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Copy Of The First Report To Parliament
By HMI Of Mines - Nottingham Guardian
Thursday April 22 1852

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Coal Mines

A report presented by Charles Morton, Esq., inspector of coal mines in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Yorkshire, and Warwickshire to her Majesty’s Secretary of State, has been presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of her Majesty. We make the following extracts from this document.

Wakefield September 1851

Sirs - On the 21st of November 1850. I had the honour to receive from you an appointment as inspector of Coal Mines in the above mentioned counties; and in obedience to your command, I now beg most respectfully to submit the following report of my proceedings to the 30 June last. Conformably with the instructions issued at the time of my appointment, I have endeavoured, in the exercise of my duties, implicitly to follow the directions of the Act of Parliament entitled “An Act for the Inspection of Coal Mines in Great Britain”. Whenever I have had sufficient previous notice of the coroner’s intention to hold an inquest, in the case a of fatal colliery accident, I have, as far as is practicable been present at such inquest, with a view of eliciting from the witnesses the circumstances which accompanied it, and the causes which led to it; and soon after the fatal occurrence I have usually made a careful and minute inspection of the mine, in order to ascertain whether adequate measures had been taken to remedy any evils to which the accident may have been attributable. In some instances I have been invited to examine collieries where danger was apprehended, but where no actual loss of life had not taken place; and while I have on such occasions given to those who solicited me such advice or suggestions as seemed reasonable and applicable, I have cautiously abstained from even the semblance of dictation, or of unauthorised interference in the mode of conducting the works****
Fifty-Two cases of fatal accident have been referred to me for investigation from the 22nd November, 1850 to 30th June, 1851; and they are arranged chronologically in a tabular statement. Among them are the following.

No 5, December 5th, Gervase Broughton, Staveley colliery Chesterfield belonging to Richard Barrow, Esq., killed by falling into the winding machinery;
No 8, December 16th, John Copestake, Shipley colliery Derby, belonging to A. M. Mundy, Esq., killed by the falling of the roof in the mine.
No 9, December 17th, James Hambleton, Ludworth colliery, Glossop, belonging to Mr. J. Jowett, killed by the falling of the roof in the mine.
No 11,December 21, William Fletcher, Butterley Park colliery, Alfreton, belonging to the Butterley Iron Company, killed by the falling of the roof in the mine;
No 17, January 16th, Isaac Platts, Masbro’ Moor colliery, Chesterfield, belonging to Richard Swallow, Esq., killed by the explosion of firedamp;
No 21, January 25th, William Hoole, Butterley Park colliery, Alfreton belonging to the Butterley Iron Company, killed by falling down the shaft;
No 22, January 29th John Dennis, Moira colliery, Ashby-de-Zouch, belonging to the Moira Coal Company; killed by the explosion of firedamp;
No 24, February 12th, John Smith, Bagworth colliery, Leicester, belonging to Lord Maynard, killed by falling down the shaft;
No 26, John Woodhouse {boy}, Loscoe colliery, Belper, belonging to E. F. Whittingstall, Esq., killed by being crushed between coal wagons;
No 30, February 24th, George Price, {boy}, Staveley colliery, Chesterfield, belonging to Richard Barrow, Esq., killed by the falling of coal in the mine;
No 33, March 1st , George Wagstaff, Codnor park colliery, Alfreton, belonging to the Butterley Iron Company, killed by falling down the shaft;
No 34, March 22nd , James Cheetham, fence colliery Rotherham, belonging to Mr. John Charlesworth, killed by the explosion of firedamp;
No 36, April 4th, Francis Lee, Langton colliery, Alfreton, belonging to Messrs, Coke and Co. killed by the fall of coal in the mine;
No 37, April 10th, Samuel Straw, Shipley colliery, Derby, belonging to A. M. Mundy, Esq., killed by the falling of the roof in the mine.
Of the total number of persons killed thirty nine are men and nineteen boys
The causes of death may be divided into seven classes;--------

No. Of lives lost.

1st by explosion of firedamp
2nd by tumbling down the shaft
3rd by being struck by falling substances in the shaft
4th by the falling of roof in the interior of the mine
5th by masses of coal falling in the interior of the mine
6th by machinery
7th by incidental causes

There may have been other fatal injuries in Ironstone pits which are not here enumerated, for, although such pits are generally associated with coal mines, the owners have occasionally omitted to report casualties occurring in the former because they consider themselves not required to do so by law.

Ten of the accidents included in the preceding list have happened at collieries beyond the geographical limits of the mines assigned to me, leaving a loss of 48 lives in the mines of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Warwickshire. In the collieries of the Midland Counties safety lamps are employed only for the purposes of experiment and trial; but in those of Yorkshire which are more fiery, they are in frequent requisition, and several pits are lighted by them entirely.

In sundry collieries of the Midland Counties, a spontaneous combustion of the refuse coal left underground occasionally breaks forth, which is said to be promoted by the free admission of the atmosphere, and thorough ventilation is therefore opposed by some of the viewers; but the plan so successfully practised by Mr. Woodhouse at the Moira mines, in Leicestershire of excluding air from the “goaves” by means of vertical clay puddling, demonstrates that complete ventilation can be safely accomplished, even where the much dreaded “breeding fire” exists. A current of pure air flowing at the rate of 400 lineal feet per minute in a sectional area of not less than twenty square feet will suffice in the smaller mines of my district to preserve health and life from the injurious effects of gaseous influences; but in an extensive colliery of three or four separate streams, each delivering 8,000 cubic feet of air per minute, are needful; and in very hazardous works, where “blowers “ of firedamp are emitted, even a stronger ventilating power may be wanted. Inattention to these maxims concerning the introduction and distribution of air has indirectly led to a few of the fatal casualties enumerated in the tabular list.

At Masbro’ Moor colliery, near Chesterfield, where the explosion {No17} took place, there was no furnace; a part of the air way had been allowed to fall in, and another portion of it was frequently filled with water, which obstructed the movement of the air, and favoured the accumulation of gas in various places.

At Fence colliery, near Rotherham, the accident {No34} was occasioned by the rash entrance of a miner carrying a naked light into a “bank” containing firedamp, that could not have collected there if the air course had been kept properly open, and a furnace use.

The “butty” system, which prevails in some collieries of the Midlands Counties, tends to retard the advance of mining improvement; but it is fortunately unknown in Yorkshire. The “butties” are contractors with very limited capital, to whom pits are sublet, and who undertake to raise the minerals at a fixed price per ton. They are generally uneducated and unskilful persons, raised a step above the rank of the ordinary miner, and to whom a remuneration derivable from the proprietors on one hand and the labourers on the other is the chief object, regardless often of the permanent welfare of both, Under this system, supervision by the coalmaster or his “bailiff” is lax and irregular, and by degrees the “butty” becomes almost the sole controller of the colliery and those who work therein. He is unwilling to incur any outlay in building ventilating furnaces, in making or enlarging airways, or erecting the needful doors and stopping’s; and, consequently, the pits under his management are indifferently aired. He allows the shafts and tram roads to get out of repair; he thinks iron “guide rods” and wooden “conductors” in pits are quite superfluous; timber, tools, and other materials are by him grudgingly supplied; suggested ameliorations are objected to; his contract being terminable at short notice, he has no abiding interest in the mine; he feels no intense anxiety or definite responsibility concerning the safety and comfort of the work people; and his excuse is, that it is the duty of each man and boy to take care of himself. “Butties” are often directly or indirectly connected with taverns and shops, where the miner’s earnings are spent in the purchase of bad and dear ale and provisions; and large quantities of intoxicating liquor are daily taken into the pits, and given to old and young in lieu of money wages. The effect of the “butty” system is to endanger and demoralise the mining population; to estrange the masters from the labourers, and to deprive the latter of the substantial benefits and civilising influences which would otherwise spring out of closer contact with the superior generosity and intelligence of colliery owners and their principal agents. It is true that many proprietors are striving to modify this impolitic system, and to efface some of its worst features; but, even in its mitigated form, it is replete with injury to the employed, and is ultimately unprofitable to the employer. The progress of improvement may be accelerated by the introduction of a better class of underground managers or “bottom stewards” into the pits. In the smaller collieries they are partly common labourers and partly overlookers, and in some of the larger ones they are men of deficient education and skill. Occasionally persons are found in this capacity who can neither read or write, and whose, and whose professional and industrial knowledge does not extend beyond the antiquated mining practices of their own immediate neighbourhood. It is much to be lamented that more effectual means have not hitherto been resorted to in our colliery districts for the scientific and technical instruction of individuals whose duties, in connection with, are of so important and responsible a nature.

It is exceedingly gratifying to be able to announce that, in many of the principal mining establishments of my district there has not been any fatal accidents whatsoever. I allude more particularly to the large collieries at Middleton and Rothwell Haig, near Leeds, to several others around Wakefield, to the Thornhill mines, near Dewsbury, to Messrs. Clarks, Charlesworth’s Thorp’s, Twibells, and the Worsborough collieries near Barnsley, to Earl Fitzwilliam’s and Mr Chambers extensive coal and ironstone works near Rotherham {this however, now requires modifying, in consequence of the terrible casualty which occurred near a few months ago, since this report was written}, to the Clay Cross and other mines near Chesterfield, to several in the Alfreton and Erewash Valley districts, to The Portland, Cinderhill, and Babbington collieries near Nottingham, to the Greasley and Snibston near Ashby-del-la-Zouch, and those of Mr Dugdale and Mr Newdegate in Warwickshire. Each of these establishments employs a considerable number of hands, and some of them are surrounded by natural difficulties and dangers. It is therefore highly creditable to proprietors and agents thereof, that they have succeeded so completely in their praiseworthy efforts to preserve the lives of their workpeople.

In conclusion, I have to express my grateful acknowledgements to all parties connected to mines, and to her Majesty’s coroners, for their obliging courtesy, valuable assistance, and willing co-operation throughout the performance of my official duties.
I have the honour to be, Sir.
Your most obedient servant, Charles Morton