|I am looking for information about the Bentley Mining Disaster but I am not having much luck. My father was working in the mine at that time and I am anxious to have some background to this disaster. Can you direct me to a website? Most of the websites I have visited have little or no information except to say that 45 lives were lost.
About the Pit
The Colliery was the property of Messrs. Barber, Walker and Company Limited and the explosion took place in the north East District of the Barnsley Seam at 5.45 p.m. on Friday 20th November 1931. The workings were divided into eight districts with independent intake and return airways so that any district could quickly be isolated. The coal was worked by longwall method and gates from 40 to 44 yards apart and crossgates 150 yards apart. The packs at the side of the gates and crossgates were 3 yards and those in the banks 2 yards wide, the wastes between the bank packs were 14 feet wide.
The gateside and crossgateside packs were built of bind and clunch (shale and fireclay) but for the bank packs it was necessary to use a proportion of coal since there was no other material available. The coal that was used was the Top Softs or 'Conny' Coal and it was left as the roof at the face but ripped down in the gates. None was filled out of the wastes. A section of the seam that was taken in the southern end of the north East District the September before the disaster was 1 foot 9 inches of coal (Day Beds), 2 feet 9 inches of Clunch, 4 feet of Top Softs (Conny Coal), one inch dirt parting, 3 feet 10 inches of Barnsley Coal, 5 inches of Jacks, 1 foot 8 inches of Bottom Softs and finally 3 inches of fireclay.
The mine was ventilated by a Capell single inlet fan. There were two such fans but both were not used at the same time and according to the measurements taken on the 2nd November, the total quantity of air passing per minute was 370,282 cubic feet at a water gauge of 1.7 inches. According to the same record there were 28,044 cubic feet per minute entering the North East District by two intakes. The workmen used electric hand lamps and in addition one man in each stall took in a flame safety lamp to make tests for firedamp. The flame lamp for any individual stall was not necessarily always taken in by the same workman. Checks, one for each stall, were hung on a board in the lamp room and the first man of a stall to arrive took the appropriate check from the board an exchanged it for a flame lamp. This lamp and his electric lamps he carried inbye and made an examination for firedamp in the gate road and along the stall.
On average one hundred tons of stone dust were sent into the mine each month. The material that was used was the material that was got down in back ripping the roof of the roads and ground to the required fineness at the colliery. Dust samples were collected and examined by the Colliery Chemist and the attention of the Colliery manager and Agent were called to any sample in which the incombustible matter was 60 per cent or less. The chemist sent the particulars of samples to the overman on a special pink form and the overman made arrangements to be sent to the places that required attention. He also telephoned the deputy in the district to say that he was sending in stone dust and told him where it was to be used. At the end of the shift the deputy reported on the pink form the length of the road which had been redusted and the number of tubs that had been used.
Mr. Donald McGregor was the Agent and Mr. Albert Longdon and Mr. Thomas Cook were the Manager and Undermanager. On each of the three shifts there was an overman in charge and under him there were two district overmen, each of whom had four districts under his supervision. The eight ventilation districts were divided into nine deputies' districts each of which was supervised during the 24 hours by four deputies, so, as each deputy worked an eight hour shift, there was an overlap in each district amounting to eight hours in the 24. Every deputy made two examinations during his shift and recorded the results of the examinations in the statutory report book. There were also eight other deputies whose duty it was to inspect and supervise the work done in the main, travelling and return roads. They also recorded their results in the report book. In addition one overman and three deputies, known as the P.F.G. (Prevention of Gob Fires) staff, were employed solely for the purpose of dealing with heatings detected whether by themselves or others. These deputies made their reports in the statutory report book at the end of their shift and also recorded their findings in the P.G.F. book, the work that had been done by the men under their supervision. The overmen in all cases made reports using a copy of the Deputy's statutory report book for the purpose.
On average 1000, 990 and 400 men and boys were employed on the day, afternoon and night shifts respectively and their hours and those of the overmen and deputies, made a complicated system with the men going down on the day shift at 6 a.m. until 1.30 pm., those on the afternoon shift going down at 2 p.m. and coming up at about 9.45 p.m. and those on the night shift descending at 10 p.m. and coming up at 5.30 a.m.