EAST WHEAL ROSE. Newlyn, Cornwall. 9th. July, 1846.

The East Wheal Rose mine was situated in a valley surrounded by several hills of killas. The mine workings ran from north to south in what was termed “flucan” and in some places passed through a blue clay slate. Towards the northern part of the sett, the valley narrowed into a ravine through which a stream ran past the workings and continued as the River Gannel and from there to the sea at Crantock, a distance of five or six miles and a fall of about 50 feet. The East Wheal Rose was immediately adjoining the sett of the North Wheal Rose.

Between twelve and one o’clock on the day of the accident, dark storm clouds massed around the hills and a terrible thunderstorm started. The thunder was a fully loud and about 9 a.m. the rain poured down in torrents. Eye-witnesses stated that they had never seen anything like it before in England but had known rain like it in South America. In consequence, the level of the rivers and streams rose rapidly in a very short space of time and poured down the East Wheal Rose with very great force which rushed from the south to the north of the direction of the narrow ravine and directly over the area of the sett.

Captain Middleton, the manager of the East Wheal Rose said:

About the time of. While I was there it began to rain and in less than five minutes the water was descending over the hills in torrents the storm, I was in the saw-house giving directions to have some timber cut for the mine. In a few minutes, I sent a man for fifty surface men to watch the leats to get them prepared and see that all was all right. I then sent a man to the counting-house for my underground clothes. By the time I came out the water was going down through the mine in a perfect sea, being one immense sheet of water. I had had three hundred men endeavouring to save the timbers, barrows and other materials, as well as engaged in raising the shafts to keep the water from descending. By that time the machines were employed in the men to the surface from Stephen’s, Carbis’s, Gower’s, Davey’s and Oxnam’s shafts. The water carried timber and large pieces of material out of the sett as far as Merta bridge. On the west of the mine, a strong stone bridge had been built by the adventurers about two years before, one half of which was carried away by the rushing flow of water.

The water came down upon the sett in such broad and deep waves that all efforts to keep it from the shafts was of no avail. As the water rushed towards the ravine, it deepened and it first entered the mine at Oxnam’s shaft and then down other shafts. The water rushed through the workings with such force that it blew out the men’s candles and the survivors were brought quickly to the surface on kibbles. It was thought that there were about 200 men and boys in the mine and the greater number escaped to the surface through some were injured by stones falling on them. They were attended to by Mr. Vigors of Newlyn, the surgeon of the mine. About this time it was learned that there were about forty men who had not been accounted for and by Friday morning it was realised that thirty-eight men and boys had lost their lives.

Those who lost their lives were:

  • Simon Merrifield, unmarried of St. Endor.
  • John Bennetts, married of Perranzabloe.
  • Richard Tippet, an old man of Newlyn.
  • Silas Ellery, unmarried of Newlyn.
  • Samuel May, aged 17 years, a boy from of Perranzabloe.
  • James Clift, unmarried of Newlyn.
  • Samuel Werry, married of Newlyn, Richard Michell of Idless.
  • George Trebilcock, aged 23 years, unmarried of Perrenporth.
  • William Cevern, a young man of Newlyn.
  • William Williams, unmarried of Uny Lelant.
  • Francis Waters, a married man residing at Newlyn.
  • Thomas Bishop, aged 29 years, unmarried of St. Allen.
  • Henry Rowe, married of Newlyn.
  • William Lampshire, aged 18 years, unmarried of St. Allen.
  • Josiah Lanyon, married of St. Allen.
  • Francis Lampshire, aged 30 years, married of St. Allen.
  • Isaac Bartle, aged 35 years, married of St. Agnes. Found in the 50 fathom Level.
  • Matthew Wilkins, aged 15 years, unmarried of St. Agnes.
  • John Stephens, married man with nine children of St. Allen.
  • John Bailey of Chancewater.
  • Luke Phillips, unmarried, of Perranzabloe.
  • Francis Stephens, unmarried of Perrenporth.
  • James Coade, unmarried, of Perranzabloe.
  • Peter White, unmarried of Breage.
  • William Hosking, a young man of St. Allen.
  • James Clarke, aged 24 years, married, of Mitchell.
  • John Cotton Rowe, married of St. Allen.
  • William Eastlake, married of Newlyn.
  • William Jeffrey, aged 39 years, married of St. Allen.
  • William Pearce, aged 16 years and Francis, his son of Newlyn.
  • Reuben Lanyon, unmarried, St. Allen.
  • Henry Pengelly, a young man, Redruth highway.
  • John Tonkin, aged 37 years, married said to be from Blackwater, his family living in Newlyn.
  • Martin Brice and Thomas Brice, brothers of Kenwyn.

The inquest was opened by Mr. J. Carlyon at the East Wheal Rose account house. Captain Middleton gave his account of the events at the surface and said that every effort had been made to save the men by working the whims and at the Gower’s shaft the men were raised to safety in the kibble and arrived at the surface clinging to the chains. When they gained the surface it was found that one man had lost his hold and fallen to his death.

Samuel Barton, a miner, told the court:

The two deceased, Samuel Wherry and James Coade worked with me in the East Wheal Rose. I was at work in the south part of the mine at Turner’s shaft about two o’clock on Thursday. We had candles, and in that part where I was working, they were all blown out by a sudden rush of air which alarmed us and we proceeded to grass as soon as we could.

As soon as I got to the surface I found that water was rushing into different parts of the mine but more particularly into Magnor’s shaft. The miners were then escaping by the footways as best they could. I afterwards went down to Michell’s sump shaft and tried to turn the water away from going into the manhole. I succeeded in diverting it from the manhole and eighteen men came up afterwards. I went down within six feet of the 40 Fathom Level and had account that there were men down there but no more came up. I came up again and put on a dry suit of clothes and went over to put a dam to keep the water back.

We went to work at six o’clock on Friday morning to search for the bodies. At Gower’s shaft in the 50 Fathom Level we found the bodies of Wherry and Coade. The water had been back to the level where the men had drowned.

Ralph Richards was on the surface when the rain began and he told the court:

We expected to have rain before as it looked very dark towards the north and east. I was on the surface near Penrose’s shaft when it started to rain very heavily and we tried to prevent the water going into the shaft. Captain Middleton was there and all the efforts of the men were unavailing and water was pouring all over the ground.

The Coroner asked him what means were taken to get the men up and Richards answered:

The machine whims were put to work and every assistance that could be rendered was rendered in rescuing those underground and I think about 200 men escaped by climbing out and by the machines which left forty-three men not accounted for of whom three came up on Friday morning. The last man, Sharples, was taken out about seven o’clock.

The Coroner addressed the jury saying:

That there is no doubt that the men were drowned by this stroke of the Almighty. If you are satisfied of that, and that every means were used to prevent the water from getting into the mine, and to extract those below, the verdict that you come to will be that of accidental death.

The verdict was immediately returned and signed by the jury.


West Briton.
Royal Cornwall Gazette.

Information supplied by Ian Winstanley and the Coal Mining History Resource Centre.

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