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Forum Home > Mining History. > A Fatal accident at Walsall Wood Colliery on the 29th March 1890.

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A Fatal accident at Walsall Wood Colliery on the 29th March 1890.


This is an accident that I would like to bring to attention because, although the account does not name the individual youth, it infers that he (Bradbury) was in some way to blame.

The account appears in the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society (CCMHS) publication “The Cannock Chase Coalfields and its Coal Mines” and says…


On the 29th March 1890 a unique accident occurred at the Walsall Wood Colliery. It happened in an underground engine recess by the side of one of the main haulage roads. In the recess had been placed a Priestman’s petroleum engine. It was described at the time as ‘the motive power of this kind of engine is exploding petroleum vapour and their compactness, readiness of application in difficult positions and the absence of a boiler, make a tempting mechanical appliance for mining engineers.’


The engine had been sited by the side of the main road some 500 yards from the shafts. The engine was being tested by workmen who considered it necessary to empty the petrol from the tank; to completely drain the tank they decided to use compressed air. A youth was sent under the engine to catch the petrol as it flowed off the discharge plughole. Another youth was told to loosen the plug, ‘but not to bring the lighted lamps near to the tank as the petrol rushed out.’ Finding that the plug did not come out easily he reached for his light to see better, and just as the plug flew out followed by the petrol, blown by the compressed air, in the form of a spray. This instantly caught fire at the lamp, three men were burnt, one fatally. The woodwork caught fire and with the petrol burnt giving off dense smoke the mine had to be evacuated.


It is my opinion that some historians base their accounts on Press articles of the time, without referring to the report of the Inquests, and it this case the Inquest reveals a different story. The work on the engine was not being carried out by one man and two youths, but by two men who were fully conversant with the engine (employees of Priestman) and a youth who was just doing his job. The use of the engine underground was a new innovation and the safety measures had not been given due consideration; the siting of the engine by the Company could have had disastrous consequences.The Petroleum engine had only been introduced in 1886, and Priestman’s detailed advert of 1888 gives no mention of its use in coal mines.


The idea that, ‘Another youth was told to loosen the plug, but not to bring the lighted lamps near to the tank as the petrol rushed out.’ …seems so at odds with the Inquest evidence. As yet I have not had any joy in correcting the mistake.


A more detailed discussion of the accident can be seen here…

November 29, 2015 at 5:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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