|Forum Home > Mining History. > Blackheath Colliery Disaster. 1862.|
This Colliery was situated at the end of what was then, Tump Road, Blackheath, right on the border with Old Hill. It's now called Beeches Road, the modern day extension to which is Waterfall Lane. 600 hundred yards away, was a mine on Gorsty Hill, another one at the bottom of Waterfall Lane, and yet another, the Lion Colliery, near Totnal Canal bridge. There was hardly a green blade of grass to be seen, for the area was scarred by the spoil heaps of the search for riches. Not just Coal either, for there was another mineral much sort after, Iron Stone, and this is what the Blackheath Colliery mainly produced. It wasn't noted for producing gas from working the thick seam of coal, and under the owner ship of W.H.Dawes, it had an excellent safety record. Well, that is until 18th January, 1862.
The mine was split into two sections, the Iron, stone on a lower level than the the thick coal, the two being connected by a " jacky-pit ", a shaft, with it's own winding engine, about 60 feet deep. There were two other shafts, the downcast, and the upcast, both about 900 feet deep, and the ventilation in the mine was in general, very good. The day being a Saturday, most of the miners had finished about noon, and there were just 4 men, and 6 horses, in the pit. Hay and feed had been taken down, and was waiting to be hauled into the stables, near the top of the jacky-pit and the Engine. Richard Beddow, 22 years old and from Waterfall Lane, was making his way out of the Ironstone section and arrived at the stables at 27 minutes past 1. Thomas Johnson, aged 20, was the mine's engineer, responsible for driving and working the engine, was sitting near the stables, aout 6 yards from the engine pit, reading a copy of the Daily Post. Beddow saw nothing wrong, and continued on his way out. He then encountered William Hunt, 20, and his brother, Edward Hunt, 18, on their way towards the coal face to collect some slack to feed the Main Engine's boiler on the surface. All was well as he exited the mine about 2.00pm, and went home. No ones knows what happened between 2 and 3 pm, when a rumbling noise was heard from underground, and steam, debris and sparks were noticed coming from the upcast shaft. A closer inspection revealed there was a fire at the bottom of the shaft, and summoning help, the watchman William Moore, ordered a drum sent down the other shaft, so that the men could escape the blaze and fumes. It remained unused, no one got into it, and on it's last trip, it arrived on the surface full of boiling water from the engine sump. James Plant, 25, Thomas Ashman, 19, and the mines Doggy ( foreman ) went down the shaft, but were unable to locate the men, and were quickly forced to abandon the rescue attempt. By now, many others had arrived, including the local Mines Inspector, and further atempts all had to be halted, as the flames and smoke were now pouring from both shafts. After a hurried consultation, it was decided to seal off the air flow by blocking the downcast shaft, in an attempt to put out the fire, which by now had burnt away all the guides and cladding in the 900 foot deep upcast shaft. There was very little hope, that the three men would have survived the initial fumes and flames, and as if to confirm that theory, the fire raged underground until mid February. On the 17th February, the decomposed bodies of the three men, and what was described as " the remains of 6 valuable horses ", were bought to the surface. Men, and animals, had all been suffocated by the choking fumes, and there was no visible sign of what had caused the fire. Accidental Death, was a foregone conclusion at the Inquest, which was held at the George and Dragon, High Street Blackheath, late in February. The three men were laid to rest, in the Churchyard of Saint Giles, Rowley, two of them at least, possibly the victims of Thomas Johnson's careless actions. It's dark in a mine, very dark, and to read a newspaper would have required more than the feeble light from a safety lamp. A candle. left unattended near all that hay and feed near the stables, would be all it took to start a fire that killed three men. Thomas Johnson, William Hunt, and Edward Hunt., paid a high price to earn a wage, and Edward Hunt, the boys father, already a widower, had lost almost half the family he still had left.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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