Dukinfield Colliery Disaster 1867

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Disasters Project | Mining Disasters | England Mining Disasters | Cheshire Mining Disasters | Dukinfield Colliery Disaster 1867

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  • Date: 4 June 1867
  • Location: Dukinfield Colliery, Dukinfield, Cheshire, England
  • Victims: 37
  • Cause: Explosion

History and Circumstances

Dukinfield History

Dukinfield is a town in Tameside, Greater Manchester, England, on the south bank of the River Tame opposite Ashton-under-Lyne, 6.3 miles (10.1 km) east of Manchester.[1] Historically part of Cheshire, the town developed as a result of the Industrial Revolution when it became the site of coal mining and cotton manufacturing.[2]
Industrialization helped shape the town, but rapid development destroyed it's former pasture and meadow land. Two cotton mills were built before 1794 and by 1825 there were seven. Coal pits exploiting the underlying coal measures to the south of the Lancashire Coalfield were a major part of Dukinfield's industrial history. [3]
For further information on Dukinfield, see Dukinfield

Mine History

Francis Dukinfield Astley developed two collieries in the town, Dukinfield and Astley Deep Pit, and both had explosions killing many workers. Dukinfield Colliery (also known as Lakes Pit or Victoria Colliery) was owned by Astley's Dukinfield Colliery Company [4] with Mr. F.D. Astley as the sole proprietor of the pit. Isaac Whelden was the manager and had been at the colliery for five years. [5]
There were two shafts at the colliery. The downcast was 340 yards deep and led to the Black Mine and was connected to the upcast shaft for ventilation. A horse road ran along the level and about half way there was an upbrow and it was at this point that the explosion took place. The workings extended six hundred yards on a level with the upcast shaft in a southerly direction. The workings on the north side went for three hundred and fifty yards but this part of the mine had been abandoned when a fault had been struck some time before. The west workings extended one hundred and fifty yards with a dip of two feet per yard and a new air hole was being made in that direction for ventilation and this would communicate with the deep workings. [6]

Mine Disaster Circumstances

George Phillips was the one underlooker for the mine and he had exclusive control of the underground workings. He had two firemen working with him, John Moores and Joseph Wirrell. Their duties were to attend to the ventilation of the mine under the direction of Mr. Phillips. They were to inspect the mine every morning before the first shift of miners arrived to determine that the mine was free from gases. On the morning of the explosion Moores and Wirrell left the mine about 6am. Approximately 73 men and boys arrived for work that morning and about 8am there was a massive explosion in the mine.
Mr. Welding, the pit manager along with a number of other men went into the pit . They found injured and dead miners. They assisted the injured out of the mine. The mine inspector, Thomas Wynne was near the colliery and he immediately went to the pit and descended to find that all the air doors were down and that the air from the downcast shaft was going up the upcast shaft and no air was going into the workings.
Medical assistance was provided to the men and everything was done for them as they were sent to the surface. In the mine, the airways and brattice were blown away in many places and the roof and floor had been displaced. Despite this, the men had cleared the rubbish and removed the bodies by 3 p.m.[7]

Investigation Report

In early reports the explosion was blamed on a leakage of foul air from an adjoining mine. The men were supplied with lamps as it was regarded as a fiery mine but it was known that the boys worked with naked lights against the Rules of the colliery.
The colliery was examined by Mr. Wynne, the Government Inspector on Friday and the inquest opened on Saturday before Mr. W. Johnson, the coroner of Marple. Mr. J. Wooley a former coal owner was the foreman of the jury. The inquest was held at the Astley Arms Hotel in Dukinfield.
A fortnight before the explosion, George Phillips, the underlooker reported a roof fall at the end of the Black Mine tunnel. The fall was obstructing the free flow of air because the earth was nearly to the top of the tunnel. He was instructed by Mr. Wynne to make it right. After the explosion that blockage of the tunnel had not been dealt with and the air flow continued to be severely restricted. It was thought that if the blockage had been taken care of, the explosion could have been avoided.
On examining the pit the morning after the accident, the Inspector came to the conclusion that the explosion had taken place in the horseroad, about one hundred and forty yards from the upcast shaft. Four of the twenty seven victims were burnt but there was no sign of fire in the coal. A lamp was found lying on the floor and the gauze hanging up. All the miners were required to use lamps which were locked. [8]
There were a number of witnesses that testified at the inquest. There was a common thread through all testimony. There was general mismanagement of the mine from the owner, Mr. F.D. Astley to the manager, Isaac Whelden. The issues brought forward by the witnesses included inadequate ventilation, lack of adequate staff and supplies, infrequent safety inspections and lack of follow through when issues were identified. The witnesses included Martin Birtenshaw, a miner; Joseph Wirrell, a fireman; Mr. Whelden, pit manager; John Moores, a fireman; James Horsfall, manager of the Fair Bottom Colliery, Thomas Jones, miner; James Normington, miner; Joseph Kay, off duty day of incident; John Hodgson, miner; John Bate, miner; Mr. W. Foulks, surgeon of Dukinfield and James Ramsbottom, miner. [9]
Mr. Wynne, the Inspector had no doubt that gas had accumulated on the No.3 level and had been blown to the horse roads where it fired at an open light. He said that fiery mines were not dangerous if they were well managed.
The jury deliberated for an hour and returned a verdict of accidental death but added “We are of the opinion that the general management of the pit was characterised by great incompetence but not sufficiently grievous as to fix the manager with criminal responsibility.”[10]

Miner Victims

Name Details Sourced Bio Connected Category
Armfield, Joseph Age 13 Brother of Robert Yes Yes Yes
Armfield, Robert Age 17 Brother of Joseph Yes Yes Yes
Ashton, William Age 22 Yes Yes Yes
Booth, Charles Age 22 Yes Yes Yes
Booth, William Age 24 Yes Yes Yes
Brennan, James Age 19
Buckley, John Thomas Age 11
Chorley, William Age51
Clayton, David Age 28
Elliott, John Age 40
France, Richard Age 36 Left a wife and five children
Garrett, William Age 44
Gee, John Age 34
Gregson, Thomas Age 18
Harratt, William Age 48 Left two girls
Haslam, James Age 34
Hill, James Age 34
Hooson, Thomas Born 1867
Hudson, Samuel Age 15
Johnson, Samuel Age 21
Kay, William Ernest Age 15
Lomas, John Age 20
Martin, William Age 26
McHugh, Patrick Age 22 Brother of Terance
McHugh, Terence Age 19 Brother of Patrick
Mellor, William Age 42
Mercer, James Age 34
Noble, Henry Age 14
Norton, Samuel Age 14 Waggoner
Phillips, George Age 33 Underlooker with five children
Quinlin, William Age 24
Rixon, John Age 27 Left a wife and two children
Robinson, George Age 20
Shore, John Age 14
Smethurst, Thomas Age 15
Taylor, William Joh Age 56
Warren, Luther Age 13

Miner Survivors

Name Details Sourced Bio Connected Category
Brooks, John
!Bullock, George
Burtenshaw, Martin
Hidgkins, Edward
Phillips, Joseph
Pickup, John
Ramsbottom, Samuel
Walker, John
Wild, Joseph
Winterbottom, James

Rescue Effort & Rescuers

The manager, Mr. Welding, with a number of men descended the pit and thirty men were found, some badly injured and they were sent to the shaft. Of these nineteen were able to walk and eleven needed assistance. The uninjured miners were very involved in rescuing or recovering the injured or dead miners. By 3pm all miners had been accounted for.

Others Involved/Supporters and the Aftermath

Mr. Astley, the sole proprietor of the colliery went to every cottage of the suffers that day and gave everyone £4. A meeting was called with the objective of organising a fund for the relief of the dependants but Mr. Astley said he personally, would provide for all the sufferers and provide for the families.


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