Mr. Hunter, an engineer of the North Staffs Colliery Company was present giving valuable advice and Mr. Price, the manager of the colliery worked all night to give all possible help to the willing workers. The number of men missing was still a matter of doubt; it was believed that 20 men were either burnt to death or in a black inaccessesible tomb.
The wintry weather did not prevent several women from presenting themselves at the pit where their husbands and sons were beyond human reach.
Apedale colliery, the Burley pit (c. 1850-1926) in early 1900s. This photograph shows the bridge carrying the tub-way from the Watermills colliery to the Burley screens. The railway line is the line through Miry Wood to Podmore Hall and the Minnie pit.
The number of men who had descended the pit on the day of the explosion cannot be correctly ascertained. In addition to the 5 bodies that had been drawn up, one man named Shenton and two boys, Stockton and Handy all of Silverdale were brought up injured, Handy was not expected to recover.
In one house in Silverdale a husband, son and a wife's brother were all missing in one family. Another poor woman whose husband was missing was at the pit on Wednesday had labour pains; she was conveyed home and confined. A lad named John Hacking, aged 17 years was one of those missing, he was well known in Hanley as the stepson of the Town Crier. No hopes whatsoever were entertained of the recovery of the men alive and another explosion was expected.
It was then reported that the boy who was seriously injured had died at his home in Silverdale late Wednesday night.
The manager, Mr. Price, made an attempt to descend Sladder Hill No.2 pit to ascertain its condition but after descending the shaft a little way, he was to be drawn up again in the consequence of the excessive heat and stifling smoke. The pit was 60 to 70 yards from the one on fire and great fears entertained that almost the whole of the Eight feet workings were either now on fire or would soon be. So quite a number of men would be out of work due to the disaster.
Mr. Wynne, HMI of Mines, had a narrow escape when a second explosion took place, he had just moved away from the pithead when an amount of rubbish blown up from the pit fell on the spot where he had stood. Several persons were injured by the fall of the stuff emitted from the pit. Had the explosion taken place a few minutes before it did, a cage load of men would have been blown up the shaft and killed.
It had been suggested just before the explosion that attempt should be made to recover the horses that were in the Seven Feet seam, but Mr. Wynne gave strict orders that no human life should be risked for the sake of horses. All the horses down the pit were killed.
Mr. Gilroy, assistant Inspector of Mines, arrived on the scene late on Wednesday evening and he at once gave direction as to how the mine should be managed, so as to put out the fire. The explorers were told not to go down the pit, but to put sand and bass down the up cast shaft. The object was to block up the airways so as to let the fire go out. This was continued during the whole of the night but smoke was still issuing from the downcast shaft.
After consultation, about noon on the second day, it was decided to make an attempt to build off the Eight feet seam. As they were preparing to descend, another explosion occurred. It was then decided to fill the downcast shaft with water above the level of the Eight feet seam, so effectually closing the seam and entombing the men. The bottom of the downcast thus being sealed, the smoke from the underground fire ceased, the up cast being filled up to the Seven Feet inset, a distance of 39 yards.
The downcast shaft was 13 feet 6 inches in diameter, and 484 yards deep, passing through the Seven Feet Bambury. The seams there dipped at an angle of 40 degrees. The up cast shaft, which was 25 yards distance from the downcast, was 10 feet in diameter and 454 yards deep.
In order to adopt the best plan for re-opening the shaft, consultations were held on the 11th and 13th of May between the proprietors, Mr. Wynne, HMI of Mines, and the different managers of local collieries. Then on the 14th of May, operations for clearing out the up cast shaft were commenced, three shifts of men being employed.
Arrangements were made for ventilating both shafts with brattice cloth and water pipes for fire fighting. The men began excavating the sand and dirt from one shaft and brattice was put down the other shaft almost to the water level where large quantities of gas were given off the surface of the water.