Haydock Colliery explosion 1878

198 killed and injured at the Wood Pit

Illustration from the "Graphic"

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a view to them not being opened by the miners, fastened not with the padlock but with a metal plug that could not be withdrawn.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.”


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