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"What the Papers Said"

"What the Papers Said"

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Publications & Research "What the Papers Said"

Shropshire, June 1867

Shropshire, June 1867


Colliery Guardian, 8th June 1867

An adjourned inquest was held at the Park Inn, on Friday last week [31st May], before E. G. Bartlam, Eng., coroner, touching the death of Matthew Taylor, one of the miners who lost their lives on the occasion of the late accident at Stirchley Colliery, Madeley. Mr. Wynne, her Majesty's inspector of mines, attended. The first witness examined was Richard Yates, colliery engineer, who declined to be examined at the Dawley inquest, and against whom a verdict of manslaughter was returned.

Yates having been cautioned in the usual way by the Coroner, expressed a desire to be examined, and he then gave the following evidence: -He was, he said, colliery manager for the Old Park Company, and it was his duty to examine the engines, of which there were fifteen at work and four standing. He last examined the engine at the Grange Pit about a month before the accident happened, he found the wheels worn, and was preparing some new ones to replace them. He did not particularly examine the carriage, nor did he know what state the brass was in. It was usual to examine the brass, but he did not think of it. Some brasses would last five or six years. The last brass was put in about nine months ago, and when he took it out it was worn very thin; he had no idea it was so thin—not the least in the world. William Bailey never made any complaints to him till the morning of the accident that the engine did not work properly. The wheels did not work exactly right. -By the Coroner: He told the men he wanted the wheels as quick as he could have them. The wheels were made at their own foundry, and it was usual to have a note from Mr. Bailey to have such things made, but as they were so badly he did not wait for that but told the men the note should be sent afterwards, and it was sent. The order for the three wheels was given to Benjamin Jones, who was at the head of the moulding department. If he had had the wheel sooner, he might have found out about the brass. When he came to put the new wheels on he found the brass defective; it was worn away very thin. (The worn brass was produced.)

The brass was intended to keep the "journal " in its plane. The brass being worn would cause great play. He had been engineer in the field for 46 or 47 years, and had had no serious accident before. The brass was not easy to see unless the glan was taken off and the shaft lifted up. -By Mr. Wynne: The brass produced was put in as near nine months ago as he could tell. Could not say persons were wrong who said it was only seven months. Did not keep a memorandum book with an account when he put the brasses in. He did not keep accounts at the time, that he afterwards destroyed. Mr. Wynne asked if some of the teeth were not working with three-quarters of an inch only in bite, and witness replied in the affirmative. Mr. Wynne also put it to witness, whether there was anything to prevent the wheels coming off the gear, if they were working into each other with a bite only of three-quarters of an inch; and if the brass had worn away to seven-eighths of an inch; but witness adhered to his opinion that they would not come out of gear, and added they would be in gear one and a-half inches if in their proper places. Witness was reminded that Carter had said be put the brasses in only six or seven months ago. Witness said Carter was under him, but he did things sometimes without his orders. He examined the brake six or seven weeks ago. Bailey said that it would not hold the bands, and he told him that it was put there by Jordan, who was there before him. If any one said that he had been complained to of the brass it was untrue. He did not know that the wheels were not geared in enough; he only examined the teeth, and it did not strike him to look to see whether the brasses kept the wheels up to their work or not. Bailey never told him that the brasses were worn, or that the engine was not working properly until the time of the accident. He told the men when he gave them the order for the three wheels that he wanted them directly, and he went to the foundry after them two or three times. Witness said he did not give the evidence he had now given at the Dawley inquest, because he was confused, there were such a number of lawyers present.

William Bailey, engine-driver at the Grange Pit, gave similar evidence to that which he gave at the Dawley inquest as to the time he went to work and the particulars of the accident. He put on the brake, but having his back to the chain, he did not see that it made any difference; he had complained to Yates two months before the accident of the brasses being worn.

Mr. Wynne repeated the evidence he gave at Dawley, and added that he wished it to be known that it was his opinion the brake did act to some extent to check the speed of the descent of the band otherwise, from the velocity of their descent for eighty yards, all who were in must have been killed on the spot; those who were killed, were killed, he thought, from the falling of the chain upon them. He had since seen the brake put on, and it checked, but did not stop the band. A portion of the broken wheel was here produced, and Mr. Wynne made use of it to illustrate his view of the case. Mr. Wynne said he would here reiterate his opinion that for a some time before the accident, the machinery had not been in a fit state for winding, adding, that he did not think it possible for an intelligent engine driver to go on oiling his engine, day after day, without knowing that it was gradually going out of repair.

The Coroner then read over the evidence of Mr. Gray, mining engineer to the Madeley Wood Company, one of the jury, who had been deputed to make an examination of the machinery, and that gentleman said, having made a further examination on the spot, he concurred to a certain extent with Mr. Wynne; but whilst he considered that the worn brass had something to do with the accident, he did not believe that it was the cause of it. His opinion was that one of the teeth of the crown wheel first broke from a jerk of the engine, and that led to a further destruction of the wheel. Mr. Gray produced a model, made from measurement showing the relative position of the a wheels, shaft, and brasses, which he explained to the jury.

A long discussion ensued, Mr. Gray and Mr. Wynne each maintained his own view of the primary cause of the accident. Mr. Wynne thought a sudden check caused the shaft to fly back sufficiently for the teeth to miss, and Mr. Gray that a tooth first gave way from a similarly sudden jerk. The latter admitted that the winding gear of the engine was not in proper working order, and that had the brasses been in a proper state the tooth might not have broken.

The Jury deliberated for a considerable time, and afterwards brought in a verdict of accidental death. They censured Richard Yates for not being more diligent in attending to the repairs of the machinery, and the others for not making the wheels; and considered that the strongest censure was due to William Bailey, in that he continued working the engine, knowing at the time the dangerous state it was in, and for the hurried way he put the men down the pit.

The Coroner, in delivering the censure, advised Bailey, at his age, to relinquish engine-driving altogether. We may add that in consequence of Bailey having drawn the band over the pulley, on Wednesday last the men refused again to go down the pit while he remained in his post, and he has since been discharged.

Submitted by Steve Dewhirst

Note: This accident occurred on the 15th May 1867. An adjourned inquest was held on the 22nd May. Another adjourned inquest was held on the 28th May at the King's Arms, Dawley concerning the deaths of Shepherd, Thompson, and Briscoe. This inquest at the Park Inn, Madeley concerned the death of the fourth victim Matthew Taylor. 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 used by a Juryman (at the previous inquest) and Yates at this one is "glan" or "glam" - it seems to be part of the engine or a bearing cover? Any other suggestions?

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