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Wharncliffe Carlton. Barnsley, Yorkshire - 18th October 1883

Those Who Died Thanks to Ian Winstanley for the Information

Alan Beales
12 September 2012
Compensation Payments

Hi Fionn, Regards early payments for accidents I got these details when looking up Wharncliffe Carlton explosion 1883 from local papers.

West Riding Yorkshire Miners Permanent  Relief Fund founded 1877, paid to each widow £5 plus 2s a week for each child until age 13.

To relatives of single men killed £25.

To Widowers 3s 6d a week for each child until 13.

Cheers A B

Wharncliffe Carlton. Barnsley, Yorkshire. 18th. October, 1883.

The Pit

The colliery was owned by Messrs R. Craik and Company and was worked by them in connection with the East Gawber Colliery to which it was connected underground. The colliery was about a mile and half from Barnsley close to the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company’s main line. There were four shafts at the two collieries, two downcast and one upcast and one pumping shaft. The Wharncliffe Carlton Colliery had only a downcast shaft 13 feet 6 inches in diameter and the return air was carried by the connecting passage referred to and was drawn up the upcast shaft which was the same diameter and at the East Gawber Colliery about a mile and half away. The downcast shaft was 160 yards deep and the upcast 155 yards deep.

The workings at the Wharncliffe Carlton Colliery were divided into what were known as the ‘Rise’ and ‘Dip’ districts and it was in the latter which the explosion took place and to which the damage and the loss of twenty lives was contained. The coal was won from the Barnsley Seam which was nine feet thick on average and dipped slightly from east to west. The mine was worked on the longwall system, and as a rule, all the coal was extracted but in some places, near faults, pillars were left to support the roof. The faults occurred frequently and in one place was a throw of 30 yards, called the St. Helens throw, which had been met and passed. The main intake through this fault was by a stone drift, 130 yards long, driven through the stone at an angle to the seam to the north of the fault. The return air passed through the fault via a vertical staple pit, 30 yards long. The ‘Dip’ district was sub-divided into Gilliot’s level, the ‘Jump’ district and the ‘Low South’ district which lay to the south of the main intake and extended almost east-west and those known as No. 1 and No. 2 slants lying to the north of the main intake.

The main intake was used as an engine plane for drawing coal from the workings in these districts to the pit bottom. The area of coal that had been worked south of the St. Helens fault was 31 acres. In addition to this there were about six acres of ‘straight work’ or of roadways. The ‘Rise’ workings were smaller in extent and work had only recent commenced in that district. The coal face was about 80 yards long at the time of the explosion.

Joseph Mitchell was the civil and mining engineering and consulting engineers at the Wharncliffe Carlton and East Gawber Collieries, John Slack was the manager of the two collieries, Herbert Fisher the underviewer, John Dearnley, the overman and Herbert Burrows, George Micklethwaite and Albert Button, the deputies. The mine was worked on a double shift system but only a small number of men went down in the second or afternoon shift and at night, a shift of stonemen went down to repair the roads and to arrange the props. The average numbers of men in the different shifts were 140 in the first or day shift, 36 in the afternoon and 20 to 25 at night and some of these in each case, would go to the ‘Rise’ workings.

John Slack had been the certificated manager at the colliery for 15 months and he and his deputies understood their duties except George Micklethwaite. Mr. Arnold Morley commented:-

“He did not in his examination favour the impression of being a fit person to hold a responsible position in a colliery. He appeared uneducated and incapable of giving clear or definite information on any of the questions upon which he was examined and although it would be obviously unwise to form a definite judgement, from his demeanour and appearance in the witness box, as to his capacity for the practical underground work required from a deputy in a coal mine, I think Messrs. Craik would do well to consider whether he does possess of his post, but especially whether he would be competent to deal with any of those extraordinary occurrences to which the fiery mines are invariably liable and which constitute the greatest danger of their management. I am afraid too little attention is sometimes paid to these considerations in the selection of officers to whom the supervision of the underground work is mainly entrusted, and who have especially the important duty of examining the various places where danger may be expected from gas.” There were distinct systems of ventilation for the ‘Dip’ and ‘Rise’ district. The air was separated at the bottom of the Wharncliffe Carlton downcast shaft and carried by separate returns to the upcast at East Gawber Colliery where there was a Guibal fan, 40 feet in diameter which revolved at an average speed of 38 to 39 r.p.m. The main ventilation current for the ‘Dip’ passed down the main engine plane, through the stone drift and on to No.1 and No.2 slants, then round the longwall face to the main return And the Staple pit and so to the upcast shaft.

There were several splits, off this main current, the main one going to Gilliot’s level and Denton’s level, which was ventilated by one main split passing down Gilliot’s level and some smaller scales of air which were allowed to pass off the engine plane to keep the workings to the south-west of that district free from gas, and the ‘Jump’ and ‘Low South’ districts, also to the south of the main intake. The return from Gilliot’s level was carried by an undercast under the engine plane and joined the main return close to the Staple pit.

The main intake and return passages, exclusive of the systems in the three southern districts were respectively 2,200 and 2,000 yards long and there were also 660 yards of air passing Gilliot’s district. The main intake was about 6 feet 6 inches high and 8 feet wide and the No.1 and No.2 slants, and the gateroads leading to the coal face were 5 feet 6 inches high and 7 feet 6 inches wide. The average size of the return air ways was between 36 and 40 square feet and the Staple pit through which the return air went was 9 feet long by 4 feet wide.

The last reports of the ventilation were on the 13th October, 1883 when 19,480 cubic feet were in the Intake a main engine plane and ‘Dip’ workings. It then divided into 7,000 cubic feet to the Detons district and 12,480 cubic feet to the remaining workings. The rise side intake took 5,040 cubic feet which gave a total intake of 2,520 cubic feet of air per minute.

The examination of the workings before the explosion was carried out in accordance with the regulations and had not found anything unusual or that pointed to any danger. Gas had been frequently encountered in different parts of the mine, especially in the main engine plane and at one point a blower had been encountered that was so large it was fenced off for five to six weeks. In addition to blowers giving off gas at the face, cracks were frequently found in the floor from which large quantities of gas flowed. There were occasional falls from the roof in the travelling ways but these were not serious and both the floors were composed of a hard substance which gave little trouble and did not require much timbering. The last report of gas being found in the deputy’s book was on 11th October in working place No.311 which was in the longwall face but it was cleared and reported free from gas the following day.

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