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Also known as Black Mine, at Newton (Hyde), Cheshire.
1822 'Steam Engine at the Bottom of a Coal-Pit'. 'An engine pit of 147½ ft deep has been sunk upon the Black Mine in Newton near Stockport by Bateman and Sherratt upon the estate of F. D. Astley.' The engine was erected at bottom of the pit in an engine House 30 ft long, 30 ft high, 10ft wide. The 28 HP engine was of 5 ft stroke and had a beam 16 ft long and flywheel 16 ft diameter. The boiler was 25 ft long, 6.5 ft wide. The engine worked an inclined plane 333 yds long at an average angle of 37 degrees, using an endless chain of about 5 tons in weight. Engine made by J & T Sherratt 'and set up under the immediate inspection of Bateman & Sherratt's agent, Mr J Wilde of Dukinfield' . Note: In view of the hazards, it seems curious having a coal-fired boiler in a deep mine, although some mines did use furnaces to create a draught for ventilation purposes. Nothing further has been found about this installation. There was a disaster at the mine due to a fire damp explosion in 1842. The boiler furnaces were not implicated..
1823 'Subterraneous Festivities.—-On Saturday week, Mrs. Astley, of Duckinfield Lodge, gave an elegant dejeune at the bottom of Messrs. Bateman and Sheratt's engine-pit, upon the Black Mine, in Newton. The object of this subterraneous visit was to view the wonderful machinery erected 450 feet below the surface of the earth, for the purpose of winding coal from a still deeper level, of more than 500 feet. A number of ladies were invited, but when the muster was made at the top of the pit, only one (Miss Taylor, of Moston) could be found sufficiently adventurous to accompany the fair hostess to her appointed breakfast-room. Mr. James Wilde, who, as agent to Messrs. Bateman and Sheratt, has superintended the excavations below for the reception of engine of 28 horse power, and the inclined plane into the lower levels, and whose skill and perseverance cannot be too highly appreciated, received the party, consisting of twelve, and had so disposed a number of torches, as to render the high vaults and deep recesses of the works clearly discernible. The party returned after excellent collation of cold viands and wine, having drunk "To the memory of the late Mr. Sheratt, whose great mechanical abilities first brought the mine into consideration," followed by the song of " Should auld acquaintance be forgot?" highly gratified with the boldness which had planned the undertaking, and with the success which appears to attend it.'
A detailed newspaper report from 1842 follows:-
'DREADFUL LOSS OF LIFE BY A COAL-PIT EXPLOSION, NEAR HYDE.
'It is our painful duty to notice this week, at greater length than we had room for in our second edition last Saturday, one of the most calamitous coal-pit accidents that has ever occurred in this part of the country. We refer to the explosion of a quantity of accumulated gas (carburetted hydrogen), generally called by the colliers " fire-damp," in the Flowery Fields "Black Mine" coal-pit, the present lessees of which are Messrs. Swire and Lees, of Ashton and Newton.
'The explosion took place about half-past twelve o'clock on Friday week. At that time several of the banksmen and others were at the pit-mouth, but, strange to say, not one of them heard any thing to excite his alarm; and it was not till after the usual signal had been made by some one below, end a man had been drawn up who stated that there had been an explosion, that any one above ground appeared to be at all aware of the state of things below.
'At the time of the explosion there were 48 men and 18 boys in various parts of the pit, all of whom got out without any injury, except the 25 or 26 men and boys who were at work at the time in different parts of the level of the tram-road. When it became known a messenger was despatched to the principal underlooker, George Miller, who had left the pit only about ten minutes before - and the following is his painful narrative of his search through the pit for the bodies of the sufferers. He says:- I had left the pit about ten minutes to go to another mine, and from that I went to my dinner. It was just ready; but I had not tasted when a man came to say that there had been an explosion at the Flowery Field Pit. I did not touch my dinner, but ordered the man to go directly to Mr. Potter, surgeon, to tell him to follow immediately to the pit; and I went there with all speed, and immediately went down. At the bottom of the inclined plane; which runs from the bottom of the coal pit, I found John Wild lying on the ground insensible, and without pulse: be had apparently been struck on the head with a stone. I afterwards understood that he had been dragged to that place from the stable. I still proceeded forward, and found three dead bodies; and, having obtained some assistance, I had them conveyed so the bottom of the inclined plane. I then proceeded forward and found some more; these I had conveyed in the same way to the inclined plane, till I had in this manner found and collected fifteen bodies. After I had found a few of these I despatched a note up the shaft for some sheets to wrap them in; and commenced sending out the dead bodies up the shaft covered with the sheets. When I arrived at a distance of 650 yards from the bottom of the inclined plane I found Henry Brookshaw, alias Lees, lying on the ground on his face, and sent two men with orders to bring a bottle of brandy, a smelling bottle, and two doctors, with all possible speed. John Butterworth I directed to support Lees, who was quite insensible, in a sitting posture, and I cleansed his mouth and nostrils as well as I could with my fingers; and, leaving him in the care of the man, I again proceeded forward alone. About 760 yards from the bottom of the inclined plane I found John Merrirk lying on his face, and still alive. I turned him upon his back, propped his head up by putting a large piece of coal under it, and cleansed his mouth and nostrils as well as I could, Leaving him, I proceeded forward to a distance of 851 yards from the bottom of the inclined plane; and found the following still alive, though insensible, viz., Saml. Rogers, William Williams, James Dunk, John Bowker, Wiliam Hurst, Robert Merrick, and Thomas Merrick. All, like the other two I had found in the way, appeared to be in a dying state. I dragged them from that spot about four or five yards nearer the inclined plane, and then placed them all upon their backs, with their heads as much elevated as I could raise them, and with their months facing the purer air. I also cleaned their mouths and nostrils with my fingers; and this occupied me about forty minutes. The air here was very bad and sulphurous. I then returned to Lees, whom I had left in charge of Butterworth; and then to the bottom of the inclined plane, where I knew I had good spring water. I was by this time very much fatigued, and frequently had to rest in travelling. When I arrived there I singled out five or six of the most likely men, and brought a ladder. As soon as we reached Lees again I dashed a quantity of cold water upon his face, and he then sobbed. I next washed his mouth and nostrils with water, and I also poured some down his throat. After I had done this for all the nine men, I again repeated the process, and I found that they were all still alive, but quite insensible. I then ordered the men with me to convey them nearer the inclined plane, where the air was purer. John Bowker died before he could be removed there. I ordered the men who were assisting me to pull off their waistcoats, and I took off mine; and we procured all the clothes we could to wrap the sufferers in, and then I had them reared up with their heads about 18 inches from the ground, with their mouths and nostrils facing the purest air, and I ordered the men to continue rubbing them, which they did. In the course of a little time John Merrick was so far recovered as to be able to speak. As I had not been able to find William Grimshaw I began to make search for him, but could not find him; and I then ordered three men, who, having lately joined us, were quite fresh (the others being all exhausted) to accompany me in search of him. On the way I kept falling down; but I could not bear to remain quiet, if I could only save his life, and I went on, though I kept dropping every two or three minutes. After I had proceeded through all the downbrows, without having been able to find him, I was coming up a thrill into the horse road, when I became so much exhausted that I could not proceed; and John Wright conveyed me where the nine were lying. The doctors were unremitting in their attentions to these men. I begged them to use their utmost endeavours to save the men's lives, and to inform me if they wanted any thing, and it should be procured. At this time I was so weak that I could not stand; but I still retained possession of my faculties, and I continued there giving directions, and told the doctors that I would not leave them till the last of their patients was removed. I saw them all conveyed away towards the shaft, and then I crept after them. I had been in the pit from about half-past twelve at noon on Friday till two o'clock on Saturday morning, a period of thirteen hours and a half, in foul air all the time; and none the better for encountering it on an empty stomach. This distressing narrative was at this point taken up by John Wright, the other underlooker. After George Miller and the doctors had come out, there were still John Bowker and William Grimshaw somewhere in the pit. Bowker being dead, and Grimshaw not then found. I then sent some picked men to fetch Bowker’s body, which was lying in the shunt where the others had been, and I also singled out four others to go in search of Grimshaw. They found him at length lying upon a jig-brow at the farther end of the shunt, quite dead. They conveyed the two bodies upon the horse road to the inclined plane. By this time, after taking Miller away, I had got down the shaft again, and the men had got the bodies to the bottom of the inclined plane, and had begun to wind them up; so that I had no occasion to go down again. The bodies were then drawn up the shaft, and conveyed to the respective homes of the deceased. The number of men and boys in the different levels and workings of the pit at the time of the explosion were 66, all of whom, except 25, effected their escape without assistance. Before we proceed to give a list of the names and ages of the sufferers, we may state that, besides the eight men and nine boys killed by the explosion, four of the six mules employed in that level were also killed by the explosive force of the ignited gas, which seems to have been very severe near the stables; one man, John Wild, having been killed, it is supposed, while shoeing a mule in the stable.- Mr. Potter, surgeon, Mr. Tinker, surgeon, and Mr. Taylor, druggist, all went down the shaft to render the men what assistance they could, and were the means of saving several lives. The distress of the relatives, as the bodies were recognised as those of husbands, sons, and brothers, may be imagined, but cannot be de scribed.
'The following is a list of the sufferers:-
JAMES BROOKSHAW, alias LEES, of Collier's Row, Flowery Field, a boy of 12 years of age; the son of Henry Brookshaw, a collier, who was also in the pit, and at first was not expected to recover. The deceased appeared to have been killed by the explosion; and his body, limbs, and face were much burned.-
ROBERT DOWNING, of Collier's Row, Flowery Field, 16 years and 11 months old; was much burned about the face and body, and had apparently perished from the explosive effects of ignited carburetted hydrogen.
-JAMES OLDFIELD, of Collier’s Field, with the exception of two or three small specks on the face, fragments of coal having been driven against it by the explosion, there were no external marks of injury; death had been apparently caused by the suffocating effects of black or choke damp.
-ROBERT UNWIN of Thomas's-street, Flowery Field, 19 years of age, perished from suffocation.
-SAMUEL DERBYSHIRE, of Newton Hall, 16 years and 8 months old. The only visible marks of injury were on the left cheek bone, which was grazed; but death appeared to have ensued from the suffocating effects of the carbonic acid gas.
-JOHN WILD, of Newton Hall. It was supposed that he was in the stable shoeing a mule, and that the explosion had blown away a part of the roof, a large mass which had fallen upon him, and fractured his skull.
-WILLIAM RAGG, of Throstle Bank, Flowery Field, 16 years and 8 months old; perished from inhaling the carbonic acid gas.
-WILLIAM BOWKER, of Spring Gardens, Flowery Field, 17 years of age; did not appear to have been burned at all, and probably lost his life from the deleterious effects of carbonic acid gas. The body was in the same bed with that of his deceased father.-JOHN BOWKER, Spring Gardens, Flowery Field, 47 years of age. What we have stated in reference to the son may be said also of the father: he appears to have been suffocated by the carbonic acid. He has left a widow and eight surviving children.
-ADAM GILL, of Haigh House, Hyde, 41 years of age; the back part of his head was fractured and much crushed; his legs were broken, and his thighs were driven upwards into his body. He has left a widow and four children, the eldest of whom is eleven years of age, and the youngest about eight months old.
-WILLIAM WILLIAMS, who lived near the Crown Inn, Hyde Lane, 16 years and 9 months old; suffocated by the carbonic acid gas.
- THOMAS WILLIAMS, brother of the last named, 14 years old. These two lads were suffocated by carbonic acid gas.
-JOHN HARDY, of John street, Hyde, aged 33: death occasioned by suffocation from carbonic acid gas. The deceased has left three children, the eldest nine years old, the youngest a year and seven months.
-JOHN ASPINALL, sen. of Shaw Hall, 44 years of age. The deceased has left a widow and two surviving children, of the ages of six years and two years. The widow is daily anticipating confinement. It is doubtful whether the deceased had died from injuries received during the explosion, or from suffocation afterwards.
-JoHN ASPINALL, jun. of Shaw Hall, Newton, son of the last named, in his 15th year; had apparently perished from suffocation.
-WILLIAM GRIMSHAW, alias STOKES, of Newton Hall, 52 years of age, a widower, with one child. There was a discoloured swelling on the right cheek; but in other respects there was apparently little external injury; and the colliers and relatives attributed his death to choke-damp, or carbonic gas.
-JAMES LEES, of Denton, 11 years and ten months old. The head, nose, left eye, and right cheek ware bruised and injured: but there were no marks of the deceased having been burned; and several colliers said he had been suffocated.
It will be seen that seventeen of the twenty-five men and boys have been already enumerated as killed. The other eight were Joseph Mosley, of Collier's Row, Flowery Field, who was brought out almost suffocated, being quite insensible, and his right fore-arm was broken. He was one of the first to be got out.- Henry Brookshaw, alias Lees, of Collier's Row; ill from the effects of the gas inhaled. - Robert Merrick, a boy living at Haughton Green, was for some time insensible. It was Sunday morning before he gave unequivocal signs of recovery.- Thomas Merrick, brother of the Iast named was not much hurt. -John Merrick, father of the last two, when taken out, was able to walk, and after a while walked home. -James Dunk, of Muslin-street, Newton, an old man, was able to talk and walk when he got out. He attended the inquest on Monday, but was not called upon.-William Hurst, of Haigh House, Hyde, a boy, was at first much affected; but was considerably better, indeed almost recovered on Monday. We are glad to be able to state, from what we learn from the surgeons in attendance on the survivors, that all the eight last-named are considered to be out of danger; though several of them may be unable for a time to resume work.
'An inquest was held at three o'clock on Monday afternoon, at Mr. John Sourbut's, the White Hart Inn, Newton, before Charles Hudson, Esq., coroner for the Stockport and Hyde division of the county of Chester, and a respectable jury; of whom six were from Hyde, six from a Dukinfield, and the other four from Newton; and of whom Mr. Henry Fleming, innkeeper, of Newton, was the foreman. After Visiting the different cottages and viewing the bodies of the sufferers, the Jury adjourned to Thursday.
'ADJOURNED INQUEST.- THURSDAY.
On Thursday as early as nine o'clock in the morning, the jury reassembled, and the coroner having opened the proceedings, Mr. Samuel Swire, jun.- was the first witness examined. He stated that he was son of one of the lessees of the pit, and was actively engaged in the management of the colliery. He gave a description of the mine in which the accident happened. The shaft of it was 160 yards deep, and from this there was a level to the main brow of about 127 yards, in a southerly direction. The length of the first brow from that was 292 yards, in a westerly direction, and inclined two yards in three; at the end of this was a level to the north for about 12 yards, and then another incline of 228 yards in length, in a westerly direction; at the end of that the main or horse road proceeds on a level, Y in a northerly direction, for 900 yards. It was in this horse-road the men were at work. The pit is ventilated from the down-cast shaft along the inclines and horse road, then up a jig-brow 34 yards, then through a level into the old works, along another horse-road. Part of the air is turned into the old works at another jig-brow, and the other goes along the horse-road to the air-brow and the up-cast shaft. There were two furnaces to work a 28-horse engine at the bottom of the pit shaft; the air passed through them up the up-cast shaft, which was 60 yards from the down-cast or pit-shaft. This witness produced a plan of the colliery.
'George Miller deposed: I am overlooker to Messrs. Swire and Lees' pit. Latterly I have been down two or three times a week. Went to see if the air was in its right course, and also to inspect the machinery. I have persons employed under me, under-stewards; the principal one was John Wild, one of the deceased. Their duty was to see that everything was right; clear roads, air-courses, &c. They had to report to me if anything was wanted, and if the air-course was interrupted that would be reported. I had one principal one, Wild, and besides him two in the day and three in the night; they were all workers. The ventilation did, as shewn by the plan, principally depend upon doors at the pit bottom being kept closed. There is one at the bottom of the shaft and another at the bottom of the first inclines; they were both in good repair. There was another still lower, but the ventilation mainly depended on the others being kept closed. The precaution taken was that they were hung so as not to be kept open unless propped: the air would keep them closed. During the three years this pit has been worked I never knew them left open more than while the men came through from their work: to prevent accident the men usually left work by the air-ways, and would pass those doors. The doors at the time of the accident were in good repair [Witness here pointed out the position of the men, by the plan, when the accident happened.]- I had been down the pit the Thursday before the accident with my son. The men worked with Davy lamps hanging up by the side of them. The master furnishes them with oil and wicks, and they are delivered out by me. They had one to each gang of two or three, and where it was considered unsafe each had a lamp. It had been considered so safe for the last fortnight that no lamps had been used. Fresh lamps were supplied always when those in use were out of repair. On Thursday evening part of the pit where the people were working was safe with a naked candle. I had on Thursday to go to another part, and one of the men lent me his lamp. The gas flashed in his lamp, and a candle would there have burnt us. It is not so dangerous a pit for fire damps as many of the others. I was not down the pit when the accident happened. It was about ten minutes past twelve. I went down directly I heard of it, after sending for a surgeon. [Witness here gave a description corresponding with that we copied from his statement above, before the inquest.] Fourteen of them I consider would have escaped had they remained at their work and not attempted to have escaped. All, in fact, except Wilde, Brookshaw, and Downing. It was by no means a heavy explosion: there was but little gas to explode. I found Wilde in a few minutes, then in about two minutes two more; it took me some time, perhaps two hours, before I could get to the remainder of the fourteen that I found. I could not get along because the gas was so strong. It was very late at night before they were all got out. The ventilation was very bad from the jig-brow to the turn-brow. I was in the dirt-hole on Monday. There the rails were torn up; the waggons were overturned; and I found two pieces of shirts scorched, and this induces me to think the explosion was there. I have examined the air-hole doors since, and they are quite right. There are now about eighteen men working there.
'John Wright, one of the underlookers, said he was down the pit on the day of the accident, about half-past twelve. On Monday he went down the pit again, and went into the dirt-hole with Miller. They found in the jig-brow that all the rails had been torn up, and part of the roof broken down. Found two shirts there, both of them burnt or scorched. Was down last night, and the ventilation was good except in some parts of the dirt-bole, where his lamp fired. There was a large space in this hole, notwithstanding the dirt in it. The lower part of it was filled nearly up to the top: an accumulation of gas there might cause a serious explosion.
'John Derry, a collier, said he was in the pit at the time of the explosion. He was working in No. 36; that was part way down the second incline. He was repairing the brow. Heard the explosion. It was about half-past eleven. It was a very loud noise. Did not know what had happened; thought it was a main chain had broken. He came up to the bottom of the first incline, and went down the second incline and assisted Miller to get the sufferers out. He found William Stokes, or Grimshaw. He found him up a jig-brow at the end of the horse road. He was sitting astride a piece of timber with his head drove against the side. Thomas Merrick said he was a collier, and employed in the pit when the accident occurred. At the time of the explosion he was in the fifth winding brow from the main incline. William Hurst, a boy was working there with him. He was filling a tub about six or seven yards from him. 'The report sounded like the explosion of a cannon, but he did not feel the wind. Up to the time of the explosion had been working with candle, and there was good air there up to that time. Could not form an idea at the time where the explosion was, but thought the pit must be blown up, and he went to another incline where Grimshaw was working, and asked him, and nearly all that were killed, where it was. They said it had fired, and they thought it was in 41. I ordered them all to dress, and go and see where it was, and it appears to me that part of them tried to go through the horse road in the sulphur, and part of them died there. I followed them, and met my son and others, and they said "we are all lost." I said they must not despair, but they turned back to the jig brow and knocked part of it down to try if the air would force the sulphur away. They stood it as long as they could and then went away to another part, where Henry Lees fell. They tried to bring him away, but found, to save themselves, they must leave him there. They then went between the two jig-brows and tried to drive the sulphur back by wafting their shirts. They then went on till they began to fall. His two sons fell, and he fetched them from the top of the incline, but could not fetch Grimshaw, he was so much exhausted. Some of them began to be frantic, and cried, "what should they do." He happened to have a bottle of cream of tartar, and washed their mouths as they became insensible. He ultimately became insensible himself - he was the last. He was restored to his senses before he was got out of the pit. Robert Unwin was one of those he met with when he left work; the Bowkers he also met with, and Thomas and William Williams, John Hardy, and William Grimshaw. Up to the time of the accident the air was good for the candles. They had lamps with them, but did not use them; there being no need. They met the sulphur all in a body, at the fourth shunt. That was about 300 yards from the far end, from the road they had been coming. When they met it they turned and broke down the stopping-up, and then turned another way. Witness described the way the fresh air would come to them. By knocking down the stopping, part of the sulphur went another way. The air when they went down that morning was better than it had been for many weeks. Where he worked the air had been bad some weeks back, but he did not know that had been the case where the explosion took place. The man who looked after the air in the place where he worked, had not looked after it properly when it was bad at the time referred to: he had since been discharged, and his successor had looked better after it. He was burnt it this pit about ten years ago.
'John Merrick, a collier, son of the last witness, was working in the pit at the time. He was working in 46 horse road. His brother Robert was working with him. He heard the explosion, which sounded like a cannon, and he felt something of the air. Had no notion where it occurred at the time. They came (he and his little brother) to the end of his father's brow. They then passed three mules, and beyond that met the sulphur, and turned back. His father and others then knocked down the stopping at No. 4 shunt. He and Bruckshaw went on to the 5th shunt, and knocked the stopping out. They went further, and considered which way they should go. Henry Bruckshaw, alias Lees, was taken with a fit, but they recovered him with cream of tartar. They were then fighting with their shirts to keep the sulphur back, and Bruckshaw, after he recovered the first time, said he felt himself dying, and kneeled down to pray the Lord would have mercy on him. Grimshaw then said, after they had wafted their shirts a long time, that it was all up: they must give themselves up for dead; they shook bands, Grimshaw then fell, and soon after witness also became insensible.
'Henry Bruckshaw, alias Lees, who still looked very ill, said he was working at the jig-brow, at the further end of the horse road, when the explosion happened. The witness described their attempts to escape, and corroborated the evidence of last witness.
'Joseph Mossley, who had one arm broken in two places by the explosion, and is otherwise much hurt, said he was a "hooker-on" at the bottom of the lower incline, No. 46. Was knocked down by the explosion; heard nothing of the explosion, it was so sudden. He was blown from the north side to the south, and when he came to his senses he found a large stone on his arm. He did not know where the stone came from, because all the lights were blown out.
'James Dunk, hand-winder, who was also in No. 46 when the accident happened, gave similar evidence to the last witnesses.
'Samuel Rogers, a collier, corroborated the evidence of the last witnesses. He did not hear the explosion. He was knocked down by it, and his candle was blown out. He was working with Bowker, who was his waggoner. Apprehended no danger when the accident occurred; the air was very good.
'Wm. Williams, miner, was father of the two youths killed by the explosion. He was working at the time of the explosion at the far end of the horse road. His son William was with him at the time. Felt the rush of wind, but his candle was in a place which kept it from being blown out. The last time he saw his son William was after that, when he said he would go forward and see where it was. He had a lamp with him, but there being no use for it, the air being good, he worked by his candle. It is quite usual to have places for dirt holes like that in this pit. I have been a collier thirty years, and never knew an accident from them.
'William Hurst, a boy, deposed that he was with Merrick when the explosion occurred. He felt the wind, which blew him about a yard from where he was standing, and threw him down. He was one of those like the last witnesses, who became insensible, and got out after the explosion.
'Mr. Frederick Tinker, surgeon, at Hyde, stated that he first heard of the accident on arriving at the Newton station, at half-past five o'clock on Friday. When he arrived at the pit Mr. Potter was not there. It was then supposed that all had perished. He saw three of the bodies drawn out dead, and it was supposed all the rest had perished also, and he went home. At home, however, he heard that some were got out alive, and providing himself with such articles as he thought would be useful, he went back about six o'clock. In half-an-hour Mr. Potter, surgeon, arrived, and John Wright. He and Mr. Potter then went down the pit, accompanied by John Wright, and down the two inclines, and to the bottom of the horse road. The air was very bad, almost impassable in some parts of the road. Mr. Tinker stared that he and Mr. Potter remained there till three the next morning, rendering what assistance they could to the sufferers, before they came out.
'Captain Clarke examined: Was one of the magistrates for the county of Chester. He first heard of the accident about two o'clock on Friday. He immediately went to the pit, and heard that thirteen were dead and eleven were in the pit whom it was supposed could not be alive. He asked if the masters were there, and heard that one of the young masters had gone down. He sent for the masters; and as the friends of the deceased were there, he gave directions that the best accommodation should be prepared for carrying away the bodies. The masters arrived very soon after, but Mr. Swire's feelings overcame him, and he was obliged to return home; and Mr. Tinker was there very early, though he never heard it named that a surgeon had better attend. He staid till fifteen were got out and left, hoping the crowd would disperse. When he returned, about half-past six, Mr. Tinker was there, and soon afterwards two surgeons came from Dukinfield. There was no difficulty in getting medical assistance. Mr. Tinker and the others evinced the utmost readiness to go down, and to render every possible assistance.
'Mr. Samuel Swire was then examined as to the general practice of working pits, and the cause of the accident. He was of opinion, if the dirt-hole were stopped up, there could not be an escape of the gas. [it may be necessary to explain that the dirt-hole was a place from which a vein of coal had been extracted, on a lower level, and was now used for the purpose of putting the waste or accumulated dirt into, out of the way of the workmen. It was put in through apertures called thrills, and as one filled up another was opened, and large quantities of gas would accumulate in these places, and be dangerous if a candle were taken there.] His opinion was that the explosion was occasioned by the deceased boy, Robert Downing, going to this dirt- bole with a lighted candle. He ought not to have done so: if he had taken a lamp there would have been no danger. The candle would explode the gas. If these dirt-holes had been filled up, there would have been less danger of an accumulation of gas, or if there had been a clear vent through.
'Mr. Hartley, of Woodley, viewer or underlooker of the Dukinfield and Newton estates, proved the leasing of the collieries to Messrs. Swire and Lees. His duty was to go down the pits and see if they were getting the coal properly. He had not been down this pit for twelve months. He was a collier, and had been practically acquainted with the mode of working mines forty-three years. He had heard the evidence of Miller and others about the dirt holes, and about the apertures or "thrills" being all closed but one. It was quite common to make dirt holes in coal pits in this way below the levels, and to save the winding of dirt to the surface. He thought it would have been better if the two thrills had been left open until the whole of the dirt holes had been filled up. If that had been done the pit would have been better ventilated. Did not think he should have made those thrills up till the dirt hole, had been wholly filled. By Mr. Swire: - He thought there would have been no danger if the boy had not gone there with a candle. He could speak to the general good management of the Flowery Fields Colliery, especially as regarded the lessees, who he believed had spared no expense for the safety of their men.
'Mr. Lees, one of the lessees of the coal mine, explained, lest it should be supposed that they were indifferent about the fate of these poor men till Capt. Clarke sent for them, that he was there before Capt. Clarke, and had been down the mine, but finding he could render no assistance he went home again.- Captain Clarke said he should regret exceedingly if what he said had led to any such impression: nothing was further from his intention.
'The Coroner then briefly but feelingly addressed the jury on the nature of the evidence, and they retired to a private room for about five minutes. On their return the foreman reported the following as their verdict- "We are agreed that it is accidental death, without blame to any one; but we would recommend the overlookers, in future, either to make up the dirt hole entirely, or leave two roads (thrills) open so that the air may have a free passage through till the hole is completely filled."
'In conclusion, we may state that a subscription for the bereaved widows and families, or other relatives of the deceased, has been commenced, under the auspices of Captain Clarke, who has consented to act as treasurer; and Mr. Coulthart, manager of the Ashton Bank, has also expressed his readiness to receive subscriptions.'
Another gas explosion occurred in 1845.