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Shropshire, June 1901

Shropshire, June 1901


Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, 22nd June 1901

In the report of Mr. W. H. Atkinson, H.M. Inspector of Mines for the North Staffordshire District (including the counties of Cheshire and Shropshire), the year 1900 is described as the most prosperous experienced by the coal trade since 1873, and while prices did not reach the extreme limit of that year, they are likely to range high for a longer period. The rate of wages, he says, is now higher than at any previous time.

In Mr. Atkinson’s district the number of mines worked this year was 207, or 11, more than in the previous year, and the number of persons employed in connection therewith was 28,236, an increase of nearly seven per cent. The distribution of workers among the counties was:- Cheshire 2,640, an increase of 80; Shropshire 3,746, a decrease of 30; and North Staffordshire 21,850, an increase of 1,782. In the district, as a whole, there was an increase of 399 in the number of boys between 12 and 16 years of age employed below ground, raising the total to 1,395. Shropshire has practically a monopoly of the female workers employed (above ground) at the mines, who number 126, a decrease of 16 as compared with the total for the previous year.

The output of minerals in the district during 1900 was 8,263,961 tons, an increase of 302,478 tons, or rather more than 3¾ per cent. upon the record of the previous year. Of this total 7,081,6330 tons was coal (showing an increase of 28,393 tons), towards which North Stafford-shire contributed 5,601,759 tons, Shropshire 780,420 tons, and Cheshire 699,451 tons. The total output of fireclay was 43,700 tons, a decrease of 7,133 tons, and that of ironstone 1,065,362 tons, an increase of 21,453 tons. The total mineral output in North Staffordshire showed an increase of 307,647 tons, and that in Cheshire an increase of 20,699 tons, while on the other hand there was a falling off of 15,530 tons in that of Shropshire.

During last year 47 fatal accidents (none of which caused the loss of more than one life) and 181 non-fatal accidents were reported. The number of deaths compares unfavourably with that the previous year, namely 33, and with the average of 45.2 in the receding ten years. The number of persons injured also shows an advance upon the total for 1899, last year's figures being 197 as against 152. Mr. Atkinson says:- "The only reason which can be assigned for the increased loss of life in the mining operations of the district during 1900 is that it was a period of abnormal activity. The effect of a considerable increase in the demand for coal is to cause pressure and haste to increase the output as much as possible, and hurry in mining operations is always attended with danger. To increase the output more workpeople are required, a certain proportion of whom will be inexperienced or unaccustomed to the work they undertake, and so more than ordinarily liable to accidents. Another effect of a period of high prices and wages such as the year past is, that miners, like other workmen, are more irregular in their attendance at work, and this also increases danger; when the working places, are undermanned the packing and timbering are liable to be neglected, and the absence of some. workmen makes it necessary for others to do work to which they are unaccustomed".

The following figures afford a comparison of death and accident rates last year among those employed in and about mines in the North Staffordshire district and in the United Kingdom, which is unfavourable to the area under Mr. Atkinson's supervision. In North Staffordshire the death rate from accidents per thousand persons employed was 1,664, as against 1,297 in the United Kingdom as a whole; the death rate from accidents per million tons of minerals raised was 5.60, as against 4.25; the number of persons employed per fatal accident was 601 against 811; the number employed per life lost 601 against 771; the tons of minerals raised per fatal accident 175,829 against 247,704 and the tons raised per life lost 175,829 against 235,466. For the sixth consecutive year there was no loss of life in the district from explosions of fire-damp or coal dust, although five accidents of that nature occurred in North Staffordshire and caused injuries to nine persons.

Falls of roof and side caused 26 deaths, and injuries to 87 persons, as compared with 16 deaths and 77 cases of injury in 1899. Mr. Atkinson points out that the number of accidents by falls is greater than it has been for many years past, and that these accidents account for more than half the total number of deaths from all causes. " Accidents of this class", he says, "can only be reduced by greater care in timbering, or otherwise supporting the roof and sides of the workings, and that there is room for improvements in this direction cannot be doubted".

Ten shaft accidents occurred during the year, and resulted in four deaths and injuries to seven persons, and seven accidents by explosives account for one death and 11 cases of injury.

In regard to mines of the description dealt with by the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act, the number worked in the district last year was 23, one less than in 1899; the number of workers was 713, a decrease of 81; and the output of minerals was 118,065 tons, an increase of 4,386 tons. The number of quarries worked was 299, or seven less than in the preceding year; the number of persons ordinarily employed was 3,385, as compared with 3,416; and the output of minerals was 1,501,235 tons, against 1,630,513 tons an 1899. Two fatalities and 18 cases of injury in quarries during the year were reported.

Submitted by Steve Dewhirst

Summary of The H.M. Inspector of Mines for the North Staffordshire District 1900 Report. 

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