There was an explosion at Birchenwood colliery, North Staffordshire on the 18th December 1925 causing the deaths of seven men and injuring another seven. The Government Inspector's report was delayed for various reasons but was presented on July 30th 1927
Birchenwood colliery is situated at Kidsgrove at the Northern end of the North Staffs coalfield. At that time there were five shafts and one footrail in use for the purpose of winding, ventilation and pumping.
Birchenwood Colliery - May 1900
The principal shaft No.18 was the only shaft used for winding coal and from it some 5,000 to 6,000 tons were being raised per week at the time of the accident.
At various times thirteen seams of coal had been worked; but operations had been confined to three, the Seven Feet Banbury, the Eight Feet Banbury and the Bullhurst. The inclination of the seams varied greatly throughout the mine, but in general they were steep and in parts of the mine, with which this report was concerned, the measures were inclined at an angle of 45 degrees, the general direction of the dip being to the South-East.
The explosion occurred in the Wakefield's Dip District of the Seven Feet Banbury seam. A plan of the seam showed greater detail of the scene of the explosion and showed the places at which the workmen were stationed at the time of the explosion, and the positions in which the bodies of those killed were subsequently found.
Persons employed underground was 1,126. At the time of the explosion 374 persons were underground. The report goes on to describe the character of the seam and method of working it, also the ventilation and interesting precautions against coal dust. The systematic application of stone dust had been carried out since 1914, and during 1925, 1,197 tons of stone dust were distributed, an average of 8.67 lbs of stone dust per ton of coal drawn. In the Wakefield Dip District 40 tons of stone dust were applied during the three months prior to the explosion.
During the morning shift no indications of heating had been observed, work had been proceeding normally in every respect and nothing had happened to cause serious anxiety in the working places. At about 1 pm. G.H. Forrester, an assistant surveyor, going through the main separation doors near No.18 shaft bottom noticed an unusual smell in the return air. He eventually mentioned this to Albert Hughes, a spare fireman, who thought it was gob stink. They decided between them that Forrester should find the under manager and make a report to him. Before that, he met the over man, George Wilcox, and reported to him.
Wilcox went to investigate but at that time the unusual smell, which barely an hour previously had alarmed Forrester and Hughes had now disappeared. Forrester apologised for raising a false alarm. Accordingly it was not deemed necessary to prevent the afternoon shift from proceeding to their work.
At 4.15 pm. the explosion occurred, and out of a total of fifteen persons, including the fireman, who was working in the upper panel, eight survived.