Information and photographs submitted by subscribers are posted in good faith. If any copyright of anyone else's material is unintentionally breached, please email me

Chatterley Whitfield Colliery - Emails
Chatterley Whitfield Colliery - Emails Page 2
Twenty-one persons were killed and several injured by an explosion - 7th Feb 1881

Christine Robbins - A little information on mining at Chatterley Whitfield
John Miles - My Great Great-Grandfather, Robert Miles, Was Killed In The Pit Disaster At Chatterley Whitfield 1881
John Miles
- The Pit Disaster At Chatterley Whitfield 1881, Email 2


From: Christine Robbins
15 May 2008
A little information on mining at Chatterley Whitfield

Just thought I'd share a little information on mining at Chatterley Whitfield. My ex-husband's uncle was killed at the age of 32 at this pit and my ex-mother-in-law had kept the funeral card with a black border around it for many years. My late ex-father-in-law also worked at this pit for 47 years but sadly died before reaching pension age.

I cared for a gentleman who used to work with my late father-in-law. I looked after him for 11 years until he died and he gave me a book on 'rope splicing' which he could do. He showed me the principles of this but had no tools to do it properly as the tools for this were made on the pit head from a piece of steel which was taken to the fitter and he then made the tools to do the job. I was so interested in the pit that I am now quite well informed in the procedures.

He started work in 1928 doing a job called 'following fireman' which was testing for gas before the men went down the pit to start their shift.

I know all about the pit ponies and they even had a horse called India which could count the number of wagons that were hooked up to him and if the men put on an extra wagon he would stamp his foot the same amount of times as the number of wagons attached to him and refuse to move until the extra wagon was removed.

He told me so many stories that I could write a book.

I have a little more information on Chatterley Whitfield that might be of use to others who are researching their family history. Chatterley Whitfield had several seperate shafts, three of which I have the names of. They are :-

  • Top South
  • Winnpenny
  • Esquith

Top South was the only shaft that was soaking wet all of the time and I was told that it was like walking through a shower of rain.

I live only a couple of miles from the actual site of the pit and was told that the local Catholic Church was built on a 'floating foundation' due to mine workings from this pit running directly beneath it.

Christine Robbins.


From: John Miles
03 September 2007
My Great Great-Grandfather, Robert Miles, Was Killed In The Pit Disaster At Chatterley Whitfield 1881

I have been attempting to find out more about my great great-grandfather, Robert Miles, who was killed in a pit disaster in about 1881 just 6 weeks after his son, also Robert, went down the pit aged 12. I think, after reading your article and the list of those lost that he is the R Miles aged 60, listed as the oldest of those killed. Family history always related that he came out after an explosion but went back down and was killed in a second explosion and I don't think his remains were ever found.

I see from emails about this colliery that someone else has had trouble tracing a death registration for one of the victims as have I. Were you able to help that enquirer at all?

Also someone who spent a short spell in the collieries of Wrexham told me that he thought that rescuers were paid to rescue horses but not to rescue men.


John Miles

Some of the enquiries were answered, see page 1


From: John Miles
02 November 2007
Chatterley Whitfield disaster 1881

Dear Fionn,

Since we last corresponded, I have carried out quite a lot more research on this disaster, with particular reference to my great grandfather, Robert Miles. After visiting the registry office in Newcastle under Lyme, I discovered that most, if not all, of the deaths occurring in this disaster were actually registered at the registry office in Leek. This is because the colliery was situated just over the border into the district administered by the registry in Leek.

It transpired that someone else had been into that office back in 2004 having carried out quite a lot of research into the matter after the explosion. My great grandfather's death was registered several months after the disaster took place, although I was surprised to find that his widow did not have to wait the usual seven years in order to register his death. According to his death certificate, he was 59 years old. However, as I know that both he and my great grandmother were both illiterate, I would not set too much store by her estimate of his age. Presumably, there would have been inquests on each of the miners killed and those whose bodies were not recovered, numbering about 12, would have been declared dead by the coroner. It seems that about 12 bodies were recovered, although some not for 38 years in the case of two brothers who died in the explosion.

I am no nearer knowing whether the colliery owners paid the men to rescue the pit ponies. My grandfather, who was a district engineer for the collieries, had stables adjoining the colliery house in which he lived in South Staffordshire and I remember the pit ponies coming to the surface for a couple of weeks every year for their "holidays". This would have been some time in the mid 1950s.

I hope that if there is anyone else looking for death certificates for relatives who died in this disaster, then the registry in Leek will be able to help them. I found the staff there particularly helpful, as were those in the Newcastle under Lyme and in Hanley.


John Miles

Pit Terminology - Glossary