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Hapton Valley Colliery Explosion - 1962 - Emails

Thanks to Anne Harriss For Bringing This Information To My Notice
Sixteen miners were killed

The Times
Friday March 23 1962
16 Miners killed by explosion
Nurse goes down to aid injured.

From our northern correspondent
Burnley March 22

Sixteen miners were killed by a coal explosion at Hapton Valley Colliery, Friday 23rd March 1962. A further 21 men were injured. On the evening of the disaster it was stated that one of them was very seriously ill and the condition of 13 others was serious.

The explosion occurred at one end of the 140-yard-long No.2 face of the Union seam, 250 yards below ground at the 100-year old pit.

"There was a terrible blast and we were all blown 10 or 15 yards along the face", said Mr. Jack Murray, aged 36, of Jockey Street, Burnley, senior man of the 90 fillers who were shovelling coal on their hands and knees. Other workers were close behind when the explosion happened at 9:47a.m.

"The next thing I knew was that I couldn't see a thing because of the thickness of coal dust in the air", said Mr. Murray, who suffered burns on his arms. "Some of the other 170 men working in the pit at the time were on the spot almost immediately with stretchers to carry out the wounded."

Gave Morphia

While two rescue teams raced from the coalfield's station at Boothstown, the pit's resident nursing sister, Mrs Maud Waggett, aged 45, put on overalls and helmet and went to the face to give morphia to wounded and dying men. Anne Harriss’s mum knew Maud , she went down the pit to administer first aid and morphia to the injured men who were trapped. I believe she was awarded a gong from the Queen to acknowledge her bravery but she was also "disciplined" by the NCB because at that time it was illegal for women to work down a mine.

Shortly afterwards she was joined by the pit doctor, Dr. Francis Halliwell, who had been called from another pit. He injected pain-relieving drugs and dressed the burns of the injured men.

"It was like a battlefield down there", said another collier, Mr. T. Allison, aged 24, of Irene Street, Burnley. "We were working a quarter of a mile away when our ears 'popped' and a rush of air filled the working with dust. Coal tubs 1,400 yards away were blown over."

Relatives were joined by the Bishop of Burnley, The Rt. Rev. G. Holderness, and other clergy as they clustered in the yard of the pit they know as " Happy Valley" for four hours until the last of the victims were brought out along a 1,800-yard drift roadway.

All those killed were from Burnley, among them a miner whose wife is expecting a fourth child, two young men who were to have been married soon, and a 16-year-old boy whose job it was to take supplies to the coal face. Relatives of the dead were taken to the pit that night by police to identify the bodies of the men.

Quick Response

Mr. J. Anderton, chairman of the divisional board, said rescue, police and ambulance workers could not have responded more quickly to the tragedy.

It is the first in the Lancashire coalfields since 1959, when five men lost their lives in an accident at Bickershaw Colliery, and the biggest in the division since nationalization.

An investigation into the cause of the explosion was started tonight. A mobile laboratory was set up at the pithead and samples were brought from the coalface. Below ground a team of officials made a technical examination.

Hapton Memorial


Christopher William Brown Age 55 Driller
Samson Henry Bullen Age 44 Deputy
James Cummings Age 19 Supplies Man
Robert Dunston Age 26 In MemoryRipper
Stanley Faulkes Age 41 Filler
John William Halstead Age 53 Deputy/Shotfirer
George Hartley Age 32 Mechanic
Raymond Ernest Howarth Age 20 Electrician
Tom Isherwood Age 49 Face Scraper Operator
Donald Stewart McGoogan Age 28 Mechanic
Garry Pickles Age 22 Electrician
John Robinson Age 24 Filler
Donald Rushton Age 33 Ripper
Robert Shuttleworth Age 33 Filler
Ronnie Anthony Taylor Age 16 Supplies Man
Benjamin Wals Age 25 Filler

Died From Injuries

John Grieg Barritt Age 23 Electrician
Joseph Forrest Age 17 Supplies Man
Peter Tinsley Age 16 Apprentice Electrician

Seriously Injured

James Allen Age 48 Conveyor Maintenance Man
Neville Edward Barker Age 24 Filler
Brian Bullen Age 23 Filler
George Dyson Age 34 Filler
Alan Fisk Age 24 Filler
Brian Greenwood Age 23 Filler
John Heywood Age 24 Filler
Joseph Madden Age 46 Filler
Jack Myers Age 35 Filler
John Pinder Age 28 Filler
Robert Pinder Age 25 Filler
Henry Dransfield Walker Age 39 filler
George Walsh Age 21 Filler

More Information

ChinditDr. Francis Halliwell started off as a miner, was a Chindit during the war, became an officer in the army and gained the Military Cross. He met his wife in the army; she was an officer in the Queen Alexander’s Royal Army Nursing Service. Her father encouraged him to train as a doctor.

He did that and eventually returned to the NCB as an occupational physician. My mother held him in very high regard, she told me a little of his bravery and the fact that he never forgot his roots. He would frequently go and have lunch in the canteen with "the men" - he understood their work and its effects as he had been there, done that and got the wounds to prove it!

Horace Lister
09 Jan 2016
Hapton Valley Explosion

Your summary is wrong, because it occurred on Thursday 22nd of March at 9-47am.

I know, because I was there next to Brian Greenwood, 60 yards up the face along with K Clarkson [shot firer], and I was acting manager on the day, but was written out until the public enquiry.


While at the return end of the face, Mr. Horace Lister spoke to Halstead, the shotfirer

Margaret Boddington
17 June 2009
Dr.F. Halliwell
Dr. Halliwell was my father and I can recall the dreadful incident happening.

My mother's father was from a farming family. In the depression he moved into Belfast and opened a small shop stocking groceries but then became Head Ostler to the Inglis Bakery, as all their deliveries were by horse drawn vans. He gave up his shop and remained with the bakery until his retirement.

My father was proud of his roots and background and felt it gave him a greater understanding of the issues miners faced.

Margaret Boddington

Thanks to Anne Harriss For Bringing This Information To My Notice
Hapton Valley Colliery Explosion Inquiry - 19th June 1962
No Contraband on Miners

The Times
Tuesday 19th June 1962

No Contraband on Miners
Explosion Inquiry Evidence

Nothing was found among the personal effects of the miners who died in the explosion at Hapton Valley Colliery, Lancashire, on March 22nd which could have produced a spark or a light, a police officer said at a Ministry of Power inquiry which opened at Burnley yesterday. Mr. H. S. Stephenson, chief inspector of mines, presided Police-constable Alec Widdicks, who said that he was responsible for the victims' property, was replying to Mr. R. H. Clough, North-Western Divisional Inspector of Mines and Quarries, who had asked whether there was anything in the nature of smoking materials which could produce a spark or light.

Sixteen miners were killed in the pit. Two others died later.

Dr. Charles K. Hefferman, of Common Lane, Balderstone, consultant pathologist to Blackburn group of hospitals, said it was possible that seven of the men, whose deaths were attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning, could have walked some distance - perhaps 50 yards - while breathing carbon monoxide.

Police-constable John Noel Bonell said that he found on the body of Mr. John William Halstead a shotfirer's key and a bag or case of detonators. There were 31 detonators in a leather case. He thought the shotfirer's key was loose in a pocket but the clothing was so badly burnt that it was difficult to determine where it was. The detonator case was locked.

"Good Ventilation"

Mr. Leslie Wheeldin, aged 28 captain of a rescue team said that a sepf-contained breathing apparatus was used on the first examination to examine the atmosphere. He found 0.206 per cent carbon monoxide, good ventilation, no smoke or haze and there was a slight smell resembling that following a fire. Another member of the team tested for inflammable gas but did not find any.

Mr. Alan Fisk, aged 25, filler, of Rosehill Road, Burnley described the last few minutes before the explosion. He said he was helping the shotfirer, Mr Jack Halstead, one of the victims, to prepare the shot holes. "He fired the shot. There was a bang and that's all I remember. I heard him turn his battery key and then there was the bang. I had tested for gas and did not find any".

The hearing was adjourned.

Josey Gaisford
13 Sep 2015
Robert Dunston - Hapton Pit Disaster
In Memory
After reading the report on the pit disaster properly for the 1st time I've a query about a part of the info. It stated that 1 of the miner’s wife’s was expecting their 4th child, this may be another miner, but the wife of my cousin Robert Dunston (one of the dead miners) was expecting their 2nd child at the time, is this the same miner mentioned?

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