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Forum Home > Mining Deaths before the 1837 records. > Dead Miners, from 1817.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There are many family members who are missing from the records, and some who have never been recorded in family tree's. One line in a Burial record, doesn't tell you much, it just about serves to note the fact that they were once, part of your family history. A violent death, on the other hand, sometimes produces a great deal of information, especially if you can find an Inquest report, or mention of the event in a Newspaper. Mining records don't always cover the period, or report the smaller little accidents that happened. You will find a few below, that have not seen the light of day for a great many years.


On the 6th August,1821, at the Springfield House Colliery, near Rowley Regis, there was an explosion of Sulpherous Gas, that killed 6 men. The area of the Pit, was likely to be near Warrens Hall, for at least  two of the dead men, came from Netherton. The owner of the mine is unknown, but the cause of the explosion was the use of naked flames, ( candles ) at the coal face. Joel Chandlers, age unknown, Richard Bunn, and maybe his brother, Thomas Bunn, aged 27, are the only names from the 6 dead. If you have any more information on the event, please get in touch. Interestingly, in 1825, a young lad, William Bunn, aged 3, was burnt to death at his home in Netherton, a result of being left alone by a open fire. In September the same year, John Morris, having finished his work, stepped out of a skip at the Dudley Port Colliery, Tipton, and slipped on some wet straw that had been previously been taken down to feed the horses. Unable to grab hold of anything, his screams of anguish, must have echoed around the colliery yard, as he went back down the shaft, head first. It was over 300 feet deep. In early October, there was the terrible loss of life at the Ebenezer Colliery, West Bromwich, ( already in the mining section ) and the next month, two more unfortunate deaths. Joseph Sheldon, a pikeman, at the Groveland Colliery, Tipton, poked a little to hard, and was buried under about 10 tons of falling coal. William Ball, working at the Wolverhampton Colliery, ( Near Bilston ) was being winched up by the whimsey. This was a type of system that was at ground level, normally worked by a horse, but in this case, was being driven by a steam engine. When he reached the surface, he was horrified to find that the machine did not stop, and he was in danger of being drawn around the drum and dismembered. Frantic efforts on his part, enabled him to escape from the skip and cling onto the wooden framework of the whimsey. Sadly, he lost his grip, and fell over 240 feet to his death. The machines operator, who should have working the equipment, had, apparently gone off to feed the engines boiler with coal. ( or so he said ) At the Inquest, the Jury failed to believe his story, and he was charged with Manslaughter, and sent for trial. At the Lent Assizes in Stafford, in 1822, William Dunning, the supposed operator of the contraption, was given just a months imprisonment. The death was still recorded, as were the others, as Accidental Death.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 22, 2014 at 4:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

To continue the topic from the above post, the areas around part of Bilston, Stow Heath, and Ettingshall, contained many pits and were mostly recorded as being in Wolverhampton. Monmore Green and Willenhall are also, at times listed under the same, and without a name for the Colliery, placing them with any accuracy, is nigh on impossible. On the 10th May,1817, Samuel Baugh, age unknown, was suffocated by choke damp in a Wolverhampton mine. The next year, on the 30th October,1818, George Banks was killed in a fashion that was the main cause of most of the mining deaths at the time. He was killed in an explosion of gas. The place referred to is Sedgley, but the old manor covered an area right up to the boundry of Bilston at the time. Back in Wolverhampton, on the 6th June,1820, Charles Bayley suffered a similar fate. Dispite the introduction of several types of Safety Lamps, it seems that some miners, disregarding the rules, much preferred to work by the naked light of a Candle. In 1823, the number of deaths from this practice began to attract a great many complaints. In Whitehaven, Cumbria, 14 men, 16 boys, and 2 girls were killed in an explosion at the William Colliery, this being compared to an incident 11 years earlier, at a pit in County Durham, also called the William Colliery, where 92 men and boys, out of a workforce of 124, all died in a gas explosion. It's no surprise then, to find that the deaths of 4 men in Darlaston, on the 28th August,1823, went largely unreported. A search has produced only one name  Nathaniel Arch, so again, if anyone has more, please get in touch. This maybe a coincidence, but three years later, and this time in Tipton, another man, with the same name, Nathaniel Arch, was killed in another gas explosion. ( Father and son? ) Over in Kingswinford, or it could be Pensnett, two men, James Barnes, and Thomas Adcock, were both sent to their maker on 10th October,1823, following a violent gas explosion. The dangers of naked flames may have finally sunk in for many in the Black Country, for explosive deaths fell away until 1826.


Starting the year 1826 off, there was a mine death, but not of a miner. On the 26th January, two women were walking through the grounds of the Barnfield Colliery, which records suggest, was near Rowley Regis, but may have been in the Oldbury/Langley area. Suddenly, from the direction of the Hovel, ( a small hut or derelict building ) a horse appeared, and it was evidently frightened and in full gallop. Mary Richards, aged about 54, ran off the pathway to get out of the way, and thus sealed her own doom. In her panic, she failed to see an abandoned old mine shaft, and plunged nearly 600 feet to the bottom. She was, according to the reports. " very much mangled ", when her body was recovered. John Armstrong, from Bilston, was blown up and killed on the 10th July, Jacob? Ashmore, from West Bromwich, was suffocated by choke damp on the 15th August, Henry Thomas Beddow, in Tipton, died in an explosion on the 17th November, and 10 days later, on the 27th, Edward Beddow was also killed, in an almost identical incident at the same Pit. ( Father and son, or Brothers? )


The last one in this topic I don't have much information on either, just that the mine owner was Mr Wightwick, the date was the 25th January,1827, and the mine was in Tividale. I do know that on that day, there were only 5 men at work in the pit, when over 25 tons of coal fell from the roof of the mine, and crushed to death, 4 of the men. Daniel Sowden, Thomas Jones, William Paine, and John Corbet Brookes, all died in an instant, three of them being married, and all with young children. I have a feeling that the Colliery in question may have been the old Grace Mary, for Mr Wightwick had some interest in the other mine that opened, on the same site, bearing the same name, in the 1850s, and commonly called The Twin Pits. It's also fairly common, to come across men with the same surname when accidents happen, as in the case of Charles Cooke, and John Cooke. Both men appear to have been suffocated by choke damp, while hewing coal, on the 15th May,1829, in a pit in Tipton. If any of the names are in your family tree, or you have some details that I can add, do let me know.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 23, 2014 at 3:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

By far the most common form of any miner breathing his last, was the sudden appearence of the roof of the tunnel, on the floor. The poor miner of course being under it. It was sligthly worse around the Black Country, due to the persistant use of the old fashioned ways of extracting the coal. Undercutting the coal in "stalls", an area about 8 feet long, and then poking it to make the overhang fall, isn't the safest way to mine coal. The graveyards of the area contain a great many who proved to be less swift of foot than they believed they were . Consequently, such deaths became so common, that they barely rated two lines in the local Newspaper. The only record most have, will be found on a death certificate, in the dreaded words, " Killed by a fall of coal ".  Now most folk today, assume that every sudden death of the past, will be recorded as they would be now, and some sort of enquiry would be carried out. Not so, for there were very few regulations in the industry then, life was cheap, and work, even dangerous work, was at times, hard to find. Following the deaths of three miners near Bilston, in the 1860s, the Butty who controlled the workforce recieved over 40 requests to fill the vacant positions. Going back further in time, ( 1820s ) and after a huge explosion and many lost lives in a colliery near Newcastle, the mine was back in operation, and fully staffed, barely two weeks later. It was only the loss of so many lives, that any accidents like this were reported at all at the time. So if you find those words on a distant relatives death certificate, don't expect to learn much more, for at the time, it was no big deal, and life, for the family at least, simply went on.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 3, 2015 at 11:58 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Hill Top Colliery. West Bromwich.


This Colliery, like many others of the time, had several shafts on the site, most of them less than 70 feet deep. Some were simply left idle, when coal prices dropped, or the cost of pumping out water was greater than the profit made selling the coal. The latter reason seems to be the explanation, when on the morning of the 7th July, 1830, seven miners were sent down a shaft to prepare for it to be re-opened. This was no mean feat, for the pit had been flooded for at least three years, and not suprisingly, the pump required some attention. So, at the bottom of the shaft, and without apprently making any safety checks on the air quality of the roadways. a fire was started to melt some lead to repair the pipework. There was little or no ventilation, and soon, the air became thick with smoke, so William Nightingale shouted up to the Banksman, to throw down some water to create an airflow which would clear the smoke. This, the banksman did, and it worked. Unfortunately, the airflow also forced down the roadway, a large quantity of Sulpher. When it made contact with the fire, it exploded, and Daniel Gorton, William Nightingale, and another miner, were Suffocated by the resuling fumes and hot gas. Another miner was badly injured, but later recovered, the rest were unhurt. Henry Smith Esq, the district Coroner, doesn't appear to have asked too many questions about the working conditions, or the lack of any safety inspections, at the Inquest the next day. It was a mere formality, to record the verdict of Accidental Death on all three, which is a sad reflection on the state of Black Country mining at the time. Immediately after this Inquest, he held another one, this time on one Joseph Harrison, who was the Caretaker/Watchman, at a mine just down the road in Wednesbury. During the night, the mines pit ponies had got out of their pen, and to prevent them falling down the shaft, he attempted to drive them away. It's clear from this that there was no fencing around the shaft, for the old man, ( nearly 70 years old ) fell down the shaft himself. It was about 50 feet deep, but the fall didn't kill him, and he lay there all night until found by miners beginning the day shift. Once again, no questions, and the same verdict, Accidental Death.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 22, 2016 at 10:04 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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