Stonehill Colliery disaster

Liverpool Journal, Jan 27th 1877


15 men suffocated

On Tuesday morning a dreadful catastrophe occurred at Stonehill Colliery, belonging to Messers ROSCOW and WARD, situated in Worsley Rd, Farnworth, 4 miles from Bolton.

The pit is 300yds deep and the workings extend from the shaft a distance of about a mile.

About 9am, 300 men and boys were at work in the pit, when they were alarmed that a cannel mine was on fire, a rush was immediately made to the pit mouth. It was afterwards discovered that about 1,200yds from the shaft a wall of cannel, over 100yds long, was in flames, a dense volume of smoke was being carried further into the workings, where numbers of men were employed.

Nothing definate is known of the origin of the fire. The mine was free from gas and naked lights were used in it.

The, fire, is not believed to have been caused by any explosion, but rather to the careless act of a lad, who is supposed to have ignited the brattice cloth with his lamp. The cloth is covered with tar, and the flames would soon extend to the wooden props supporting the roof, and thence to the coal.

At the time of the outbreak some 30 men were working beyond the seat of the fire, the first indication they had of their danger was a rush of smoke. Those nearest to the spot managed to escape through the fire before, they were overpowered by the sulphurous flames. Some 15 men and boys who were working 3 to 400yds beyond, have, it is feared all perished.

A man named PYE states that he passed over 7 to 8 prostrate bodies and endeavoured to rouse one of them but failed to make any impression on him.

Another man named, GERRARD, managed to pass through the fire, when he missed his son, and turned back to seek him, both it is believed, have perished.

A list of the missing has not yet been completed, but include in addition to the above, a father and son, named SHORROCKS, Daniel WALKER, Fireman, Ralph ECKERSLEY, William CHURNSIDE and James BROWN.

As soon as the fire was reported an exploring party of some 20 persons, headed by Mr MILLS, Manager of the mine and Mr BOWKER, Manager to the Bridgewater Trustees descended the pit and proceeded to lay pipes from the pit eye to the scene of the conflagration. Owing to the great length of pipe to be laid, 1,200yds, this was not completed till 7 in the evening.

Fortunately there was a plentiful supply of water, and the brigades of Farnworth Local Board and Messers BARNES and HOLDEN have sent their hose, confident hopes were indulged that the flames would speedily be subdued and the task of recovering the bodies be proceeded with.

Several Medical Gentlemen were on the pit bank to render any assistance required, and, indeed, it was found necessary to administer, restoratives to some who escaped. All day the pit bank was surrounded by thousands, some eager to learn whether any of the missing were alive, but it was not expected the exploring party would reach the bodies before midnight.

Bolton Tues 9.30pm

For 3hrs a stream of water has been poured on the fire, with little effect, men are now engaged in coupling a 2nd branch of hose to the pipes. It is feared the roof has fallen in, if so it will greatly retard the recovery of the bodies, two only have been found.

The following is a list of the killed;-

John GERRARD, aged 19, George GERRARD, aged 22, brothers of Brackley St, Farnworth

James BROWN, aged 18, Cross St, Farnworth

Daniel WALKER, Fireman, married, Larkhill, Farnworth

John STONES, married, Egerton St, Farnworth

William CHURNSIDE, married, Bridgewater St, Farnworth

Thomas SMETHURST, or BALL, married Dunkirk, Little Hulton

James SHORROCKS, Southern St, Little Bolton, Richard, aged 15, his son

James FARNWORTH, aged 20, Joseph FARNWORTH, married, Worsley Rd, brothers

Ralph ECKERSLEY, 19 Oldham St, Kersley

James LOMAS, married, Worsley Rd, Farnworth

Owen WILLIAMS, Book St, Kersley

Thomas BARNES, aged 23, Farnworth

Robert SIXSMITH was injured through tumbling in a hole 10yds deep, while making his escape.

The number of missing is 18, 3 others missing are

William ENTWISLE, single, Glynn St, Farnworth

Lot WALKER of Wigan, who only commenced work at the pit on Monday.

A boy named LOWE.

8 of the deceased are married and leave 15 children unprovided for.

Two of the saddest cases were those of Daniel WALKER, Fireman at the pit who met hid death while bravely endeavouring to save the lives of his fellow work mates and James SHORROCKS who died in an heroic attempt to save his son, turning back to look for him. James SHARROCKS and his son were afterwards found lying on the ground clasped in each others arms, they were to have commenced work this morning at the Ashton Field Colliery of the Bridgewater Trustees.

Several narrow escapes were reported, a man named LINDSAY, after battling manually with the smoke for some distance fell to the ground helpless. He had given all up for lost, when he heard voices. With superhuman effort he managed to crawl 20yds further, and was saved, but a companion who was with him when he fell, succumbed.

All night long water was poured into the pit, to the seat of the fire, obtained from the lodge belonging to Lord BRADFORD, situated near the pit bank. It was projected from the pipes at a pressure of 300lbs to the sq inch. So dense was the heat from the burning cannel that no one could approach neared than 80yds of the fire, the extinguishing apparatus was almost useless.

Am attempt was made to flood the workings, but after some hours it was found there was an outlet where it was escaping. After a tedious search by men encased in SINCLAIR’S Patent Respirator [something like a diver’s helmet] the leakage was found and stopped up.

Bolton Weds, 9.20pm

A second length of piping laid, the down brow now being gradually flooded. Before the flames can be extinguished from 40 to 50yds length of the road will have to be inundated to a depth of 5 or 6ft, which could occupy several days.

Mr BENTLEY, Surveyor and Mr TIMMINS, Manager of the Brisgewater Trustees have volunteered to wear SINCLAIR’S Respirator and endeavour to reach the fire to throw jets of water on it.

Mr MARTIN, Deputy Inspector of mines and Mr LORD, member of the firm and several professionals have been for several hours in consultation as the best means to be adopted. It is impossible to recover the bodies till the flames are extinguished as the intake way, is the only way to reach them and is filled with smoke for 2,000yds.

The conveyance of the bodies to the shaft will be difficult as the air course for the whole 2,000yds is only 4ft in height.

Mr LORD has ordered 18 oaken coffins and shrouds to be prepared for the reception of the dead. A large crowd is now at the pit bank awaiting with feverish anxiety the ascent of the bodies.

The missing are Albert DALY, aged 23, Joseph James HALL, aged 26, and Abraham SCOTT, aged 31.

Bolton Thurs 10pm

In the course of their exploration this afternoon Messers DIXON and MARTIN came across the 18 bodies, 15 were huddled together in a group, some kneeling with their hands clasped in prayer, others seated on the waggonway, apparently awaiting death with composure, while others were lying on their faces, their fingers deeply embedded in the earth, testifying the desperate efforts they made to crawl out of the suffocating smoke

The rumour the bodies had been found spread with rapidity, thousands congregated on the pit bank. To allay the excitement the police adopted a pardonable ruse, informing the spectators the bodies would not be brought up that night, which had the effect of thinning the numbers.

The winding up of the bodies commenced at 8pm, one of the first out was that of Daniel WALKER, the heroic, Fireman.

[The article then goes on to describe the appearance of the bodies, too gruesome to write.]

Liverpool Journal, Feb 3rd, 1877

The colliery fire near Bolton

Funeral of the victims.

The remains of 18 men and boys who were suffocated in the disastrous fire at the colliery of Messers ROSCOW and LORD at Farnworth, were interred on Saturday and Sunday. Seven of the deceased were buried on Saturday, in the churchyard of St Paul’s Walkden.

The coffins provided by the firm were borne by fellow-workers of the deceased. As the long and melancholy cortege slowly wended its way through the village, the houses, in which all had the blinds drawn, and the roads were lined with people, a muffled peal was rang by the bells of St Pauls.

The funeral service was conducted by the vicar, the Rev C. HEATH. B.A, assisted by the Rev J. E. GULL. B.A, Vicar of St John the Baptist, Little Hulton.

As the coffins with their pall coverings, were borne into the church, Miss HEATH, played on the organ, the “Dead March” in “Saul”. At the conclusion of the service the Rev Mr HEATH delivered a short address to the mourners.

All the bodies were buried in separate graves, except for the SHORROCKSES, which were placed side by side.

The remainder of the deceased were interred on Sunday at Farnworth [St John’s] some were borne to church on the shoulders of colliers, others conveyed on hearses.

The body of Daniel WALKER, the fireman, who so bravely sacrificed his life in his endeavours to save others, was interred in the Church of England portion of the newly formed cemetery. As the ground had not yet been consecrated, a faculty had to be obtained from the Bishop of Manchester to enable the burial to take place.

The body was conveyed with the rest to St John’s Ch, and at the conclusion of the service, it was carried to the cemetery, and deposited in the grave prepared, the Rev Mr EDGE officiating. The body was buried there at the request of some Gentlemen who desired to erect a monument to the memory of the deceased. A subscription has already been started for the purpose, as well as providing an annuity for the widow of WALKER.


Copyright 2002 / To date