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

Chesterton Colliery 4th July 1873
Individual Deaths
Explosion of Firedamp

Chesterton Colliery 4th July 1873

On the 4th July 1873 two men were killed and several others injured by an explosion at the Chesterton colliery, near Newcastle Under Lyme, and here, too, gas was known to exist in large quantities, but the management of the colliery was such, that if the workmen themselves did not apprehend danger, there was no one to warn them against it, or to remove it.

There have been three other explosions, each causing one death, but they call for no particular remarks, as they were attributable to causes that are always at work in coal mines, and with the best management mistakes will sometimes occur. The care that is now enforced in the storing and use of powder has very sensibly diminished the accidents arising from that prolific source of danger, but there still remains that farcical practice of blasting with powder where naked lights are prohibited.

In his report for the year ending 31st December 1875 Mr. Wynne, Chief Inspector of Mines for the district including North Staffordshire, said; During the last year 36 fatal accidents occurred in coalmines, causing the deaths of 89 persons, and 14 accidents in Ironstone mines, causing the deaths of 16 persons. Although the fatal explosions of firedamp are but three in number, the loss of life is very serious and lamentable, because in my opinion, most of the accidents of this kind are preventable and would not occur if the use of blasting powder in fiery mines were prohibited.

  • The first took place at Messrs. Goddard's Ash Pit, near Longton, causing the death of one man, who had gone into a heading containing gas, with a defective safety lamp.
  • The second at Mr. Sparrow's Meir-Hay Colliery, also near Longton, by which two men were killed, but twelve other men who were working in the seam above fortunately escaped. There are several seams worked in these pits, and in some places a quantity of highly inflammable mineral oil exudes from the strata, and it seems beyond a doubt, that the oil was ignited, as the fire raged with such fury that no descent into the mine could be made, and the shaft had to be filled up at once, to cut off the fresh air from the fire.

Individual Deaths

Thomas Groden, age 15 yrs, at Silverdale his duty was to empty the tubs down a shoot at the bottom of a dip, and it is supposed, that in the act of clutching at the tub, to save himself from slipping down the dip he had caused the tub to "tip up" and squeeze his neck against the roof; the body was found suspended over the edge of the tub, his head being inside the tub.

Ch. Baxter, (Taker-Off) age 15 was killed at Silverdale No 6 Pit, on Jan 15th 1889
He was going up an engine dip, contrary to the rule, while tubs were being drawn up. The rope broke and he was crushed by the tubs.

The rope was in a defective condition before breaking.

Jno Farmer (Ridder) age 13. was killed at Silverdale No 6 Pit, on Sept 27th 1889
He had got into the cage without his lamp and attempted to step out to get it just as the cage started to descend, and was crushed and fell down the shaft.

John Hemming, of High St. (Loader) age 32 was killed at Silverdale No 6 Pit, on Jan. 23rd. 1893
He lost his life by a fall of roof at the working face in the Hams Seam.
He had been engaged on the night shift, loading from a collier named George Pepper.
At the close of their work Pepper thought it advisable to set a post in order to leave the place safe for the oncoming shift.

While he was placing a lid or cap, Hemming had, un-noticed got on the deep side of the place, when suddenly a roof fall took place, the amount was not large, however enough to completely cover Hemming and although it did not take long to extract him, the unfortunate man survived only a few minutes.
He had only recently been married and had only been employed at the pit for one week.

Phillip Rhodes (Collier) age 53 of Furnace Bank was killed at Silverdale No 6 Pit, on Sept 27th 1893 at 8.30 am.

He was killed by a fall of coal from the side while flitching in the airhead in the 8 Feet Seam. He left a widow and grown up family.

Edward Richardson age 56 a collier was killed May 3rd. 1897 at his working place in the Cannel mine of Silverdale Kents Lane pit at 2.10 pm. Several falls of coal and earth took place. The first portion fell heavily on the poor fellow's body and another lot on his head.

A loader named Wm. Deakin who was working with him escaped uninjured. The work of recovering the body took 3 hours and was found much crushed.

The deceased was a well-known tenor singer in the village and only the day previous had attended the choir of the Methodist New Connection Chapel at their charity sermon.
He leaves a widow and grown up family.

John Dale a collier age 60 yrs was killed at Silverdale No. 6 pit May 31st. 1897 at 10pm by a fall of roof from a "pot hole" near a fault at his working place in the Eightfeet seam.

He was fixing a post with the assistance of 2 youths when he suddenly warned them to get out of the road, which they did, but Dale himself was embedded under about a ton of earth. The debris was moved as quickly as possible and when he was extricated he was found to be alive, but simply remarked, "I'm done for"

He died 20 minutes afterwards and was removed to his home in High St.

The deceased son was working as a loader for him and had just gone out with a load shortly before.

An extract from the district inspectors report on "Falls of Coal and Roof" 1874.

There have been 23 in number both in accidents and in lives lost, nor does there seem much likelihood of the number being reduced until the law is enforced against the managers to convince them that the 16th general rule requires absolute safety, and that all places, as soon as coal is brought down is a priori unsafe; the managers must be made to understand that the roof and sides must be made secure before the men are allowed to load the coal, or any person be permitted to work in the place other than those whose duty it is to prop it, and if the managers wish to protect themselves, they must enforce the law in cases where their deputy's neglect to do their duty.

In his report on the Apedale Colliery explosion on the 27th March 1878 in which 23 men were killed, Mr. Wynne also said:

On the 7th June another explosion occurred at this company's Silverdale Colliery and as no remarks of the mine could tell the sad tale with such brevity I will give a copy of the notice sent to me on the 7th of June.

Dear Sir,

We beg to inform you that Ezra Clark, age 40, George Mansell, 16, and George Bowers 14 met with their deaths this afternoon at Silverdale in the Eight feet Seam, No 6 pit from the effects of a shot.

Explosion of Firedamp

On the 28th August 1858 an explosion of firedamp took place at the Whitfield Colliery, Dividy Lane, Longton. Which was attended with fatal results to a collier named William Tompkins.

It seems that the deceased, and three others were at work in the pit, when a quantity of stuff fell from some old working, forcing the sulpher on to the men, and which took fire from the candle carried by the deceased, who was burned badly all over the body.

He was got out of the pit as quickly as possible, then he ran home, a distance of a mile from the pit, where he died from the injuries sustained. Two other men who were in the pit at the time were also seriously burned.

The verdict was accidental death.


Pit Terminology - Glossary