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"What the Papers Said"

"What the Papers Said"

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Publications & Research "What the Papers Said"

Shropshire, May 1867

Shropshire, May 1867


Colliery Guardian, 25th May 1867

On Wednesday [22nd May] an adjourned inquest was held before Mr. R. D. Nevill, the coroner for the district, on the bodies of four unfortunate men who were killed on the 15th instant, at the Grange Pits, Stirchley. On the morning of the above-named day the deceased, in company with other men employed at the above pit, were descending the shaft in the band, when, owing to a breakage in the machinery by which it was being lowered, it acquired a frightful velocity, and on the band reaching the bottom, three of the poor fellows were killed on the spot, and the others seriously hurt, one of them so much so that he died shortly after being removed to his home. The names of the deceased are Robert Sheppard, Dawley Bank; Matthew Taylor, Madeley; Henry Thompson, Dawley; and William Briscoe. The inquiry was opened on Friday, and adjourned. -Mr. Wynn, the Government inspector of mines, was present, and the Old Park Company, to whom the pit belongs, was represented by Mr. Sprague, the manager.

Joseph Jones, banksman at the pit, deposed that he knew Thompson, one of the deceased; he was a "getter." Shepherd and Lomas were colliers. On the morning of the accident he went to the pit about half-past five. The first band went down about twenty-five minutes to six. The engineman was there at half-past five. Three bands went down before the accident happened; eight in each band. The deceased went down in the chains. He and one of the chartermasters pushed the tackle back, but he did not notice anything particular. The band had got about half-way down before the accident. He heard a crash about the engine, and ran to the top of the pit and told the engineman to hold. The chain began to go down faster. The engine was stopped as soon as possible; but nearly all the chain went down the pit. The men are usually all down by six o'clock, or shortly after. The pit is 170 yards deep. The engine did not go faster than usual on the morning of the accident. No complaints were made. -A Juryman: Have there been any complaints before? Witness: Yes; the men have complained about the engine going too fast. Several of the "holers" complained to Bailey, the engineman, and a man named Mason, said he knew how it would be. This was after the accident. -By Mr. Wynn: We draw six draughts in the hour. We could do more - perhaps nine an hour. The engineer got his steam up in ten minutes, but I did not think there was any danger. Have never said that I could get my men down in half the time other people could. I have never seen seven bands let down in twenty minutes. On the morning of the accident four bands went down in twenty minutes. Never called Hopley's attention to the fact that we were letting down the men faster than we draw coals; know they ought to be drawn at half the rate. I have told the engineman of it, but he made no difference. I never complained to the chartermaster. The engineman did not say he would have his men down before those at Corbett's pit. The chain was run up and down before the men started. The five journeys were made in twenty-five minutes.

Henry Mason, a miner, said he was employed at the Grange pit. At the time the accident occurred he was within a few yards of the pit. The engine was then going at a great rate, and he observed to a companion that he thought the men were dropping. He heard two "jerks," and then the brake was put on, but the wheels broke more. Hopley, one of the chartermasters, was upon the bank, and Bailey, the engineman. One of the men asked Bailey why he did not put the brake on, and he said that he did. Had said himself that the men were let down faster than they ought to be, but he did not complain to the engineman or Hopley. Do not know how long it takes to let the men down. -By Mr. Wynn: I said to Hopley, "This is what I have expected for some time."

William Blocksidge, a boy, deposed that he was employed at the Grange Pit. On the morning of the accident he got there after the third band went down. Eight of them got into the band. They were about half-way down when he felt two jerks, and they were thrown against the side of the shaft. They knew they were going down, but he became insensible. He recollected seeing the fire flying at the bottom of the shaft, and something dropped upon his back. He fell under the "inset" bar, but his feet were in the "doubles." The others were all in the doubles. He was hurt on the back, legs, and hands. He did not notice they started faster than usual, but he had heard the men complain of the engine lowering them too fast.

James Clayton, reeve at the Grange Pits, said that he went to the pit at half-past five, and descended in the first band. The speed was about the same as usual. He had heard the men complain about being let down too fast it was generally the holers that did so. It was his (witness') duty to go down before the men, but he did not do so because he thought there was no necessity. Had been down two or three times in three years and a half. This was when the men were not going to work. -By Mr. Wynn: I saw the chain run, but cannot say it went to the bottom. Have never complained to Bailey about his being late, nor have I ever told Mr. Hopley of the "holers" complaining. The men were not bound to be down at six o'clock, nor did I expect a draught up at six. I had nothing to do with the "turn." -By the Coroner: I went all through the workings before the men went to work. Five of the men in the band were under the chain. The others were either loose or partially so. I helped to get the dead out.

Thomas Deakin deposed that he was employed at the pit where the accident occurred. He saw the three bands go down, and on the fourth descending he was going to get in, but seeing eight already in he got off the "tacking" again. He saw and felt the jerk twice. The last time the brake was applied, but it was of no use, only checking it slightly. Bailey, the engineman, was at the engine. He has, not always been there at half-past five. He usually got there about twenty minutes to six. He (witness) complained to Mr. Hopley the chartermaster, about three or four months ago about winding so fast, as a band was taken over the pulley. Hopley wanted us to gin down before the chain was examined, but we refused. Hopley said if Bailey was not capable they had better get another. Several of the men complained of Bailey running the engine so fast. Have known six bands of men go down in twenty minutes, or in half an hour, and that is double the rate the "draughts" are drawn out. After the accident he went to the engine, and asked Bailey "if he was satisfied now," but he did not reply. -By Mr. Wynn: Bailey starts his engine whether the steam is up or not. -By a Juror: The first band started at twenty minutes to six, and the accident happened at five minutes to six; three bands went down in fifteen minutes.

Thomas Shuker said he formerly worked at the Grange Pit. He had seen the engine started at twenty minutes to six, and six to seven bands event down in half an hour. There was not a man at the pit but what had complained of being let down too fast. Hopley had been spoken to on the subject, but no alteration was made in the speed. On the morning the bonnet was drawn over the pulley, Hopley wanted the men to go down, but they refused, and three or four of them were dis charged in consequence.

Enoch Corbett deposed that he was chartermaster of the Forge Pit, near to the Grange. He had had a conversation with Bailey, and the latter said he would get his men down first, and have a draught up. The rule is that the bands containing men should go at half the speed of those having coal. They ought never to go faster.

Richard Carter, an assistant engineer, was called, but not examined.

Mr. Wynn wished to hear the evidence of Edwin Gough, the chartermaster at the Forge Pit, and he was accordingly called. In answer to Mr. Wynn, he said he should stop the engineman if he let ten draughts in the hour. The men and the coal were run at about the same speed at his pit.

The inquiry was then adjourned.

Submitted by Steve Dewhirst

Note: This accident occurred on the 15th May 1867. The Grange pits were owned by the Old Park Company.

It seems the men were 'riding the doubles' - hanging from loops of chain. It is interesting that each group of men sent down is referred to as a 'band'. Although the 'band' also seems to be a name used for the harness or 'doubles'.

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