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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

As most readers will appreciate, the smaller mines that stretched across our beloved region are sometimes very difficult to locate. Employment records are non-existant, as the methods employed back in time, don't come up to modern expectations. Almost all the miners were self-employed, working in small groups for a " Butty Miner ". I was recently asked if I could locate a mine in the Langley/Oldbury area, where a readers relative may have worked, but there just isn't enough information to be certain. Here's one request that was though, and I have included it to help a member in Australia, with his family tree research.


There are two family names, Birch, and Bird, both of whom are associated with the Birchfield/Birchyfield Lane area of Whiteheath/Langley, near to Oldbury.  If you have a connecttion to any of the four men mentioned, do let me know, and I will pass on the infomation.

Benjamin Birch, age 30, died on the 14th February,1851, while working at the Churchbridge Colliery, Oldbury, of owners Spittle and Haines. He was buried under several tons of falling coal. William Birch, (age unknown ) a coal hewer, was killed when the face he was under cutting collapsed on him. The mine was Newbury Lane Colliery, the date being 14th December,1854, and the owners the same as Churchbridge. George Bird, ( unknown age ) was a hooker-on at the Birchyfield Colliery in Whiteheath, which may have been operated by a family member as the owners were listed as Griffiths and Bird. On the 17th July,1863, as he was preparing to send up some loaded tubs, a brick fell down the shaft and smashed his skull in. The last one is another William Birch, aged 17, and a horse driver at the Clifton Colliery, ( Langley ) of messers Joseph Collins. On the 20th April,1871, he was suffocated to death beneath a large fall of coal and rock from the roof. All very sad, and all to often, the only way of finding out, just where many earned a crust. Do drop me line if you recognise a relative.


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

May 21, 2014 at 11:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

Despite many local Mine Owners denying that  very young children were employed in their pits, a report from 1838 gives a different story. 9 deaths of children under the age of 11 were recorded. 2 from West Bromwich, 2 from Darlaston, 2 from Bilston, 2 from Tipton, and 1 from Wednesbury. There are no names listed in the report, which goes on to fortell of dire consequences unless more safety measures were introduced into the Black Country mines. Did anyone take note of the report. Judge for yourself.


In December 1841, at the Hawne Colliery, Halesowen, 3 men were killed and 6 badly burned. In 1842, at the Ox Farm Colliery, Cradley, 1 man was killed and several severely burned. There were two incidents in 1843, Holly Hall Colliery, where 6 men lost their lives, and many were mained for life, and an Oldbury Colliery, owned by messers Whitehouse and Underhill, 3 men died and at least 9 men disabled. In 1844, ( and already included on the website ) 11 men were killed at the Five Ways Colliery, Cradley Heath, owned by Joseph Darby. ( Three of his relatives were among the dead.) 4 men were killed and 20 injured at Wagstaffe and Sidmore's Tividale Colliery in 1845. There were no less than 4 incidents in 1846. The first at the Pemberton Colliery, Bilston, in which 5 men were killed, and several very badly burned. The second was at Mr Horton's Colliery at West Bromwich, where 3 men lost their lives, and 10 men again badly burned. The third occured at Mr North's Bilston Colliery, where 7 men were burnt to death, and the last, the worst of the lot, at the Rounds Green Colliery, Oldbury, where 20 out of the workforce of 25 were killed. ( Already on the website ) 1847 saw only one reported incident, the Yew Tree Colliery, Shutt End, owned by Mr Gibbons, where 4 men died and several more badly hurt. In 1848, 16 men were reported killed at Salter and Raybould's Heathfield Colliery, Wolverhampton, and later that year, 2 killed and 8 burned at the Standhills Colliery, Kingswinford. Early in 1849, 3 men died at the Rowley Regis "Henge Colliery ", owned by Mr Daniel, and one of the regions biggest disasters, 25 men killed, and 43 badly injured at Thomas Morris's Friary Field/Moat Colliery, Great Bridge. this was out of a total of 70 men employed. This report close's in 1850, when there were 3 more incidents. Dudley Wood Colliery, Cradley Heath, in which 4 men died, the Trough Colliery, Brierly Hill, at which 5 men perished and several disabled, and the Sedgeley Colliery, owned by Mr Bayley, which had a similar death toll, 5 killed and several badly burned. 


Some improvements to safety standards were made, it has to said, but nothing really seems to have stemmed the steady flow of miners entering the gates of the local Cemeteries and failing to come out. 

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

October 10, 2015 at 11:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

Some of the earlier inquests, go into details of the injuries suffered, which caused the death of the miner. There was a shift during the Victorian period, no doubt to spare the more refined of the upper classe's, the gory details, and to keep up the level of investment, in what was a lucrative private industry. While fully reporting, in minute detail, the latest shocking murder, most mining accidents only rated a few lines in most Newspapers. And then they sometimes got the names wrong. In the " Disaster and Death " topic, is the dreadful accident at the Hamstead Colliery, which was then in Handsworth, Staffordshire, which happened in 1908. The Inquest was held at the Beaufort Arms, the only Pub, in what was known as " Hamstead Village. "  The Coroner, fully aware of the state of the dead miners, after recovery from the fire ravaged pit, refused permission for several Widows to view the remains of their loved ones. He did this of course, with the best intentions, to spare any further grief and suffering of the families. Some newspapers then printed the details. There is no doubt, that all the miners were suffocated by the dense smoke, and poisonous atmosphere in the pit during the fire. 25 men died in various parts of the deep mine, ( Both shafts, 1,740 feet deep ) ) and 15 of them, could only be identified by the clothes they wore, or possessions they carried. After suffocation, the bodies were burnt and seared by the fire, and then crushed under many tons of falling rock and coal, as the mine collapsed. There was very little left that was recognisable as a human being, never mind as your husband/father/son. Under pressure then from the Press, the Coroner gave way, and allowed those that wished, to see what remained. Many wished they hadn't. One reporter wrote that he couldn't actually be sure he was looking at a man at all, then went on to discribe a mass of blackened skin, with a bone or two protruding. It may have sold a few more papers, but it certainly sickened many that read it. Thankfully, those editors with a bit of common sense, stopped putting such details of Inquests into their columns, a practice, thankfully, still prevelent today. To compond the Widows suffering, some of them them also came in for a few harsh comments from a Judge. A disaster Fund, to relieve the financial plight of the families, had rasied a conciderable amount of money. Now like all Funds, we accept that some rules need to be applied, in order to be fair to all. Applying for funding, two Widows were told, in no uncertain terms, that they had already spent too much on their late husbands memorial stones. One had paid out £8.10 shillings, and the other, £6.15 shillings. The appeal had raised a sum in excess of £16,000, and there was no reported comment, from the Managing Director of the owners, Messers Grazebrooks, a well known Iron and foundry business, as to the fairness of the Judge's remarks.

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

March 9, 2016 at 9:57 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

There is a name amongst the many, associated with Black Country Mining, that isn't all that well known, but his influence in this field was widespread. Henry Johnson, was born at the family Farm in Jews Lane, Upper Gornal, in January,1823. He was one of 13 children born to John Johnson, and his wife Elizabeth. The family had a long tradition of working for the Wards, The Earls of Dudley, and Henry's father was  Bailiff to the vast estate at Himley. The job was well paid, and Henry, unlike many others, had a Grammar School education. At 16, he was apprenticed to a local Surveyor, John Orme Brettell, also well known in the area. At 21, he already had contracts with the Netherton Hall and Parkhead Furnace Collieries, was surveyor to the Moelydd Lead Mines, Oswestry. He began to take on more work in the mining sector with Richard Growcutt, and the Gibbons brothers. In March,1847, six men were burned to death in one of Gibbons Pits, The Yew Tree Colliery, and it it hadn't been for his intervention, the mines Manager, Mr Love, would have been found guilty of Manslaughter. The deaths were in fact caused by Mr Gibbons attempt at ' improving' the ventilation. He had earlier been engaged to survey ( 1844 ) part of the route of the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway, ( The Goods Depot at Wolverhampton, Bilston Station, and the as far as Stourbridge ) which finally opened in 1854. Due to some very poor operating practices, it soon became known as " The Old Worse and Worse ".  His business expanded, as he took on work from The Heath Colliery Company, in West Bromwich, Tipton, and Dudley Port. Sometimes he found himself not only inspecting pits, but actually having to fight the odd fire, as at the Lewisham and Heath Collieries in 1851. ( 3 dead horses ), and the Victoria, 1852. His other contracts, Watling Street and the Sycamore Colliery at Wilnecote, Peel Colliery at Tamworth, and Moor Farm and Langley Field Collieries at Dawley in Shropshire, kept him away from home at times. His wife, never in the best of health it appears, began to display signs of mental illness, which also lead to her drinking a great deal of alcohol.  He still managed to keep his eye for business though.


Between 1866, and 1867, he became a founder member of the South Staffordshire and East Worcestershire Associaton of Mine Agents. He later became it's Chairman. as they, in the next few years, held regular meetings throughout the Black Country. ( W.H.Dawes, Blackheath Colliery in 1868 ) Most of the coal near the surface, ( down to around 1,000 feet ) had mostly been mined by 1870, and it was now, that Henry Johnson really proved his worth. After lengthy discussions with various Land Owners, including the Earl of Dartmouth, the Sandwell Park Colliery Company came into being. On a piece of land, at the junction with Roebuck Lane and Dartmouth Road, and bounded by both the Great Western Railway and the old and new Birmingham Canal Navigations, shaft sinking began in 1870. The coal was finally found at 1.800 feet, lots of it, and mostly good quality. This saved the Coal mining industry in this area, and several more explorations began. Hamstead Colliery, and the later Jubilee Colliery, formed the basis for almost the next 90 years of Coal mining in this part of the  Black Country. Henry Johnson would never see the results of his lifetimes work, for he died from complications, after an operation, in 1885. His sons carried on though, ensuring that his legacy would at least still be around for many years to come. All the coal mining, at least in the West Bromwich area, finished with the closure of the Hamstead Colliery, in 1960.

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

March 19, 2017 at 9:07 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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