|A most lamentable accident occurred on Tuesday morning at the Adderley Green Colliery near Longton North Staffs belonging to Stirrup and Pye, which occasioned the almost instantaneous death of five of the unfortunate workmen. The names of the deceased are: William Hulme, age 40 yrs of Wood's Lane Longton, Jesse Hurst, age 45 yrs, of Adderly Green,
William Taylor, age 14 yrs of Sutherland Rd. Longton, Danial Salmon, age 35 yrs East Vale Longton, Enoch Wooley, age 18 yrs of the same place. Hurst was a widower and left five children, Hulme a wife but no children and Salmon a wife and two children.
The pit is about 214 yards deep and two beds of coal are being obtained out of what is known as the Meadow Pit. The inset or crut of the "Hard-mine" being at the depth of 130 yards down the shaft, whilst what is termed the "Banbury coal" lies at the lower level at 214 yards. When coal has to be drawn from the Hard-mine a scaffold is placed over the lower portion of the shaft.
On Monday night the drawing was from the Hard-mine and it appears that some where about midnight one of the metal rails placed on the scaffold to convey the loaded wagons so as to be drawn up, fell through an open aperture between the scaffold and the brickwork of the shaft, and as it turns out, lodged in an oblique position 25 yards from the bottom and thus formed an unsuspected but effectual barrier to the free descent to the bottom of the pit.
About 5.30 a.m. on Tuesday morning the scaffold was removed for the purpose of drawing from the lower level and the five individuals named above entered the cage.
A colliery rule required that the empty cage be lowered and drawn up before any of the workmen are permitted to go down. This rule was totally disregarded, and the five individuals descended the shaft. The cage came in contact with the iron rail lodged in the shaft and the 5 men were hurled to the bottom falling a depth of 25 yards.
As soon as possible all five were drawn up, when Hulme and Salmon were brought out they were quite dead and Hurst and Wooley died in a few minutes afterwards on the pit bank. The lad Taylor was conveyed home but died at 8 am the same morning, his father who was working in the Banbury coal, being attracted to the bottom and was the first to pick up the mangled remains of his unfortunate son.
The bodies of Hurst, Wooley and Salmon were removed into the parish of Caverswall, and those of the other two sufferers into Longton.
Mr. Harding, coroner, at the Crown and Anchor Inn and a jury of whom Mr. Ralph Steel was foreman, held an inquest on William Hulme and William Taylor on Wednesday at noon. Mr. Wynne, the Government Inspector of Mines being also present.
Joseph Donkin said he was a collier at the Meadow Pit of which Thomas Edwards is one of the Butties and was employed in "hooking on". He was engaged with others working nights on Monday last and saw Edwards at different times during the night.
About 5.30 a.m. on Tuesday morning he came with others out of the works. During the night he heard a noise of something falling down the shaft. He had previously seen a bar of iron on the scaffold about 9 feet long. It had been used as a rail for the wagons to run upon and acted as a guide for the load between the conductors. On missing it he suspected it had fallen down the pit, and replaced it with another. He told Edwards that the rail had fallen down the shaft. He could not account for the rail falling down except that the load on being drawn up caught it and cast it down. Joseph Edwards and Obadiah Rowley removed the scaffold, after which he and others came up the pit.
Thomas Edwards, of East Vale, stated that he was employed at the Meadow Pit as a Butty and went to work about 6 pm on Monday evening. He saw the last witness Donkin, at work. There was a rail on the scaffold, it was a common pit rail and he heard of it being missing about midnight. Jenkinson, one of the colliers, told him that Donkin had thrown a wagon against it and knocked it down the pit, but that he had got another rail and had made it alright. He saw that this was the case about 2 hours afterwards. They worked up to 5.30 when the scaffold was taken away, and several men went up. He sent a message by the men in the cage that no men must come down until the wagon had been down to the bottom. He was sure the men understood him. In about 5 minutes he saw a cage full of men go by the "inset" where he was. He could not tell how many there were, but he called to them to say they had no right to go down without the empty cage going up and down first. He heard a noise in the shaft but could not tell what had happened. He shouted and inquired, when a person whom he believed was Hulme said they had fallen down the pit and that 2 were killed and 3 were just alive.
The witness then went on to describe that men were eventually lowered in the tackles and the iron rail being removed the bodies were taken up as soon as possible, and in reply to a question from Mr. Wynne, said that on the men going up out of the Hardmine he told them 2 or 3 times that an empty wagon must be sent down before the men were lowered into the Banbury. The witness Donkin on being recalled said that he did not hear any message given to anyone. It may have been given and he had not heard it, he might have been 5 or 6 yards from Edwards.
Richard Jenkinson was at work in the Meadow Pit on Monday night and heard Donkin say a rail had gone down the pit, upon which he told Edwards, the Butty. When he got up the pit about 5.30 he requested Joseph Edwards to tell the engineman that he must go gently when he got to within 6 or 7 yards from the bottom, believing that the rail might be standing upright at the bottom.
In reply to a question by juryman the witness said that he gave the caution on his own accord, and not from any instructions he heard from Edwards.
Joseph Edwards, another collier working in the Hardmine on the night in question talked of a conversation he had with Edwards the Butty, when in the pit about the empty cage being sent down first and to his (witness) requesting the engineman to lower gently when he got towards the bottom on account of the rail being there. He afterwards went into the cabin, and turning round saw the rope slacken, when George Edwards, the engineman, remarked that it was a good way from the bottom. On going to the top of the pit, he heard groans from the bottom.
The witness then spoke of seeing the unfortunate deceased getting into the cage, without the Banksman John Sharp insisting upon the necessary examination to ascertain if all were right, to their descending the shaft. Salmon one of the deceased desiring him to do so. Thomas Sillitoe, one of the butties, was next examined, when he said he could not tell whether he had given Sharpe a copy of the rules. There were 70 or 80 men and boys employed at the colliery, and there might be some who had not copies but he could not tell how many.
John Sharpe, the Banksman, was the last witness examined, and stated that he was Banking at the Meadow Pit on the morning in question, and landed Donkin and others. He signalled the Engineman to lift up the cage whilst he opened the doors and bid him to lower. At this time there was no one in the cage, but the deceased men were on the Bank. Hurst asked him to let him go down and he complied, shutting the doors, which formed the covering of the shaft, the deceased got in and were lowered. He had received no information that morning about a bar of iron having fallen down the shaft until after the accident. He had a copy of the rules but had not read them. He had worked there 9 or 10 months, but he had not the copy until last week. It was Sillitoe, the Butty, who set him on. The witness was further examined at some length by both the coroner and Mr. Wynne, since being the Banksman, he was in authority and could have prevented any man from descending until after the cage was lowered. The witness however endeavoured to shelter himself by stating that a strange man on the Bank had told him that the cage had been down whilst he went to empty a load and he believed him. The coroner told him that when he knew men were coming up and going down the pit he never ought to leave the spot for a moment, and no doubt his breach of colliery rules had led to the lamentable loss of life, which had ensued.
The coroner expressed his opinion that there was not that amount of criminality proved as to render any party liable to answer a charge of manslaughter at another tribunal. The jury fully concurred, and returned verdicts of accidental deaths, at the same time expressing their strong sense of the importance of the colliery rules being strictly carried out. Mr. Wynne said that it was most important and suggested that if proprietors of collieries would themselves undertake to lay information for breaches of the rules on such being discovered; it would have a very salutary effect.
In the evening Mr. Flint, the coroner held an inquest on the bodies of William Hurst, Enoch Wooley, and Daniel Salmon at the Railway Tavern, East Vale. Mr. Wynne the inspector attended this inquiry also. Evidence in substance as above stated, was given and the jury arrived at a similar conclusion.