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"What the Papers Said"

"What the Papers Said"

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Publications & Research "What the Papers Said"

Shropshire, May 1901

Shropshire, May 1901


Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, 20th April 1901

On Tuesday a youth named Thomas George Archer of Stoney Fold, Dawley Bank, on coming out of a coal pit at Dawley went into the engine-house. He had not been there many minutes when an explosion occurred, and the unfortunate youth was badly scalded. Dr. Davis was called in, but, in spite of his efforts, death resulted yesterday morning. An inquest will be held.


Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, 4th May 1901

The adjourned inquiry on the body of the boy, Thomas George Archer, who was fatally injured in the boiler explosion at Dawley Bank on the 16th of April, as reported in the "Journal" last week, was held on Tuesday, before Mr. J. V. T. Lander (coroner). Mr. J. T. Carrane (Wellington) appeared on behalf of Messrs. Shephard and Charm of Lawley, the owners of the boiler in question; and Mr. W. N. Atkinson (H.M. Inspector of Mines) was also present.

The inquiry had been adjourned for the evidence of John Candlin of Coalbrookdale, who last examined the boiler.

This witness now stated that he knew the boiler in question, and had examined it on several occasions, but not on behalf of his employers; he had never repaired the boiler. He had examined it occasionally, and did so on the 17th of November. Mr. Shephard asked him to look at it. Witness had examined it several times previous to that date. The last time would be 15 months previously. He examined the boiler as a favour for Shephard and Churm, and they gave him some little pay for it. He did not see Shephard and Churm at his examination of November 17th, but met them afterwards on his way.

He sent in to them the report, as read (November 17th). Witness said he should have said “the uptake” in his report, and not “the funnel”. The boiler was a very awkward one to examine. The report was sent to Mr. Shepherd by his son-in-law. Witness said he was no longer responsible after the report had gone. He next examined the boiler on the 6th of March. Witness read this report, which he said was given to Messrs. Shephard and Churm. On March 6th, when witness got there, neither Shephard nor Churm was present. Witness proceeded, and examined the boiler, and they both turned up soon after his examination. He then pointed out to Churm the state of the funnel, and Churm asked witness if it could be done on the premises, and witness advised him to have it repaired and to send it to the New Yard, St. George’s, or Horsehay Works. Churm also said that it had been recommended to him to have a pair of clips put on the defected part, and witness said, “ No, don’t think about putting clips on”. Witness did not agree with clips.

In answer to the Inspector, witness said he was a boiler smith, and had been accustomed to boilers all his life, and had examined the Coalbrookdale Company’s boilers chiefly, and had had a great deal of experience with boilers for some years. He had been acquainted with this boiler about five years ago. Messrs. Shephard and Churm then asked him to go down and have a look at it, but witness declined to take the responsibility himself, and would insist upon them calling in another man to look at it, Mr. John Growcott. He went with witness, and Shephard and Churm purchased it.

Witness denied having said anything about the pressure being 60lb. He never made any report until 17th November, 1900. Previous reports were verbal. The boiler was just affected with corrosion before November 17th, and he told them so. Witness did not consider it serious. Witness said that on the 6th of March he examined the boiler by the sounding of the hammer, looking, and feeling with his hands. He could not get inside. He removed a little scale. They had cleaned the boiler out, and got it all ready, and it appeared they had removed scale.

When witness named in his report “within a period of three months” he did not intend for them to work the boiler for another three months, but meant that it was bad and wanted looking after, and to get it repaired as soon as possible. He had no means of testing the boiler but with his hammer.

He had not seen the boiler since the explosion. It was a very different thing to look at it before and after the explosion. The defect could be seen now, but could not before. It showed that his examination was not sufficient. He did not think the boiler was in such a serious condition as the explosion had proved it to be. What witness said he meant by careful watching in his report was meant to look after it well and to get it repaired properly.

In answer to Mr. Carrane, witness said he had never given any independent report to any firm, only his own employers. He was 62 years of age, and had worked at Horsehay and Coalbrookdale all his life. He was never more than an ordinary workman. He made reports to the office in writing, and on those reports they acted. Witness said he was certain that he used the hammer when examining the uptake. Witness admitted being a little deaf. Witness did not think his reports warranted the boiler for another three months.

Frederick Bailey (re-called) stated that he was present at the examination on March 6th, and also on the 17th November. He saw Candlin sound the uptake with his hammer. He never made any remark to witness. Witness had never sounded it, not even when he had been cleaning scale off, nor tapped it at all.

James Churm (re-called, and questioned by Mr. Carrane) said he saw Candlin on the 17th of November, and stood close by him when making the examination, and on the 6th of March. Witness and his driver, the last witness, were present. He saw Candlin use the hammer, but he made no remark beyond what his report said, which he sent the next day. Candlin did not condemn it in any way then, or else it would have been put out at once. He did not say it was to go then, or when. Candlin said he would examine the boiler, and when it required to go he would tell them. They never thought there was any danger in it. Witness said he never suggested clips.

In answer to the Inspector, witness said he did not know who suggested clips. Candlin mentioned them first, and said they would be no use. He had never had any written report from Candlin nor the company before as to the condition of the boiler.

In answer to the Inspector, witness said that prior to November 17th the boiler was inspected by Candlin for the Coalbrookdale Company, and for which Shephard and Churm paid.

The Coroner then addressed the jury. He said they had had a patient hearing, and a very complicated case. It appeared that the boiler had been inspected by the Coalbrookdale Company and Candlin. The reason Candlin had not given written reports before was because he had examined it for the company. He gave reports on his own inspections of November 17th and March 6th, but did not think it so serious as it turned out to be.

The jury, after deliberating for about 20 minutes, returned a verdict of "Accidental death", and added a rider. "That in their opinion there should be a censure that there was want of care in that Candlin should have been more definite in drawing the reports, and that Shephard and Churm they (the jury) thought ought to have taken steps to have the boiler attended to".

Messrs. Shephard and Churm, and Candlin were then re-called and censured by the Coroner.

Submitted by Steve Dewhirst

Thomas Archer, who was classed as a labourer, was 14 years old when the accident happened, on Tuesday 16th April. The inquest took place on Tuesday 30th April. 

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