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MARKHAM COLLIERY, Memories - 30th July, 1973

Names of those who were injured and those who died Thanks to Brian Crossland

Emails Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The opening of the new Lady Manners School  in Bakewell on February 24 was the continuance of  a long-standing  tradition.
The first school bearing the name had opened over 300 years earlier, funded by Grace, the Lady Manners of the time, who provided and annual grant of £15 on condition that the school’s principal was celibate.

The new premises opened by the Marchioness of Hanington, replaced a property on Bath Street which had been in use since the late 19th century.

The stone building had every modern facility: a gymnasium with showers and changing rooms, science Laboratories, a library, a domestic science kitchen, even a dining hall reminiscent of an Oxford College.  The aim was to provide high quality secondary school education for boys and girls in the Blackwell area: a target still aspired to some 60-odd years later.

Just a month later on March 24 Chesterfields last trolley bus carried a party of council officials on a ceremonial journey from Brampton to Old Whittington.  The bunting bedecked vehicle was cheered on its way by crowds of onlookers.

The official opening of Chesterfield Rural District Council’s new offices on Saltergate took place the same day.  A forth storey, used only for the storage of routine material, was incorporated into the design as a buffer to protect the occupants if the premises were struck by a bomb: an indication of the prevailing mood.

But fears of approaching war were laid aside on May 10 when the news broke of a colossal explosion at Markham Black Shale Colliery in Duckmanton.

Over 100 miners were trapped at the end of the night shift: 79 lost their lives and 38 were injured, some seriously, in the Derbyshire Coalfield’s worst ever disaster.

Fathers and sons died together, families from Duckmanton and Clowne each lost 3 men and a father and son lay variously injured in adjacent hospital beds.

Relief Fund

Even the death of  the Duke of Devonshire failed to overshadow news of the tragedy.

A relief fund was set up immediately to help survivors and the dead men’s families.  Donations poured in from miles around and popular entertainer George Formby sang at a fund raising concert.  The final total some months later topped £50,000, equivalent to over £1m in today’s values.

A plan for a mass burial of all the victims was quashed by families, and on May 14 joint funerals took place in Duckmanton, Clowne and Barlborough.

The  threat posed by Germany’s aggression never strayed far from people’s minds despite reassurance from central government. An Air Raid Precaution unit had already been formed in Chesterfield and towards the end of September over 70,000 gas masks were distributed and a quarter of a million sandbags were requisitioned to protect buildings.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s September promise of ‘Peace in our time’ sounded rather hollow in the face of Hitler’s reign of terror against German Jews.  A few weeks later the German army marched into Czechoslovakia.

Thanks to Mel Southerden for the above.

List of Deceased

List of Persons Injured.


The Markham Colliery disaster of 1938 directly concerned both Ilkeston and Mansfield Mines Rescue Stations.

It is believed that the Markham Colliery Explosion of 1938 was caused when some tubs ran uncontrolled down an incline and were derailed spilling coal dust into the air. At the same time they cut an electrical cable causing a spark which was the source of the ignition of the coal dust.

Brian Crossland took the following extracts from the official inquiry report, a copy of which is held at the Chesterfield Public Library.

The explosion occurred between 5.30 and 5.33 a.m. on 10th May, 1938, half-an-hour before the end of the night shift, which began at 10 p.m. on 9th May. Of the 171 men who were engaged below ground on that shift in the Blackshale Seam, many were on their way out to the pit bottom when the explosion took place, but, even so, no less than 79 lost their lives and 40 were injured; of the latter, I believe, all but one have recovered.

The Markham No. 1 Colliery is owned by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, Limited, and is situated about four miles east of Chesterfield. Mining work began at this site about 1882, but the Blackshale Seam, with which alone the Inquiry was concerned, was not reached till the years 1924 or 1925. This seam, some 690 yards below ground, was the third one to be developed, the two others being the Top Hard Seam, at a depth Of 307 yards, and the Deep Hard Seam, at 565 yards. The Blackshale Seam has been worked regularly since 1927 and is ventilated by two shafts-No. 1 downcast and No. 4 upcast.

Since 1934, coal getting has not taken place in any district near these two shafts, and at the time of the explosion it was being carried on in the more easterly sections of this part of the mine.

The evidence showed that towards the end of the shift a good deal of stone-dusting had been done at all the loader gates and gearheads. No firedamp other than that just referred to had been found, although thorough tests had been made. Tubs of material, partly from roof and sides and partly from the cleaning up of coal dust and spillage on the roads from the conveyors, gearheads and gate-end loaders, were standing in 2's junction and in various places along the East Plane, where they had been brought from the several main gates or junctions. There appears to have been some delay in getting the tubs of material away that night.

One of those in charge of the haulage was heard by a survivor (F. Toinkinson) to say that the movement out of tubs which usually is finished by 5.45 or 6 a.m.would not be completed that night till 7 a.m., and Mr. Fitz also speaks of a jam at one of the junctions in the East Plane which he noticed on his way to the pit bottom shortly before 5.30 a.m. The practice in the pit was to start moving the tubs out from the outbye end of the haulage road and then to move those more inbye, finishing with those that were furthest inbye. From the evidence of several survivors, there seem to have been, fairly late in the shift, tubs, many of which were filled or partly filled with coal dust, standing on the incline in 2's gate or on the East Plane somewhere about 2's junction. In the ordinary way they would stand lockered (that is, secured with lockers or wooden sprags inserted between the spokes of the wheels of the tubs so that the wheels cannot revolve) in 2's gate at and below the junction, and when the proper time came they would be lowered down to the main haulage road-the East Plane where they would again be lockered or else clipped on to the stationary rope when a jut or catch would, if correctly in position, prevent them from running further along the East Plane.

About 5 a.m. most of the men began to prepare to leave, and by 5.30 all save those engaged in or in connection with shotfiring or ripping or haulage work were on their way to the pit bottom. At about 5.32 or 5.33, of those who were. On their way put and who- survived, most heard a noise like a heavy bump, some saw a, cloud of dust (one described the cloud as a blue wave), whilst others merely felt a rush of air and dust, so strong in many cases as to knock them down, and, according to their positions and distance from the pit bottom they were rendered unconscious. Of those who at the time of the explosion were inbye of 4's main gate junction, only two survived (J. A. Smith and T. C. Watkinson). Both were overcome by carbon monoxide, but fortunately recovered after being attended to by the rescue parties and treated subsequently in hospital. All others, some indeed further outbye than these two, died. All those who so unhappily lost their lives died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and, although many showed signs of burns without having been subjected to any very direct flame, and others appeared to have sustained injuries due to violence, Dr. Fisher, H.M. Medical Inspector of Mines, was of opinion that these injuries occurred after, or at the very moment of, death. In the pit bottom office, the Overman, Mr. Fitz, who was there at the moment noticed no more than a slight banging of the nearby separation doors, coupled with a hissing noise as if wind were escaping through the partly open doors into the return airway.

It is by no means inconceivable that a firedamp explosion might precede and cause a coal dust explosion of such extent and force that all traces of the firedamp explosion might be obliterated by the signs and traces of the latter explosion or at least be confused with those signs and traces. Thus, assuming there had been an explosion of firedamp at some point at 11's or 2's faces, this might by its disturbing pressure waves create a dust cloud which its flame would ignite in 11's main gate, and the resulting explosion, probably much greater than its originator, would set up violence which might well travel in all directions, including the reverse of the direction of the original firedamp explosion, and make it appear that only one explosion, namely that starting in 11's main gate, had taken place.

It is generally accepted that an explosion of firedamp is the most likely cause of coal dust explosions. This, coupled with the fact that it is not by any means easy to arrive at the place of origin of the explosion from the post-explosion signs, or to say whether those signs clearly negative an earlier explosion followed by a second or later one, made imperative a careful and exhaustive investigation. If, as a result, it can be demonstrated that there was no firedamp in any place, sufficient to cause an explosion, and that there was no agent which could cause any firedamp to explode, then it becomes possible to approach the problem of where the coal dust explosion originated without troubling to consider whether some of the signs might not be consistent with an earlier firedamp explosion.

I am satisfied in the first place, that there was no escape of firedamp at any material time sufficient to have been exploded even if a suitable ignition agent had been available.

As there was no other known possible source of ignition in this area, however unlikely any one of the above possibilities may have been - and indeed was - I am driven to the conclusion that in some such way there was arcing or sparking caused momentarily at the time, or just after, the joint-box was broken by the collision with the runaway tubs, and at the time when a cloud of coal dust thrown from some of those tubs was about, and that in this way the explosion originated.

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Chesterfield Central Rescue Station - At 6.09 a.m. a call was received from Markham pit and seven of the corps left the station three minutes later. They arrived at the mine, six miles distant by road, at 6.25 a.m. having taken 13 minutes for the journey. They filled the apparatus with liquid air and a team of six men descended the pit at 6.37 a.m. leaving one man on the surface. The eighth member of the corps was left at the station to make liquid air.

Mansfield Central Rescue Station -At 6.12 a.m. a call was received from Markham Pit and a team of nine men left the station three minutes later. They reached the pit, ten miles distant by road, at 6.32 a.m. the journey occupying 17 minutes. A team of seven men descended the pit at 6.45 a.m., the team being accompanied by Mr. Brown, the Rescue Stations Manager, Two men were left on the surface for emergency purposes.

Ilkeston Central Rescue Station - At 6. 20 a.m, a call was put in from the Mansfield station instructing the team to stand by.

The Chesterfield team at 6.40 a.m. was instructed to proceed to the stables in the North Plane return. Accompanied by the Superintendents of the Chesterfield and Mansfield Stations this team met Mr. Ringham (Chief Agent) Mr. Fry (Manager) and Dr. McKay at this spot and with others ass'sted in restoring a number of affected men with Carbogen. They then proceeded further inbye to recover other men taking precautionary measures as they reached 54's slit connection leading to the main intake. The colliery officials and workmen, assisted by the rescue team members going in advance, treated approximately 35 men with Carbogen-these men having been overcome with carbon monoxide-and handed them over to stretcher bearers. The canaries were not affected until 54's slit was reached. ' At this place some helpers were later overcome by carbon monoxide and were restored by administering Carbogen.

Ilkeston Central Rescue Station - At 7.05 a.m. on the instruction of the Manager of the Rescue Stations the Ilkeston Corps was ordered to turn out, and arrived at the Pit, 27 miles distant by road, at 7.50 a.m., the time taken for the journey being 43 minutes. The team descended the pit at 8 a.m. A member of the team was left at the station to make liquid air. At 7.15 a.m. Supt. Johnson of the Mansfield team went into the intake through 54's slit where he found the three ventilation doors intact and closed. On the intake airway he met his team which had been instructed to go inbye along the East Plane. Whilst there he received a message that Mr. Ringham was affected by CO in the return airway and he went and applied Carbogen and restored him. Other men were also affected and received Carbogen treatment. It was later found that a cloth had been fixed in No. 4's slit which had caused afterdamp to pass down the return airway from beyond that point.

At 7.30 a.m. the Mansfield and Chesterfield teams left 54's slit to explore the East Plane inbye, followed by Mr, Ringham and Rescue officials. Beyond 5's junction a man was found badly burned. He was alive but in great pain and after treatment he was left in charge of two workmen for removal to the surface. Considerable signs of violence were observed - bodies of workmen were lying on the floor, and also a dead pony. Roof girders were displaced and several tubs damaged and deranged.

At 7.40 a.m. the team found some floor planks on fire at 7's engine house and the naked body of a workman was lying on top of the fire. The fire was extinguished by applying a 2-gallon foam extinguisher obtained from the transformer house nearby, and the site was later cooled by water carried in buckets from a hydrant close to 7's junction.

Thirty yards further inbye, at 6's junction, another fire was discovered at 7.50 a.m. on the floor at the left side of a wheel hole which was extinguished by a foam extinguisher and cooled with water.

After dealing with the second fire two members of the teams went down 6's gate and found the doors in the air crossing were blown out. The air in the return was foul. They returned to the plane and then proceeded with the remainder of the team to 9's junction. They reached 9's junction at 8 a.m. and found three bodies alongside some derailed tubs, two yards further inbye on the plane. A fire was found near a return rope wheel to which was applied a foam extinguisher and also cooled with water from the hydrant just outbye of 9's junction. At 8.23 a.m. a team of four men went up 9's gate to 9's face. They found a body just beyond the counter level. They explored the face in both directions for 20 yards from the gate and found no signs of violence but there was a haze in the gate which decreased on the face. A large coil of rope was found in a heap in the main gate at the air crossing.

Another team of three men explored the right hand counter level. The three doors were found to be blown out and proceeding a further 100 yards the bird was overcome and the men's eyes badly affected by smoke. They returned to the main gate and explored the counter level on the left hand side. The doors on this side were also blown out and at 70 yards beyond them the bird was affected. In neither of the levels were any bodies seen.

These operations concluded at 8.40 a.m. and the Chesterfield team was sent to the surface whilst the Mansfield team stood by to await the arrival of the Ilkeston team. This latter team had left the pit bottom at 8.20 a.m. and on instructions given to them at the pit bottom proceeded along the main return to 51's slit, passing on their way stretcher parties, three members of which were treated with Carbogen. The team proceeded inbye along the return and found one body 50 yards beyond the slit and another body 50 yards further in. They brought these bodies back to 54's slit. They then went forward to 6's junction and reported the condition of the return as far as they had travelled. Following this report Mr. Ringharn gave instructions to erect brattice sheets in 6's counter levels. Soon afterwards the return airway beyond the sheets was tested and found to be foul with afterdamp and smoke was also seen. Mr. Cook, Divisional Inspector reached this place at that time.

At 9.35 a.m. the Ilkeston team left 9's junction to explore the plane inbye. They returned ten minutes later and reported that there was a fire about 50 yards inbye of 9's junction. The fire was in the lagging behind the steel arches and extended in the roof and sides for about 20 yards, and portions of the burnt timber had fallen to the floor. They also saw that a lot of tubs were derailed and several bodies which had been severely injured lying in the roadway.

A water hose-line consisting of six 22-yard lengths was run out from the hydrant at 9's junction and a powerful jet of water was played on the fire for 40 minutes. After the fire had been extinguished and while water was still being applied to cool the ground a team of four men explored the plane for a further 20 yards. The team had to return because of thick smoke which was so dense that they were unable to say if they had reached No. 2 junction from which it was assumed that there was a fire still further inbye. They reported that they had seen several bodies. During this exploration the team extinguished three pieces of flaming hemp rope, two pieces on the right hand side of the road supported the electric cable and the third piece was hanging from a steel arch on the left side of the road. They were 10, 15 and 12 yards respectively from the site of the large fire previously extinguished and about 6 feet from the floor. The flames from the rope reached the wooden lagging behind the arches.

When this team returned to 9's junction and made their report at IO.40 a.m. to Messrs. Ringham, Cook and Brown, who at that time had been joined by Mr. Hicken (Derbyshire Miners' Association), it was agreed to erect brattice sheets in 9's gate to drive the smoke inbye along the East plane. The Ilkeston team then returned to the surface.

When the Staveley team arrived at 9's base at 10.50 a.m. the smoke had partly cleared away and they were able to proceed inbye. They found the first door frame in the road leading to the return on fire and also located a large fire at the junction of this road with the 2's right hand return airway. It was then seen that the fire was beyond 2's junction and a water hose-line could be attached to the hydrant there. In the meantime hose was being taken from No. 9's junction but was later found not to be required. The fires were extinguished by water in about 30 minutes. While dealing with the inbye fire a body was seen in the return airway and the roof and sides brought down by the water partially buried him.

At 11.15 a.m. two rescue men were sent to examine 2's gate to the face. Firedamp was found on the left side of the face but the right hand was clear. On returning down 2's gate they went up No. 11's gate accompanied by Messrs. Ringham and Cook. Firedamp was found to the full depth of the lip but the air was otherwise clear. There were signs of violence in this gate.

At 11.25 a.m. two other team members were sent up 2's right hand return from the end of East plane to explore to 2's face and then return down 2's gate. They reported that there were three bodies in 2's right hand return, also a shotfirer's battery and a partly coiled shot firing cable, and there was ripping dirt down at the face lip. The team was sent to the surface to await instructions and were relieved by the Warsop team from 9's junction at 12.10 p.m...

At 12.15 p.m. Messrs. Ringham (with flame lamp), Cook, Hicken and Brown (with bird) proceeded past the blown out doors at the end of the East plane to where the fire had been extinguished and then up 2's right hand return to check the rescue team's findings. The ripping dirt at the lip, which apparently had been shot down extended approximately 8 ft. wide by 31 to 4 ft. high, with a space below the lip of about 3 ft. On the left hand side of the ripping dirt two detonator wires were seen hanging from a shot-hole. The numbers of the two pillar electric lamps, which were alight, were taken, one, No. 550, was on the face of the dirt on the gate side and the other, No. 229, was on the side of the ripping dirt next the face. No bodies were seen on either side of the ripping dirt or along seven yards of 2's face. This ripping dirt had not been disturbed by the two team members who had previously explored this area.

About 30 yards from the face in 2's right hand return an extinguished oil safety lamp No. 41 was noted.

At 12.30 p.m. the Warsop team left the end of the East plane to explore 2's right hand return to 4's junction. This team reached 4's in good air and then returned to 6's junction on the main return. They reported to, Mr. Hunter (General Manager) they had located 15 bodies which they had numbered and marked. Mr. Hunter gave instructions at 1.10 p,m. to the team to re-enter the return at 6's and examine 7's left hand return. This team reported all was clear 100 yards up 7's.

At 1.30 p.m. the Warsop team went through 4's slit into the return. airway and into 4's old gate about 10 to 15 yards where two bodies were, found badly injured. The team then returned to the surface.

The Langwith team left 9's base at 2.05 p.m. to explore 9's right hand airway to 11's face. They came out at 2's gate and reported finding firedamp between 11's and 2's gates where a flame lamp was extinguished.

At 2.35 p.m. the Langwith team, along with Messrs. Hunter, Limb and Brown, went up 11's gate from 2's gate to examine for firedamp. A test was made and the light was extinguished near the roof close to the lip.

The Langwith team left 9's junction at 3.15 p.m. and went along 9's right hand airway to 9's face. At 20 yards beyond 11's face junction they found 5 percent firedamp and the bird showed signs of distress, probably from carbon monoxide. The team then proceeded along 9's face and returned by the 9's left hand airway to 9's gate and reported to Mr. Hunter that the atmosphere at the face was hazy but no bodies or material damage were found. The team returned to the surface and a reserve team (Glapwell) was instructed to explore 6's returns and face at 3.45 p.m.

The team went into 6's left hand return and found the road to be normal except for thick dust at the face of the gate. For 130 yards along the face things were normal, beyond this, conveyor parts were lying about and timber knocked out up to an impassable fall. They returned to 6's main gate and then went down 6's right hand return. There they found things normal except for thick dust on the floor at the junction with the face. About ten yards from the face lip four bodies were found all close together and fully dressed, unburned and not damaged. The team then travelled 130 yards along the face towards the left and found similar disorder as on the other side up to a fall on the face. They saw two coal cutting machines before they reached the fall. They returned to 6's base at about 5.30 p.m. and left for the surface.

Mr. Hunter, Mr. Limb and Supt. Taylor remained at 6's base while Supt. Johnson and C. Johnson went into 6's intake with flame lamp and bird and went right to 6's face. They went to contact with the Glapwell team at this face, if the latter got through. Neither carbon monoxide nor firedamp was found at the face, but the face ' was blocked at both sides with fallen bind. There was a large fall about 20 yards in extent. in 6's gate close to the face. They also found a very thick layer of greyish dust on the floor, at least six inches deep, about ten yards from and up to the fall. Previously Mr. Hunter and Mr. Limb had been down this roadway.

At 4 p.m. the Markham team were at 6's intake junction acting first as reserve to the Glapwell team and later until 10 p.m., as a standby team in the pit during recovery operations.

On the surface the Warsop team stood by as reserve until 10 p.m. and then were sent home.

From 10 p.m. the Ireland team went to 6's junction as standby during night recovery operations till 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and the Markham team remained at the surface base until 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

At 8.40 p.m. on Tuesday the Chesterfield team charged their apparatus on the surface and went with Mr. Hunter into the main return at the pit bottom. Along with Mr. Gray (H.M. Inspector), Mr. Hunt (Manager at Blidworth), and the surveyors they proceeded along the main return. They went down 300 yards into 4's old gate where " drawing off " work was being done, to explore for bodies or fire, but did not find any. They then went along the return to 6's and on to the end of the East plane as they had been instructed at 6's junction to search for Brough (Shotfirer) in the return. At 11 p.m. they found him 20 yards round the corner in 2's right hand return. His position was marked with chalk and there was also a mark put on the roadside. This man had apparently been marked by the Warsop team which explored this return earlier. The team left the pit by the East plane.

On Wednesday at 6.30 a.m. the Warsop team went to 6's base with uncharged apparatus and bird; liquid air supplies were available at 6's base. After standing by they came out at 5.30 p.m. and went home. They did not use the apparatus.

At 4 p.m. on Wednesday the Markham team went to 6's base to collect all the rescue gear and came out of the pit at 10 p.m. This concluded rescue operations.