM of Ashton, aged 20, a drawer, John ATTERAGE of Haydock, aged 17, a drawer, William DAGNALL of Haydock, aged 11, a drawer, Samuel HILTON of Ashton, aged 19, a drawer, Mordicon NORBURY of Haydock, aged 20, a drawer. The witness also identified the bodies of George SANDERSON aged 15, pony driver, who died on Friday and William HOUGHTON, aged 8, a jigger-boy of Haydock who died on Saturday after great suffering.

There were upwards of 50 persons in the pit, and 20 of them were more or less burnt. He found some on their hands and knees, and others in all sorts of postures. He had ordered all the men to pay strict attention to their lamps, and to be careful, one of the men LEATHERBARROW, had, the day before been using powder to blast the splittings, he told him there was no use for it, it was soft enough. The pony drivers, drawers and colliers often used naked candles, but never when he saw them, there had been several discharged for disobeying orders. One of the men had hung a cloth between the old and new workings, which had been cut open the previous day, and left until the following morning, no notification of which had been given to him as underlooker.

He stated the mine was 208yds deep, the plan of the whole mines was produced and explained by the underlooker and Mr Josiah EVANS, and it was carefully examined by the Coroner, jurors and Mr TREMENHEERE. Mr STOCK, one of the jury, a coal proprietor, gave a full explanation of the map and stated that there were good air-roads. LITHERLAND had stated that he had been in the employ of Messers EVANS for five years as underlooker and general manager below. He had an assistant John CUNLIFFE, whose duty it was to dial in etc. Mr W. MERCER, agent to Thomas LEGH Esq was the viewer, or surveyor. They had an engineer or chief superintendent.

About 12mths ago Mr BLACKWELL the Government Inspector, went down this mine with Mr MERCER, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the ventilation of the air and every other arrangement. He asked all the workmen if they had any complaints to make, and none had anything to say about the workings of the mine. About 5yrs ago a similar accident occurred, when 14 men where killed, owing to the men's disobedience of the master's orders in taking off the tops of their lanterns.

Witness in reply to the Government Inspector - scarcely one of the men could either read or write, and no doubt that was one cause of their disobedience to his orders. There were now two schools in the village, moderately attended. Mr TREMENHEERE cross-examined this man at great length.

Mr J. EVANS stated he kept a free school at his own expense, but the men would rather go to the public house, and, after a monthly pay night, it would be several days before they came to work again. In answer to Mr TREMENHEERE, Mr EVANS said that education would greatly benefit them, and make them cognisant of their danger.

Ralph LEYLAND, aged 27, could neither read nor write, was one of the four men working in the furthest splittings. The explosion took place below him, he was 30yds off. He had not sufficient air, it was mixed with damp or foul air, he was knocked down and burnt in several parts. The men were ordered to work with their lamps. He was getting but had no drawer. There was occasionally powder used, and some of the men were working with naked candles, against the rules. A collier, named GREENALL, worked in the old works, where the foul air got in, he did not give notice to the underlooker, although it was usual to do so. They knew that there was foul air the morning before, and a cloth was put up as a preventative. He went to work in a mine when he was ten years old.

After the examination of several of the miners Mt TREMENHEERE, said he thought it desirable that a fireman should go down every morning before the men went to work to see whether there was any fire or danger in the mine. They ought to have printed rules for the guidance of the men, and the lamps ought to be cleaned every night, and oil renewed for the next day, and then locked, so the men could not open them, and there ought to be no smoking in the mine, which was frequently the case.

William HARRISON, a young man, could not give any evidence, he was very much affected, he could not speak or recollect anything after he was struck, and the poor man was removed.

Mr HEYES here entered fully into the subject, and said the jury must now consider their verdict. He was of the opinion that it could be no other than accidental.

The following verdict was unanimously recorded ;-

"That the above named being a work in a certain mine at Haydock, it so happened that the foul and inflammable air in the said coal mine, being then and there accidentally, casually, and by misfortune caught fire and exploded, whereby the deceased were then and there grievously scorched and burned in and upon their bodies and limbs, of which said scorching and burning, as well as of the suffocation, the said deceased instantly died." The jury, also, were of the opinion, that a fireman ought to inspect the mines every morning before the men commenced work. It was also recommended to Messers EVANS that the safety lamps should be well cleaned and filled with oil every night, and before the men were permitted to descend the shaft, their lamps should be locked. Also, that a code of rules and regulations, ought to be printed for the information of the men. The coroner produced a copy of the Ince Hall Company's rules, which he strongly recommended as worthy of imitation.

After considerable discussion it was agreed that Mr J. EVANS should be called in, and the coroner and government inspector informed him of the result of the inquest, and then fully explained the suggestion of the jury as above stated.

Mr EVANS said he would gladly attend to all recommendations forthwith, and if he could do anything more he would be most happy, it was their sole and only desire to prevent such mournful occurrences.

Eight of the bodies were interred on Sunday, the expense of the coffins being defrayed by the Messers EVANS.


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