LOWCA. John Pit. Whitehaven, Cumberland. 24th. October, 1838.

The colliery was situated on the left-hand side of the Whitehaven to Harrington road and was the property of Mr. H. Curwen of Workington Hall. It employed about 100 men and boys with Harrison Kay and William Hetherington as the overmen.

The colliers left the pit at dusk the day before and some returned at 5 a.m. Two hundred yards from the bottom of the shaft along a rolley way, there was a “steer” when the men waited until the overman had completed his inspection. Thirty-four were waiting when the explosion took place. From the steer, there were two drifts, one to the north, 200 yards long, and one to the south 300 yards long. Hodgson’s Pit was the upcast shaft.

The shaft was 90 fathoms deep and two men and two boys were descending in a basket. They were six fathoms down when the explosion occurred and they were blown into the air. A man named Nutter was rescued alive but the bodies of William and Robert Nicol were recovered at the bottom of the shaft.

Thirty-four bodies were found in the “steer”, all blackened and badly mutilated. A boy was found lying hear his horse in the stables. Kay was sound in the south drift and Hetherington in the north drift

The fireman went down the pit in the morning while thirty-eight men and boys were waiting for him at the pit bottom, to complete his examination, when:

the explosion of firedamp from his light drove them in an instant into the corners of the spaces about them, jamming them into each other in a mass. Two men and a boy were, at the time, in the act of descending, near the pit’s mouth all were driven up into the air, but the boy and one of the men, falling outside escaped the other fell into the pit, making, with the fireman, forty who perished. Since that memorable day, the fireman and deputy go down by themselves before the men came to work and not so much as a bone has been broken since.

 Those who died were:

  • Thomas Addison aged about 24 years, of Distington, single.
  • William Addison aged about 14 years, cousin of Thomas.
  • Eldred Burnett aged about 18 years of Harrington Harbour.
  • Joseph Cape aged 52 years of Distington, left a wife.
  • George Grellan aged 12 or 14 years of Distington.
  • Robert Dunn, a ald about 14 years.
  • John Dunn a boy, brother of Robert.
  • George Edgar aged about 17 years, of Harrington.
  • Joseph Gilminson aged about 22 years, single of Distington.
  • Harrison Kay aged about 26 years of Distington, left a wife and two children.
  • Joseph Metcalfe aged about 25 years of Distington, left a wife.
  • Robert Nichol aged 41 years of Lowca, left a wife and child.
  • John Richardson aged 22 years, of Pies Houses left a wife and two children.
  • John Relph aged 20 years of Harrington, single.
  • Robert Wyan aged About 25 years of Distington, left a wife and three children.
  • John Wyan, aged 21 years, single.
  • Jorden Wyan a lad of about 16 years brother of John and Robert.
  • John Wilson aged about 30 years of Pies Houses left a widow and three children.
  • James Wilson aged about 35 years left a widow and five children, brother of John.
  • Johnathan Wilson a lad of about 12 years, son of James.
  • Henry Peel aged 50 years of Pies Houses, left a wife and child.
  • Robert Peel aged about 11 years, son of Henry.
  • John Kelly a boy of about 12 years of Distington.
  • John Benson aged 19 years.
  • Johnathan Benson about 14 years and Fletcher Benson aged 15 years, brothers of Workington who mother was living and whose father was killed in a Workington pit.
  • Johnathan Hayton and Nicholas Hayton of Workington who left a widowed mother. Their brother was drowned in a Workington pit.
  • Ralph Sanderson aged about 11 years of Ferry Houses.
  • William Hetherington aged about 33 years, of Fox House, close to the pit, left a widow and three children.
  • Richard Donald and his unnamed cousin of Frostoms aged from 12 to 16 years.
  • John Ditchburn aged 12 years of Harrington.
  • James and William Moore from Workington brothers aged from 12 to 16 years
  • Richard Seruggan aged 10 or 12 years of Workington.
  • Robert Frodale aged 10 to 12 years from Workington.
  • Peter Dobson aged about 30 years of Harrington left a wife and family.
  • Henry Ward aged 25 years of Workington left a widow and four children.

The inquest into the disaster was held in the house of Mr. Carr before William Bragg, Coroner. The disaster was supposed to have been caused by an accumulation of gas being ignited by the Hetherington’s candle as he carried a lamp but use it only for examination.


Annals of Coal Mining. Galloway, Vol 2, p.128.
Mining Journal Vol vi, p.143.
Children’s Employment Commission. Appendix i, p.179.
The Whitehaven Herald 27th October 1838.

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

Return to previous page