On Tuesday [28th May] the adjourned inquest on the bodies of Shepherd, Thompson, and Briscoe, three of the unfortunate men killed by the accident at the Grange Pit, Stirchley, Shropshire, on the 15th May, was held at the King's Arms, Dawley, before the coroner of the district, Mr. R. D. Neville, and the jury previously sworn. It will be remembered that the evidence given before the coroner on Wednesday week was conclusive as to the fact of the rules in force at the Shropshire collieries having been violated in several instances. It was shown that the bands containing men were lowered as fast again as when containing coal. This the men had complained of, but no alteration was made; and it was deposed to by one of the witnesses that an empty band had been drawn over the pulley, and, because some of the men refused to descend the shaft afterwards until the chains had been examined, they were discharged. The "reeve", whose duty it is to go down and examine the pit before any of the other men descend to work, admitted that he had not done so more than two or three times during a period of three years and a-half. Under these circumstances the inquiry was adjourned until Tuesday. Mr. Wynne, the Government inspector, was present. Mr. Smallwood was present on behalf of Bailey, the engineman ; and Mr. Knowles on behalf of Mr. Hopley, the chartermaster.
The first witness called was John Darrell, a collier, who deposed that he worked at the Grange Pit. On the morning of the accident he reached the pit after three bands had gone down. He was in the cabin, when there was a sudden jerk at the engine. Briscoe [This possibly should read: Bailey], who was present, said there was something the matter, and they ran out and found the chain going rapidly. He shouted to the engineer to put the brake on, and he did so, but it had no effect in stopping the band. He had heard complaints of the engine going too fast, and had told Bailey of it himself. Complaints had been made more than once. Had never complained to Hopley, the chartermaster, but he had heard the holers talking about it.
Richard Carter, assistant engineer, said his duty was to repair the engines and attend to the pit work. He was employed by Richard Yates. Had examined the engine at the Grange Pit, but should think it had been eight or nine months since the engine was looked over. He had put a brass in the flywheel shaft, the same that the jury saw the other day, nearly worn in two. -By Mr. Wynne: It was the duty of the engineman to send word if the brasses were good. The custom of the field was to send to the engineer when the brasses were wrong. When he (witness) was at the pit Bailey ought to have told him the state the brass was in. Yates looked at the engines, but could not say whether he had looked at this. Bailey had never complained to him at all. Had heard Bailey say he had complained to Yates. More than six months ago he found the bite of the wheels was not sufficient, and he altered it. Could not say the reason they were out. -By the Coroner: Cannot account for the fracture.
Richard Yates, the engineer of the colliery, was then called, and having been cautioned by the coroner, declined to give evidence. The Jury said they did not know how they were to come to a conclusion in the inquiry if the evidence of Yates was not taken; but the Coroner observed that, assuming after proceedings ensued, it would not be fair to ask the man to criminate himself.
Mr. R. H. Wynn, general colliery manager to the Old Park Company, deposed that Yates' duty was to superintend the enginemen generally. It was his (Yates') duty to examine the engines throughout the colliery. It was the duty of the engine-man at the pits to report to the engineer any defect in the engines. Had looked at the engine before the accident, and was down a few days previously. Had never heard any complaint made as to the speed the men were let down the pit. When he had gone down he had never found fault with the speed. -By Mr. Wynne: Seeing the state of the brass now, it would I think, have been gradually approaching that state for some time. The engineman ought to have seen the state of the brass. Have examined the machinery since, and my opinion is that the teeth of the cog wheels were not so deep in gear as they might have been. The bite was about three-quarters of an inch. The new wheels are exactly one inch. [A model of the brake wheel was here produced for the inspection of the jury.] When the brass gave way, it would have a tendency to raise the pieces of brass on the other side, and draw the one wheel out of the other. [The brake cogs were shown to the jury, and it seemed, from their appearance, that the cogs had not been properly in gear.] By Mr. Smallwood: I am colliery manager, and the engineman is an officer of the company under me. He ought to look at each engine once a week; but he was sometimes engaged making repairs. I cannot say when Yates examined the engine. -By Mr. Wynne: The man who oils the wheels must have seen the breakage of the brass.
Mr. Wynne, the Government inspector of mines, was then sworn, and deposed that he went to the Grange pit on the morning of the 17th inst. The "journal" was six inches and an eighth, working in a brass seven-eighths of an inch in thickness (new brass). The driving wheel worked the one spur wheel. On examining the brass, I found that the wear had all been on one side, consequently it had worn to a sixteenth. The bite of the wheel was only 11-16ths on several of them. The "journal " was in a very bad state, having been much worn, and wanted returning. In his opinion the wheel came out of the brass, and the first time it worked back the teeth would break. There was an abrasion on the three teeth following the broken one but there was very little abrasion on the others. The machinery was not in a proper state for use. He had heard the evidence given at the previous hearing of the inquiry, and his opinion was that if the engine had not been running at the rapid rate it was, the accident would not have occurred. It would, however have happened sooner or later.
A Juryman here suggested that he thought the accident was attributed to a pin breaking at the back of the "glan."
Mr. Wynne said be was of opinion that the accident would not have happened if the engine had been working at half the speed.
William Bailey was then called, and having been duly cautioned by the coroner, deposed that he was the engineman at the Grange Pit, and had been seven years. He went to the pit on the morning of the accident; the steam was up. The first band went down at twenty-five minutes to six o'clock. The wheel broke when the band was about 130 yards down. He heard a jerk and saw the chain running, and he at once applied the brake. Could not see whether it affected the speed. Afterwards he went out and found the wheel broken. He complained to Yates about the brass about two months before the accident. Yates looked to it and said nothing would stir it, it was safe. He did nothing to the engine. He (witness) complained to Carter, and he said he would speak to Yates about it. Had examined the wheels about half an hour before the accident. They were then in the same state of gear as usual. The men had never complained to him of the speed, nor had he heard any of them say anything. Usually wound nine draughts in the hour, not six. Six bands of men were sent down in half an hour and five minutes. The band did not stand so long on the bank. -By Mr. Wynne: None of the men or the chartermaster complained of the speed. Some never said I could get the men down faster at my pit than they did at others. When I oiled the "journal" in the morning I did not notice anything the matter with it; noticed no difference in the wheels.
Mr. Hopley, the chartermaster, was then called and sworn. He was cautioned by the coroner, and then deposed that he was generally at the pit when the men went down. Saw the bands go down on the morning of the accident. When the fourth went down he heard a noise at the engine-house, and saw the chain leave the barrel, and go down the pit. Usually let down the six bands in half an hour and five minutes. At full winding nine draughts were drawn up in the hour; had drawn up as few as six. The rule was for the men to go down by six o'clock, but it was often departed from. Did not think it safe for the men to go down twice as fast as coal was drawn up.
The Jury, having consulted for nearly an hour, returned a verdict of "Manslaughter" against Richard Yates, the engineer; they also censured Bailey, the engineman, and Hopley, the chartermaster.
Yates was then ordered into custody by the Coroner, but was subsequently liberated on bail in two sureties of £50 each, and his own recognisances of £100.
Note: This accident occurred on the 15th May 1867. The initial inquest took place on 22nd May. At the time the Grange pits were owned by the Old Park Company.
It seems the men killed were 'riding the doubles' - hanging from loops of chain to be lowered down. 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'.
A curious term is used by a Juryman back of the "glan" - any suggestions on what the "glan" or "glam" is?
Note 2: There may be some mix-up or confusion with some of the names in the account i.e. Wynn/Wynne Briscoe/Bailey."What the Papers Said" Index