Reserched By John Lumsdon
On Sunday December 9th 1872 a fatal accident occurred at Messers Goddard’s Golden Hill colliery in North Staffordshire, by which two men were at once killed, and two others so injured that their lives are despaired of. The names of those killed are William Crump and William Allen. The names of the injured are Robert Matthews and Mark Johnson.
These four men had went down the pit on Sunday night to repair and clear the ways and workings and prepare them for the mine on Monday morning. While they were so engaged a quantity of gas exploded, killing Crump and Allen on the spot, and severely injuring the other two men.
At present however, the whole of the facts cannot be accurately ascertained, as the survivors are not in a fit state to give any information. Matthews and Johnson were at once taken to the Cottage Hospital where they lie in a very precarious state. The bodies of the two deceased were taken to the Dog and Partridge Inn, where an inquest was opened before Mr, Booth, the Coroner.
Allen, Matthews, Johnson and Crump were down the pit. They were in the top level. William Potts and William Phillips had been down for about half an hour, they felt the wind from an explosion and afterwards were affected by the afterdamp. They put on their cloths and went to the top level, where they found Johnson lying on his belly. He was badly burnt and was crying out for help. Phillips assisted Johnson out, and Potts went some seven or eight yards further and found Matthews who was crawling along, he also was badly burnt. He did not know where he was and asked the witness ‘What was up’. Potts could not get any further because of the after damp, He did not hear anything of the other men. Potts, found a lamp bottom and Phillips found the top. It is conjectured that the top had been opened for the purpose of either enabling the men to smoke or to promote a greater light for their work. At present however the whole of the facts cannot be accurately ascertained, as the survivors are not in a fit state to give any information. At the close of this evidence the inquest was adjourned.
The adjourned inquest was held on Tuesday, at the Dog and Partridge Inn, before Mr. Booth, Coroner, concerning the deaths of three colliers, William Crump age 35, William Allen age 18 and Mark Johnson age 20 (who was one of the injured and has since died) Mr. Cooper appeared for the Amalgamated Association of Miners, Mr. Brown Agent for North Staffordshire, Mr. Wynne, Government Inspector of Mines Mr. Welch, on behalf of the colliery proprietors, and Mr. T. Cooper on behalf of the friends of the deceased also attended.
The Coroner said, the inquiry had been adjourned, as it was thought necessary to have additional evidence, and evidence of the man who was burnt and who had charge of the place at the time of the occurrence. This man had been a patient at the Cottage Hospital and would be there to give evidence The evidence of the various witnesses who were called before was read over. William Phillips added to his former statement that when the men went down the pit on the night of the 8th of December they went with unlocked lamps. There was no lamp man there and he did not see a butty there till after the explosion.
Mr. Cooper asked if there was a fireman or headsman in the pit at the time of the explosion. Samuel Farmer replied, I couldn’t say about the men there being practical men, one of them was very young. Matthews was the headman among them and was timberer in the roads. Mr. Wynne said he never new Matthews was anything but a roadman.
James Blundell, a doggy, stated that after the explosion he went down the pit and found two lamps where Johnson and Allen had been working and one where Matthews had been working. All three had the tops off. Matthews carried keys to unlock the lamp if necessary. About three weeks before the explosion he saw gas in the pit. He put on more ventilation to get rid of the gas.
Mr. Cooper said after the explosion the ventilation was not very good and in answer to a juror the witness said on the Wednesday before the explosion there was gas in the pit but it was cleared off as soon as he heard of it. In answer to a further question the witness said Matthews had two lamp keys, he being deputed to take charge of them.
John Cypels, engineman, said he went down the pit at six o clock at night all four men came down carrying their lamps. He had no authority to examine the lamps, and stated that he was in charge of the engine in the pit when the explosion occurred.
Mr. Wynne said the fires were let low after the men had left the pit on Saturday and the men who went on the Sunday night to clear the road way did not have anybody to proceed them in going to work.
Robert Matthews, who appeared very ill, was helped into the room said he was working in the pit in question when the explosion occurred, and was badly burnt. He went to the lamp house before going down the pit. His lamp was lighted, but not locked, and he took it without having it locked. It was not his duty to examine lamps and he did not do so. He was only a working-man like the others, and had no authority over them. He and another man had a smoke of tobacco at the bottom of the jig before starting work. There was no sign of gas in the workings and before commencing to work, all the men took the tops off their lamps. There was no gaffer among them, nobody gave any charge what to do, and he was simply told what to do.
Mr. Wynne stated that after the explosion he went down the mine and found the air passing in the Moss coal workings so small in quantity as to be scarcely appreciable, and it would not move the flame of a lamp in what should be called the main air current, Indeed, so sluggish was the movement of air that any attempt to measure the quantity would be futile.
When he was in the mine on the 10th of December he was dissatisfied with the ventilation. Also it appeared that one lamp was found with the top off when deceased were taken out of the pit. Afterwards the other three were found in the same condition, the tops being carefully stowed away on some projecting coal on the side of the road way. Therefore no doubt could arise about all four men working with naked lights. In his opinion the whole of that section of the mine was foul on the Monday night. The gas accumulated until it backed on to the two men who were working beyond the sheets in the upper level. The main force of the explosion was towards the far end of the workings.
In answer to a juror he said the ventilation ought to have been made better. He also said that there had been a rapid fall in the barometer, this would have the effect of liberating a great quantity of gas. He continued, if the jury thought Matthews was in authority then it was his duty to see the tops were kept in their proper places, and that this was the consequence of the explosion, then it would be their duty to return a verdict of manslaughter against him.
The Coroner in summing up the evidence said, there had been a great amount of negligence with respect to the colliery. There was no lamp man to give out the lamps, no one to see that they were locked before being taken down the pit, and if the evidence was reliable, there was no one to see that the pit was in a proper state before the men commenced to work.
It seemed that there had only been one accident in the pit during the fourteen years it had been worked, and the unusually sudden fall of the barometer had something to do with producing gas, which would explode with a naked light.
The jury after deliberating for a long time returned a verdict of accidental death. They strongly recommended that the proprietors should have the pits properly ventilated. Mr. Welch assured the coroner and the jury that their recommendation would be attended to.
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