Information and photographs submitted by subscribers are posted in good faith. If any copyright of anyone else's material is unintentionally breached, please email me

West Stanley, Chester-le-Street, Durham. 19th April, 1882 - 13 Died

Thanks to Martin Rushton For Bringing This To My Attention - And To Ian Winstanley For The Information

Martin Rushton - West Stanley Colliery Disaster 1882

Martin Rushton
28 Nov 2015
West Stanley Colliery Disaster 1882


I've been doing a bit of reading up on the West Stanley colliery and noticed that the 19th April 1882 explosion was missing from you list of disasters.  According to the DMM ( 13 lives were lost, though I haven't yet been able to confirm that from the inquiry report.

West Stanley, Chester-le-Street, Durham - 19th April, 1882 - Page 1

Anniversary Of Pit Disaster

Photo From Northern Echo - Stanley Marks The Anniversary Of Pit Disaster

The day after the Trudoe explosion there was an explosion at the West Stanley colliery near Chester-le- Street, County Durham. The colliery was owned by Mr. John Henry Burn of Newcastle. There were four Seams worked at the colliery. The Shield Row at 39 fathoms, the Low Main at 93 fathoms, the Hutton at 97 fathoms and the Busty at 140 fathoms. There were two Seams at the colliery which were not worked since they were worked out. These were the Five-Quarter and the Brass Thill Seam.

There were four shafts at the colliery two of which were used to work the Busty Seam. They were the 'Busty' shaft which was the downcast and the 'Lamp' shaft which was the upcast. In addition to these there was a third shaft sink to the Hutton Seam and a fourth to the Shield Row Seam. The Busty shaft was 12 feet in diameter and 140 fathoms deep and was used to draw coal from the Bust and Hutton Seams. the lamp shaft was 12 feet in diameter and 140 fathoms deep and was used to draw coal from the Low Main and the Shield Row Seams. The coal from the colliery was mainly used to make coke and gas.

The workings of the Busty Seam covered a limited area and the boundary had been reached on the north, north east and north west. They were divided into three districts, the 'North Headways', the 'South Headways' and the 'West Narrow Boards' with the branch districts called the 'South and North Cross Cuts'. The workings covered about 70 acres and this included the goaves. At the time of the disaster a drift was being driven from the West Narrow Board into the Tilley Seam to open that Seam from the Busty Seam. This operation was to avoid making another opening into the shaft and there were many faults which generally ran north. These varied from a few inches to 23 feet in height.

The ventilation for the mine was produced by a Guibal Fan in the Lamp shaft. The fan was 32 feet by 10 feet and ran at 42 revolutions per minute sending 27,000 cubic feet of air per minute into the Busty Seam. The air then divided to the North Headways, the South Headways, the West Narrow Boards and the stables. There was also some allowance made for leakage.

The officials at the colliery were, George Greenwell, consulting viewer, William Johnson, manager and resident viewer, William Anderson, overman and wasteman, Thomas J. Coulson, back overman and Robert Hunter, master shifter. The last two lost their lives in the explosion. William Johnson and been the manager for five years and had practical control of the mine. Mr. Greenwell visited the colliery once a month. There were 200 men and boys employed at the colliery but there were only 18 below ground when the explosion took place and of these 5 were rescued and brought out alive but the remaining 13 where killed. All the ponies and horses in the mine were killed with the exception of one. There were two deputies and an average of twenty five hewers on each shift.

Clanny lamps were used in the mine. This decision was made by the findings of the inquiry into a Welsh explosion some years earlier when Mr. Burns, the owner of the colliery had wanted to introduce Meusler lamps for the Clanny's but the men did not want them because of the poor light that they gave. The Meusler had been improved and gave a higher standard of safety as the flame in a strong current of air and it went out in the presence of an explosive mixture. On the other hand it went out if it was placed in a slanting position and it did not give a very good light.

The last report on the state of the mine on behalf of the men was on 23rd. November
1881 and the report in the overman's book read as follows:-

“We, the undersigned, have examined the intakes, main area, return and working places and find them in good working order.

We, the undersigned, have examined the Busty Pit and found it all right.
Alexander Johnson.
George  Anderson.”

The examination by the overmen and deputies on the day before the explosion showed nothing unusual in the mine. The ventilation was good and there was no gas discovered. The last report of gas was on the 18th. March but the report books were not complete. It was well known that in the east going bords in the West District there was generally a considerable amount of heaving and that a hissing sound was frequently heard from the fissures in the coal.

The effects of the explosion were confined to a small area in the Busty Seam. The North District was hardly damaged at all and the four men who were working there as shifters were uninjured and only met with the after effects of the explosion when they were making their way to the shaft. this they did some time after they heard the report which one of them at first thought was caused by the firing of a shot. The South District was also not damaged and it was obvious to those who inspected the pit after the disaster that the explosion had occurred in the western workings.

Five men were found dead at the bottom of the shaft and it was thought that they were standing ready to ascend at the time they were struck down. The timbers of the main intake were blown about and the stopping and the air crossings were destroyed in the West Narrow Boards. The bodies of McCabe and Middlemass were found in the North Cross-district and form the evidence of the direction of the burning and the direction in which materials were blown, it was thought that this was where the explosion originated.

13 Died in the Disaster

Clark, John
Clark, James S
Coulson, Thomas J - Back Overman
Curry, Thomas Hepple, aged 30 - Deputy
Douglas, John
Hunter, Robert - Master Shifter
Hutchinson, Robert
Johnson, Thomas
McCabe, James
Middlemass, W
Riley, W. J
Turner, Henry
Westgarth, John