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Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, July 12, 1902

A pit accident of a terrible character occurred at the "Stafford" Collieries of the Lilleshall Company on Saturday, which are situated between St. George's and Shifnal. It appears that an engine-man named William George Cartwright (38 years of age) and two other men, William Pickering and Daniel Williams, were engaged in doing repairs to a valve, a portion of the pumping apparatus in a water shaft. They had just completed their work, and were preparing, to ascend the shaft, when the beam upon which they were standing collapsed, and Cartwright was precipitated to the bottom of the pit, from which his lifeless body was taken out in a terribly-mangled condition a short time afterwards. Pickering also dropped down the shaft, but he missed striking against the sides of the boring, and though immersed in the water up to his neck, he managed to cling to a rod until he was rescued from his perilous position. The third man, Williams, had a miraculous escape, as he also was standing upon the beam, but at that portion which stood firm. He shouted, and was able to pull the bell wire, and was speedily brought to the surface. Williams and other men descended the shaft, and Pickering and the body of the unfortunate man Cartwright were brought to the top.

An inquest on the body of Cartwright was opened at Priorslee on Monday evening, before Mr. J. V. T. Lander (coroner). The representatives of the Lilleshall Company present were Mr. J. Greene (underground manager), Mr. N. T. Beech (chief colliery manager), and Mr. J. Frith (colliery engineer). - In opening the proceedings the Coroner said he understood another man also was injured in the accident, but it was hoped he would recover. He was given to understand by Mr. Beech that there was every chance of that now, and it might be the jury's wish to hear the evidence of that man. In any circumstances he did not propose to continue the inquiry that evening, as it was one of those cases in which they should hear the Mines' Inspector. - Mr. Beech said the Inspector had been to the place of the accident, but had had to leave to catch a train. - Mr. Edkins, printer, of Priors-lee, having given evidence of identification, and the jury having viewed the body, the inquiry was adjourned.

The remains of the deceased man were interred on Tuesday amidst many tokens of respect. A large number of fellow-workmen and friends, among whom were the Snedshill United Methodist Free Church choir, of which the deceased was a member, attended to pay their last tribute to one who was greatly esteemed. The mournful cortege proceeded to St. Peter's Church, Priors-lee, where the funeral service was impressively read by the Rev. J. P. Stephenson, vicar; there was a vast concourse of people present, who deeply sympathised with the widow and her children in their sad bereavement. A large number of magnificent wreaths and floral tributes were sent by relatives and friends.


The inquest was resumed yesterday at the George Hotel, St. George's, before Mr. J. V. T. Lander (coroner). Mr. Stokes (H.M. Inspector of Mines) was present, and Mr. Beech again represented the Lilleshall Company.

Daniel Williams was the first witness called. He said he was an engine man living at the Rock Terrace, St. George's, and was employed under the Lilleshall Company, at the Stafford pits. On Saturday afternoon, he was working with the de-ceased who was screwing up a door in connection with the pumps in the pit shaft at Stafford Pits. Cartwright and Pickering were on the one side, and witness on the other. They were all standing on two planks, which were always in the shaft. The planks were examined, and appeared to be all right on Saturday. They were placed on bearers, which gave way, and the plank on which Pickering and the deceased were standing fell down the shaft. The two men were on the same plank and fell together a distance of about 59 yards. Witness said that as soon as he missed his comrades he worked his way up to the top. John Williams then went down the shaft with him. They found Pickering first at the bottom, but could see nothing of Cartwright. They got Pickering up to the top. Witness did not go down again. John Williams, Jabez Minor, and Joseph Minor fetched the deceased up. When they brought him to the surface he was quite dead. His leg was broken, and the back of his head injured. The bearer breaking would cause the accident. They could have had whatever timber they wanted, for the bearer, but they considered it to be quite safe. The bearers were sometimes corroded with the water, but the sinkers usually examine them. - In answer to the Inspector, witness said he was not responsible for the examination of the shafts; it was the sinkers' work, and John Fletcher was the chief. They generally went down once a week to see if every-thing was allright. -In reply to a juryman the witness said he had his back to the other two men when they fell. There were belts provided by the company at the Old Yard, but none at the colliery and, as far as he was given to understand, the men objected to wear them. He thought it would be an extra safe-guard for them, but the men thought they would get entangled in them. He had also instituted a weekly examination of the shafts.

John Williams, St. George's Buildings, a, foreman employed under the Lilleshall Company, said the deceased was going to change what they called a pillow clack in the pump, and for that purpose had to go down 50 yards. He would rest on scaffolding and bearers. Pickering and the last witness were with the deceased. They were all on the two planks. Witness did not know what had happened until Williams shouted up "get ready". Williams told witness the bearer had broken and the others had fallen down the shaft. They got Pickering up first. That would be about 10 minutes after the fall. Cartwright was in the water, about six feet deep, at the bottom. He was quite dead. They always inspected the place when they went down; they made a weekly examination. They also had to stand on the planks to make the examination, which was made the day before the accident happened. They felt all round and stamped on the planks, and their orders were to make a thorough examination. The corrosion would make a difference in the sound. They had belts, but they had never been used. The men did not care to use them. If any man wanted one he could have it, as they were provided for them. He had never troubled about one for himself .-In reply to the Inspector the witness said he could not say who was responsible for the examination of the, shaft. They made the examination themselves generally. The thickness of the corrosion on the bearers was about half-an-inch, and the size of bearer would be 5 feet by 4 feet. The examination they made was stamping and hitting with the spanner. He had never used a pick, but he thought a sharp instrument would be better. It was seen that the bearer after the accident was in a very bad state. The deceased was a competent man at his work.

Noel T. Beech, residing at Muxton, near Newport, and manager for the Lilleshall Company, said he was well acquainted with the Stafford Pits. He received a report of the accident on Saturday, and proceeded to the pit. He went down the shaft and saw what had happened. He saw the ends of the bearer had given way. The wood part was hard and the inside decayed. The place was examined once a week. He had caused a weekly examination to be made because he deemed it necessary for the safety of the men, and also to ensure the efficiency of the pumps. Fletcher was the foreman, and his last examination was made the day before the accident happened. He did not say in his report that there was anything wrong. It was quite evident the timber was decayed. Witness had examined the place since the accident. Witness heard what had been said with regard to belts. They were provided at his suggestion, and recommended by Mr. Atkinson, H.M. Inspector of Mines, but the men objected to them. There was nothing in the Act to compel the men to use the belts. The deceased would have been alive nosy had he worn one of the belts. Cartwright was a very good steady workman, who knew his work well. Witness now suggested the use of the iron instruments, whereby the timber had to be examined by probing one end, and using the hammer at the other. He also thought iron girders instead of wood girders. would be better.

John Fletcher, a sinker in the employ of the Lilleshall Company, said it was his duty to examine pit shafts (the winding pits chiefly), and the watering pits when he was called upon. He knew the Stafford Pit, and had examined that shaft the day before the accident. He examined the brickwork and turned the water in the pumping shafts. He did not examine the bearers. When he saw any not safe he changed them. He had put some in this shaft, and planks. He examined by sight and did not hit it at all. He had not changed this particular plank nor bearers. They got corroded. He generally tapped but did not probe into them; he did not know that he was responsible for the examination of these pumping shafts, bearers, and planks. John Williams was the man to look after the pumping shaft timber. There was nothing wrong the day he went down that he saw. He believed the bearers wore good enough to carry the planks, but he knew now they were not Had he have tapped them he should have known whether they were right or not, but. he only sighed them.- In answer to the Inspector witness said he was foreman over the men of the winding shaft, but not the pumping shaft. He understood his duties well in the winding shafts, but not he the pumping shaft. He was only called in to assist in the latter. Mr. Beech said he had heard the evidence of the last witness, and he said he considered it was the engineman's duty to examine, and Fletcher should have examined the same. These shafts were distinct from the winding shafts. When Fletcher was called to go to any shaft it was his duty to examine the whole of the shaft. By sight was not sufficient -He (Mr. Beech was not bound by any regulation to make a weekly examination of these pumping shafts, but he had carried it out himself. He now saw that it could be improved upon, and it should be done. The bearer broke off close to the brickwork on one side and across the bearer on the other.

This completed the evidence, and the coroner having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death", and added to that verdict the following rider : -"That in future there should be more stringent measures with regard to the examination of these pumping shafts".

Mr. Beech said he would convey the jury's remarks to Mr. Parrott, his chief, and he was sure the suggestion would be acted upon. The inquiry then terminated.

Submitted by Steve Dewhirst

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