Those Who Died

Trimdon Grange, Durham. 16th February 1882

Information From Ian Winstanley


The Reverend Oates Sagar, Minister of Deaf Hill and curate in charge of the Parish of Trimdon gave an account of the disaster in a sermon:-

“On a sunny day, in a remarkably summer-like February, when the birds (early returned) were singing cheerily in the sky, that happened, which, to many among us, turned the light of the sun into darkness, and caused sounds of lamentation and bitter weeping arising to heaven. At half past two o’clock on the afternoon of the 16 th of that month, an ominous sound was heard at Trimdon Grange, and even for some distance around, which has been described as like the sound of a boiler explosion. Anxious eyes were turned toward the mouth of the pit, and smoke and ashes were seen rising from the Harvey shaft and then dismay and apprehension filled the minds of all.

Too soon it was known that an explosion of gas had taken place, and it was felt that many lives must have been sacrificed. The sad intelligence spread rapidly through the neighbourhood, and multitudes spread to the spot. Help came speedily from all directions. Mining engineers and their officials miners in great numbers, with their agents came to tender their services and the surgeons of the locality were there, ready to discharge their necessary duties.

Men were found willing to descend through the choking stithe into the mine, and the greatest exertions were, made to discover the extent of the disaster, but it was some time ere this could be done. Meanwhile, it was found that the area of the explosion was not confined to the Trimdon Grange Pit, but that the deadly gas had forced its way through a connecting passage to the Kelloe Pit, which is worked by the same owner and the miners there were compelled to flee for their lives. 6 men, however, perished there some of them gallantly led by the manager, H.C. Schier, M.E., died in an attempt to keep open the communication between the mines. It was some time before it was known how many lives had been lost at Trimdon Grange. The living were brought to the surface in a few hours, the less exhausted of their number bravely waiting at the shaft till the others had been brought to bank. 9 of them had been saved through the presence of mind of a veteran miner, the back overman, J. Soulsby, snr. who had kept them out of danger. The last of the saved was brought up shortly after nine o’clock and it was felt that those who were still in the pit could not possibly have survived what was found to have been a most destructive explosion. Out of the 93 men and boys who had gone down into the Harvey Seam that morning, only 26 were saved.

No exertions were spared by day or by night and no expense was begrudged, in opening out the pit. Many volunteers ran great risk in performing this task and in recovering the dead. Early on Monday morning the last body was carried home. It is supposed that all must have died in a very few minutes (say some five) and thus their sufferings could not have been prolonged. One man, J. Errington, was found with a boy on each arm and another laid over him. He had evidently been trying to save them and lost his life in the attempt. One of the 26 saved, the fireman, P. Brown, was so dreadfully burnt that he died on the following Tuesday, after great sufferings. He was ministered to by members of the Primitive Methodist body. The engineman, H. Ramshaw, and his assistant, a boy, W. Taylor, were among the saved, but the former had been blown by the force of the explosion some distance from his engine. On recovering his senses he exclaimed. “Whatever shall we do?”

The boy’s reply was. “I think thou had best pray.”

Such was the first thought that arose in the mind of this boy, and such, we may well believe, must have been the first thought of those who perished, if they had time to think at all. Many of them were only boys, out of the 68 who perished at Trimdon

Grange, 31 were under 21 years of age, many of them, it is consoling to know, were

Sunday scholars whilst of the older ones, some were Sunday School teachers and members of Churches. I myself personally knew many of them for years, as well as their friends, and they were very dear to me. I have had some of them in my own

Sunday School some I have prepared for confirmation, and other clergy others while not a few of them have worshipped with us in various ordinances of the Church, both here and at Old Trimdon, and now, within the short space of a week, they have disappeared from, our view, and their places shall know them no more. “My heart is distressed for you, my brothers!”


The Inquest

The inquestwas opened by Mr. Crofton Maynard Coroner on Saturday on the thirty bodies at the Trimdon and six at Kelloe which had been recovered and identified.

Formal evidence was taken at the Trimdon and an adjournment to March 29th. Mr. Thomas Bell, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Mines and Mr. Willis and Mr. N. Atkinson,

Assistant Inspectors were present as were members of the Miners’ National Union.

At the Kelloe inquest the evidence was given in regard to the explorers who had died and a verdict returned that Scheir and Blenkinsop were suffocated in the attempt of the rescue whilst engaged in their work.

The seat of the explosion was in the Pit Narrow Board opposite the second south and a fall in the goaf, caused by a squeeze had liberated the gas. It would be possible for the increased velocity of the air caused by the fall to go through the lamp gauze. The

Inspector had seen this happen at falls and on some occasions it had blown out his lamp. Two theories were put forward as to the case of the explosion. Nicholas Wilkinson thought it had been cause by a ‘flushed kittie’ (a blown out shot), which blew down the stopping and blew the gas into the men's lamps. The Inspectors, Mr. Bell and Mr. Willis did not agree with this theory and they thought that the explosion occurred throughout the whole of the pit. If this theory was true then the Davy lamp afforded no security in circumstances of this kind and the Inspector thought that in dusty mines with longwall workings, they should be prohibited.

After all the evidence had been heard the jury came to the following verdict-

“We are all agreed that John Ramsey and William Jefferson and sixty six others, men and boys, lost their lives by an explosion of gas in the Pit Narrow Board Longwall in the Harvey Seam of the Trimdon Grange colliery on the 16th February last but from what cause the explosion took place we have no sufficient evidence to show.

We recommend that in future that no shots be fired in the day time or during the time when the men are in the pit within forty yards of a standing or fallen goaf and we would recommend that more deputies are employed at the pit.

We also recommend that a general report book be kept and that each officer’s report book be copied in the book daily.”

The Inspector said that the recommendations of the jury were not worthy of attention.



Pit Terminology