At the time of the accident the Markham Colliery was one of 14 producing mines in the North Derbyshire Area of the National Coal Board. It was near the village of Duckmanton about 5 miles to the north east of Chesterfield. it produced about 30,000 tons per week of saleable coal and employed 1,870 men below ground and 425 on the surface.
There were four shafts at the colliery arranged in pairs with No.1, a downcast and No.4 an upcast near the general offices and No. 2 downcast and No. 3 upcast about 300 yards to the south. Coal winding wasconfined to Nos. 1 and 2 while Nos 3 and 4 were used for winding men and materials.
At the top of the No.3 shaft there was an Aerex radial flow fan which extracted 238,000 cubic feet if air per minute at 9,8 inches water gauge.
The principle officials who held statutory appointments at the colliery including the winding equipment at the No. 3 shaft were Mr. R.B. Dunn, Area Director, Mr. J. H. Northard, Deputy Director (Mining), Mr. T.W. Peters, Area Chief Mining Engineer, Mr. G. Godfrey, Area Chief Engineer, Mr. J. Rodgers, Colliery General Manager, Mr. W. Fox, Colliery Mechanical engineer and Mr. C.C. Levers, Colliery Electrical engineer.
There were two deputy Managers and each held statutory responsibility as Undermanager for a part of the colliery. Mr. D. Hotchkiss was the Senior Deputy Manager who was responsible for the surface and No. 3 shaft. The other officials who had responsibility including the winding equipment at the No. 3 shaft were Mr. A.G. Hartley, Area Mechanical Engineer, Mr. M. Blythe, Area Electrical Engineer and Mr. J.A. Plant, Colliery Chief Engineer.
The No.3 shaft was sunk to the Deep Soft seam in 1886 at a depth of 1,626 feet. Later 189 feet of the pit bottom was filled in which made the shaft 1,407 feet deep which was the Ell Coal seam level. The shaft was 15 feet in diameter and was brick lined throughout.
There were two double-deck cages each of which was capable of carrying 16 people per deck and the cage was attached to a one and one eighth inches diameter locked coil winding rope which was guided down the shaft by four one and half inch diameter half locked coil ropes on the side nearest the shaft wall.
There were two rubbing ropes between the cages and these together with the guide ropes were suspended from white metal swivel glands in the headframe and tensioned by weights in the shaft sump. In the pit bottom the cages landed on wooden baulks set into the shaft walls. On the north side a platform gave access to the top deck so that simultaneous loading or unloading of men could take place.
At the top of the shaft a circular brick tower formed an air lock and supported the steel frame from the detaching bells and the headgear which had back stays to ground level. Steel tie rods from the frame to the brick tower gave additional stability. Access to an overwound cage suspended from the detaching bell was provided but there was no headframe catches to support a cage in that position. Either cage could ascend 15 feet 9 inches above the normal decking before it was detached from the winding rope.