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Eckington Colliery Explosion, Inquest Adjourned - 17 Jan 1871

Thanks to Bryn Holmes

Plain text below article

Yesterday the adjourned inquest; touching the deaths of the men who were killed by the explosion at Renishaw Colliery. Eckington, on Tuesday last, was held at the Sitwell Arms before Mr. Busby the Coroner.

There were present Mr Evans, government Inspector of Mines for the district; Mr E Bembridge, mining engineer to the Duke of Norfolk \ Messrs. Cooper, the Holmes Colliery; Mr. E E. Appleb, Renishaw Colliery ; Mr. H Earl, mining engineer, Chesterfield, &c.

The Coroner stated that since the jury had met there had been another death, Thomas Goodwin, aged 17, had died on Sunday.
The Jury, having viewed the body, the inquiry as to the deaths of the 26 people killed was commenced. The first witness called was Mr. Joseph Wells, who said - l am one of the proprietors of the colliery at which the accident took place.  There are two pits called No1 and No 2 pits. I produce a plan of that part of the colliery where the men killed were found. The pits were worked with safety lamps. Samuel Hardwick is the underground steward, and the deputy was Francis Clarke, who was killed. About 400 men are usually employed in the pit in the day time and at the time of the explosion there were 77 persons in the workings.
To Mr. Evans. – All the safety lamps are locked, there being a lamp man for the day and one for the night.  Both the Davy and ordinary glass lamps were used. Witness then explained by reference to the plan, the way in which the air travelled through the workings, the distance it travelled being about 2000 yards, and then proceeded to say that there were only 9 men burnt, the remained being suffocated by the afterdamp.  Six of the men suffocated were within a few yards of each other, Alcock and Clarke were the next and Bolsover would be about 300 yards from them.  When the explosion took place the doorways were all blown out.

Thomas Scott, miner, said— I am a contractor at the Renishaw Colliery. I was engaged on the night of the accident in blowing the roof down with blasting powder, and getting it down by means of wedges, I had men working in the No9 and other working places and some were blow down the roof in the main level. Just before the explosion I saw Francis Clarke in the No. 12 level, and he said he was going to the far end of the bank face. I then went towards the dip workings from the pit bottom. And when I had got about 20 yards there came a regular rush of smoke and dirt as hot as fire. The men who were in the low or dip working rushed out. I went round the workings previously with Francis Clarke and a boy. We went past the No 4 gate bole, where Martin and another man were drilling, where Martin and another man were drilling a hole in the roof. The explosion and the firing of a shot took place simultaneously as I only heard one report. 1 should not have felt the shock of a powder explosion solely.  When we were at the extreme rise(?) we examined every place on the south side. We did not walk all the way to the lower level, but we examined it at both ends and in the middle. After the explosion I went to the north Jinny to see where the doors were, and I found that they were blown open. I then came back to the pit buttom, and then to the south level to No 3 pass-by. We then proceeded to the gates, where we reared some doors up for the purpose of turning the ventilation. We found Goodwin in the main level and I left him with some other men whilst I got some cloths.  I then went as far as the after-damp would allow me, and returned to the pit bottom and got some cloth and straw to put  in the stoppings. Thomas Hardwick, the underviewer then went to the south jinny to look for the bodies.  We found Bilham and Mark Barker and a boy named Rhodes, on the south level.  We then found several others, and sent some men to bring them out. It is not my duty to go round and examine the pit.  I am satisfied that a shot was fired just at the time of the accident. A shot might be fired without me hearing it, or smelling the powder.  The light to fire the shot is got from the lamp by means of a red hot wire.  The man’s name, who fired the shot, was Benjamin Marsden.

William Keating said – I am the lamp cleaner at the colliery where the accident took place. On the night of the explosion I gave out about 70 lamps, twelve of which would be Davy’s and the remainder Channings. All of them were locked with the exception of those given to the Deputies; all the lamps were not returned up to Saturday; but of those received one was loose, and some others were slightly damaged. The lamps were given out indiscriminately, so that the colliers did not get the same lamps every day.

Henry Cotts said – On Thursday morning I went down the pit for the purpose of finding the body of Bolsover.  I found the body lying under some material, and his lamp which was near it, was broken in two.

Samuel Hardwick, the underground viewer of the colliery, said – I was last down the pit on Saturday last, and I went to the north side. My duties are to see that all parts of the pit are in a proper state for the men to work in. I manage the distribution of the air in the pit. Mr G. Wells, one of the owners had the management of the air-courses. I do not keep a book for the purpose of entering in it daily the state of the mine, as required by Rule 9. There are two firemen who go through the workings every night, and leave their initials on the ends of the bends.  They report to the day deputy and he reports to me verbally.  The day deputy goes round all the working daily, and reports to me at night.  If the night fireman finds a small quantity of gas, I should not hear of it in all cases. I have been in the pit since the explosion and am of the opinion that the explosion took place in the neighbourhood of where the shot was fired, in the main level. The reason I have for that opinion is the great destruction of the roof, timbers and corves beyond where  the shot was fired.  I consider that the shot would have fired the gas. The main level in which  the shot was fired, would be six feet by five feet six inches.

Mr Evans, government inspector, said he believed the explosion took place at the bottom of the incline and that the gas fired at Bolsover’s lamp. The discipline of the pit was bad, gas being given off without the deputy knowing it, whilst the engineer scarcely ever went down the pit. Had the air been split, as it ought to have been, many of the lives might, in my opinion, have been saved.

The Coroner then lucidly summed up, and the Jury returned a verdict of Accidentally killed; but recommended in future better supervision in the colliery, and more attention on the part of  the underground viewer to the ventilation &c.
It was stated that the deceased left 19 widows and 43 children under 12 years of age.  A fund is being raised for them, to which the owners have subscribed ---