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Chatterley Whitfield Colliery - The Death of William Smith

A report from the Macclesfield MercurySeptember 1928

A report in the Macclesfield Mercury of the death of my uncle William Smith aged 23 years who was killed at Cattlerley Whitfiled on 3/4 Sept. 1928.

Regards David R. Smith

Collier Killed by Fall of Earth

Sitting with a jury of seven Mr W. M. Huntbach, the Stoke-on-Trent City Coroner held an enquiry at the Tunstall Town Hall on Thursday afternoon, into the circumstances surrounding the death of William Smith, of 20 Swan Street, Congleton, who was killed on the 4th September while following his employment at the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery.

Alfred Smith, the father of the deceased, stated that his son who resided with him, was 23 years of age last January.

For the past seven years or so the deceased has been employed in the colliery and was a haulage attendant.

Buried Under About 15 Tons of Earth.
John Hollins, Miner, of 40 Hayes St., Bradley, Smallthorne, Staffs gave a statement to the effect that on the night of September 3-4th he was working in the Cockshead Dip of the Hesketh Pit, Chatterley Whitfield Colliery, in company with Ernest Hickman and the deceased.  Hickman and himself had been erecting timber so as to put a girder across the top.  Deceased was about 4 yards below the place where they were working.  He (witness) had just gone to signal for the engineman when a heavy fall of earth occurred.  The place where the deceased had been standing was covered with between 15 and 20 tons of earth.  Diggings out operations were started immediately and the body of the deceased was found after about 2 hours.  Life was extinct when the body was recovered.  It appeared to him that the accident occurred as the result of a corner of a man-hole giving way and thus causing a wooden bar to become displaced from its supports.

Clifford Embrey, miner, of 152 John Street, Biddulph, deposed that he was nearly a quarter of a mile away when he heard of the accident which happened about 1 a.m. on September 4th. At about 12:10 a.m. the same morning when he passed the place where the fall of earth occurred it appeared to be perfectly safe.  He had since thought it would have been advisable to have had extra support.
The coroner said the jury, he was afraid could only come to the conclusion that unfortunately the poor fellow was killed by a fall of earth in the mine which was quite obvious - - - - The question arose:  should something have been done that was not?  They would have to add another question: Would human foresight have been able to detect that that something should have been done?  It was hardly to be expected that the average man possessed the foresight.  Had they (the jury and himself) been in the position of the miners, would they have taken a more correct step?  Unless they could positively state that under the circumstances they would have been wise enough to have seen what might happen, they had no right to even criticise, much less find fault with anyone.  It simply showed the fallibility of human judgement.

In answer to John Smith, the brother of the deceased, who asked why Ernest Hickman had not been called to give evidence, the Coroner said Hickamn had seen the written statement given by the witness Hollins and could do nothing more than corroborate it.
Replying to Alfred Smith, the deceased’s father, the witness Hollins (who was recalled) stated that he had been under the roof where the fall occurred not five seconds previously.

Announcing the verdict of the jury, Mr. H. A. Newton (foreman) said they were agreed that William Smith was killed by a fall of earth in the mine.

A verdict was returned accordingly.

Pit Terminology - Glossary