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Bignall Hill Explosion 1836 - Page 2

John Lumsdon

The Following Are Names of Those Killed

William Riley

age 35

leaves a pregnant wife and six children.
Thomas Lawton

age 44

leaves a widow and six children.
James Proctor

age 27

leaves a widow and two children.
John Hilditch

age 25

leaves a widow and two children.
Thomas Riley

age 27

leave a widow and two children.
Elijah Billington

age 21

leaves widow. (only married 7 weeks)
John Johnson

age 44

leaves a widow.
Charles White

age 23

Thomas Cartwright

age 18

George Riley

age 8

John Chambers
age 10


It is fortunate that there were no persons at work in the adjoining pit or the loss of life would have been perhaps more extensive. A crut or tunnel runs from it, to the one where the appalling accident took place.

The boiler of the engine was found empty, and the men in consequence were unable to go to work. Upon examination of this pit, after the explosion, two horses were found dead in their stalls, as likewise one in the pit were the explosion took place.

The lamentable catastrophe has so much affected the proprietor, John Wedgwood, Esq. That he has decided that no further occurrence of a like nature shall take place in that pit, as he has in consequence given orders for the pit’s mouth to be closed.

R.E. Heathcote, Esq. who is an extensive proprietor of coalmines in the immediate neighbourhood, attended the inquest. He took a lively interest in its proceedings and was deeply affected with the melancholy event.

He was also desirous of impressing upon the minds of the colliers the necessity of using the improved safety lamp and explained, that by experiments made before the House of Commons, the Davy lamp was not considered safe. His presence upon the occasion was a source of satisfaction both to the coroner and the jury. He has placed in the hands of his agent, five guineas in aid of the families whom these unfortunate men have left behind them

It will be seen from an advertisement in this week’s paper that an appeal is to be made to the public at large, on behalf of the families of the sufferers, and we doubt not, it will be responded to in an effectual manner.

Further Particulars

It would appear from the state in which the bodies were found, that the poor fellows were variously employed at the time of the explosion, some having commenced work, and others stripping off their cloths for the purpose. One man who was at work at a distance of seven hundred yards from the shaft, was so astounded by the awful noise of the explosion, that he was deaf for some time afterwards.

The first man to be brought out of the pit was in a state of perfect insensibility, and a few moments of delay would have terminated his earthly existence. He states that he recollects the dreadful moment of the explosion, and immediately ran a considerable distance towards the shaft. He distinctly remembers treading upon one or two human bodies in his progress. He eventually fell senseless.

Joseph Rowley, another survivor, was if possible, nearer death than him, his teeth were clenched, as if in natures last struggle but he revived gradually when brought into fresh the open air.

The mortal remains of the unfortunate men, were interned at Audley, on Thursday afternoon, amidst an immense concourse of spectators, who had congregated from the districts for miles around.

John Wedgwood Esq.
Proprietor of Bignall Hill Colliery  

John Wedgwood died on 6th Feb 1839 and declared in his will:

I desire my body to be interred within my estate at Bignall End in a vaulted tomb at the summit of a certain field
“Old Hill” and my executors do cause an obelisk or monument to be erected.

He got his second wish but not his first, because his body was interned in Audley Church yard.

The monument is still very prominent even though it was blown down in 2nd January 1976 and is only a quarter of its height. The inscription reads John Wedgwood of Bignall End, Esquire. Born February 1760 Died February 1839.


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