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Eckington Colliery Explosion - 10 Jan 1871

Thanks to Bryn Holmes

Bryn Holmes
20 March 2013
Information in the Bradford Observer on Eckington Colliery Explosion 10 Jan 1871
Dear Fionn Taylor 
I am researching my family tree and a number of the different branches were miners.

Having found your site very helpful I send you info from my searches of the newspaper in case you find it interesting.

Best wishes,


15 May 2017
Millfields Boiler Explosion
Good morning, I wonder if you can help. I completed my master's dissertation on the Millfields explosion of 1862. I notice that in your email conversations with Bryn Holmes she mentions this incident. There is an image on the page of a headstone to one of those killed. I have not been able to find any like this. I wonder if Bryn could tell me the source of this image so that I could add to my dissertation.

Many thanks,



I believe (thanks to Google street view) the church is Christ Church Sedgely - I remember the grave being out in front on the church grounds rather than in the back. The Church may have records.



Thank you both for your help. I visited most of the remaining churchyards in the area looking for memorials without success, many have of course been removed. I shall go to the church you have indicated and look again. From the photos it is Christ Church, Coseley. There were two John Aston named as being killed in the incident. Your one is John Aston age 34 who was a puddler, that is a workman who stirred molten pig iron to remove the carbon and make wrought iron. Heavy work. He would have been at the centre of the explosion. His address was given only as Bradley. Not far from this church. The other John Aston was 36 and his occupation given as a stock-taker. That is the workman in charge of the pig beds at a blast furnace. His address is given as Broad Street, Bilston, further from Christ Church but nearer the Millfields site.

If anyone is interested in this explosion please contact me. I have attached a list of those killed

thanks for your help 
best wishes

Wolverhampton Chronicle April 23 1862

Killed on the Spot

Grave Ref Name Age Occupation Married Widow Children Address Register Church
PG 1647
1 Henry Morris 19 Underhand Puddler No   0 Temple Street Bilston 6b 303 S.M
  2 Thomas Jordan 22 Overhand Puddler No   0 Hartshorn Street Bilston 6b 304  
  3 John Hateley 40 Labourer Yes Yes 1 Daisy Bank 6b 304  
  4 Robert Owen 20 Puddler No   0 Monmore Green 6b 305  
  5 Peter Keenan 43 Bricklayer’s labourer Yes Yes 2 Wood Street Bilston 6b 293  
  6 John Hughes 24 Labourer No     Princes End 6b 303  
PG 1732
7 Joseph Norton 40 Roller Yes Yes 5 Gibbet Lane 6b 303 S.L.
  8 Henry Harvey Watson 22 Underhand Puddler Yes Yes 1 Daisy Bank 6b 304  
  9 Daniel Vadin (Varden) 27 Labourer No   0 Green Croft Bilston 6b 303  
PG 1647
10 Joseph Dodds (Bode) 18 Shingler No   0 Workhouse fold Bilston
(Smith St)
6b 304 S.L.
  11 James Clarke 38 Puddler Yes Yes 5 Hall Green Bilston 6b 304  
  12 William Nicklin 24 Bricklayer Yes Yes 0 Hall Fields 6b 304  
  13 John Aston 36 Stock-taker Yes Yes 5 Broad Street Bilston 6b 305  
  15 Dennis Ward 20 Underhand Puddler No   0 Temple Street Bilston 6b 30[23]  
PG 1657
16 James Dodd 19 Underhand Puddler No   0 New Village
(Pump St.)
  17 John Charles Wilson 19 Underhand Puddler No   0   6b 303  
  18 William Henry Holloway 19 Underhand Puddler No   0 Frost Street Bilston 6b 303  

B.C. Bilston Cemetery.
S.L. St Leonard’s Church
S.M. St Mary’s Church
P.G. Public Grave

Died On the way to Hospital or a Few Hours later

Grave Ref Name Age Occupation Married Widow Children Address Register
PG 926
19 John Platt 30   No   0 Castle Street Bilston 6b 269
PG 1732
20 Edward Goring 18   No   0 Rough Hills Bilston 6b 269
  21 John Aston 34 Puddler Yes Yes 4 Bradley 6b 305
  22 Philip Cox 18 Bar Drawer No   0 Hall Fields 6b 305
  23 William Cavanagh 46 Labourer Yes Yes 1 Gozzard Street 6b 269
  24 William Mills 36   Yes Yes 3 Moxley 6b 269
  25 Peter Maughan 35 Puddler Yes Yes 1 Wolverhampton Street 6b 304
  26 Edward Goodman 13 Son-in-law of 25 No   0 Wolverhampton Street 6b 304
  27 Samuel Cornfield   Shingler Yes Yes 5 Catchem’s Corner 6b 304

Died 29 April at his home

Ref Name Age Occupation Married Widow Children Address Register
28 James Rowley 22   No     Shropshire Row 6b 305

Bryn Holmes
20 March 2013
Why would a miner change his name when moving between mines in 1900?

Dear Fionn Taylor

I wondered if you could give me your opinion on a family mystery given your experience.

My great, great grandfather - Thomas Goodwin Webster - was a miner and moved with his family from Eckington Derbyshire to Featherstone Yorkshire in approx 1900.  He changed his name to John Wilson and registered the next three children under that name as well as appearing in the census under that name. When he died in 1906 the family changed their names back.

We believe it must have been something to do with his job. Do you have any idea what might cause a miner to change his name when moving from one mine to another?  Thomas died from diabetes and perhaps he was going blind. Could he have been 'struck off' or 'blacklisted' was this something mines did? His father and brothers were also miners.

Best wishes,


You mention that he worked at Eckington colliery in the 1890s. There wasn't a pit with that name at that time. There were dozens of pits worked in the Eckington parish over the years many being very small worked by only a few men.

However there were several large mines worked about that time. Hornethorpe and there was Holbrook which was one close the border with Yorkshire. 200 plus men worked underground and 30 plus on the surface.

Following and during the Great Lockout of 1893 there was quite a lot of unrest in that area.

Mob violence and stoning. One particular Manager was besieged in his house and riots were common.

Not to be disrespectful but it is possible that he was one of the mob. Police action was called for in many areas not only in Eckington. Money was tight to say the least and many miners had sent most of their valuables to the Pawn shop. It must have been a dreadful time to live or shall we say exist in.

There were some larger mines just over the border of Derbyshire into Yorkshire and no doubt some men would have travelled to work in both places on and off dependent upon available work, conditions, wages and housing.

As you rightly suggest he could have been known about and picked on and blacklisted for extreme violent actions or just unlucky to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He could have been a black leg, that is he worked when others were out on strike.

He could also have owed money or he could have been wanted by the police.

Any one or all of these actions could have made him disappear from that area and to make sure he wasn't pursued for any he could well have changed his name due to that.

He went further north into Yorkshire where he probably felt safe and then created another life. Am I right in assuming that.......

You have located him in the 1901 census but not in the 1891? Even under his alias you may be looking in the wrong area. It is very difficult I know to find someone on a census form with their correct name. I have done quite a bit of back tracking for my family and it can become very frustrating. I hope this information is useful to you. Do not hesitate to ask me further if you wish.

Bob Bradley

Image from Scrapbook Page for John Egginton (No longer available)

The scene above is of the Millfield disaster of 1862 showing the devastation of a boiler explosion. Five workers were killed including John Aston - From the Illustrated London News 26th April 1862 (W3/BOI/4)

I have shared your informative emails with a number of descendants of Thomas'  in addition to Thomas' Webster line we are (all but 1) descendants of a line of Aston's/Pearces and according to family lore our common great, great, great, great ... grandfather  George Pace (sometimes known as Pearce) died in 16th of June 1847 of a mining accident in Tividale Rowley Regis Staffordshire.  All the Astons were miners and moved from Dudley area to Eckington in the 1880s.  I am trying to research their history.

Also for your interest - I believe we are related to John Aston who died in the Millfield Ironworks explosion.

On 15th April 1862 an explosion at the Millfields Ironworks catapulted around 8 tons of molten metal 200 feet into the air. Twenty seven workers were killed. The explosion also destroyed ten furnaces and wrecked a forge.  Perhaps not a mining story but still might be of interest.

Thanks once more again.


Plain text below article



About twelve o'clock on Tuesday night, the inhabitants of Eckington were thrown into a state of consternation by rumour that an alarming explosion had occurred at Renishaw Park Colliery, situated about half a mile from Eckington Station. The report, unfortunately was but too well founded. The scene of the catastrophe is known as the Renishaw Park Colliery, and belongs to Messrs. J & G. Wells. About 400 hands are employed in the colliery in the day time, and in the night the average is said to be about seventy. About 500 yards from the pit at which the accident occurred, and which is known as "No. 1," is another pit, situated on the south-west side of the pit, called "No.3," and between the workings of the two there are means of communication. The explosion took place in a working at the south end of "No 1" where there were about twenty-two men engaged in preparing for the next days work. In this working no less than twenty dead bodies were found, the only survivors being two boys named Goodwin and Herbert Webster, who were found at the bottom of the shaft in a state of unconsciousness by four men named Clayton, Johnson, Taylor, and Gregory, who had escaped by being in a "dip" at the south end of the workings in which the explosion occurred. By the aid of proper restoratives the two boys so far recovered as to admit of their removal to their homes. Unfortunately the effect of the explosion was not entirely confined to the pit in which it originated, but the deadly fire-damp rushing on to pit No. 2, added six more victims to the list, besides injuring numbers who were afterwards recovered in a state of insensibility. Immediately on the alarm being given Dr. Jones and Dr. Hogg, accompanied by Mr. J. Wells, one of the proprietors, hurried to the collieries and at once descended No. 2 shaft, where the choke  damp was least dense. And the chances of saving life greatest. Here were founda number of men who rendered insensible and having been properly attended to they were removed to their homes in carts. Amongst these were Miles Hardwick, son of the steward and a man named Joseph Evans, who descended shortly after the explosion, both of whom were found insensible, at the bottom of the pit by the steward and another son. The injured men having been properly cared for, attention was directed to the removal of the dead, and as each body was recovered it was placed in the stable on the pit bank. One old man, named John Bolsover, or Bellfit, who lives at Staveley Lowgate, is still missing and is supposed to be in No. 1 pit. He took his lamp when the night shift went down, and his hat was found in the mine during the removal of the bodies. With few exception, the features of the dead were very slightly injured, and identification was consequently easy. One among them had been fearfully disfigured, his jaw having been nearly blown away. Others were dreadfully scorched with the heat, but most of their faces were faces were the calm appearance of sleep. Two of the men taken out dead were found on their hands and knees near the bottom of the shaft, and it is supposed that when only partially overcome with suffocation they had endeavoured to make their escape. One of them had a lamp in his hand, and the other a cup. At, the time of the explosion some of the men are supposed to have been in the act of getting their supper, as several were found with food by their sides.


Following is the list of the dead, the last six of whom were taken out of “No 2” pit:-

George Lowe, Eckington, married
Matthew Savage, Eckington, married
David Wainwright, Eckington, married
Mark Barker, Eckington, married
Ephraim Billam, Bramley Moor, married
Francis Clark, Eckington, married
William Lakin, Masborough, married
Robert Watson, Staveley, married,
Enoch Bridges, Eckington, married
Aaron Arthur, Marsden Moor, married
Thomas Richardson, Marsden Moor, married
John Alcock, (boy), Eckington
John Rhodes (boy), Eckington.
Benjamin Martin, Eckington, married
William Wood, Eckington, married
Samuel Porter, Eckington, married
John Ellis, Spinkhill Bridge, single
George Hall, Lowgates, Staveley, married.
John Cuttley, Eckington, single.
Thomas Pierce, Eckington, married
Henry Gallsworthy, Eckington, married
William Webster, Eckington, single
Thomas Lloyd, Eckington

There are eleven injured some of whom are not expected to recover