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Although major disasters grab the headlines with so much loss of life and the very sad after-math for so many families, it is well known in the mining profession that more men are killed by falls of roof and sides, haulage and other accidents than from any other causes, but as they are mostly killed singly these fatal accidents do not excite anything like the sensation produced in the mine of the public by a fire-damp explosion, and most of them pass by nearly unnoticed, but each individual fatality is a major disaster for that particular family.

The loss of a father, a son, or a brother has a traumatic effect personally at the time, and economically for years to come with the reduction of family income.

There were men whose lungs were filled with dust, continually gasping for air, till life finally ebbed from their bodies. Their deaths are not recorded.

My record shows how some of the miners met their deaths in North Staffs

Hommer Ironstone Pit
Grove Colliery
Ivy House Colliery 20th Feb 1873
Individual Deaths
Explosion of Firedamp
In Shafts
Miscellaneous Causes
Extract from Diary of Joseph Hudsby, Colliery official from Adderley Green Colliery


An explosion took place on the morning of Wednesday April 8th 1885 a few minutes after 7 am at the Hommer Ironstone pit of Great Fenton Collieries. The headgear at the pit was unaffected by the explosion and the ventilation fortunately was not interfered with. At the end of the surface fan drift some doors had been put in such a way that any explosion would be sure to remove them without difficulty, and as a result the fan would be saved from any damage, allowing the blast of gas to expand itself in the open.

Mr. Laurence Foulds, the general manager, at once came to the scene of the disaster with other officials. The Duke of Sutherland was informed as the chief shareholder of the Stafford Coal and Iron Company to whom the works belong, as were the Government Inspector of mines Mr. T. Wynne and his assistant Mr. Sawyer, who reached the colliery shortly after 10 am. Mr. W. Robson, the colliery manager very soon after the explosion, joined the exploring party, which descended the pit.

Very shortly the body of one man who was evidently killed by the explosion was brought to the surface, followed by four other men one of them badly injured were also brought to the bank.

Another two were brought up and examined by Mr. A. Griffiths and he expressed his belief that deaths in those cases resulted from asphyxia. Their names being:-
James Beach 19 yrs of age
Samual Daniels 19 yrs
both single men from Hanford.
Other injured men were carried out:-
John Bithel of Hanford,
James Nash 19 yrs
from Fenton,
John Hooks 25 yrs
from Newcastle,
George Cooper
, from Hanford,
Tom Forrester
slightly burnt
and brothers Robert and Jos Riley from Longton.
The exploring party had met with difficulty in reaching the seat of the explosion owing to serious falls of roof, which had taken place, they did however come to the conclusion that the explosion occurred in the Knowels seam and was thought to have been caused though shot firing. Then another body was recovered.

At the time of the explosion 300 men were in the Sutherland pit.

Inspector McRory, with a body of police were in attendance to keep the crowds of people from getting too close to the shaft.

Next day it was reported from the North Staffs Infirmary that the Riley brothers had both died due to their injuries. William Hammond of Cross Keys Sq, Fenton was the last to be brought out dead after being missing for some time.


The most well known accident to have happened locally was an explosion which occurred at , ‘The Grove Colliery’, on Wyrley Common, Brownhills. It happened in the underground workings on 1st October 1930 and took the life of 14 miners. Ten of the Miners lived in Brownhills. They were all buried with honour together in a collective grave at St James’ Church Cemetery in Brownhills. The accident happened at the same time as the airship R101 was destroyed by fire and on which 46 people were killed and therefore the pit disaster hardly got a mention in the National News Papers of the time.

The 14 men who were killed in the explosion were :-
Alfred Boden aged 49
John Brownridge 34
Ben Corbett 52
John Hackett 33
Alfred Heath 27
Jack Holland 41
Richard Howdle 30
Alex Martin 32
James Malley 33
William Robbins 45
John Scoffam 50
Harry Smith 38
John Whittaker 44
William Whittaker 62.

The graves of the miners killed in the Grove pit disaster.

Based on information from the Brownhills history  web site in response to a question from Lorraine Ash

Ivy House Colliery 20th Feb 1873

On Feb 20th 1873 an explosion occurred at the Ivy House Colliery, near Hanley, and so much culpable neglect was proved at the inquest, against both the manager and the underlooker, that the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against them, but at the assizes they were not convicted.

The place where the gas was fired was well known to be foul and without any real ventilation; the manager came to the entrance of this stall and was told there was gas in it, but without examining the place, cautioned the men not to fire any shots, and said he would send some more brattice, but instead of doing so at once, went to another part of the workings and in the meantime the gas was fired and two lives sacrificed.

Pit Terminology - Glossary