Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Bluepits Mill, Castleton

From Graces Guide

of Castleton, Rochdale

Also known as Blue Pits Mill.

In the early 19thC Castleton was known as Blue Pits Village, on account of the blue clay found there.

1848 Boiler Explosion [1]

Yesterday (Tuesday) morning another of those frightful calamities, steam boiler explosions, took place at Blue Pits, a village about a hundred yards from a station on the Manchester and Leeds line of railway, and distant about eight miles from Manchester. This village, which has sprung into existence from the erection of few factories the neighbourhood, is distant about two miles from Heywood, 2½ miles from Rochdale, and upwards of three miles from Middleton. The inhabitants, as we have already indicated, are chiefly dependent upon the factories in the neighbourhood, and many of the cottages belong to Mr. Richard Walker.
The factory at which the explosion, to which we are about to draw the attention of our readers, took place, is situated in the centre of the village or hamlet, and is the property of Mr. Richard Walker. It adjoins the Rochdale canal, was built in 1841, is about 45 yards in length, exclusive of the space occupied by the engine house, the extremity, 20 yards in width, two stories high, besides the attics, and throstle spinning establishment; the number of hands employed at it averages from 150 to 160, of whom a great proportion are females. This establishment has never, we understand, been closed during the recent and existing depression of trade, but has for sometime been working short time. The hours during which it has lately been in motion, have been from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. The boiler house adjoined that portion of the premises in which the engine was placed. In the boiler house there were three boilers, two of 40 horse power each, and one of 45, the boiler of 45 horse power being, as far as we can gather, placed in the centre. The engine connected with the boilers was, we are informed, 40 horse power one.
Yesterday morning, the parties employed as engineer and fireman proceeded to their work as usual, an earlier period than the other hands engaged in the establishment. They were pursuing their usual avocations when there occurred a catastrophe which has cast a melancholy gloom all over the neighbourhood, and the effects of which will be remembered many long years hence. The centre boiler exploded, and caused the almost instant death of three parties employed at the establishment. Fortunately the hands had not taken their places in the factory, or the loss of life would, in all human probability, have been of the most alarming character. As it is, the case is surrounded by circumstances sufficiently melancholy and distressing. The noise occasioned by the explosion, though not so great as might have been expected, soon created uneasiness throughout the village; and when the facts were ascertained, that one of the boilers in the factory had exploded, and that several lives had been sacrificed, the utmost consternation and anxiety prevailed amongst the inhabitants, who flocked in great numbers to the scene of the disaster.
The boiler house, a building which was about 16 yards square, was shivered nearly to atoms, the only portions which are left standing being the two gable ends. A great many panes of glass were broken, and the centre boiler, the one which exploded, was driven to a considerable distance from its usual resting place. But the most painful part remains to be told—three lives were sacrificed, and one man has been so seriously injured that his life is despaired of. The following are the names of
Thomas Crossley, aged 22. He was fireman of the establishment. Immediately after he was found he was conveyed home, but about ten minutes after he reached home he expired in great agony. The deceased lived with his father and mother, (who like others lived in the cottage property of Mr. Walker.) The father is too old to be engaged in the active operation of the factory, but he occupies his leisure time in fetching the meals of operatives from their homes to the mill at the usual hours of refreshment. The deceased had four brothers and three sisters. All the family worked at the factory, excepting the father and two of the younger children. The deceased was formerly a carder in Mr. Walker's mill. He had been fireman for only three weeks, but had been in Walker's employment for three years. The body of the deceased is very much discoloured and disfigured. His wages as fireman were 10s. a week.
Thomas lllingworth, aged about 18 years. He was a maker-up, and is supposed to have gone near to the ash-pit for the purpose of warming himself at the time of the explosion. He was a son of Thomas Illingworth, who, as well as his wife, is alive, and who had two children (besides the deceased) working at the mill, the one a boy, the other a girl. The old man has four children altogether. The deceased was found in the ash hole, quite dead. The body was very much blackened and disfigured. The father of the deceased is foreman of the Rochdale Canal Wharf, at Blue Pits.
George Whittles, aged 20, who was the engineer of the establishment, was son of Samuel Whittles, who likewise employed Mr. Walker's mill. Six of the family worked at the mill, three males and three females. The deceased was a single man. He had been fireman in different places before he went to Mr. Walker's. He had been head manager of the engine for two years or thereabouts. When found in the ruins the deceased was dead. The body was very much discoloured and the skin peeled off several parts of the body. The wages of the deceased were 14s. per week.
The only other party injured was William Wild, aged 15, who was maker-up in the warehouse. He was found in the yard, very severely scalded on the sides, head, neck, and arms, the skin in many parts being peeled off. He has also a very bad wound on the head, supposed to have been caused by something falling on his head. He does not complain of much pain. He has had plaster applied to him, but is by no means considered out danger. His father was a carter to Mr. Walker, but has been ill for three months of inflammation, in consequence of which he could not attend his usual avocation. He is recovering, but has not yet resumed his work. What renders this case the more distressing is the fact that yesterday morning another son of the old man, aged nineteen years, died in consequence, it is supposed, of the bursting of a blood vessel. This young man worked for his father while he was poorly. We believe he was attended by Mr. Kershaw, surgeon, Royton, near Oldham. It is only a short time ago since the deceased commenced to spit blood. Mr. Wild has five children, and is a widower.
As may well be conceived, this unfortunate occurrence has created a feeling of the most painful character—at Blue Pits, Heywood, Rochdale, and the neighbourhood. And yesterday, Blue Pits was visited by crowds from the adjoining towns and villages.
The boiler which has thus exploded was from the well-known Low Moor Iron Works, near Bradford, Yorkshire. The boiler which was five years old, underwent, we are informed, a thorough repairing two years ago. The boilers were cleaned out by turns, once a week. One of the three was always standing idle, while the other two were employed.
Mr. Richard Walker, the proprietor of the establishment, was in the engine room at the time of the explosion, but happily escaped without sustaining any injury.
Mr. Fowler, superintendent of the Rochdale division of the county constabulary, received information of the explosion while in attendance upon his duties at the Salford Hundred Intermediate Sessions, at the New Bailey. He immediately made an application to the chairman on the subject, and had obtained leave of absence until Wednesday, (this day) and repaired forthwith to the scene of the disaster. He afterwards proceeded to the office of the coroner, Mr. Dearden, of Rochdale, and obtained a precept fixing the inquest for Thursday next, at ten in the morning, at the Blue Pits Inn, Blue Pits.
Mr. Walker has provided coffins for the deceased, and is, we understand, rendering all the assistance in his power to the bereaved families.
As to the cause of the accident, we are not in a position to say much, nor do we wish to anticipate the proceedings of the coroner's inquest. We may, however, remark, that some parties have made heavy complaints that parties so unskilful as the engineer and fireman must, it is reasonable to suppose, have been, seeing that they only received 14s. and 10s. a week as wages respectively, should have been permitted to occupy offices so important, and the proper discharge of the duties of which was so essential to the welfare of the establishment. We have heard a practical engineer, of great experience, state that the safety valves of two of the boilers were not sufficient and that the cottering of one of the boilers was neglected at the time of the cleaning. It is said that two mechanics overlooked occasionally the engineer and fireman.
The bodies of the deceased were found three or four minutes after the explosion ; Whittles and Illingworth in the fire hole, and Crossley was found at a distance of from twenty to thirty yards therefrom
[We are not at all indebted to Mr. Walker, the proprietor of the factory, for any of the above details ; that gentleman positively refused to give the reporters of the Manchester press any information and told them that he would not permit them to make any measurements - with what success let him now declare.]'

1891 Directory: Listed. More details

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Wednesday 1 March 1848