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On Monday 12th August 1821 a most distressing event occurred at Sladder Hill coal pit near Audley in North Staffordshire. It is understood that it originated in a neglect of duty in the persons whose attention was required to clear the mine of foul air and who, unfortunately fell a sacrifice to their temerity.

Owing to the wakes and races the pit had been unemployed the previous week and in consequence an increased accumulation of inflammable gas had taken place. The usual precautions of suspending a Chaffingdish or lamp of fire in the communicating pit to rarefy the air and draw out the noxious part from the working pit, was not taken until the morning of the accident. Which when in regular work, should have been done the previous evening.

About eight o'clock in the morning four men and five youths were at work in the pit, when the inflammable gas came in contact with the flame of the candle, by which they were working, and ignited in a most tremendous explosion. The flame issued from the mouth of the pit as from a furnace. The whole of the party became a sacrifice to the effects produced. As soon as possible steps were taken for descending into the pit. Several persons went down but were unable to proceed for the want of pure air, and sustained injury in the attempt, one to such extent, that his recovery was doubtful. There was also a possibility of a second explosion.

About 8 pm. two men descended and found the sufferers and they were brought out of the pit, some of them in a much mangled condition. Not less than one thousand spectators were collected on this mournful occasion. The force of the explosion was such, as to tear up the railway at the bottom of the pit and to shatter and destroy different articles with great devastation.

The remains of the deceased were interned in Audley churchyard. This was the most awful description recollected in the neighbourhood.

Those killed: Father, two sons, and grandson,

  • G.Barnett 59 yrs,
  • J. Barnett 24 yrs,
  • T.Barnett 30 yrs,
  • W. Barnett 9 years,
  • J. Johnson 34 yrs,
  • D.Earsley 12 yrs,
  • C. Web 12 yrs
  • J.Green 13 yrs.

Verdict of the Coroner's jury was "Accidental death".



Pit Terminology - Glossary

John Lumsdon