Garswood near, St Helens, Colliery explosion 1867

Liverpool Mercury, Aug 23rd, 1867



A most dreadful colliery explosion occurred about noon on Tuesday at Messers BROMILOW and Co’s Garswood Colliery, which is situate at Ashton near St Helens.

The town of St Helens was thrown into a fever of excitement on the news becoming known, and crowds rushed to the scene of the catastrophe, which is about 3miles distant. This accident is more appalling from the fact that a dreadful explosion occurred in the same mine on the 13th May 1866, when 13 men lost their lives. The Garswood Colliery consists of four mines to each of which is a separate shaft works. That in which the explosion occurred is called the Little Delf Mine, and is the deepest at 460yds deep. The explosion was in a distant and remote part of the mine 1000yds from the shaft, the part known as “the top level” and runs in the direction of Garswood Park. It is considerably higher than any other part of the mine, and is consequently more dangerous, as the gas rises to that part from the other workings. At the time of the accident 14 men and boys were engaged working at the top level, all of whom have perished.

The explosion was not heard in the pit very far from where it occurred, but its serious nature was at once feared and the whole of the works was immediately stopped and the men withdrawn from the mine without delay. A volunteer exploring party was formed which consisted of, Thomas MOLYNEUX Snr, under-manager, Thomas MOLYNEUX Jnr, under-manager, William TICKLE, top-manager, and a party of colliers all of whom are employed at the Garswood Colliery, after hours of toil they succeeded in recovering the whole of the 14 bodies, which were not brought up to the pit mouth until night. The scene on the brow of the pit was most painful, as amongst the enormous crowds gathered were, wives, children, relations and friends of the men known to be missing, and the tearful and anxious looks and inquiries of some as they waited for the bodies from the pit were harrowing.

The following is a list of those who perished :-

Joseph TOPPING, Fireman of Haydock, aged 61, leaves 7 children.

Thomas ANDERS, Collier, Park Rd, Parr, aged 36, leaves a wife and 5 children.

William CHEETHAM, Collier, Park Rd, Parr, aged 38, leaves a wife and 6 children

William CHESWORTH, Collier, of Haydock, aged 28, single

John EDEN [also known as John HALSALL] Collier, Back Lane, Windle, aged 29

Anthony FILLINGHAM, Collier, Finger Post, Parr, aged 21, single

Henry WINSTANLEY, Collier, of Haresfinch, aged 20, single

William BROWN, Collier, Hill’s Brow, Parr, aged 30, leaves a wife and 5 children

William BRIERS, drawer, Park Rd, Parr, aged 19, single

William BARON, drawer, Park Rd, Parr, aged 16

John LEADBETTER, drawer, Islands Brow, Parr, aged 17 or 18

Henry WRIGHT, pony driver, Copper House Row, Ashton, aged 17

Thomas RADCLIFFE, Waggoner, Gerards Bridge, St Helens, aged 18

Thomas WILKINSON, jigger, Coalpit Lane, Parr, aged 16

The scene was dreadful as the agonised relations rushed forward to recognise and claim the dead, some of the bodies were fearfully burnt and disfigured and could only be recognised by their clothing. Several of those who perished were killed by the explosion as they were severely burnt, others who may have heard the explosion and immediately had run to escape the choke damp, were overtaken by the foul air and suffocated. The bodies were removed to the Owl’s Nest, Public House, on Wednesday a Coroner’s jury viewed the bodies so they might be removed by the relatives without delay. The inquest will be opened on Friday by Mr DRIFFIELD.

Among those present after the explosion were Major JARY, who is connected to the firm of Messers BROMILOW and Co, Dr R. A. GASKELL and assistant, the Rev’s Mr NUNN and Mr RIGBY of Parr, Mr Superintendent LUDLAM of the County Constabulary, and Sgt MYERS who rendered efficient aid in keeping the enormous crowd orderly.

The cause of the explosion can never positively be known, but is conjectured that it was caused by the fireman TOPPING, exploding a charge of gunpowder for CHESWORTH, as he was known to be about to do so at the time of the accident. Strange to say the explosion caused in May 1866, was caused by TOPPING firing a charge, when he escaped, but is now one of those who perished.


This additional information kindly forwarded by Michael Williams (3xGreat Grandson of Joseph Topping)

Liverpool Mercury, Aug 24th, 1867

"To Correspondents"

"We are desirous to correct a mistake which appeared in our report of the colliery explosion at St. Helens on Wednesday. Our reporter at the scene of the accident was informed that one of the men who perished in the explosion, and whose name was Joseph Topping, was the man who fired the shot in May, 1866, which caused an explosion and the loss of 13 lives in the same pit. This we find to be incorrect; and we also understand that the man Joseph Topping always bore a very good character for sobriety and industry, and had been employed at the Gareswood Colliery for nearly 50 years."


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