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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Cophall Colliery, West Bromwich, 1876.


Bagnalls is a famous name in Wednesbury and Walsall, not only did they own Ironworks, but also a number of mines as well. Sometime in the early 1870s, they took on the old site of the Cophall Colliery, and opening a new shaft, began operations. The new mine was simply called the No.2 shaft at the start, but like a great many others, it soon aquired a name. " The New Gob Pit ", isn't a name that rolls off the tongue very easily, but the miners were happy with the choice. That is untill 1876. In the August of that year, there was an explosion of firedamp, which resulted in some serious injuries to two miners. Working a new coal face is always dangerous, gas build up could be very swift, and regular inspections and testing was required. There had been other incidents, but nothing to bad, despite the use of naked flames instead of safety lamps. This lack of common sense was to prove costly. While the two injured miners were still recovering, there was yet another gas explosion, this time it was fatal.


Just after 6am, on the morning of 21st September, 1876, Timothy Richards, the mines " doggy ", was conducting the inspection prior to starting the shift. He was carrying, and using, the regulation safety lamp, but what he didn't apparently know, was that 5 men on the day shift, following him, were all carrying lighted candles. Leading the group was John Haywood, aged 65, and a very experienced miner, who really should have known better. Within the space of few more seconds, there was a tremendous blast, and ball of fire, which rushed down the roadway faster than an express train. Three men were very severely burned, and the other two slightly less so. All five though were in a terrible condition when they were removed to the surface, and thence to Hospital. Richards had been lucky, he was some distance away, and escaped the worst of the blast and resulting fire ball. David Phillips died a few days later, in agony, for there was very little the surgeons could do. His brother, Thomas Phillips, also died about the same time. John Haywood, the oldest of the five, died on the 25th Sept. The other two miners, David Brown, and Thomas Bowcott, although badly burned, managed to survive the weeks of agony. There doesn't appear to be any inquest results for this incident, or any surviving Mine Inspectors reports, but a guess can be made at the result. " Accidental Death " The pit seems to have vanished from the records in the 1880s.

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

February 5, 2016 at 11:08 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Pedro
Member
Posts: 25

I have found a record of the final inquest in the Birmingham Daily Post of the 26 October 1876. However it raises quite a few questions!

 

...Timothy Richards, deputy at the pit in question, termed the No 2, was called, and stated that he went down the shaft at a 5:45 in the morning for the purpose of examining the workings. It was usual for him to go down an hour earlier, but it was not intended to work the pit that day as they were short of trade. At the bottom of the pit he lighted a candle and went into the workings. After going about a couple of hundred yards without discovering any gas, he heard an explosion, and was knocked about very badly by the current of hot air...

 

...William Bebb, butty collier, said he went down about a 6:15 in the morning. In going down he asked the men who were on the bank, including the two deceased men, if they're going to work, and they replied that they were not...

 

...Mr WB Scott, deputy government inspector of mines, read his report, which stated that he had visited the pit on 25 September. There was a sufficient current of air to keep the pit clear if properly attended to, and no trace of gas anywhere. There was no station in the pit where the men were supposed to remain, in accordance with the 5th rule of the Act of Parliament.

 

The Coroner, reviewing the case, said the deceased men had committed a breach of the rules by going into the mine until it was thought it safe. The Jury returned a verdict of accidental death in both cases, and recommended that a greater care should be exercised over the ventilation in the pit. They also recommended that the reports made by Richards, the deputy, should be more carefully prepaired.

 

It could be a mistake on the part of the B'ham Post, but it is states that Richards also lit a candle. The deceased men seem to be unsure of whether they will to work or not.

 

My interpretation of Inquest may be incorrect, but it can be questioned...

 

I believe that Candles were still widely used at the time even if safety lamps were available, except in pits that known to be "gasy". So the deceased had broken the rule of not entering the pit until it was thought safe? (Perhaps the Coroner should have said declared safe?)

 

On the other hand Phillips had been reported to say that he had fired the gas with his candle; "nobody to blame but him."

 

[There are a few more mentions of Cophall Colliery that I noticed...May 1870, William Edwards killed by rock fall at Old Cophall Col, Greets Green....and in 1864 Three women and two men were charged with riotous assembly and assault of workmen at Cophall Colliery during a strike...last mention that I can find is a fatal accident in 1883.]

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February 6, 2016 at 6:19 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Dudley Port Colliery disaster, 1835.


The morning shift at the Pumphouse Colliery, on 2nd November, 1835, ( one of several that made up the larger Majors Colliery Complex. ) began as normal, an inspection with the regulation safety lamps, and work commenced. The mine, owned by Sir Horace St Paul, was managed by his agent, Mr Braidley, and worked by two brothers, James and Thomas Bailey, as " butty miners ". Both were experienced men, and employed the men and boys, ( on that day there were 30 down the pit ) amongst whom were some relatives. The pit had a shaft some 240 yards deep, (720 feet ) and the workings extended from 160 to 200 yards from the shaft. The bulk of the men and boys were in the farthest end, working on a new coal face. There were no problems until about 5.30pm, when the whole district was shook by a violent explosion, the effects being felt up to 2 miles away. Smoke, coal, and other debris was flung a great distance into the air from the shaft, and a huge pall of black, acrid fumes, filled the air around the pit. There was no doubt as to where the disturbance had come from, and other miners rushed to the scene to help. One of the first down the shaft, was " Walsall Will ", a foreman from a neighbouring mine, ( real name, William Bedworth, aged 34 ) a selfless act that cost him his life. 17 men were bought up alive in the following hours, five were injured but walking, the rest had been very lucky indeed. Most of the dead were not recovered untill the early hours of the next day, and two very badly miners would expire over the next few days. In total then, on the day, there were 14 dead men and boys, and 2 not expected to live. A very sad day for Dudley Port. The list is below.


Thomas Sheldon, 24, a married man with 2 children, William Bedworth, 34, married with 4 kids, Isaac Cash, 26, married with 3 kids, Henry Pool, 18, Edward Pickard, 12, James Parnell, 18, John Steward, 16, Thomas Steward,18, Samuel Bond,15, John Richardson, 19, Peter Mariani, 23, Charles Bailey,17, ( the son of the butty ) John or Peter George, 14, and William Copestick, aged just 11. The two seriously injured men, George Martin, and Joseph Pennace, were reported to have later also died. Sixteen in total, two being buried in Dudley, and the rest in Tipton.


I can never quite get my head around the ages of some of the dead miners, but poor little William Copestick, just 11 years old, surely takes the biscuit, and should, once and for all, bury the myth that no children were ever employed in Black Country mines. Just for once, there is also a list of the surviving men,

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Moses Buxton, John Buxton, his son, James Smart, Squire Foster, Henry Moreton, Joseph Higginbottom, Thomas Smith, Joesph Bailey, son of butty, Richard Ayton, Benjamin Timmins, Richard Timmins, and William Burford.


Moses Buxton was a lucky man, he actually saw the fireball coming, and threw both himself and his son to the ground. Gathering their clothes, they ran for it, but didn't get far, and had to go back to await rescue, which arrived about 9.00pm. The rest were working in other parts of the mine, and escaped without a scratch. The only question that really mattered, was " how did it happen ", and the answer isn't so easy to work out. From the start, testimony was given that the owner, the agent, and the butties, always made sure that there were plenty of safety lamps availiable, and ensured that each man commenced work with one. Yet the blast, again from the testimony of the survivors, was caused by a lighted candle, the flame being the source of the light the miners were working by. So where were the Davy safety lamps, and why, with the knowledge that a new coal face will produce Sulpher gas, were they not in use? During the subsequent Inquest, the same claims of being safety conscience were made, when clearly, the rules had been flouted. One witness stated, that although he had not been on that shift, he had been down the pit on the preceeding Saturday, and all was well. This had absolutely no bearing on the conditions the following Monday, but seems to have influenced the Jury, that the pit very rarely produced any Sulphur Gas at all. Which of course is untrue. The Royal Oak, in Tipton, has possibly seen many strange things in it's time, but to witness this event being labeled as " Accidental Death ", must be one of the strangest. Never mind then, Sir Horace St Paul, and his Agent, very much in the same way as the Earl of Dudley, walked away from the Inquest with his name and reputation solidly intact.

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

February 7, 2016 at 9:27 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Five Ways Colliery, Cradley Heath. 1844.


It's correct name was The Whitehall Colliery, and it stood, just off St Annes Road, Cradley Heath. The pit was one of many that had been on the site over the years, right on top of a fairly thick coal seam. To the west was the Earl of Dudley's Saltwell Colliery Complex, and over to the east, The Fox oak Colliery. ( See Map )



The listed owner was Joseph Darby, and the ground Bailiff, ( Manager ) Mr Higgs. The Pit had the reputation locally, as the most dangerous in the district to work at. There had been many incidents, and Josph Darby, a man with an eye for profit, had very little experience of mining, and, it appears, no time at all for safety regulations.


Saturday the 26th October, 1844, and the shift had assembled, waiting for the all clear from Mr Higgs following his safety inspection with a lamp. He declared it ready, and at 6 am, 17 men and boys went down to begin work. There were no reported problems, and at 11am, Mr Darby appeared on the pit bank and instructed one of the butty's, Riichard Scriven, to go down and bring up some safety lamps. Why he did this isn't clear, for if there was a problem, they would all be needed at the coal face, not on the surface. Scriven did as he was told, and was lowered down the shaft. Almost as soon as he alighted at the bottom, there was a fearful explosion. Debris of all sorts came flying up the shaft, the skip that the butty had gone down in, props, doors, pieces of tubs, and the winding gear was shattered to bits. Smoke and fumes hung in the air like a giant cloud of doom, which as it turned out, was. The explosion had been heard all over Cradley Heath, and men poured into the yard from both the Saltwell, and Foxoak pits. A rescue mission, with a jury rigged winding, was quickly underway, and dispite the danger, 6 men were soon bought up, all alive. Thomas Evens, (very badly injured ) Benjamin Grey, brothers Thomas and Joseph Wright,  Thomas Pearson, and Emanual Hill. The mine was a total shambles, and it would be many more hours before it would be safe to resume the search for the rest of the shift.


It was dark in the yard, as a sad prossesion of dead men, were quietly, and gently, removed from the premises. There was much wailing and many tears, as they were identified, one by one, and then sent to their homes. Richard Scriven, 58, the pits main Butty, Thomas Scriven, 24, his son, and the other Butty, William Brookes, Benjamin Hill, Emanuals father, Charles Botfield, Joseph Nailer,22, Charles Roberts,18, and Thomas Weaver, aged 12. Most were barely recognisable, mutilated and burned as they were, Richard Scriven being almost decapitated, his head held on by a thin strip of skin. The damage was so bad, that the rescue party had been unable to locate three missing miners. They were finally found the next morning. John Evens,30, John Bennitt, 20, and James Roberts,20. The six men had only survived, because they had been working about 50 feet lower down the mine level, getting Iron Stone. Hearing the blast, they had rushed to the shaft and were eventually winched up. A Doctor, summoned to the scene, had performed heroics on the injured, but there was nothing he could do for the rest. Two of pits horses were also killed in the blast, and three more in the lower level were suffocated. 


Joseph Darby was given a very hard time at the Inquest, and to be honest, he should have got more than a good telling off. He had a diplorable safety record at the mine, and standing in the witness box, wringing his hands saying that he tried to do his best didn't work. One said his efforts were " Lamentable ". All those in the place where the blast occured were dead, so there were no witness's to what actually happened. That it was Sulphurous Gas was not in dispute, and dispite some miners saying that the mine was usually free of sulphur, is far from the truth. Both the Butty, the Bayliff, and certainly our Mr Darby, was well aware that the men worked by candle light. Why else would he ask the butty to bring up the lamps, other than to save a few bob on the fuel, and prevent them being damaged by the miners. ( They had a habit of unscrewing them and losing the bits ) No one will ever know what, or who, caused the explosion that cost 11 lives, and left many children orphans. Some time later, Joseph Darby sold the mine, it's bad luck continued, as you can read in another posted story on the website.


Just  a little end piece. When Richard Scriven went down to collect the lamps, he took with him, a bottle of beer for his son Tom. It was in the skip when it was blown out of the shaft like a cork out of a bottle. The bottle of beer was found, over 200 yards from the shaft. It was still intact. Cheers all.

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

February 13, 2016 at 4:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There were virtually no mines of any note still working in West Bromwich, in 1952, except the old Jubilee Colliery, on the Handsworth/West Bromwich border. Over the years, it had gained a reputation, as one of the deadliest Pits in the area to work down. There is some debate as to the title of the picture, and it would seem, that the outline shape, compared with a plan of the old Sandwell Colliery, is more convincing than the Jubliee, which opened at Warstone Fields, West Bromwich, in 1907.



Due to the watery nature of the area, and the rock strata, there were sudden, and frequent, falls of coal. How it had managed to stay in existence this long is a mystery, but stay it did, even after coming under the control of the National Coal Board, and still using the old method of mining by stalls. There were about 15 men working the part of the still using the old methods in the mine, on 25th April,1952, most of them from outside the area, for all the West Bromwich mines had closed sometime after the Great War. The overman, Frederick Dimmock, aged 50, and from  Knowle Road, Brickhouse Farm Estate, Rowley Regis, was a very experienced hand, and regulary checked conditions at the coal face. Gas had been reported in the workings over the previous weeks, and Dimmock was taking no chances. Working in the stall that night, was his friend, Thomas Rudge, also 50, and from Dane Terrace, also Rowley Regis. and Tadusz Foyt, a Pole, from Cornwall Road, Handsworth, who had stayed on after the War. He had only recently been married to his Landladies 18 year old daughter. At 3am, during his inspection, Dimmock spent a few minutes with the pair before going back to the upshaft. It cost him his life. The rock above the stall moved, and the whole lot came down, burying all three of them. It took some time, for the other miners to frantically move several tons of rubble. All three were dead though, for not many survived being crushed and buried alive down a Pit. Buy a very strange twist of fate, just before the Pit opened, three men were killed in 1907 while constructing the shaft. As far as I know, these are the last of very long list of miners, killed in the Collieries of West Bromwich. They may be the last killed anywhere in the Black Country, for I haven't found any others listed beyond 1952.

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

March 2, 2016 at 5:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

A Dark Day at The Black Waggon.


Owned and operated by the British Iron Company,  this Old Hill/Cradley Heath colliery, ( I don't want to upset the purists, for it could be either ) was in most miners eyes. a fairly safe pit to work in. That was the situation, at least until the 2nd January, 1847. There was a full shift operating that day, and the butty, Benjamin Pearson, was giving working instructions to six miners to open up a stall. ( a mining term for a short length of coal face ). He hung around for a while, ensuring that his directions were being followed, when a low rumble. like distant thunder, was heard. In a few seconds, the whole roof came down, burying all seven of them. Pearson, Thomas Westwood, and Simon Burns, had the luck of the Devil, and managed to extricate themselves, but the other four, nearer to the coal face, had disappeared beneath a huge fall of Coal. Despite some hurculian efforts by the miners of the Black Waggon, all four men were well and truely dead when they were recovered. The inquest must have been an awful experience for the mens families, as the list of the deceased will show.


Elijah Smith, from Hay Green, left a wife and 4 children. She was in the process of giving birth to number 5 when the accident happened. Thomas Lewis, from Old Hill, the youngest of the group, left a widow and 1 child.

Daniel Hobhouse, from Cots Hill, left a wife and two small children.

John Betteridge, age unknown and from Old Hill, left behind, to fend for themselves. a wife and 9 children.

17 children in total then, made fatherless in the blink of an eye. You couldn't really blame anyone for the deaths, just a hazard of the job that goe's with the dangerous conditions faced by every underground worker. Then, and sadly, just as true today as well.


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

May 10, 2016 at 4:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Not every death due to a mining accident was as swift as most already listed. Some could be many weeks away from the original incident. Take for instance, William Foley, who according to the records, had been born in Dixons Green, Dudley, in 1828, and had been a miner the whole of his working life. On the morning of the 23rd April,1857, he was in the employ of Messers King,Swindell and Evers, at their Cradley Heath Colliery. The night shift had finished some 2 hours before, and the doggy had, as was required, checked the workings with a safety lamp prior to handing over to the day shift doggy. He found no trace of Sulpher, ( Fire damp ) and duly signed the book. The Pit, had a main gateroad 250 yards long from the bottom of the shaft. Two other roads had recently been added, and work was on going, to connect them,  to supply a flow of air sufficient to ventilate the new coal faces exposed. William Foley, and two others, were detailed to work in this area, presumable to carry on with the connecting work. About 8.30am, there was an explosion and fireball, caused by a pocket of sulpher gas being ignited by a Candle. Foley was badly burned, as were the two others, a bit further back. Quickly taken to the surface, medical aid was administered, and all three were taken to their homes. Although burned, there was no immediate thoughts, that any of them would, at this stage, die.


Medical knowledge was not as good then of course, and Foley took a turn for the worst, dying in some agony. almost a month later, on the 20 May. The inquest, held at the Prince of Wales, after hearing evidence from the Manager, Mr Brookes, that no fire damp had been found prior to the accident, and that he could not explain why the men had used candles. and not the safety lamps. The verdict of Accidently Death came as no surprise. Once again, the miners had chosen the most dangerous way of lighting the area, for candles gave out more light than the safety lamps, they could work faster, and consequently, earn more money. It was a short working life for William Foley, he was just 29 years old, married, and with some small children. The other 2 miners recovered.

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

October 8, 2016 at 5:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Knowle Colliery, Rowley Regis. 1857.


Every Colliery, from time ttime, required maintenance, especially to the shafts, which were in constant use. Many experienced miners, set themslves up as Well and Shaft Sinkers, travelling around the Black Country, sinking new shafts and repairing old ones. The work was usual done on  Saturdays or Sundays when the pit had shut down. Richard Steadman, born in Brierley Hill in 1807, one such sinker, together with his son, and three nephews, formed a little company, and on the 8th August,1857, they were at work at Messers Thompson and Companies Colliery. Knowle, Rowley Regis. With his son at the controls of the Engine, he, and two nephews, set about erecting the scaffolding, 240 feet down the 360 foot deep shaft. When the wooden platform was in place, bricks were lowered down and work began on the repairs. About 3pm, with his nephews back on the surface,( there was little room to work ) they heard a noise from the shaft which signalled a fall. Quickly climbing into the bowk, Richard's son lowered two of them slowly down the shaft. When they cried out for the engine to " Short Gently ", Richard's son fainted, for he knew that something very serious had happened. The engine was still running, and Willaim Steadman, another nephew, quickly applied the Engines Brake. This probably saved the two young mens lives, otherwise they would been drowned in the Pits deep sump.


The cause of the noise was all too apparent. Lying in the sump, almost every bone in his body broken, was Richard Steadman. He was surrounded by bricks and scaffolding, and had died instantly in the fall. When the Collieries own Engineer arrived, for Richards son was in no condition to work the engine, the broken body was raised to the surface. At the Inquest, held at the Old Bell Inn, Brierley Hill,  the next day, Deputy Coroner W.H.Philiips Esquire, heard evidence that suggested beyond reason, that Richard Steadman had removed far too many bricks in his haste to complete the job. A great many had come away and fallen onto the scaffolding, causing the collapse, and Steadmans death. It's a terrible afliction is complacency, and very typical of the period, a miner causing his own death in a moment of stupidity. This death was recorded as Accidental, just for once, absolutely spot on.

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

October 9, 2016 at 9:44 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Tomasz
Limited Member
Posts: 1

Alaska. at March 2, 2016 at 5:13 PM

There were virtually no mines of any note still working in West Bromwich, in 1952, except the old Jubilee Colliery, on the Handsworth/West Bromwich border. Over the years, it had gained a reputation, as one of the deadliest Pits in the area to work down. There is some debate as to the title of the picture, and it would seem, that the outline shape, compared with a plan of the old Sandwell Colliery, is more convincing than the Jubliee, which opened at Warstone Fields, West Bromwich, in 1907.



Due to the watery nature of the area, and the rock strata, there were sudden, and frequent, falls of coal. How it had managed to stay in existence this long is a mystery, but stay it did, even after coming under the control of the National Coal Board, and still using the old method of mining by stalls. There were about 15 men working the part of the still using the old methods in the mine, on 25th April,1952, most of them from outside the area, for all the West Bromwich mines had closed sometime after the Great War. The overman, Frederick Dimmock, aged 50, and from  Knowle Road, Brickhouse Farm Estate, Rowley Regis, was a very experienced hand, and regulary checked conditions at the coal face. Gas had been reported in the workings over the previous weeks, and Dimmock was taking no chances. Working in the stall that night, was his friend, Thomas Rudge, also 50, and from Dane Terrace, also Rowley Regis. and Tadusz Foyt, a Pole, from Cornwall Road, Handsworth, who had stayed on after the War. He had only recently been married to his Landladies 18 year old daughter. At 3am, during his inspection, Dimmock spent a few minutes with the pair before going back to the upshaft. It cost him his life. The rock above the stall moved, and the whole lot came down, burying all three of them. It took some time, for the other miners to frantically move several tons of rubble. All three were dead though, for not many survived being crushed and buried alive down a Pit. Buy a very strange twist of fate, just before the Pit opened, three men were killed in 1907 while constructing the shaft. As far as I know, these are the last of very long list of miners, killed in the Collieries of West Bromwich. They may be the last killed anywhere in the Black Country, for I haven't found any others listed beyond 1952.

Hello. It's a surprise for me that I came here. I found in this article the trace of my grandfather's brother who disappeared in 1944. It's Tadeusz Fojt. I've already found newspaper clippings about this accident. I also have GRO of marriage and death certificates. Do you know where I could look for additional information? Maybe there is employee documentation, employee files. To this day, we do not know what Tadeusz looked like. I will be very grateful for any help and hint. Tomasz Fojt.
February 15, 2018 at 6:46 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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