Trubshaw Colliery Explosion 1846

Researched By John Lumsdon

Another of those appalling calamities which are unhappily of such frequent occurrence in this mining district took place at the Trubshaw colliery near Tunstall, in the Potteries on Tuesday last, the first of December. On this occasion the men lost their lives through an explosion of fire damp. There is too much reason to believe that this accident, like many others of the same description, was occasioned solely by the imprudence of one of the colliers, whose life, with that of others had been sacrificed to that want of precaution so characteristic of this class of men.

The names of the unfortunate men, so suddenly deprived of life from the melancholy occurrence are;

John Bailey age 42 has left a wife and five children.
William Copeland age 37, leaving a wife and eight children
George Mellor age 21 who was unmarried.
Bailey in addition to his occupation as a collier, kept a small beer-shop in the neighbourhood.

The accident occurred in the second part of the workings what is called the New pit No. 12; the shaft is 300 yards deep. It seems that about six o clock in the morning, nearly 100 persons were in the mine and were proceeding to the various workings. The 3 men, now deceased worked in the same Dip of the mine. Bailey it appears took his safety lamp, with which means of protection the workmen are supplied, went to his work. The other 2 unfortunate men followed directly afterwards and, as stated by John Badderley, it is supposed that on the 2 men getting up to Bailey, he most imprudently unscrewed the top off his lamp, in order to light a candle when the flame came in contact with the foul air and produced an immediate explosion.

The concussion was felt more or less in all parts of the mine and of course caused the greatest alarm. Serious as the calamity is, it is considered most miraculous that no more lives were lost, particularly when it is recollected that nearly 100 human beings were in the pit at the time. Besides those killed, only one man of the name of Ralph Copeland, was seriously injured, owing to the strong after or choke damp which prevailed. The bodies of 2 of the men were not got out till between 11 and 12 o clock. When they were discovered, one was lying above the other.

In reference to Bailey, it is stated, that about two months ago by a very incautious act on his part, a partial explosion took place in the same part of the mine, from which he received some injury. Since that time he has often expressed himself as being under considerable apprehension of some disaster. Yet it is pretty clear that he has fallen a victim to his own want of caution as his lamp was subsequently found lying near his cloths, with the top unscrewed. It is only just to remark, that Messrs Sutton and Company, the proprietors of the colliery, with their agents appeared to have adopted every precautionary to render the works as safe as possible, a circumstance satisfactory proved on the inquest and that point being particularly averted to by some of the jury men.

The Inquest

The inquest on the bodies of the unfortunate men was held on Thursday afternoon, before Mr. Harding Esq. Coroner at the Red Lion Harriseahead. Mr. Thomas Dale was the foreman of the jury. The coroner addressing the jury remarked that one part of their duty would be to enquire whether there was anything improper in the mode of working the pit and if so what steps ought to be taken to prevent, if possible, the recurrence of such a disaster.

The only witness examined was Jas Hamlett, who after being sworn said, I am a collier living in the New Road, Talke of the Hill and work at the Trubshaw colliery in the parish of Wolstanton, belonging to Messrs Sutton and Company. On Tuesday morning I went to my work between 5 and 6 o clock and descended the pit with the deceased John Bailey.

When we got to the bottom of the second shaft, we met with John Badderley, one of the overlookers who said, “You want your safety lamps”, to which we replied that we did. Baddeley gave each of us a lamp and we proceeded to our work. At this time other parties were descending the pit and I believe the two other deceased men Copeland and Mellor were of the number.

After proceeding several hundred yards together I left Bailey to go to the placed where I worked, which is about thirty yards from the Dip where Bailey was employed. After trying whether there was any sulphur in my place and finding it quite clear, I returned to the spot where I had left Bailey when I saw Copeland and Mellor, sitting and resting themselves. They appeared to sweat and were out of breath in coming up the Dip.

I then went to my work and immediately afterwards a loud explosion of fire damp took place and the stoppings’ were blown out. It is required by the manager that we should take safety lamps with us every morning. When Copeland and Mellor were sitting resting, I did not see whether they had lamps with them or not. The dead body of Copeland was found in about 3 hours afterwards. It was not much burnt.

The bodies of the other 2 men were not got out for 5 or 6 hours afterwards. They were lying close together and about 5 or 6 yards from the spot where the other body was discovered. Bailey was much burnt about the face and hands.

I have examined the pit this morning with Mr. Joseph Coe the manager and found a safety lamp which I know to have been used by Bailey on the morning of the accident. It lay near the cloths which he had taken off. The screw was off the top of the lamp and a whole candle lay close to it. The top of the cotton wick was singed as if he had been attempting to light the candle. I believe that having taken off the screw of the lamp, for the purpose of lighting the candle, was the cause of the accident. We have all that we want to keep the works clear, and every precaution is used by the managers to make them safe. A short time ago I was told by Badderley that if anything was wanted, I must let him know and it would be attended to.

There were other witnesses ready to be examined but the jury, which was composed chiefly of persons engaged in mining pursuits, stated that they did not consider it necessary.

They expressed their entire satisfaction with the mode in which the pit was worked, one of them remarking “The Masters take more care of the men, than the men take care of themselves” They considered that the occurrence was purely accidental and returned a verdict accordingly.