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In Shafts
Miscellaneous Causes
Extract from Diary of Joseph Hudsby, Colliery official from Adderley Green Colliery

In Shafts

In shafts accidents have been both numerous and particularly fatal.

One by which 2 men lost their lives, was owing to the foreman placing two persons at the winch to lower and raise the men, who knew nothing whatever of the work they had to perform, who by candidly admitting his error escaped the serious charge of manslaughter.

Fatal Colliery Accident Near Longton Aug 1843

Joseph Leese was killed, between 6 and 7 pm on Monday evening, by falling down the shaft of a pit at Millfield-Gate Colliery, in the parish of Caverswall.

An inquest was held on the body by Mr.J. Cattlow, Esq., coroner, at the Duke of York public-house on Wednesday which resulted in the verdict of manslaughter against John Pritchard, the engine tender, and Joseph Mitcheson, a butty collier, who have accordingly been committed for trial at the assizes as being in some way implicated in causing the death of the deceased.

It was alleged that the deceased, having just ascended the shaft, but not being clear of the tackle, the engine having stopped at the time, when the engine tender not being sufficiently near to have the command of it, the engine made a slight reaction and drew him again over the pit, and Mitcheson having as is stated removed the wagon from over the mouth of the shaft the unfortunate man fell down the pit and was instantaneously killed. Leese, who was about 33 years of age, has left a wife and several children.

Another accident near Cheadle, which caused the loss of 2 lives, happened through sheer ignorance and want of experience in such work, and should be a sad warning to others not to run away with the idea that because they have worked in or about the colliery they necessarily become mining engineers.

Miscellaneous Causes

Miscellaneous Causes have led to the deaths of 12 persons underground, and I have issued a circular to all the managers of mines in this district, pointing out to them how such accidents may be avoided. It will be perhaps as well to add it to my report;

7 have lost their lives above ground; three of these were repairing a small engine in a wooden shed, some distance from three large boilers, when the tube of one boiler collapsed and the three men being at work exactly opposite the flue were struck by the bricks and debris and killed.

Another remarkable case was at Adderley Green Colliery, near Longton, where the blacksmith was in the habit of making cartridges for the colliers, and for convenience had the temerity to keep a quarter cask of gunpowder in the shop, which a spark from the anvil one day exploded. The Inspector concluded; the fearful number of lives lost in my district and the increased number of non fatal accidents that have been reported to me during the year, just ended, impel me to point out what, in my opinion, leads to such sad results, and to ask your hearty co-operation in carrying out the provisions of the Mines Regulations Act, and thus show to the world that we all have but one object in view, viz: the safety of life and limb. Explosions of firedamp are nearly all preventable, and if the rules laid are strictly carried out, will all but disappear from the list. I may add, that there should be no hesitation about putting everyone to work with locked safety lamps where gas has once presented itself. If managers would see that general rule 16 is properly understood (absolute safety is demanded) by their deputies, accidents from falls of roof would be considerably decreased. Accidents in shafts are mainly caused by carelessness in putting in scaffold, by not properly fencing mouthings, and by placing men to do things they have never done before, or even seen done. General rule 8 is one of great importance, restricting the use and preventing the abuse of gunpowder. General rule 4 requires to be read in a more literal sense than hitherto, so that any place (be it ever so safe) shall be fenced across its entrance, if for the time being it is out of use.

Extract from Diary of Joseph Hudsby, Colliery official from Adderley Green Colliery

Thursday Oct 16th 1851. I was at the colliery this morning, where a fire went off at the Meadow Pit and burnt two men.

The reason of this fire lighting was they had neglected to draw the water and let it fill the Deep Head. And instead of trying the pit (testing for gas) with their lamps as usual, the lamp had been left in the far end of the level, and they were going in with lighted candles.

I had warned them about the sulphur, (gas) and had ordered all the butties to try the pits, (test for gas) before they allowed the men to go in to work.

That order was given on the 2nd September.

I told John Atkinson and Kendrick, who were the heavers at that pit, “that the butties must try the pit (test for gas) before the men went in to work.”

Mr. Hulse heard me tell the butties, that if an inquest was held, I should have no blame, for if they neglected their duty they would be committed for manslaughter.


North Staffordshire is a very old coal field with records dating back to the thirteenth century with a lot of spilt blood and broken bones of miners in that time and we should all be aware of the part played by coal that made Britain one of the greatest nations in the world. We should also remember the blood, sweat and tears that were shed wresting the black diamonds from the bowels of the earth.

In North Staffordshire over 3,700 miners have been killed in the pits.

Pit Terminology - Glossary