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On the 5th November 1859 the whole of district of North Staffordshire was thrown into a state of considerable excitement owing to a very serious accident, which had occurred at the “Big Pit” Far Green, Hanley. While a number of men were being brought up in the cage, and a number of others were being lowered, by a momentary over-site on the part of the engineman, the cage was not stopped at the mouth of the pit as usual, and indeed the brake was not applied until the cage had been completely drawn over the headgear of the pit.

The effects were appalling. Six occupants of the cage were thrown out and fell down the shaft, a distance of some 507 feet. Of course they received terrible injuries, the nature of which cannot be described. Three others were thrown onto the plates and killed and one received such injuries that he died shortly afterwards.

There were, as generally happens in such cases, some very remarkable escapes. One youth was lodged on the woodwork between the two wheels, and lay insensible for some hours, but was ultimately rescued without serious injury. Six others, who were in the same cage, received more or less serious injuries, one, Thomas Jones, receiving such a shock to the system, that his death took place shortly afterwards.

There were twelve men and boys in the descending cage and all of these were more or less injured. The evidence which taken at the inquest showed, that immediately preceding the accident, two men entered the engine room and made some remark to the engineman, and the latter alleged that as a consequence of their entry and observation, his attention was momentarily diverted from his duties, the accident resulting.

The jury added a rider to the verdict to the effect that in their opinion the accident would not have happened but for the entrance of these two men. The killed were mostly young men range from 11 years of age.


The Following Is A List Of Those Killed

E. Knowles age

14

T. Jones age

14

H. Walklate age

22

E. Griffiths age

18

O. Williams age

11

W. Vernall age

16

W. Hughes age

14

W. Blore age

11

R. Yates age

17
T. Bellas age
36

Injured

T. Williams broken thigh
E. Leese

broken arm and contused back

T. Leighton

injury to head

G. Rhodes

uninjured

T. Jones

shock to system

A. Cope slightly injured

The above were in the ascending cage;
and the following persons were in the descending cage.

D. Gould

contused back

J. Morris

contused back

T. Price

severely hurt

J. Northwood

slightly shaken

W. Jones

shaken a good deal

J. Clark

ankle injury

W. Leese

injury to feet

J. Edwards

injury to back and feet

H. Chorleton

foot hurt

W. Pierpoint

slightly shaken

H. Davis

slightly shaken

J. Watkin slightly shaken


Inquiry

The inquiry was held in the Mason’s Arms Inn and after the Coroner addressed the jury they proceeded to North Street to view the remains of the deceased, then on to the Big Pit, the site of the disaster, where the engine was worked in their presence. They inspected the indicator and various objects on the bank and full information was given to all.

On returning to the Miner’s arms the Coroner informed them that the engineman Gallon, was in custody. The first witness called was Robert Jones, fireman. He was on the bank at the time of the accident looking after the banksmen and said the engineman at the time would know he was drawing up men and not coal. He said it was about 16 to 17 yards from the pit mouth to the engine house and he was 6 to 10 yards from the pit mouth. He saw the bottom of the cage going up to the pulley wheels, in another moment the accident happened.

In reply to a question by the Coroner, Mr. Owen Roberts, the ground bailiff said as a rule the engineman slackened speed as the cage approached the top. Jones resumed, I saw it go over the headgear and fall onto the iron plates with which the pit bank is paved. He observed the men falling out of the cage, but could not say how many there were. Some fell on the bank and some fell down the shaft, he knew this from their bodies brought up afterwards. Three were killed on the spot at bank and one died afterwards. A brief conversation took place at this point in which the Coroner, Mr. Wynne HMI of Mines and several members of the jury took part as to the number of men legally allowed to come up in the cage, plus other rules and regulations.

In answer to the foreman, it was stated that the engineman’s position is so sacred that it is of the utmost importance that he should not be interrupted in any way. Rule 33 is as follows:

No engine tender shall allow any person to come into the engine house, except persons authorised by the colliery engineer or the manager.

Jones, the witness, in reply to Mr. Wynne, the Mine’s Inspector, said he saw a man named Edward Williamson with Samuel Tillett about two o clock, but saw no more of them till after the accident, when they were picking up two of the injured men.

Thomas Marsden was called next. I am hooker on at the Big Pit and was engaged there on Saturday and recollect the first cargo of men going up about two o clock and two others followed, it was with the forth that the accident happened. George Rhodes, the youth who was lodged in the headgear, was called next: I live in Hope Street and am a horse driver in the Big Pit. I was one of those who went up in the cage to which the accident happened, I was in the top of the cage. I do not know how I escaped, when I came to myself, I was between the two pulley wheels. I recollect running along the beam. The hooker on knocked a signal of 3 before we were drawn up; we went up at the same speed from bottom to the top. We did not slacken when we got near the top. We feared no danger before we came out of the pit, we were laughing and talking as we come up.

 

Pit Terminology - Glossary

John Lumsdon


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