Hetton Colliery Explosion.
On the 20th of December, 1860 an explosion occurred at the Hetton Colliery, Durham, by which 22 men and boys were killed. Fortunately this occurrence took place in the evening soon after some 200 men and boys had ridden to bank, and when none but the stone-men were down the pit, or the result would have been more terribly fatal. There does not appear to have been any suspicion of the presence of gas in this case, for the reports as to the ventilation, timed up to a very short period before the disaster, exhibit a deal of confidence in the freedom of the pit from that dangerous element.
Minor Pit. Hetton, Durham. 20th December, 1860.
All the collieries had separate ventilation systems with two shafts at each colliery, one a downcast and one an upcast.
Two seams were worked at the Hetton colliery, the Main Coal Seam at 109 fathoms and the Hutton Seam at 148 fathoms. The Low Main Seam at 131 fathoms had been partially worked but was not worked at the time of the disaster. The colliery had three ventilating furnaces in the Hutton Seam and one in the Main Coal Seam. The area of the downcast was 98 square feet and the area of the upcast 132 square feet.
In the past, gas from the coal had exploded at the boiler doors but no damage had been done but in the case of this tragedy there was a long and nearly level flu in which a large amount of gas accumulated and the violence of the resulting explosion was like a cannon through the workings.
Those who died were:-
Three were found in the workings up the new incline:-
Three men who were making refuge stalls in the inclined plane of the Ridding South wagon way:-
Two men who were riding in the south wagon way:-
Three men who were repairing timber at the station in the South-east Drift:-
The inquest was held at the Colliery Hotel, Hetton-le-Hole before Coroner, Thomas Christopher Maynard. George Lowden, overman, told the court that he went to work to examine the workings at 2.20 a.m. He had two colliers, Robson and Warders and two boys Walton and Soulsby under his charge. He was also with the rescue party and found the bodies of Hall, Box and Richardson in the return.
Edward Wailes Hall was the master shifter at the colliery and one of the first to descend after the accident. He said:-
Thomas Smith a master shifter in the colliery was down the pit at the time of the explosion He was blown over and when he regained his senses he found that the ventilation was going the wrong way round the pit. He gathered some men together and led them out of the pit
The jury brought in the following verdict:-
At the conclusion of the inquest it was suggested that, in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future, flues should be constructed to have a continuous rise. The fire in the north stables was not extinguished for about six weeks.