It was recorded this week, a very lamentable accident at Broadfield colliery at Fenton. The event was an explosion of firedamp causing the loss of nine lives that has cast deep gloom over the neighbourhood in North Staffordshire. Several of the unfortunate men have left wives and children, who have in a moment being bereft of almost all their earthly hope and dependence.
The accident took place on Monday afternoon at a pit called Greenfield at Broadfield colliery Fenton. Unhappily, as in many other cases of similar description, the catastrophe appears to have been caused through the men imprudently working with naked candles, instead of safety lamps, with which they were provided.
It seems that on the day in question about 27 individuals had been working in various parts of the pit, some of whom, at the time of the explosion were about to ascend the shaft. Seven of the deceased colliers had been working in one locality of the mine, and five of them having finished their day’s work were proceeding towards the shaft, when the explosion took place at a spot about 500 yards from the bottom of the shaft. Of these seven individuals not one of them is left to tell the tale as to how the calamity occurred.
The probability however, is that it arose in the following manner: Two of the seven colliers alluded to, not having finished their work, one of them James Dawson, it is conjectured, went to another part of the mine to fetch some tools and powder, with a naked candle in his hand and was returning when he met the five who had done their work. One of the five was James Smith, an overman in the works who was regarded by his employers as a careful man. Who likewise possessed some skill in mining operations. Smith, in order, it is believed, to enable them to work the following day, had closed the trap door in what is technically called “a wall” (which is a place where the coals have bee extracted) in order to clear it from the inflammable gas known to have collected in it. The gas being thus forced out of “the wall” into the road would most likely meet the man Dawson with his lighted candle and consequently produce the explosion.
Six persons were killed on the spot, some of them being much burnt, particularly poor Smith, whose body was frightfully mangled.
The seventh individual who was at work in the extremity of the mine, was William Shone who was not injured by the explosion and was endeavouring to make his escape, but without success, being suffocated by the afterdamp.
The loss of these seven lives unhappily did not terminate the calamity. Two other men, Samuel Thornton and Alfred Tomkinson who had been working in the mine, also perished from the effects of the afterdamp, in their truly commendable and praiseworthy endeavours to save the lives of their companions.
The accident as stated before, occurred about six o’clock in the evening and not withstanding the greatest exertions were used, the whole of the bodies were not got out until nearly eleven o’clock in consequence of the state of the mine. Several other individuals, by inhaling the noxious vapour when searching for the bodies, had very narrow escapes, being brought up in a complete state of stupor.
The pit was considered by the men to be safe, and in fact, seven of the unfortunate individuals, if not the whole had been working with naked candles during the day.
The inquest was held was held on Wednesday morning at the Canning Inn Fenton before W. Harding Esq, and a respectable jury, of whom Mr. Thomas Green was the Foreman.
The first witness examined was Elijah Mountford, collier, Fenton who stated that he worked at the Greenfield pit at the Broadfield colliery, Fenton and between 5 and 6 o clock in the afternoon on Monday last, he had descended the shaft of the pit for the purpose of going to work.
He had been down the pit but a few minutes and was proceeding to his work with a lad, when the explosion took place. He was about 200 yards from where it occurred and was blown down and bruised upon the head and body by the concussion. Having with difficulty, made his way back, he obtained a candle and in company with a man named Samuel Heath, returned to see if the could any of the sufferers.
In about half an hour the found, Moses Heath, a boy who lay on his back and on taking a hold of the head, they saw he was dead, and remarked they had better look after those that might be living. Having proceeded about 20 yards they next found Peter Bolderstone, who laid full length on his back and he was very much bruised, he was quite dead. The body of Jacob Tipton was next found and afterwards the bodies of William Baker and James Smith. Baker was very much burnt, and naked, having no article of clothing on his person whatsoever excepting a piece of stocking on one leg, what few articles of dress he had on, being consumed by the fire. Smith lay on his face and was and was dreadfully injured.
Other colliers now had joined them they went about 30 or 40 yards further, but being taken ill in consequence of the burnt sulphur, he was obliged to be carried out with others who were similarly affected. Two of the deceased men, Samuel Thornton and Alfred Tomkinson were two of those who were with him when searching for the bodies. When he was taken ill these two appeared to be well. He told them that if he did not get away he should fall; he did not recollect anything until he was brought up out of the pit. A number of questions were put to the witness, by several gentlemen of the jury, with the view of ascertaining if the pit was worked in such a manner as to afford every protection to the men and nothing to the contrary was elicited.
The next witness, Samuel Heath, collier, of Fenton said that he had been working on the day of the accident with the deceased, W. Baker, J. Smith, J. Dawson, and W. Shone, near the spot where the explosion took place. The explosion occurred shortly after he had left them. The witness was going at the moment in the direction of the pit bottom for the purpose of being drawn up. The deceased above named were all in the part of the mine he had just left and they, with himself, had been working with naked candles during the day. After the explosion he met with Elijar Mountford, the last witness and went with him to search for the bodies of the sufferers and was with him when four of them were found.