DUKE PIT. Whitehaven, Cumberland. 11th. January, 1844.

The colliery was the property of the Earl of Lonsdale and the explosion occurred about 4 p.m. when the workings had just been vacated by the day men and the night shift had descended. The air at the colliery was thought to be pure and one of the best ventilated in the district and lamps were used without their caps. This was the cause of the resulting explosion and claimed the lives of eleven people.

Those who lost their lives were:

  • John McCasham aged 27 years of West Strand.
  • Peter Pladdy aged 23 years of New Houses.
  • John Atkinson aged 22 years of Front Row.
  • Lancelot Atkinson aged 20 years of Front Row.
  • Bernard McAmesty aged 27 years of Front Row.
  • William Robinson snr. aged 47 years of Comyas Lane.
  • William Robinson jnr. aged 19 years of Comyas Lane.
  • George Clockton aged 23 years of Comyas Lane.
  • Thomas Slaney aged 22 years of Middle Row.
  • Benjamin Cowan aged 221 years of Middle Row.
  • Joseph Brown aged 26 years of Back Row.

The inquest was held at the Public Office before Coroner William Lumb, jnr. John Armstrong, the overman at the pit identified all the dead as “haggers” who went down the pit on the day of the disaster a little before 4 o’clock. He had examined the pit and found it to be in a good state. He went up with John Westray and Joseph Fell and was informed of the accident about 5 o’clock by David Ruddick.

He immediately returned to the colliery and descended with three men and found bodies straggled over a distance of about two hundred yards. The air at that time was good. He found three dead horses lying about 50 to 60 yards from the bottom of the shaft and further on he found Peter Pladdy and another man, dead. He gave instructions for the bodies to be taken to the surface and went on to find the bodies of the two Atkinsons and the two Robinsons Armstrong told the court that he had seen men working with the tops off their lamps but as he had found the pit safe, he could see no reason for apparent danger.

William McAvery, who was in the pit at the time of the explosion stated:

I live at new Houses. I was sitting at the bottom of the shaft waiting for the others to come up with two others where we had to remain until three or four baskets were raised, when the blast took place and we were knocked down. It was like a shower of stones rushing along the workings. I got up but the stythe was so strong it knocked me down again. I was too far gone to help myself. I have no recollection of anything until I found myself at the top. We work with the tops off our lamps when there is no danger because we can see better with the tops off. The men were all killed by chokedamp and I would also have been killed if I had remained where I was working.

After hearing all the evidence the Coroner summed up and the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death” in each case.


Annals of Coal Mining. Galloway. Vol.2, p.129.
Mining Journal. Vol. xiv, p.19.
The Cumberland Pacquet.

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

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