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The Brinsley Explosion - Sunday 10th June 1883

By Stan Smith of Brinsley (Ztan Zmith)

A surface worker who lived near the colliery heard the explosion and said:-
"Looking through my door, which faced Brinsley Colliery, I saw flames and a cloud of dust and some objects flying through the air. I went to the pit top where I worked as a puller-off.

The ropes hung loose and all the headgear was gone. Knowing that while the pit top was open the fan could not draw fresh air from Underwood, I got a wagon, fetched some large poles and put them across the shaft. I then broke open the store-room door and got some brattice cloth which I placed over the poles, thereby covering over the mouth of the shaft.

Just as I had finished, the Manager Mr. Chambers, came up straight from church. 'Well done, Sam,' he said, 'but have you heard anything from Dunn and Wright?' - Two men who were in the pit at the time. 'No', I replied.

Mr. Chambers told me to carry on, and said he would go with some men down Underwood Pit and through to Brinsley Pit bottom 'When you hear us,' he added, 'get a safety lamp come down the fan shaft.'

On going down the fan shaft I could hear William Dunn, the hostler, praying. The other man Charles Wright aged 40, a deputy, had been blown back into the office. Charles Wright died on the way home, and William Dunn, aged 64, died the next day. I was kept at the pit three days and nights before being relieved."

A miner's wife said:-
It was always the same when there was a pit accident. You could see the ambulance at the pit top. And you could see when they brought the men to the surface. The village was always deathly quiet.

From the report by Thomas Evans District Inspector of Mines, Derby:-
'The colliery is ventilated by means of a forty-five foot diameter 'waddle' fan, which is placed at the top of a shaft used as a winding shaft as well as an upcast. On Saturday afternoon, the 9th of June, the fan was stopped in accordance with the usual custom and practice which prevailed for years past at Messrs Barber, Walker & Company's collieries.

On Sunday, at about 7 o'clock p.m., the fan was again started, and in the ordinary course of working every working place would have been examined before the men were allowed to go to work, but on this Sunday evening it was necessary that someone should go to the underground stables, which are about fifty yards from the pit bottom, to attend to a sick horse. The two men who went down for this purpose were provided with safety lamps, and strict orders were given them not to have a naked light;but instead of obeying these instructionsone of them lighted an open flame lamp (after being told by his companion that it was a dangerous thing to do). After walking some few yards from the shaft towards the stables an explosion of gas took place, burning both the men so seriously that they died from the effects of their injuries, and at the same time fourteen horses were killed in the stables.

I made an inspection of the colliery, and was present at the inquest, and it appeared from the evidence that gas had been suddenly given off from the roof, some 400 yards away from the shaft, and was no doubt carried along by the restored ventilation in an explosive state to the upcast shaft.

If this man had obeyed his orders and had kept to his safety lamp alone, in my opinion, the explosion would not have occurred.

Brinsley Colliery This was originally 450 feet deep, but by the 1870s the good quality coal was almost exhausted. A second shaft was sunk to a depth of 780 feet in 1872 and this was when the tandem headstocks were erected.

More about Brinsley Pit

Stan Smith of Brinsley (Ztan Zmith)
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Brinsley Fatalities