Friends of Middleton Park

 

1825 Middleton Mining Accident...

Contemporary Accounts of the 1825 Middleton Colliery Mining Accident

On the Wednesday 12th January 1925, the worst mining accident in Middleton's history occurred at Middleton Colliery's Gosforth Pit. Printed below are some of the various newspaper articles which were written at the time. Since these are transcripts, any errors (spelling, punctuation, etc.) are mine.

John Newbould

 


 

Contents ...

      Durham Advertiser, Saturday 15th January 1825

      The Caledonian Mercury [Edinburgh], Monday 17th January 1825

      The Morning Chronicle [London]. Monday 17th January 1825.

      The Times [London], 20th January 1825

      The Newcastle Courant. Saturday 22nd January 1825.

      The Times, Monday 24th January 1825.

      The Morning Post. Tuesday 25th January 1825.

      The Bury and Norwich Post. Wednesday 26th January 1825.

      The Morning Post. Friday 28th January 1825.

      The Newcastle Courant, Saturday 29th January 1825

      Durham Advertiser 29th January 1825

      The Leeds Mercury, Saturday, 19th February 1825

      The Leeds Mercury, Saturday, 19th February 1825

      Gentleman's Magazine 1825 v.95(1), Page 77

 


 

Durham Advertiser, Saturday 15th January 1825

NEWS. A lamentable accident, occasioned, it is believed, by the incautious exposure of the flame of a safety lamp, took place at Middleton Colliery, near Leeds, on Wednesday evening last, when an explosion of firedamp hurried twenty four men and boys into eternity. Four others, dreadfully injured, were taken to the Infirmary with little hope of recovery.

 


 

The Caledonian Mercury [Edinburgh], Monday 17th January 1825

DREADFUL ACCIDENT AT MIDDLETON COLLIERY, NEAR LEEDS

(From the Leeds Intelligencer, January 13th)

One of the most tremendous explosions took place at Middleton colliery, near this town, the property of C.J. Brandling, Esq., M.P. about seven o clock last evening, (Wednesday) that has ever been known to occur in this neighbourhood. The report was as loud as that of a cannon, and produced such an effect upon the various parts of the pit, seemingly to one of the persons who was employed in it at the time, as though the whole was falling in with a dreadful crash. Of course, as the whole of the men who were employed in the immediate vicinity where it happened, have fallen a prey to its violence, except the few who were taken to out Infirmary about two o clock this morning (and they were in such a state as not to be able to give any precise account of the circumstance), it cannot be ascertained with any degree of absolute certainty how it was occasioned; but we have collected the following particulars from the spot, which develops the only rational means that can be mentioned as the cause of its occurrence. It is customary, after excavating a part of the pit, about 15 yards in length, to prop the roof by supporters, till they perform the like operation on a similar quantity of coal adjoining; then to remove the props from the first allotment, securing that part of the pit nearest the place where labourers are employed. In the space left by the excavations the foul air collects, and it is supposed that this old strata has fallen in, and driven the combustible element with such force towards the spot where the men were employed as to cause it to take fire and explode. Had this event taken place when the necessary precaution of having safety guards upon the lamps was in operation, it would have produced no such effect; but it was entirely owing to the imprudent conduct of some of the unfortunate individuals themselves, in keeping their lamps exposed to the air, which was known to be the case yesterday. The truth of this remark is confirmed by the fact that the lamps have since been used in the pit with the wire guards, and are found perfectly secure. It is said that there were two shocks, and that more injury was sustained from what is called the black damp, or after-damp, than was received from the one which immediately preceded it. The men by the former were burnt, and by the latter suffocated. The pit is one of those which is entered by what is called a day-hole, and proceeds under a level with the surface of the ground at its entrance for nearly a mile, where there is a perpendicular descent of 75 yards, at the bottom of which the pit branches off in different directions. In one of these branch roads the accident happened, and some of the men were found in groups of five or six, one upon another, and in other places more at about 40 yards from the pit bottom, or the place they would have to ascend to make their escape; some were 200, and others 300 yards from this point. There were ten men in more distant parts of the pit, who, though they felt the effects of the shock, received no further injury than that of being knocked down by the violence of the explosion. The number of men who were killed on this occasion is 24.

The distress that prevails throughout the neighbourhood cannot be conceived. In some families two, and in others three, have fallen in the general wreck; and while the friends of the deceased were waiting at the pit s mouth with breathless anxiety to know the fate of their relatives, the heart-rending cries of widows and fatherless children presented such a scene as beggars all description. Nor has the appearance of things much changed for the better; sorrow appears depicted in every countenance, and the whole neighbourhood appears to join in the common grief.

The friends of two of the men who are yet in the pit are labouring under the poignant feelings of despair, sometimes but slightly relieved by a faintly glimmering ray of hope that their destiny may not be eternally fixed. The utmost exertions were used to rescue them, and Mr Blenkinsop, Mr Nicholson, and a number of others connected with the colliery were incessantly employed till five o clock this morning, when the fire reached such a pitch as to render it unsafe to proceed any further. Since then the pit as been, in a great degree, in a burning state and they are adopting measures to put a stop to its progress, which may be affected in a day or two, or may continue a much longer time.

It is almost impossible to describe the appearance of the unfortunate sufferers; several of them have broken limbs; such as were most affected by the first blast have all the skin burnt off their faces, and the bodies of others are perfectly black. One young man appears to have been fighting against the flames upon his body, as, at the time he was found, his hand was full of flesh.

 


 

The Morning Chronicle [London]. Monday 17th January 1825.

ACCIDENT AT MIDDLETON COLLIERY, NEAR LEEDS

Leeds Intelligencer Office, Thursday, three o clock. - One of the most tremendous explosions took place at Middleton colliery, near this town, the property of C.J. Brandling, Esq., M.P. about seven o clock last evening, that has ever been known to occur in this neighbourhood. The report was as loud as that of a cannon, and produced such an effect upon the various parts of the pit, seemingly to one of the persons who was employed in it at the time, as though the whole was falling in with a dreadful crash. Of course, as the whole of the men who were employed in the immediate vicinity where it happened, have fallen a prey to its violence, except the few who were taken to out Infirmary about two o clock this morning (and they were in such a state as not to be able to give any precise account of the circumstance), it cannot be ascertained with any certainty how it was occasioned; but we have collected the following particulars from the spot, which develops the only rational means that can be mentioned as the cause of its occurrence. It is customary, after excavating a part of the pit, about 15 yards in length, to prop the roof by supporters, till they perform the like operation on a similar quantity of coal adjoining; then to remove the props from the first allotment, securing that part of the pit nearest the place where labourers are employed. In the space left by the excavations the foul air collects, and it is supposed that this old strata has fallen in, and driven the combustible element with such force towards the spot where the men were employed as to cause it to take fire and explode. Had this event taken place when the necessary precaution of having safety guards upon the lamps was in operation, it would have produced no such effect; but it was entirely owing to the imprudent conduct of some of the unfortunate individuals themselves, in keeping their lamps exposed to the air, which was known to be the case yesterday. The truth of this remark is confirmed by the fact that the lamps have since been used in the pit with the wire guards, and are found perfectly secure. It is said that there were two shocks, and that more injury was sustained from what is called the black damp, or after-damp, than was received from the one which immediately preceded it. The men by the former were burnt, and by the latter suffocated. The pit is one of those which is entered by what is called a day-hole, and proceeds under a level with the surface of the ground at its entrance for nearly a mile, where there is a perpendicular descent of 75 yards, at the bottom of which the pit branches off in different directions. In one of these branch roads the accident happened, and some of the men were found in groups of five or six, one upon another, and in other places more at about forty yards from the pit bottom, or the place they would have to ascend to make their escape; some were 200, and others 300 yards from this point. There were ten men in more distant parts of the pit, who, though they felt the effects of the shock, received no further injury than that of being knocked down by the violence of the explosion. The number of men who were killed on this occasion is twenty-four, and we have endeavoured to collect their names and ages which as much precision as the present confused state of things would permit. The following are their names, and what other circumstances we could learn respecting their families:-

John Proctor (aged 60) wife and three children; James Wood (23), his wife was brought to bed yesterday; Benjamin Wood, jun. (13); Benjamin Wood, sen. (43), father of the two former; wife and three children; Joshua Liversedge (43), wife and ten children; Saml. Ramsden (12); Calita Ramsden (14); John Ramsden (20); Wm. Heald (18); Wm. Wood (36), wife and child; Joseph Dixon (8); Sanderson Handford-this young man would have completed his 18th year to-morrow; Samuel Cromack (10); Benjamin Broadhead (40), wife and one child; George Wright (27), wife and three children; Luke Normington (27), wife and two children; James Drury (18); Richard Foster (five) this poor little fellow was taken out alive in a mangled state, and expired at three o clock this morning; James Heald (fourteen); George Ambler (eight); Peter Hamel (thirty-three), wife; James Foster (eight); Joseph Haigh (forty), wife and child, and John Ramsden (23), are yet in the pit, and supposed to be dead. George Ambler (8) both his thighs broke; John Liversedge (20), much burnt, Samuel Hewitt (16), skull fractured; and Geo. Hewitt (23), much bruised; were taken to the Infirmary about two-o clock this morning, and there are some hopes entertained of their recovery.

The distress that prevails throughout the neighbourhood cannot be conceived. In some families two, and in others three, have fallen in the general wreck; and while the friends of the deceased were waiting at the pit s mouth with breathless anxiety to know the fate of their relatives, the heart-rending cries of widows and fatherless children presented such a scene as beggars all description. Nor has the appearance of things much changed for the better; sorrow appears depicted in every countenance, and the whole neighbourhood appears to join in the common grief.

The friends of two of the men who are yet in the pit are labouring under the poignant feelings of despair, sometimes but slightly relieved by a faintly glimmering ray of hope that their destiny may not be eternally fixed. The utmost exertions were used to rescue them, and Mr Blenkinsop, Mr Nicholson, and a number of others connected with the colliery were incessantly employed till five o clock this morning, when the fire reached such a pitch as to render it unsafe to proceed any further. Since then the pit as been, in a great degree, in a burning state and they are adopting measures to put a stop to its progress, which may be affected in a day or two, or may continue a much longer time.

It is almost impossible to describe the appearance of the unfortunate sufferers; several of them have broken limbs; such as were most affected by the first blast have all the skin burnt off their faces, and the bodies of others are perfectly black. One young man appears to have been fighting against the flames upon his body, as, at the time he was found, his hand was full of flesh.

Before we dismiss the narration of this melancholy event, we venture to suggest the propriety of some of our more opulent fellow-townsmen immediately setting on foot a subscription for the relief of the bereaved widows and fatherless children; of whom there are ten of the former, and twenty-five of the latter.

 


 

The Times [London], 20th January 1825

THE FATAL ACCIDENT AT MIDDLETON

[From the Leeds Patriot of Saturday]

INQUEST ON THE BODY OF RICHARD FOSTER.

This inquest was held last evening at the house of Samuel Richardson, the sign of the Locomotive Steam Engine, at Hunslet-car.

Thomas Caley examined. He said he was a miner, and employed in Mr. Brandling s pits at Middleton; knew Richard Foster, who lived at Hunslet-carr; was married, and had three children; the deceased was employed at the Middleton Pits since he was a boy. The misfortune took place on Wednesday night; witness went into the pit at noon on that day and remained there till half-past nine at night; foster was also there. Witness supposes there might be upwards of 40 men and boys working in the pit, who would have finished their labourby about 11 at night. At about a quarter before seven o clock he heard a sudden rushing, and then a noise like the loud report of a cannon, his light went out; it seemed as if there was a great crushing; he had one of Sir H. Davy s lamps, which was guarded, and it was not exposed at all on that day. All the persons employed in the pit had patent safety-lamps. On hearing the noise, he became alarmed, and ran towards the shaft of the pit; on his way he ran over a man laid down, it was John Liversedge, who is now in the Infirmary; he was rolling about; witness told him to come forward, but the man never spoke. Witness saw no flame, but when going to the shaft, he overtook William Fox, and James Wood, and the latter told him that all was in a flame below. Witness and Joseph Butterfield went back to search for Liversedge; they found him in the same place with his leg broken in pieces, but he was still alive. Twelve escaped with very little injury; four are at the infirmary, and two are ill at home; twenty-three have died in consequence of the accident. Witness was not present when Foster was taken out, but believes he was then alive. He thought when he heard the report, that it was explosion of the damp, he felt assured it was fire-damp, for he smelt the sulphur. He supposed the accident occurred in consequence of carelessness on the part of some person, in having the light of their lamps exposed; when the lamps required trimming, they were directed to remove them into a proper situation for the purpose; the pit in which this accident happened was, in his opinion, safer than some others. He had no doubt that Foster died from the effect of fire-damp. When the lamps have their tops on, he considers them safe; sometimes the wire gauze will become red-hot and when that is the case workmen should remove elsewhere; they are never to work in such dangerous places, by order of the bottom stewards; it is not required of them. The overseers make a point of examining the state of the pits.

Joshua Parkin stated he was also a miner at Middleton Pits, and was at work on Wednesday night, when the fire-damp went off suddenly at a quarter before seven o clock; there was no previous alarm given, it was as sudden as the crack of a gun; it blew him over; he lay still about a quarter of a minute, and it came again, he then got up, wrapped his shirt round his face, and set off running as fast as possible, to the shaft of the pit; when he had proceeded about 300 yards, he found a smell of fire-damp, or sulphur; he succeeded in reaching the shaft, and saw no one on his way. The deceased was working in the pit at the time of the explosion, and was taken out about 10 o clock the same night; he saw him, but did not hear him speak. Witness cannot tell how the accident happened, nor does he think any one can. Witness believes the accident must have arisen from neglect on the part of some man.

No other witnesses were examined and the Coroner (ROBERT BARR, Esq., proceeded to sum up the evidence to the jury, who delivered the following verdict - "That Richard Foster came to his death in consequence of an explosion of fire-damp."

 


 

The Newcastle Courant. Saturday 22nd January 1825.

DREADFUL EXPLOSION AT MIDDLETON COLLIERY, NEAR LEEDS
TWENTY-FOUR PERSONS KILLED

About a quarter before seven o'clock on Wednesday evening last, an explosion of fire-damp took place in Gosforth Coal Pit, at Middleton, about four miles from Leeds, the property of C.J. Brandling, Esq., M.P. The pit is entered by what is called a day-hole, and proceeds under a hill on a level with the surface of the ground at its entrance for 1100 yards, when there is a perpendicular descent, called the shaft, of about 80 yards, at the bottom of which the pit branches off in different directions. In one of these branch roads the accident happened. About 10 men who worked on the west side of the shaft, being at a distance from the explosion, escaped unhurt. The remainder were working about 200 yards on the east side of the shaft. In working coal pits it is usual to find the extremity of the coal and commence working there. This having been done in Gosforth Pit, the men were gradually digging westward, on their way back to the shaft. It is customary, after excavating a part of the pit, about 15 yards in length, to prop the roof by supporters till the men perform the like operation on a similar quantity of coal adjoining; then to remove the props from the first allotment, securing only that part of the pit nearest the place where labourers are employed. The roof of the exhausted parts is then allowed to fall in. Twelve or fourteen colliers were employed in digging, and filling the corves, which were drawn to the shaft of the pit by several other men called hurries, and a number of boys called thrusters. The part of the pit where the digging was carried on was communicated with the shaft by two parallel passages, one of them (the principal one) running through the centre of the bed, and reaching the shaft by a right angle. In that part of the workings between these two passages, seven or eight colliers were employed, and five more worked on the south side of the bed, in a part separated from the rest by a wall of coal, but having communications with the principal passage. In the rear of the first of these divisions, many of the props that supported the roof had been removed on the preceding Friday, and the workmen occasionally heard the superincumbent earth falling in behind them. This was heard several times on Wednesday, and it was doubtless in consequence of this that the carburetted hydrogen gas, commonly called fore-damp, so plentifully generated in coal-mines, was forced forwards to the place where the men were working. Here we must remark that the dreadful consequences, which ensued must have been the result of unaccountable neglect on the part of one or more of the colliers themselves, as they were not only provided with safety lamps, and strictly ordered to make continual use of them, but the pit was sufficiently ventilated. Indeed, it appears that in lieu of attending to the injunctions of their employers, the miners have been accustomed to work with the guards of their lamps removed. It was in this unprepared state that the inflammable vapour, forced forward by the falling of the superincumbent strata, came into contact with their lamps, and caused the explosion. Five colliers, working in the northern part of the pit, were suffocated. One collier, named fox, who was working within a few yards of the place where the explosion occurred, miraculously escaped, by running into the southern passage; and another, named Caley, who was at work in the very furthest part of the pit, at the extremity of that passage, escaped by the same means, though he was twice thrown down by the violent explosion, and recurrence of the air. Several colliers were killed on the spot, and most of the hurries and thrusters, in flying from the danger, were destroyed by the shower of splinters from the roof and sides of the main passage. So great was the shock, that four men standing at the pit's mouth were thrown to the earth by the blast of air that issued from the shaft.

Mr Moses Roberts, the Bottom Steward, immediately went down into the pit. Mr Blenkinsop, the manager, as soon as he became acquainted with the accident, also descended, and took the best measures for dispelling the smoke, to allow the requisite search being made through the passages. Soon after, this was conducted by several persons, though at the risk of suffocation, or of another explosion. In this dangerous undertaking, the party continued until four o'clock next morning, at which period, the smoke had accumulated to an alarming extent, they were compelled to give up their search. The men, got out alive, were extracted about three quarters of an hour after the explosion. About nine o'clock some of the dead bodies were brought to the mouth of the pit; and by four o'clock 22 of these hapless victims had been found. Two of the unfortunate men are still in the pit, which is at present, covered up. The fire is not quenched. Persons are strictly prohibited from approaching this dreary resting place of the dead, as the application of a light at the top of the pit might occasion another explosion. It is, however, hoped that it may be reopened tomorrow, Jan. 19.

It is said that Mr Blenkinsop has determined in future, to affix locks to the safety lamps, so that the men cannot remove the guards however inclined they might be to do so. A very handsome subscription has been entered into by the landowners, in Hunslet, for the laudable purpose of mitigating the losses of the survivors. Mr Blenkinsop has defrayed the expense of the coffins to bury the dead. He has also given £2 to the relatives of each married man that is killed, to those of of each single man £1; and to those of each lad 6s, besides rendering other assistance to the bereaved families. We understand that Mr Brandling will extend his protection and bounty, in the future support of the widows and families of the unfortunate sufferers, independent of any subscription that may be made for their present relief. On Sunday, at St. James's Church, in Leeds, after sermons by the Rev. John King, the very handsome collection £40 16s. 6d. was made in behalf of the existing sufferers. We hope that the success of the rev. gentleman (notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the weather) will induce other ministers of the Church of England to follow his example.

Collections were also made as follows:- At the Old Chapel, after sermons by the Rev. Mr Stanley, accounting to £19 0s. 8d.; at Albion-Street Chapel, (Rev. Mr Walmsley) £38; at Wesley Chapel, (Rev. V Ward) £23. Five of the unfortunate men were members of the Leeds district of Independent Old Fellows. This friendly brotherhood, we understand, with the liberality which does honor to our nature, has raised a subscription amounting to £40. which they have already paid over for the relief of those helpless widows or orphans, who by this frightful occurrence, have to deplore the loss of husbands, or parents.

The number of men and boys killed is 24. One of the boys was only 5 years of age. The number of widows left is 11, and of children 27. Seven men were hurt. A general subscription for their relief has begun in Leeds. There is no doubt of the accident having been caused by the neglect of the regulations for keeping the safety-lamp closed. On the inquest on Richard Foster, one of the sufferers, on Friday, Thomas Caley, the man who escaped, gave the following testimony:

Witness said he was a miner, employed in Mr Brandling's pits at Middleton: Knew Richard Foster, who lived at Hunslet-Car; the deceased was married, and had three children; was employed at the Middleton pit since he was a boy. The misfortune took place on Wednesday night; witness went into the pit at noon on that day, and remained there till half-past nine at night; Foster was also there. Witness supposes there might be upwards of forty men and boys working in the pit who would have finished their labour by eleven at night. At about a quarter before seven o clock he heard a sudden rushing, and then a noise like the loud report of a cannon, his light went out; it seemed as if there was a great crushing; he had one of Sir H. Davy's lamps, which was guarded, and it was not exposed at all on that day. All the persons employed in the pit had safety-lamps. On hearing the noise he became alarmed and ran towards the shaft of the pit; on his way he ran over a man laid down. It was John Liversedge, who was now in the infirmary; he was rolling about; witness told him to come forward, but the man never spoke. Witness saw no flame, but when going to the shaft he overtook Wm. Fox and James Wood, and the latter told him that all was in aflame below. Witness and Jos. Butterfield went back to search for Liversedge; they found him in the same place with his leg broken in pieces, but he was still alive. Twelve escaped with very little injury; four at the infirmary, and two are ill at home; twenty-four have died in consequence of the accident. Witness was not present when Foster was taken out, but believes he was then alive. He thought when he heard the report, that it was an explosion of fire-damp, he felt assured that it was fire-damp, for he smelt the sulphur. He supposed the accident occurred in consequence of carelessness on the part of some person, in having the light of their lamps exposed; when the lamps required trimming, they were directed to remove them into a proper situation for the purpose; the pit in which this accident happened was, in his opinion, safer than some others. He had no doubt that Foster died from the effect of fire-damp. Whwn the lamps have their tops on, he considers them safe; sometimes the wire gauze will become red-hot and when that is the case workmen should remove elsewhere; they are never to work in such dangerous places by order of the bottom stewards; it is not required of them. The overseers make a point of examining the state of the pits.

Joshua Parkin stated he was also a miner at Middleton-pits, and was at work on Wednesday night, when the fire-damp went off suddenly at a quarter before seven o clock; there was no previous alarm given, it was as sudden as the crack of a gun; it blew him over; he laid still about a quarter of a minute, and it came again, he then got up, wrapped his shirt round his face, and set off running as fast as possible, to the shaft of the pit; when he had proceeded about 300 yards, he found a smell of fire-damp, or sulphur; he succeeded in reaching the shaft, and saw no one on his way. The deceased was working in the pit at the time of the explosion, and was taken out about 10 o clock the same night; he saw him, but did not hear him speak. Witness cannot tell how the accident happened, nor does he think any one can. Witness believes the accident must have arisen from neglect on the part of some man.

No other witnesses were examined. Verdict-That Richard Foster came to his death in consequence of an explosion of fire-damp.

 


 

The Times, Monday 24th January 1825.

THE FATAL ACCIDENT AT MIDDLETON

[From the Leeds Intellingencer]

On Wednesday, at 11 o clock in the morning, an inquest was held at the Brandling's Arms, at Belle Isle, near Middleton, before Mr. JEWISON, coroner for the honour of Pontefract, on the following men, who were killed by the late explosion in Gosforth pit viz., Peter Hammill, Benjamin Broadhead, Wm. Wood, John Procter, Joshua Liversedge, Benjamin Wood, sen., George Wright, James Drury, William Heald, John Ramsden, Luke Normanton, Sanderson Handforth, James Wood, Joseph Dixon, Kalita Ramsden, James Heald, Benjamin Wood, jun., John Ambler, Samuel Cromack, James Foster, and Samuel Ramsden.

James Wood, of Middleton, was the first witness sworn. He is a collier, was working in the Gosforth Pit, on Wednesday, 12th Jan., till half-past 2 in the afternoon. The pit was all right; and all the air gates were in a proper state when he left. He was relieved by Benjamin Wood, and he saw no one else come to work. Was employed in the second bank, on the south side of the centre board-gate. Safety-lamps were provided for the whole of the colliers and other persons employed at the pit, and directions were given that the tops should not be taken off. Strict orders had been given by Moses Roberts, bottom-steward of the pit, that no man should do so on any consideration whatever. Witness himself has not attended to these orders, but has been in the habit of taking off the wire gauze from his lamp, in his own hole. Witness has seen others do so frequently, and they have all been accustomed to take them off at times. Can say nearly all. Can give names. Has sometimes seen the men who perished with their lamps in that state, but not often, as he worked upon the first shaft, and seldom saw any of that set but the man who relieved him. The workmen in the same shaft with himself, had to cross his bank, and he has seen their lamps in that state. While he was at work, he heard small parts of the old workings fall, for two or three days after they had taken down the props. Heard it fall the day before the accident. When the break falls, it drives a strong wind and a great quantity of dust to the men who are working at the face of the coal. In witness s judgement he supposes they must have had their lamps uncovered when it fell, otherwise it would not have fired. The colliers were cautious when they heard the old workings crack, and expected a fall. Never was in a pit when the gas exploded. If the air be strongly impregnated with sulphur at the time the roof falls in, it will take fire. Can t say that he has noticed any particular smell from the foul air. Has often known breaks sufficiently large to drive the wind with such force upon the men who were working as to blow out several lamps when they were covered, and no explosions took place. Has seen half a score lamps put out together-every lamp in the set. Can t say whether it was then sufficiently impregnated with sulphur as to have taken fire if the tops of the lamps had been off. Witness s lamp was never filled with flame. There was a strong current of air in the board-gate between the banks. The men used to go to the cross-gates, through which the wind passes that comes from the top, to get their lamps trimmed and lighted, and sometimes the wind was so strong as to blow it out again. He was nine hours in the pit after the explosion took place. Went in about eight o clock in consequence of information being communicated to him that the accident had happened. When he got there, he found Moses Roberts and Thomas Bedford, bottom-stewards, busily engaged in exploring the the mine and taking out the bodies of such as could be met with.

A question was put to witness by one of the jurors, as to whether the colliers were not in the habit of taking off the tops of their lamps to light their pipes ? He answered yes , perhaps they were, and they were obliged to do so when the lights were knocked out by letting the lamps fall, or any other accident. Witness entered the pit about half-past five o clock on Wednesday morning.

Moses Roberts was next sworn. - Witness is 48 years of age. Has been bottom steward at Middleton Colliery 14 years and a half, and six years and a half at another. Has had the care of the Gosforth Pit for the last two years. That pit was working by shafts on Wednesday, the 12th inst. It is his business to attend to the men changing properly at the shafts. The names of the unfortunate men on whose bodies the inquest was holding were read over to the witness, who said they all belonged to the second shift. [For the facts detailed by this witness, see the evidence of Thomas Bedford.]

W. Fox was next sworn. Is a collier, was employed last Wednesday at Gosforth Pit. Several of the deceased were there. Saw several of them working by his side. They all belonged to the same shift. There are two board-gates on the norther division. Thay all had safety-lamps, and had received strict injunctions not to remove the guards. They had, however, frequently neglected this caution. He did not know whether or not this had been the case on the occasion in question. Witness was working last Wednesday evening, when a little before seven, Wm. Heald came screaming Joe Haigh, it has fired. Witness took his shirt and ran straight among the props through the cross-gates into the north-east board gate. He called to James Wood and John Liversedge, who were working in the bank next to the board-gate, and they followed him. A cold blast took him in the rear, thrust him violently forward, and then dashed him to the earth, and left him for a short time completely stunned by the blow. After another similar fall, he reached the shaft.

Thomas Bedford was next sworn. Witness is bottom-steward at Middleton Colliery, and will have acted in that capacity twenty years on the 5th of next month. Does not, however, belong to Gosforth Pit, but repaired thither in consequence of hearing of the accident at eight o clock on Wednesday evening, and found Moses Roberts, another bottom-steward, making preparations to clear the middle board-gates. He followed as near as he durst venture, and discovered the bodies of three men before he came to the cross-gate leading to the workings, and the end of the ross-gate found the bodies of five more men and boys, and Benjamin Broadhead behind a door, which was shut, in one of the board-slits, and John Procter at the bottom of the first bank of the south-east workings. Witness then assisted in turning the air down the north-east boardgate, and found another body not far from the cross-gate end. Went into the first bank, where there was no circulation of air, and the atmosphere was the most impure, but discovered no more bodies. Had heard from his companions that seventeen had been got out. It was then about three o clock. Called to the people at the top of the pit to ask how many were still missing; and was told two or three. Assisted to turn the air again into the middle board-gate, and then went 14 yards nearer the old workings than before, and found the body of Peter Hammills. Made further diligent search, but without success. Returned to the shaft, let in the air a third time, but could not get near the old workings for the fire in the pit, which was every moment growing stronger. Mr. Blenkinsop was there, and inquired if there was any possibility of getting further into the board-gate? Witness replied they could not. A dozen men were present, and all agreed as to the impossibility of getting any farther. Witness expressed it as his opinion, that if all the lamps of the men on the east side of the pit had been uncovered , the explosion would not have taken place, unless the roof of the old workings had fallen in and forced out a quantity of sulphur on the lamps. The old workings occupy a space of 16,000 square yards; 11 or 12 yards of the roof will sometimes fall in at once, and the vacuum thus left above is invariably filled with foul air, which is, of course, expelled by the next mass that descends , and is forced to the place where the miner are working. Whenever this is the case, and their lamps are uncovered, an explosion is sure to be the consequence. On this principle witness accounts for the late accident, which he does not believe could have taken place had the wire gauze not have been removed from the lamps. As a proof of this, witness mentioned having crept into the cross-gate of one of the old workings, and had ascended with his lamp three yards above the roof into one of the cavities caused by the fall of earth into the pit, when the lamp has indicated the presence of the gas, and rapidly consumed it without any explosion. He did this with the view of ascertaining whether the air was inflammable or not. There was an explosion of firedamp in this pit two years ago last may. The men had wrought their way about 100 yards from the eastern extremity of the pit, and were removing the props from the roof, when it began cracking; and Fox cried out The break is coming. All the men ran away, and James Ambler left his candle burning. Suddenly the roof fell, forced out a quantity of fire-damp upon the candle, and immediately exploded. Some of the men were burnt, but there was no blast. One boy, of the name of Battye, died of the injury he received. The man who was the cause of the explosion was also dreadfully burnt, and died in a few days. Twenty-five men were killed by the late explosion. After the catastrophe, the usual means were taken to prevent the fire from spreading. It has not been deemed safe to open it since. The last time he was in the pit, four of five days before the accident, there was a good current in all parts of it. Had been in many of the pits in the neighbourhood for 20 miles round, and never remembered to have seen one where the ventilation was so complete as in Gosforth-pit. Has invited several bottom-stewards to the pit, who have all agreed that its ventilation could not be improved. In reply to the question of the Coroner, witness stated 21 men and boys were taken out dead.

Thomas Caley, aged 26, next sworn. Is a miner, was employed, at the east end of the north board-gate, at the back of the old workings, at the time the accident occurred, and heard a report like thunder. Suspecting what had happened, he jumped over his corf, set off towards the pit shaft, and about 19 yards from the place from which he started, smelt the clothes of the men burning, and also the sulphur of fire-damp. He then threw off his clogs, and having called to John Liversedge to come forward if he could, stuffed his shirt into his mouth, pressed forward, and overtook James Wood and William Fox at the west end of the north board-gate, near the door leading to the pit shaft. Assisted the bottom-steward in getting out the bodies. Witness went down the centre board-gate. Five bodies were found before he got out. Cannot tell how the accident was occasioned, but supposes that it was caused by the imprudence of the men taking off the tops of their lamps a practice by no means uncommon. Witness has frequently removed the guard from his lamp, and worked with it in that state.

Mr. John Blenkinsop, of Middleton, sworn. Has been agent to Mr. Brandling, for upwards of 16 years. Having heard of Wednesday evening, that two or three men had been burnt while employed in Gosforth-pit, reached the pit about 10 o clock, and met Moses Roberts, Thomas Bedford, and several colliers, who informed him that an explosion had taken place, by which many of their companions had been destroyed, that they had taken out several of the dead bodies, and had just returned from a search in the centre board-gates. They then, by his direction, turned the current of air down the first board-gate to the north of the shaft, and penetrated as far as the first slip of the board-gate in the norther division of the pit, and through the first slip of the near bank. The whole of that part of the pit was filled with smoke, and appeared, from the crackling and the dense vapours that issued from it, that the strata in the roof were on fire. Witness did not think the coal was ignited from the appearance of the smoke, which, although not of a dark nature, rendered the air of the pit extremely difficult to breathe. The men searched diligently in every quarter into which access was practicable. Having remained below for some time giving directions and aiding the operations of the miners, he ascended to the top of the shaft, for the purpose of ascertaining who were really missing. [A considerable portion of this gentleman's evidence corroborated that of Bedford, and other of the witnesses, as to the active part he took in the affair.] After all had been done that could possibly be done under the circumstances, witness returned to the shaft, ascended the pit and gave directions that both holes should be closed; that of the shaft and the air-pit. The air furnace is eight feet by seven, and the width of the tunnel proportionably large, in order to admit of a free circulation throughout the workings. Was not aware that any pit was better ventilated than this. Supposes the explosion to have taken place about the centre of the north division of the old workings, 40 ar 50 yards from the face of the coal. Attributes the accident to one-or-more of the lamps having been uncovered at the time when the inflammable air was driven forward upon the miners by the fall of the roof behind them. Witness did not consider it safe to open the pit mouths until the strata had had time to cool, lest another explosion should follow.

Mr. Hemingway, solicitor, here observed that Liversedge and James Wood were too ill to attend the inquest, but proposed to the Jury, if they considered it necessary, to adjourn to the Infirmary for the purpose of examining them. The Jury, however, declared themselves perfectly satisfied with what they had heard, and the Coroner summed up the evidence; they retired for a few minutes, and then returned the following verdict: "Accidental Death, occasioned by the sudden explosion of a quantity of hydrogen gas, commonly called fire damp, in Gosforth Coal-pit."

 


 

The Morning Post. Tuesday 25th January 1825.

Everything that has transpired through the evidence at the several Inquests which have been held on the unfortunate sufferers in Middleton Colliery confirms us in the opinion we stated a few days back. The carelessness of the miners, the culpable neglect of the bottom stewards, and the general indifference of all other persons, convince us that Government ought to assume the supervision of the coal districts. As we suspected, the safety lamp, in the reckless manner it has usually been used, is detrimental rather than serviceable to the colliers. It seems the latter, during the greater part of their labours, take off the wire-gauze on various accommodating pretences, and that it was on one of these occasions the late explosion took place. Had no such protection been at all employed, the probability is, that the Agents and Stewards of the mine would have been more attentive to its ventilation. They deemed, however, the use of the safety lamp a guarantee against danger, and neglected these precautions in its absence indispensable, and in its abuse equally so. We sincerely trust Parliament will take up the subject. The nation is disgraced by the frequent recurrence of fatal accidents, which a little care would obviate, but which no legislative steps have been taken to prevent. We ask no infringement of private right we demand the redress of a public grievance; and the speedier redress be obtained the better for individuals, and the more honourable to the country.

 


 

The Bury and Norwich Post. Wednesday 26th January 1825.

Since our last, another name is added to the list of persons, to whom the dreadful explosion at Middleton Colliery has proved fatal. Samuel Hewitt, a boy 14 years of age, who had been wounded in the head, died on Tuesday evening in the Infirmary. The boy had been on the head by a piece of coal, which fractured his skull, and injured his brain. Thus twenty-five lives have been sacrificed to an act of gross and infatuated carelessness an act which might have been more severely condemned, if the authors were not also the victims. It appeared, from the evidence given at the inquest held at Belle Isle, that the workmen were in frequent, probably the daily, habit of taking the covers from the safety lamps in the pit; that this was done for the most frivolous causes; that they often continued to work with their lamps uncovered; and that even the stewards not unfrequently went about the pit with an open candle. We think, therefore, that Mr. Blenkinsop is taking only a necessary precaution, in locking up all the lamps, and having one or more persons expressly appointed to take care of the lights in each pit. We are glad to find, that the humanity of our townsmen has answered, with the utmost alacrity, the appeal made to them on behalf of the families who are left destitute by this calamity. The bodies of the unfortunate sufferers were interred on Saturday and Sunday, six at Rothwell, fourteen at Hunslet, one at Ardsley, and one at Beeston. The three persons still remaining in the Infirmary are doing well.    Leeds Mercury

 


 

The Morning Post. Friday 28th January 1825.

Mr. Blenkinsop, the principal agent to Mr. Brandling, at Middleton colliery, near Leeds, has determined to adopt an excellent expedient to prevent a repetition of such dreadful accidents as that recorded in our last issue. He has resolved to affix locks to the safety lamps used in the pits, so that the men cannot open them, if they should so be inclined. Mr Blenkinsop has defrayed the expense of the coffins to bury the dead. He has also given 2l. [£2] to the relatives of each married man that is killed, to those of each single man 1l. [£1] , and to those of each boy 5s., besides rendering other assistance to the bereaved families.

 


 

The Newcastle Courant, Saturday 29th January 1825

MIDDLETON COLLIERY. Another name is to be added to the list of persons to whom the dreadful explosion at Middleton Colliery has proved fatal. Samuel Hewitt, a boy fourteen years of age, who had been shockingly wounded, died on Tuesday week, in the Leeds infirmary. He had been struck on the head by a piece of coal, which fractured his skull, and injured the brain. An inquest was held on Wednesday. Verdict Accidental death. On the same day an inquest was held at the Brandling Arms, belle Isle, near Middleton, on 22 men who were killed by the explosion. Several witnesses being examined, the coroner briefly charged the jury, stating that there did not appear to be the least blame attaching to any of the managers, and that the pit appeared to be well ventilated. The accident seemed to have been caused by the negligence of some of the men, who must have had their lamps uncovered when the roof fell in, and forced forward the inflammable air upon them. The jury, after a few minutes deliberation, returned a verdict, which, stripped of its legal formalities is Killed by burning, bruising, or suffocation, in consequence of an explosion of carburetted hydrogen gas, on Gosforth coal-pit, on Wednesday, the 12th inst. Gosforth pit continues in such a state, that it has not yet been deemed prudent to open it. The subscription for the families of the sufferers amounts to above 1000l. [£1,000]

 


 

Durham Advertiser 29th January 1825

NEWS. Gosforth Pit, at Middleton Colliery, continues in such a state, that it has not yet been deemed prudent to open it. One of the boys taken to the Infirmary died last week, making the total number of deaths 25. We are happy to find, that the subscriptions in Leeds and its neighbourhood, for the relied of the widows and orphans of the unfortunate men who suffered by the late dreadful accident, amounts to about £1000. The liberality displayed by people of every rank in life is highly praiseworthy ; the workmen in the different manufactories having made collections among themselves, and have thus raise considerable sums, some of them amounting to £8, £17, and as far as £20.

 


 

The Leeds Mercury, Saturday, 19th February 1825

MIDDLETON COLLIERY

The melancholy sequel to the tragedy at Gosforth Pit has now been performed. Soon after midnight last Sunday, Mr. Blenkinsop and Mr. Bedford repaired to the spot, attended by a number of the work-people, and descended into the pit. The avenue wherein the explosion took place had been fastened up with boards, covered with earth; into which a tube six inches diameter with a cover, was at the same time introduced. On removing the top of the tube, the carburetted hydrogen gas rushed out with so much force that the persons in the pit were obliged to retreat for nearly 150 yards towards the mouth of the pit to find a breathable atmosphere. They then quitted the pit, leaving the process of ventilation to go on till Tuesday evening, when they still further promoted it by such means as they judged necessary. On Wednesday morning, the air was sufficiently pure to enable them to remove the covering, and to commence the search for the two bodies that were missing. The body of Joseph Haigh was found almost immediately, with his hands over his face, as if attempting to prevent suffocation; but that of John Ramsden was sought for a long time in vain; at length it was discovered by the accidental removal of a piece of timber; his death had no doubt been instantaneous and his body could scarcely have been more dislocated if he had been shout of a mortar. The first care of those engaged in the search was to take the remains out of the pit, but so rabid had been the process of putrefaction that it was only by their clothes that they could be recognised by their friends. The same day the Coroner held his inquest upon them, and the particulars of the search are described by Moses Roberts, the only witness examined on the occasion, in the subjoined deposition:-

Moses Roberts, who is a bottom steward, and one of the witnesses sworn on a former inquest. He deposed that the pit was opened early on Monday morning, before which time, he did not consider it at all safe to attempt. Indeed it was then opened sooner than it otherwise would have been had not the bodies been in the pit. They got down to the bottom of the shaft on Tuesday, but could not possibly get to that part of the pit where the bodies were found till yesterday (Wednesday). Every means where used by deponent, Thomas Bedford, and eight other men, under Mr. Blenkinsop s directions, to find the bodies. Thy went along the centre board gate, and in the first bank in the north division of the workings, the bank next to that in which he was employed at the time of the accident, they found Joseph Haigh. He [deponent] has no doubt he died from the effect of the explosion. Haigh belonged to the second shift. The corpse is in such a state that he cannot say whether he was burnt or suffocated. At the time of the former search they could not proceed so far down the banks as where Haigh was found, on account of the sulphurous state of the mine. Ramsden was found in a board-slit leading to the south part of the workings, opposite the north division. He appeared to have been driven with great force, and was nearly covered with rubbish. The body bore marks of great violence. They had been round it many times before they could find it, owing to its being buried in the dirt. Thought it was not at all safe to go down before, lest the pit should be fired. To a question put by a juror, witness replied that he did not know that any of them were in the habit of working with their lamp tops off.

The Jury without hesitation returned a verdict - Died in consequence of an explosion of carberrated hydrogen gas in Gosforth Coal Pit, on Wednesday the 12th of January, 1825.

 


 

The Annual Register for the Year 1825

4. MINE EXPLSION. - Gosforth coal pit, at Middleton, three miles from Leeds, is 80 yards in depth, and of considerable extent; upwards of 40 persons were working in it, between 6 and 7 o'clock on Wednesday evening; of whom about 10 worked on the west side of the shaft, and the remainder on the cast side, about 200 yards from the shaft. The workings of this pit had been begun at the extremity of the bed of coal, about 300 yards eastward of the shaft, and the miners were gradually digging their way westward, having proceeded about one-third of the distance to the shaft. The roof of that part of the pit which they had exhausted had been allowed to fall in, the props being removed as the men advanced, and an open space of considerable extent was left behind them. Twelve colliers were employed in digging, and filling the corves, which were drawn to the shaft of the pit by several other men called burners, and a number of boys called thrusters. The part of the pit, where the digging was carried on, communicated with the shaft by two parallel passages, the principal one running through the centre of the bed direct to the shaft, the other running at the north side of the bed, and reaching the shaft by a right angle. In that part of the workings between these two passages seven or eight colliers were employed, and five more worked on the south side of the bed, in a part separated from the rest by a wall of coal, but having communications with the principal passage. In the rear of the first of these divisions, many of the props which supported the roof, had been removed on the preceding Friday, and the workmen occasionally heard the superincumbent earth falling in behind them. In consequence of this circumstance, the carburetted hydrogen gas was forced forwards to the place where the men were working. All were provided with the safety lamp; but, unfortunately, one of them, who was working on the north side of the principal passage, having taken off the top of his lamp, which was red hot, with the view of letting it cool, an explosion took place almost instantly. Several of the colliers, who were nearest, were scorched and destroyed on the spot; most of the hurriers and thrusters, running for refuge into the principal passage, were killed by the splinters which were torn from the sides and roof, or by being dashed to the earth by the tremendous blast that issued from the cavern. The five colliers, who were working in the southern division of the pit, were suffocated. One collier, who was working within a few yards of the place where the explosion occurred, miraculously escaped, by running into the northern passage; and another, who was at work in the very furthest part of the pit, at the extremity of that passage, escaped by the same means, though he was twice thrown down by the violent expulsion and recurrence of the air. So great was the shock, that four men standing at the pit's mouth, were thrown down by the blast of air that issued from the shaft. The men, who were at work on the western side of the shaft, were also thrown down, but they all escaped without material injury. The "e;bottom-steward,"e; was immediately sent for, and he descended into the pit, which he found full of smoke. He took measures, with all possible despatch, to produce such a current of air as would clear away the smoke, and allow persons to explore the passages; after which, at great hazard of suffocation, as well as of another explosion, several men entered the passages, and by five o'clock the following morning, had found and taken out twenty-two dead bodies, besides several who were bruised and maimed. At 5 o'clock on Thursday morning, the smoke gathered in such quantities, that it was found impossible, without the most imminent risk of fresh casualties, to continue the search; and there was only too much reason to be assured, that two men, whose bodies were not then found, had been killed. The search was therefore abandoned, and the entrance to the pit stopped up, in order to put out the fire by depriving it of the support of air.

Twenty-four men and boys lost their lives by this disaster; and seven more were severely hurt.

 


 

Gentleman's Magazine 1825 v.95(1), Page 77

A most terrible explosion, of what is commonly denominated fire damp (more fatal in its effects than any calamity that has ever occurred in that neighbourhood), took place in Gosforth pit, the property of Charles John Brandling, esq. M.P. at Middleton, three miles from Leeds; by which twenty-three men and boys were killed upon the spot, and seven (two of whom are since dead), severely injured. Gosforth pit, which is about eighty yards in depth, and of considerable extent, is entered by what is called a day-hole, which proceeds under a hill, on a level with the surface of the ground, for upwards of 1400 yards, to what is called the shaft, where the descent is, of course, directly perpendicular. The bottom of this passage communicates with the parts of the pit in which the principal excavations are going on by two principal roads, about four feet in width, running nearly parallel with each other. One, through the centre of the bed directly to the shaft; and the other at the North side and reaching the shaft by a right angle; the former being the direction in which the corves are, for the most part, drawn towards the shaft from the places in which the colliers are engaged in loosening the coal. Ten men, who were working on the West side of the shaft at a considerable distance from the spot on which the explosion took place, escaped unhurt; whilst the remainder, who were employed on the eastern side, were, with the exception of two men, all killed or severely injured. The excavations in this pit had been commenced at the extremity of the bed of coal, about three hundred yards eastward of the shaft; towards which the colliers had advanced nearly one-third of the way. Five men were working on an adjoining bed of coal, who had succeeded in digging their way further onwards than their companions; from whom they were separated by a wall of coal communicating by the principal passage with the old workings in which the catastrophe originated.

Middleton History Index | Main History Index | FoMP HomePage | Top of page
Registered charity no. 1112043. Page last updated 26 February 2016 ©John Newbould and FoMP