Mining has always been a dangerous occupation, with 85,000 deaths between 1873 and 1953 and as many as 1,800 in a single year. Thus much was done to learn from accidents and to develop safer processes and methods of working. The Mining Institute

From this page, you can find out more about accidents, and disasters, in mines, arranged by country and then by the county; the counties used are pre-1974. For instance Walker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear is listed as being in Northumberland as it is situated on the northern bank of the River Tyne.

Some of the collieries may be listed in the wrong county, and this will be corrected as time allows.

England

Cornwall
Cumberland
Cheshire
Derbyshire
Durham
Gloucestershire
Lancashire
Leicestershire
Kent

England

Northumberland
Nottinghamshire
Somerset
Shropshire
Staffordshire
Warwickshire
Worcestershire
Yorkshire

Scotland

Ayrshire
Clackmannanshire
Dumbartonshire
Fife
Glasgow
Lanarkshire
Midlothian
Stirlingshire

Wales

Carmarthenshire
Denbighshire
Flintshire
Glamorganshire
Monmouthshire
Pembrokeshire

 

Others

Isle of Man

Ireland

The above are mainly collieries, although some metalliferrous mines and quarries are included.
For ease of use these are copied onto the pages below:

Metalliferrous Mines
Quarries

 

Coal had been mined in Great Britain for centuries and the mines had claimed many lives. Many instances were unrecorded but one of the first records in which the danger of explosive gas was recognised was recorded in “The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London” Vols.11-12 (1676-8), in an article entitled:

A relation of some strange phenomena, accompanied with mischievous effect in a Cole-work in Flint-shire; sent March 31, 1677 to the Rev, and eminently learned Dr. Bathurst, Dean of Bath and Wells by an Ingenious gentlemen, Mr. Roger Mostyn on the Inner Temple, who at the said Doctor’s request, obtained it from his fathers steward and, overseer of his cole-works, who was upon the place when the thing was done; the same Mr. Mostyn being also assured of it from his father, Sir Roger Mostyn, Lord of the Mannor and several others who were eyewitnesses.

The cole-work at Mostyn in Flintshire lies in a large parcel of wood land, that from the countries side which lies to the south hath a great fall to the sea side, which is directly north, The dipping or fall of the several rocks and quarries of stone that are above the cole, and consequently of the cole lying under them doth partly cross a fall of the ground, so that the dipping of it falls within a point or less of due east, which is the cause, that the pits that are sunk at the sea side in the same level with the full sea mark are not short of depth of the others that are upon higher ground above fifteen or sixteen yards; so that they lie some sixty some fifty and the ebbest fifty yards under the level of the sea This above-mentioned work is upon, a Cole of five yards in thickness, and hath been begun upon, about six or eight  and thirty years ago. When it was first found, it was exteam full of water, so that it could not be bought down to the bottom of the cole, but a Witchet or Cave was driven out into the middle of it upon  a level for gaining of room to work, and drawing down the spring of water that lies in the Cole to the eye of the pit; in driving of which witchet, after they had gone a considerable way underground, and were scanted of wind, the fire-damp did by little and little begin to breed, and to appear in crevisses and slits of the cole, where water had lain before the opening of the cole with a blewish flame working and moving continually, but not out of its first sea, unless the workmen came and held their candle to it, with a sudden fizz, away to other crevices, where it would soon after appear blazing and moving as formerly. This was the first knowledge of it in this work which the workmen made but a sport of, and so partly neglected it till it had gotten some strength, and then upon a morning the first collier that went down going forwards in the Witchet with his candle in hand, the damp presently darted out violently at his candle, that it struck the men clear down singing all his hair and clothes and disabled him for working a while after; some other small warnings it gave them, insomuch that they resolved to employ a man of purpose, that was more resolute than the rest, to go down a while before them every morning to chase it from place to place, and so to weaken it. His usual manner was to put on the worst rags the had, and to wet them well in water, as soon as he came within the danger of it, then he fell grovelling down on his belly and so wen forward, holding in one hand a long wand or pole, at the end thereof he tied candles burning, and reached them by degrees towards it, them the damp would flie at them, and if it missed of putting them out, it would quench itself with a blast and leave and ill-scented smoke behind it. Thus they dealt with it until they had wrought the Cole down to the bottom, and he water following and not remaining as before in the body of it among sulphureous and brassie mettal that is in the veins of the cole, the fire-damp was not seen or heard of till the latter end of the year 1675, which happened as followeth.

After long working this five yards cole, and trial made of it in several places, it was found upon the rising grounds (where the signs of the cole, and the cole itself came near the day) that there lay another roach of cole at a certain depth under it, which being sunk too, and tried upon some outskirts of the main work, it was found at fourteen yards depth, and wrought, proving to be three yards and a half thick; and a profitable cole, but something more sulphureous than the other, and to reach under all the former work. This discovery of so promising a work encouraged us to sink some of the ebbest pit, that we had formerly used on  the five yards cole, down to the lowest roach, and accordingly we began in one that was about thirty two yards deep, which we went down with perpendicularly from the first shaft, and sunk down twenty yards before we came to the said roach, in regard it was at the sea-side, and upon the lowest of the dipp (where the rocks successively thicken as they fall) having prick’d it, being sure of it, we let it rest, having had a considerable time, as we sunk the lower part of it, many appearances of the fire-damp in watery crevisses of the rocks we sunk through, flashing and darting from side to side of the pit and showing rainbow colour like on the surface of the water in the bottom, but upon drawing up the water in buckets, which stirr’d the air in the air, it would leave, till colliers at work with their breath and sweat and the smoke of their candles thickened the air in the pit, then it would appear again, they lighted their candles in it sometimes when they went out; and so in this pit it did no further harm.

Having brought our first pit thus forward, we were to consider of another top follow it, both for free passage of air as for furtherance of the work, and being desirous to get it in some forwardness. Before summer, (when the heat of the weather at some time and the closeness of  the air in foggy weather at other occasions the smothering-damp) it was resolved, for expeditions sake and saving of some charges, to sink a pit within the hollows or deads of the upper work, at 16 or 17 yards distance from the first pit; this we proceeded in till we came 6 or 7 yards deep, then the fore-damp began to appear as formerly, accompanying the workmen still as they sank, and they, using the same means as afore, sometimes blowing it out with a blast if their mouth, at other times with their candles, or letting it blaze without interruption.. as we sink down and the damp got still more and more strength, we found that our want of air perpendicularly from the day was the great cause and nourisher of this damp; for the air that follows down into this pit, came down at the first sunk pit at the aforementioned distance, after it had been dispersed over all the old hollows and deads of the former work, that were filled with noysom vapours, thick smothering fogs, and in some places with a smothering-damp itself. Nevertheless we held on sinking, till we came down 15 yards, plying the work night and day (except Sundays and holy days) upon which intermission the pit being left alone for 48 hours and more, and the damp gaining a great strength in the interim, by the time the workmen went down, they could see it slashing and shooting from side to side like sword blades cross one another, that none durst adventure to go down into the pit. Upon this they took a pole bound with candles several times to the end of it, which they no sooner set over the eye of the pit, but the damp wild flie up with long sharp flame and put the candles, leaving a foul smoke each time behind it. find it that things would not allay it, they adventured to bond some candles to a hook hanging at the ropes end that was used up and down in the pit; when they had lower’d down these a little way into the shaft of the pit, up comes the damp in a full body, blows out the candles, disperth itself about the eye of the pit, and burneth a great part of the mens hair, beards and clothes, and strike down one of them, in the mean time making a noise like the lowing or roaring of a bull, but louder, and in the end leaving a smoke and smell behind it worse than that of carrion. Upon this discouragement these men came up, and made not further trial; after this the water that came form it being drawn up at the other pit was found to be blood warm, of not warmer, and the crevisses of the rocks where the damp kept, were all about fire red Candlemas day following. In this juncture there was cessation of the work for three days, and then the steward, thinking to fetch a compass about the eye of the pit that came form the day, and to bring wind by a secure way along with him, that if it burst again it might be done without danger to mens lives, went down and took two men with him which serv’d his turn for this purpose; he was no sooner down, but the rest of the workmen that had wrought there, disdaining to be left behind in such a time of danger, hastened down after them, and one of them more undiscreet than he rest went headlong with his candle over the eye of the damp pit, at which the damp immediately catched and flew to and fro all over the hollows of the work, with a great wind and continual fire, and as it went keeping a mighty great roaring noise on all sides. The men any first appearence of it had most of them fallen on their faces and hid themselves as well as they could in the loose slack or small cole, and under the shelter of posts, and lay afterwards a good while senseless, so that it was long before they could hear or find one another; yet nevertheless the damp returning out of the hollows and drawing towards the eye of the pit, it came up with incredible force, the wind and fire tore most of their cloths off their backs, and singed what was left, burning their hair faces and hands, the blast falling so sharp on their skin, as if they had been whipt with rods; some that had least shelter, were carried 15 of 16 yards from their first station and beaten against the roof of the cole, and sides of the posts, and lay a good while senseless, so that it was long before they could hear or find one another. As it dew up to the day pit, it caught one of the men along with it that was next to the eye, and up it comes with such a terrible crack, not unlike, but more shrill than a canon, that it was heard fifteen miles off along with the wind, and suck a pillar of smoke was darkened all the sky over head for a good while. The brow of the hill above the pit was 18 yards high and on it grew trees 14 or 15 yards along, yet the mans body and other things from the pit were seen above the tops of the highest trees at least one hundred yards. On this pit stood a horse engine of substantial timber and strong iron on which lay a trunk or barrel for winding the rope up and down of above a thousand pound weight, it was then in motion, one bucket going down and the other coming up full of water. this trunk was fastened to the frame with locks and bolts of iron, yet it was thrown up and carried a good way fro the pit, and pieces of it, though bond with iron hoops and strong nails, blown into the woods about; so likewise were there two buckets, and the ends of the rope after the buckets were blown from them stood a while upright in the air like pikes, and then came leisurely drilling down. The whole frame of the engine was stirr’d and moved out of place, and those mens clothes, caps, hats that escape were afterwards found shattered to pieces, and thrown amongst the woods a great way form the pit. This happened on the third of February, 1675, being a season when other damps were scarce felt or heard of.

Over the next three hundred years thousands of lives were to be lost in the mines of Great Britain from explosions of firedamp, inundations, fires, breaking of machinery, shaft accidents and fall of ground.

Return to previous page