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Inghams Pit Disaster, Dewsbury, Yorkshire - 9th September 1947 - Page 1

Thanks To John Swithenbank, And His Father, Who Brought This Disaster To My Attention
Those Who Died

The Colliery Was At Ingham To The South Of Dewsbury In West Yorkshire

The colliery was at Ingham to the south of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire and had been producing coal from about 1860. It was connected to the Combs Colliery underground and there was a tramway on the surface along which the coal produced at Combs was hauled to the screening plant at Ingham. Part of the ventilation system was common to both mines but despite these connections Ingham and Combs were worked as two separate mines and were divided by proper boundaries under Section 25 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911.

At Ingham there were two shafts which were used for coal winding, the No.1 was downcast, 13 feet in diameter and the No.2 was upcast and 14 feet in diameter. Both shafts were sunk to the Black Bed seam at a depth of 277 yards and each shaft had an inset at 188 yards in the Beeston Seam. One hundred and eighty tons was wound daily from the Black Bed and Blocking Bed Seams from the Black Bed level in No.1 shaft and 450 tons from the Beeston and Wheatley Lime Seams was wound from the Beeston Seam inset in the No.2 shaft which gave a daily total output for the colliery of 630 tons, 80 percent of which went to the coke ovens. The Wheatley Lime Seam had been worked for 85 years so that it’s characteristics were well known.

At Combs Colliery the downcast shaft was 11 feet in a diameter and was sunk to the Black Bed Seam at 369 yards. The daily output of the shaft was 140 tons per day and from an inset in this shaft to the Beeston Sea, at 224 yards, a road was driven in the seam which formed an intake for the No.2 South District, Wheatley Lime Seam, Ingham Colliery. This was the district in which the explosion took place. There was also a pumping shaft at Combs, 12 feet 6 inches in diameter sunk to the New Hard Seam at 106 yards from which there was a connection to staple pit sunk to the Blocking Bed Seam. These water pits were not connected with the working of the mine but were used for drainage.

The ventilation was produced by a steam driven Walker fan, 7 feet in diameter which was at the surface of the Ingham upcast shaft and passed 140,000 cubic feet of air per minute at a water gauge of 3.6 inches. Safety lamps were used throughout out the mine and for general underground use Ceag 2-volt electric cap lamps and Ceag 4- volt electric hand lamps were issued. For gas testing the workmen were issued with Davis-Kirkby flame safety lamps which were magnetically locked and the officials with Prestwich type No.6 flame safety lamps fitted with internal re-lighters and lead rivet locks. To meet the requirements of the General Regulations in respect of precautions against coal dust and to facilitate systematic cleaning-up, stone-dusting and sampling, the roadways were apportioned in numbered zones. Gypsum dust was used for stone dusting throughout the colliery at a rate of 2.5 lbs. per ton of coal output.

The agent and manager of the Ingham Colliery was Mr. E.E. Cleaver and the undermanager of the No.1 Pit was Mr. C. Walshaw and for the No.2 Pit Mr. B. Aston. Mr. Cleaver was also agent for the Combs Colliery which had a separate manager but no undermanager. Mr. Cleaver came under the direction of the Area General Manager, Mr. J. Scoular who, in turn, came under Mr. H.M. Hundspeth, the Deputy Production Director and Mr. J. Hunter, production Director of the North Eastern Division of the National Coal Board.

As to the history of firedamp in the colliery there was an explosion in 1893 which occurred at the bottom of the Combs downcast shaft when 139 men and boys lost their lives. The shaft was then sunk to the Blocking Bed Coal at 165 yards but the seam that was being worked at the time was the Wheatley Lime which was entered from an inset 34 yards higher up in the shaft across which a wooden staging had been fixed leaving a four foot space at one side of the passage of air down the Blocking Bed seam. Safety lamps were used throughout, except in the immediate vicinity of the shaft where six open paraffin lamps were used to illuminate the shaft inset.

A joint report on the disaster was made by F.N. Waddell, H.M. District Inspector of Mines and Sir Henry Hall who concluded that firedamp had accumulated below the staging and communicated with a feeder of firedamp behind the brick shaft lining. The gas was ignited by one of the paraffin lamps and the explosion was mild and not extensive. The heavy death toll resulted from suffocation as smoke from the wooden fittings and the wood staging at the Wheatley Lime inset which were set on fire by the explosion. The shaft passed through a fault and an attempt had been made previously to pipe the gas made there to light the inset. Gas had been ignited at this point some months before the explosion.

The area of coal in the Wheatley Lime Seam in which the present explosion occurred was opened out some years before from two stone drifts driven from the Beeston Seam, through 40 yards downthrow fault. One drift was driven at an inclination of 1 in 7 in line with, and as a continuation of, the Evison Bord in the Beeston Seam and this roadway was used as a return airway, travelling and haulage road to the workings in the Wheatley Lime Seam. The other drift, which was used as the intake airway, was driven at an inclination of 1 in 2. The seam was 2 feet 11 inches thick and the immediate roof was of strong bind with well defined bedding planes. The floor was of hard fireclay and the only district working at the time was the No.2 South.

It was worked by an advancing longwall with gates at the extremity of the face which served as the intake and the return airways. Three dummy gates were also driven to provide material to pack the waste. The face at the time of the explosion was 140 yards long and the coal was undercut by longwall coal cutters to a depth of 4 feet 6 inches and was loaded on to the face conveyor on the main haulage road which discharged the coal into tubs at a loading point near the top of the 1 in 7 drift. From this point the coal was hauled to the No. 2 upcast shaft in tubs of four and a half and six and a half cwt. by an endless rope haulage running at one and a half miles per hour. The first 1500 yards of this haulage road was the Evison Bord including the 1 in 7 drift. Five hundred yards from the shaft the haulage passed round a right-angle bend into the South Ending where it received coal coming from the South Districts in the Beeston Seam so the haulage and conveyor roads were all in the return airway which was also the travelling road for the No.2 South District.

The deputies meeting station was near the top of the 1 in 7 drift and was also the return airway. Throughout the district, the conditions were slightly damp and water collected in certain parts and had to be pumped outbye. Electricity was used for operating the coal cutters, conveyors, pumps, drills for coal and stone, signalling system and for the telephone circuit, which extended almost to the working face. The air intake came to the No.2 South Distract came from the Combs shaft by way of a roadway in the Beeston Seam. This roadway and although small, was nevertheless well regulated. The air intake then passed up the 1 in 2 drift parallel to the 1 in 7 return drift through the 40-yards fault and the on to the Wheatley Lime Seam. a statutory air measurement taken at the top of the intake drift on 26th. August 1947, a fortnight before the explosion, showed 15,500 cubic feet of air per minute to be entering the district. Other measurements showed that of this quantity only 5,950 cubic feet reached the face of the No.2 South so that leakages, which occurred at three main points, were very heavy.

On the 5th June 1947, the No.2 South Face was 185 yards long and at that time the right hand side of the face extended 30 yards beyond the No.2 South Conveyor Gate to a fault which had been stripped at the time. The left side of the face extended for a shorter distance beyond the intake airway tail gate. In this 30 yards of face between the No.2 South Conveyor Gate and the fault, a subsidiary tail gate was packed 9 yards from the fault side. On 5th. June 1947, when the third when the third and the last in a series of ripping shots was being fired in this subsidiary tail gate, firedamp was ignited in a break which crossed the shothole and the flame passed 64 yards back along the side of the fault. In consequence, the face was shortened in order to concentrate and improve the ventilation, and a 9-inch brick wall, with a two yard brick pack on the outside of it, was built in the crossgate to seal off the subsidiary tail gates. The ignition of gas was investigated at the time by H.M. Inspectors of Mines and Officers of the Safety in Mines Research and Testing Branch. It was later proved that there was no connection with this explosion and the explosion of the 9th. September.