View of the Colliery (London Illustrated News 1860) as seen from the south with Pit Row housing on the left.
Some years before the explosion the colliery was connected to the Seghill colliery and the air passed down the Burradon shaft to the Seghill mine. In July 1858 the two collieries were sold to different owners and had to be separated. The Burradon shaft was destined to become the upcast shaft and the stone work round it was raised to protect it from the west winds. A furnace was built underground at a depth of 180 feet at the bottom of this upcast shaft. There were pumps in the shaft and these had to be taken out as the flue gases of the furnace would damage them. When the work was at this stage the colliery was reported as being in good condition and the ventilation simple and affective.
From 1858 the colliery was pressed to increase production due to the large demand for coal. A larger winding engine was installed and the shaft arranged to draw four tubs and not two was built and there were changes to the ventilation system.
Mr. Dunn kept a journal, extracts from which, were included in his Report on the disaster-
June 28th. 1858.
June 10th. 1859.
July 1st. 1859.
November 12th. 1858.
November 21st. 1859.
Burradon Colliery 24th. December 1858.
" THE WORKMEN OF THE BURRADON COLLIERY."
Mr. Dunn visited the mine after prior arrangement and with Ralph Stobbs and Philip Young together with the persons appointed by the colliery viewer, he went to the colliery on 27th December and he met with these men and the colliery agent. He inspected the mine and looked at the plans of the work that had gone on at the colliery and was satisfied with the work that had gone on after the loss of the Seghill pit.
He found that the ventilation was good. It was a simple system that had to be complicated and they were opening a field of coal called the ‘New Incline’ The whole system of working and the ventilation of the pit was in the process of being changed but he commented that he thought the quantity of air previous to the explosion was greatly over estimated.
Mr. Dunn’s journal again
I found that a proper course had been taken a few days ago, viz., that three of the workmen had been appointed to visit the suspected parts, along with the wastemen of the colliery, and that all had turned out satisfactory.
I expressed my approbation of this course to all the men with who I came into contact during my walk through the pit, and showed them that if a similar course had been taken in the affair so lately investigated at Tyldesley the loss of 25 lives would assuredly have been saved, especially if they and called in the Government Inspectors of the district.
Since Burradon and Seghill Collieries have been at my suggestion separated, this upcast shaft has been bratticed up to the pulleys, and thus defended from the gusts of wind which formerly affected the ventilation, so that now it is steadied and increased to great advantage. The whole coal workings are carried on with candles, and the pillar workings with safety lamps.
Preparing to bring up four tubs at the time instead of two, also a larger furnace, all of which will be accomplished in a couple of months and the state of the colliery is greatly improved.”
He noted obstructions made by the conditions in the waste which interfered with the ventilation and he detected gas in the goaf that extinguished his lamp. This complex system of ventilation was in operation at the time of the explosion.
The Explosion Occurred on the 2nd. March, 1860 and Mr. Mathias Dunn, Her Majesty’s Inspector went to the colliery. He commented on the fact that ‘the explosion interested the Country in so remarkable manner.’ Seventy six persons lost their lives by fire afterdamp and by falls in consequence to the explosion.
The victims died partly from burns, partly by afterdamp and partly as a result of falls after the explosion.
Two wastemen, Thomas Friar and Robert Jefferson went down the pit to assist with the recovery of the bodies but by 9 p.m. they had not returned and were feared lost. The overman, Mr. Weatherley, shortly after parting with them, tried a trap door leading to the waste with the hope of being able to approach the bodies by that route but he found the noxious gases so overpowering that he quickly withdrew to save his own life. Weatherley was of the opinion that the two men followed him and were overpowered by the gas.