Thirteen Miners And Six Horses Imprisoned In The Pit
In March 1869 There Was A Mining Accident At The Earl Of Dudley's Ninelocks Pit At Brierley Hill
Thirteen miners—including men and boys—were trapped underground for a week following a flood.
As the days passed, the group huddled together for warmth. Some got so hungry
they ate the candles they had with them, leaving them all in darkness. Following
this some even ate the leather from their straps and shoes, and pieces of coal.
A full-scale rescue effort was undertaken above ground. As the mine was owned
by the Earl of Dudley, the equipment was good for the day—it had a pump that
lifted 250 gallons with each stroke and a tank that drew 2½ tons of water every
time. The actions of the tank, moving and removing the water, meant that fresh air
kept circulating, keeping the miners alive.
Eventually the miners were reached and rescued on a raft. All but one survived.
It is our painful duty to have to record the particulars of the most appalling colliery accident which has ever taken place in this part of Staffordshire.
Many of our readers will recollect the explosion at Harts Hill Ironworks, then occupied by Mr. Jeffries, and also the death by fire-damp of several men near the Sampson and Lion, Buckpool, but in neither instance was the number of sufferers so many.
The pit is well known as one of the largest on the estate of the Earl of Dudley, and the whole of the extensive plant and machinery is of a kind not to be seen in the mining district of South Staffordshire, being of the very best and most costly description.
The safety of the men has been consulted in the highest degree, the appliances being all of the most recent character. Some two years since the water from the Chapel Hill pond burst into the pit, but happily, on that occasion, no one was at work at the time, and no particular damage was sustained, beyond nearly ten days’ pumping to clear it, which having been done, danger of that kind was not expected from any other quarter.
Although many surmises have been hazarded as to where the water could have come from on this occasion, it is generally believed to have been a “pocket,” collected in close proximity to the workings, in consequence of the heavy falls of rain which have taken place during the winter, but until the workings are completely cleared of the water, no authentic information can be gathered.
From the information received, it appears that, on Tuesday evening, ten men and three boys went down the pit to cut coal as usual during the night. About three o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, the 17th March, the engineer in charge of the large pumping engine at this colliery observed steam coming up the drawing shaft, and thinking something had happened, immediately called up his fellow engineer, and they at once sent off for the doggy and banksman, who immediately descended the shaft for the purpose of ascertaining what was the cause of the steam. Not, however, knowing that the water had burst into the shaft, they were both immersed some ten or twelve feet in water, and but for the presence of mind of the engine tenter, James Granger, both must have been drowned - in fact, the banksman had to clamber on to the top of the “cage.”
Mr. David Plant, one of the chartermasters, was on the spot almost immediately in fact, to use his own words, “he dressed himself as he came along,” and instantly despatched a mounted messenger to Mr. Jeffries, the manager of his Lordship’s mines in this district, who was quickly on the spot. The various agents from the neighbouring collieries were also sent for, and every means were at once put into requisition to rescue the unhappy workmen.
The particulars of their names, ages, and number of children are as follows:-
- Zachariah Pearson, 50, wife and six children
- David Hickman, 23, wife and two children
- Thomas Sankey, 14
- Thomas Timmins, 14
- Stephen Page, 26, wife and two children
- Benjamin Higgs, 47, wife and nine children
- Timothy Taylor, 24, wife and no children
- John Holden, 30, wife and one child, wife near her confinement
- John Handley, 48, wife and six children
- Thomas Hunt, 35, wife and five children
- George Skidmore, 21, single
- William Ashman, 47, wife and one child
- Joseph Pearson, 14
The Survivers From The
'Nine Locks' Entombment
Standing (left to right) Zacharia Person, Stephen Page
George (Muggers) Skidmore,
Tim Taylor, Tom Hickman
John Hanley, John Holden,
Seated (left to right)
in the foreground 'pit lads'
('The one who shoulda bin ayten')
Joseph Pearson and