MILL CLOSE LEAD MINE. Darley Dale, Derbyshire. 3rd. November, 1887.

The mine was the property of Wass and Sons Trustees. Mr. A.M. Wirksworth was the agent and Mr. Joseph Greatrorex, the manger. The man had lamps but the wagoners had naked lights which were allowed to be taken within ten yards of the end of the Forefield. From the floor to the top of the working place was about 18 feet and about 20 feet wide. There was a roadway above the wagonway made of timber supported at the sides which was used as an air intake and for walking along. The roof above this was about two yards of stone. There was a ladder which went through the stone to the walkway about 20 yards fro the end of the Forefield.

John Heathcote made a report in the book about Stone’s place which was the seat of the explosion, which stated for the 1st November, “I find a great deal of gas in Stone’s place”, and for the 2nd November, “I find gas in Stone’s place but not as much as yesterday”. William Webster, one of the deputies in charge of the mine visited Stone’s pace a little after 6 p.m., and again at midnight when he found gas in the place. He told Marsden to be very careful and wrote in his report book, “I find no gas in Pett’s and Webster’s places but Stone’s place was full by 12 o’clock.” He told Job Stone not to let the wagoners near with their naked lights.

On the day of the disaster, Robert Marsden, of Birchover was working with Job Stone. They had gone down at midnight and were working in Stone’s place in the Forefield. There was no one else at work when they got there. As they went in they met the deputy, William Webster, who told them to be careful as there was more gas than usual. Marsden led the way and the others followed. When they arrived at the ladder, the four men went up and the wagoners did not come to them at night. Their job was to take the ore from the working place to the bottom of the shaft.

He first found gas about halfway between the top of the ladder and the end of the Forefield. The next place he tested was at the end of the Forefield and there, gas fired in his lamp. They carried on working and got some ore loose and then began to bore a shot hole which was charged and fired successfully by Job Stone. They cleared the stuff away and bored two more holes. These were charged with dynamite and Stone placed one packet in each of the holes. The shots were fired with a fuse and a detonating cap which was lit by a touchpaper from a candle at the bottom of the wagonway. After a paper was lit it was carried in a shovel and handed up the hole where the ore came from the upper roadway.

Two men were left to fire the shot, Job Stone and George Allen. George Stone took the lighted paper to the men and gave it to them through the hole and the firer lit the fuse. All the men then went down the ladder and took cover about 50 yards from the end of the Forefield. There were two wagoners with them who had been standing for about a minute when they heard one shot go off. There was a rush of wind from the explosion but the survivors did not see any flame. Marsden was knocked over and was unconscious for some time.

When he came to, he felt the edge of a fall of stone and saw George Bateman coming towards him with a candle. He went back with him and they met another man as they were making their way to the shaft. He went up and told him what had happened. George Greatorex gave them lamps and a party including Marsden and the stoker went down. They shouted but there was no reply. They went up again when Marsden was treated by a doctor and went home.

John Heathcote, a miner of Webster, went down the one with others about two hours after the explosion and gas was found in the mine. A door had been blown out near Allen’s body, about 12 yards from the Forefield. Another door, 60 yards further on had been blown to pieces. There were about seventeen to twenty charges lying about but no detonators were found. It appeared that the box had been on fire as there were pieces of burnt fuse lying about.

Those who died were:

  • Benjamin Boam aged 23 years, miner,
  • George William Allen aged 31 years, miner,
  • George Stone aged 31 years, miner,
  • Job Stone aged 56 years, miner,
  • George Needham aged 25 years, miner

The inquest into the disaster into the deaths of the men was held at the Stag’s Head Inn, Darley Dale, before Mr. A.O. Brookes of Bakewell, the Deputy Coroner. Mr. Stokes, the Inspector, examined John Heathcote carefully about the question of him finding gas and yet allowed shots to be fired. The witness shed no explanations for his actions. It emerged that there had been some small explosions over the previous twelve months, all connected with the firing of shots.

The Coroner summed up and after twenty minute deliberation the jury returned the following verdict:

The deaths were accidental and caused by an explosion of gas ignited by the firing of a shot.


The Mines Inspectors Report, 1887. Mr. Stokes.

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

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