BRAYTON DOMAIN No. 4. Cumberland, 26th. April, 1915.

The explosion occurred about 11 a.m. in a district of the Yard Band Seam which was about four feet thick with a strong blue shale roof. The coal was worked by board and pillar. The pillars were extracted alongside a ten-foot down throw fault against which the goaf had been laid for some years. The goaf was left to the rise so that any gas which was given off would rise into it. The roof was so strong that no falls occurred in some cases for three months after the timber had been withdrawn. Adjoining the pillar which was being extracted there was an open area of at least 700 square yards. No gas had ever been reported in the district but it had been found in other districts of the same seam. No naked lights were used in the mine.

On the day of the accident, the district had been inspected twice by the deputy. Fortunately, only eight men were at work, six hewers, a putter, and a shot-firer. A four-yard lift had been taken off the pillar, and the coal at the face of the lift was undercut on the loose side right through to an old bord, and on the fast side to within 6 inches of the old bord. Into this thin rib, a slightly rising shothole was drilled until it penetrated the roof and this at a point where a break extended vertically through the coal and into the roof for 20 inches to a horizontal parting in the stone which communicated with an open space above a fall on the old bord. This was the most likely place for gas to accumulate. It was gathered from the only survivor that a charge of gelignite was fired in this shothole and immediately there was an explosion in the old bord which communicated with the goaf next to it. All seven men died within the next few weeks from severe burns.

Those who died were-

  • James Wilkinson aged 59, married of 71, Lawson Street,
  • Joseph Rumney aged 60 years of Springkell,
  • Henry Wilkinson aged 32 years, married of 71, Lawson Street,
  • Thomas Burney aged 64 years, married of 16, Harriston,
  • Paul Rayson aged 25 years, single of 16, Harriston,
  • Thomas Herbert Little aged 29 years, single of 8, Springkell,
  • and Robert Lightfoot aged 20 years, single of 36, Harriston.

The inquest took place before Mr. E. Atter, Coroner for West Cumberland. Mr. Thomas Edley, the assistant manager produced a plan of the workings for the court. William David, the deputy in the No.4 Pit said that on the morning of the explosion he went to work at 4 a.m. and worked until 12 noon. He had tested for gas in Jackson’s drift, where the explosion took place and did not find any; he had never found gas in the mine.

Joseph Hillary who had been overman at the pit for none years said he had become aware of the accident by a change in the air. David had come to him and said that he thought there had been a fall somewhere. He telephoned the manager and sent the 150 to 160 men out of the pit.

Thomas Harris was working when the explosion occurred. He said he could recollect the explosion but fell down as a stone hit him on the head and shoulder. He tried to get back but became unconscious.

There were practically no indications of violence resulting from the explosion, but there was evidence of flame and heat for some 180 yards from the point of origin. It was alleged that the back of the rib in the old bord could not be examined on account of the danger from a possible fall of roof and therefore, the state of the adjoining goaf was unknown. The Inspector was satisfied that no attempt had been made to make an examination and he found no difficulty getting through to where the shot had blown through after the accident. Coal dust played a very subsidiary part as the mine was quite damp, otherwise, the consequences could have been much more disastrous.

The jury brought on the verdict that the deaths had been caused by an explosion and recommended that no shot should be fired in a rib next to a goaf unless an examination had been made on the ribside of the goaf.

Mr. Wilson, the Inspector, commented:

The points to be specially noted in connection with this accident are:

1) that the attempt to blast down a rib of coal which was almost entirely undermined should not have been allowed.

2) that a powerful explosive like gelignite was most unsuitable for the purpose,

3) the discipline of the mine should have prevented a shot being fired next to a goaf, the condition of which was unknown.


Mines Inspectors Report. Mr. J.R.R. Wilson.
The Colliery Guardian, 25th June 1915, p.1339.

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

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