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Trimdon Grange, Durham. 16th February 1882 - Page 1

Information From Ian Winstanley

David - How Many Died at Trimdon Grange Disaster

31 May 2009
How Many Died at Trimdon Grange Disaster
Reading your web page, it state's that 74 men and boys were killed, but reading the Durham Mining Museum web page it says that 69 people were killed.

Details were not always correct at the time of the disaster but I have a list of 74 men and boys taken from the memorial at Tudhoe Cemetery.

The colliery was owned by Mr. Walter Scott of Newcastle who purchased it in August 1880 from the late Mr. Matthew Forster together with the adjoining colliery of East Hetton also know as the Kelloe colliery.

Trimdon Grange was a series of three pits and was connected to the Kelloe pit two miles away which was also owned by Mr. Walter Scott.

The shafts at the pit were sunk on the southern edge of the Durham coalfield and were within a few yards of Trimdon station on the Hartlepool and Ferryhill Railway and were sunk about ten years before. The seams worked were the Harvey, in which the explosion occurred and the Low Main. The Harvey seam which was the deeper of the two at 180 fathoms as compared to 130 fathoms of the Low Main seam. About five hundred men were employed in the three pits and they worked a three shift day with an average of one hundred men and boys in the pit at any one time. Eighty men and boys were supposed to have been in the Harvey seam at the time of the explosion and about thirty in the Low Main.

The colliery worked the Low Main seam at ninety seven fathoms and the Harvey seam, at one hundred and forty three fathoms. The pit was divided into three districts, the Pit Narrow Board district to the north, the Headway district to the south and the Cross-cut district between the Pit Narrow Board and the Headway districts. An entrance from the Kelloe pit by of the Kelloe headways was closed by a door at the Trimdon engine. The longwall face to the north of the goaf in the Pit Narrow Board district was approached on the flat by three ways, 1st, 2nd and 3rd. south and the pit was worked by cutting the pillars back along the wall though the whole level. The shots were fired by ‘kitties’, straws filled with powder, and an unexploded cartridge was found the day after the explosion near Martland’s place and the brattice showed signs of burning.

The pit was ventilated by a furnace twenty one feet by six feet close to the upcast shaft and could be worked as either an intake or a return air furnace. On the day of the explosion it was working as a return air furnace. The pit was lit by the hewers using Davy lamps and the drivers ‘midges’ which were not safety lamps which were not thought to be dangerous.

The greatest vertical depth was nine hundred and seventy five feet. The mine was dusty but it did not make a lot of gas. The only report of gas by a shift overman that was reported in his book was recorded by the overman who was killed in the explosion. The only safety lamp that was used in the mine was the Davy type with a sliding shield and naked lights, called ‘midgies’, were used by the driver boys. They were allowed to take them as far as caution boards, which were placed at safe distances from the workings. It emerged at the inquiry that there was no evidence to show that the explosion was caused by naked lights.

The Special Rules used in the mine were drawn up by the Committee of the North of England United Coal Trade Association. The discipline in the colliery was good and there was no smoking, concealment of matches or disobedience of orders of the deputies. There was nothing to indicate that the cause could be put down to the misconduct of the miners.

The question of the number of deputies employed at the mine was a point that was raised at the inquiry. Three days before the explosion the number of deputies had been reduced from four to three which meant that the others had to do more work looking for gas in the Pit Narrow Board. The number of hewers had gone down and this was the reason for employing less officials. The cause of the explosion was in no way attributed to neglect of duty by the overmen or the deputies.

The readings of the barometer taken at the pithead were lower on the morning of the explosion that they had been at any time during the proceeding month and it was evident that the explosion occurred on a day when the atmospheric conditions were dangerous.

The condition of the roof was also noted at the inquiry. On the 16th. a hewer named Connor, was withdrawn because of a 'bad place' in the roof and the goaf behind the face was also considered dangerous since it might form the conditions, coupled with the state of the roof, that would liberate and trap gas.

The explosion took place at 2.40 p.m. during the back shift. At that time there were sixty four hewers, five deputies and twenty five boys in the Harvey seam, a total of ninety four persons. Every man and boy in the Narrow Board and the Headways district was killed. The men at the Cross-cut district felt a sudden shock and compressing of the air and they made their way to the shaft through the advancing afterdamp and were rescued. It was immediately clear that the explosion had taken place in the Pit Narrow Board district, opposite the southern extremity of the second south way. There was no time lost and exploration started at once.

The rescue work was hampered by the fact that the cages were stuck ten fathoms from the bottom of the shaft where the force of the explosion seemed to have spent itself. The rope was broken and the bucket of the cage had been upset and sent to the bottom of the shaft. Communication by means of the Low Main was also found to be impossible and the exploring party went by way of the Kelloe shaft.

A committee of colliery engineers who had arrived at the colliery to give assistance, sat continually with Messrs. Bell and Willis the Government Inspectors and Mr. Wood the resident viewer of Trimdon Grange colliery. On Sunday the exploring parties penetrated through the drifts from the Harvey to the shaft at the Kelloe. They found parts of the mine free from gas and the ventilation was almost restored.

Many of the bodies were burnt and the marks of violence were most numerous in the Pit Narrow Board district. There were many victims of the afterdamp scattered throughout the mine. In the Pit Narrow Board district eleven bodies were found burned to death and only one body, that of Maitland, in the rest of the pit had the same appearance. Most of the men were found in their working places but Hyde, Smith and Hunter, who worked at the first and second pillar to the east of the second south but their lamps were found in their working places indicating that they must have seen some warning of the impending disaster.