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At 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday 5th January 1876 the village of Talke, North Staffordshire was again thrown into a state of consternation by another terrible colliery accident. This time the scene of the disaster is little removed from the old spot, the pits, the property of the representatives of the late John Wedgwood, called the Jammage Pits, and is adjacent to the colliery belonging to the same proprietors in which the terrible explosion occurred on Christmas eve 1874 by which 17 lives were lost; the two being in fact connected by an underground road-way.

Five human beings were suddenly launched into eternity out of sixteen in the pit at the time. 101 are employed at the colliery, which is quite a new one, coal having being found about twelve months ago. The Jammage pits are worked by two shafts. One, ten feet, and the other 13 feet in diameter, both being about 170 yards deep.

At the time of the accident the five men killed, were working in the fiery Seven-Feet seam, the remainder working in the Eight-Feet seam. Suddenly an explosion took place, which completely devastated the Seven-Feet seam, and killed the men at work there. Fortunately, those working in the Eight-Feet were all got out safe. One horse was killed.

The cage hanging at the mouth of the pit was blown over the head-sticks, and dashed to pieces, as were also the plates covering the pit’s mouth.

Eighty-six men had been at work during the day, but fortunately they were divided into turns, or the loss would have been more terrible still. The bottom of the shaft was smashed in, and a breach made right to the furnaces.

An exploration party of fourteen descended about seven-o-clock, and soon recovered the dead bodies of the five men. They described the destruction of property as fearful. The cause of the explosion is supposed to be a shot fired against the instructions of the fireman, William Sharples, who was in the Eight-Feet at the time of the accident.

The names of the men killed are,

  • John Daniels, age 26 of Red St. was married, no children.
  • Daniel Darlington, age 22 of Chapel St. Audley, was married with one child.
  • Alexander Macpherson, Broad Meadow, Chesterton, single.
  • Patrick Oadam, age 37 Tunstall, widower, one child.
  • Michael Rowley, age 27 Audley St. Tunstall, married with three children.

The body of Daniels was conveyed to the house of his father-in-law the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Red St . The bodies of the other men were conveyed to the houses where they had previously been living. All the bodies except that of Daniels, were badly burnt.

The inquest on the bodies was opened before Mr. Booth, coroner, at the Crown Inn, Red St. on Friday 7 th at noon . The jury having been sworn, the coroner explained that he merely intended that day to take evidence as to the identification of the bodies. The jury then went to view the body of Jon Daniel, which was lying at the Wheat Sheaf Inn.

Michael Wood, Butty at the Jammage pit, was the only witness called. He said that about half passed four on Wednesday afternoon he heard of the explosion, and at once went to the pit. There were afterdamp and smoke coming up the down-cast shaft, the air having been reversed. The cage had been blown over the guide plates and lay on the plates at the pit mouth. Mr Gater, Mr. Benett and Wood went down an old pit and made their way to the back of the place where the explosion had happened. That was about half an hour after the explosion, and ventilation had been restored.

Strict systems of supplying the men with Davy lamps were carried out at the pits, and shots were not allowed to be fired, only under instructions from the fireman, if at all. Hundreds crowded on the pit bank as soon as the terrible news had spread.

Pit Terminology - Glossary

John Lumsdon