ALBION. Pontypridd, Glamorganshire. 10th. November 1906.

The colliery was the property of the Albion Steam Coal Company, Limited and was in the Taff Valley about two and half miles to the north of Pontypridd. There were two shafts 19 feet in diameter which were used for coal drawing. The coal from the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seams was drawn at the downcast and the coal from the seven feet was drawn at the upcast. The downcast was sunk to the No.2 seam, 552 yards deep and the Nos 1 and 3 seams were won by rise and dip cross measure drifts and one staple pit fitted with cages. The Seven Feet Seam was 628 yards deep. All the coal was high-quality steam coal.

The workings in the Nos. 2 and 3 and Seven Feet Seams were not in any affected by the explosion which took place in the C District of the No.1 Seam. The manger of the colliery and the resident agent was Mr. William Lewis and Mr. Phillip Jones as the certificated manager with Mr. Edward Francis, the certificated undermanager who was in charge of night shift operations. Mr. William Jones, the manager’s son who held a second class certificate was assistant to his father. All the seams were worked by the longwall method.

Like all others steam coal collieries in the district, the seam produced a considerable quantity of firedamp and large volumes of air were required to dilute it. The ventilation was produced by a Schiele fan, fifteen and a half feet in diameter, which exhausted about 238,379 cubic feet of air per minute at a water gauge of 3.5 inches with 18,709 cubic feet passing along the main level which then ventilated the C district in the No.1 seam.  There was no accumulation of firedamp reported in the No.1 seam on the day of the explosion. Cambrian lamps with an automatic lock which could be opened only with a powerful magnet were used exclusively by the workmen and the firemen use Cambrian fireman’s lamps. The lamps were lit and re-lit by electricity by an apparatus that consisted of a square iron box with a hinged door which locked. On top of the box there was a dish on which the lamp was placed. In the box there was a double accumulator, charged to four volts and an induction coil which delivered 10,000 volts.

To light a lamp, it was placed on the dish with an insulated pit resting on a spring bolt which was connected to the coil by a wire. A bottom was then pressed and the contact made, the current passed up the insulated pit to the lamp wick and ignited it. If the lamp was not placed on the dish correctly, sparking between it and the spring bolt took place. The shaft bottom and the engine houses were lit by electricity.

When the coal was worked large quantities of coal dust were produced and more was blown off the loaded trams as they were being drawn to the shaft. There was a disastrous explosion at the colliery in1894 which was, in the opinion of Mr. Gray, an explosion of coal dust and since then every attention was given to the dust problem and water pipes had been laid in the roads.

In experiments made by H.M. Inspector of Mines, Henry Hall in June 1893, dust from this colliery produced violent explosions. Mr. Gray wrote:

In compliance with instructions from the Home Office in 1903, I wrote to the owners of collieries in my district, drawing attention to the desirability of closing the ends of trams, to prevent loss of coal on the roads. The owners of this colliery took up the matter seriously and all the trams were provided with doors at the ends instead of crossbars.

Various kinds of sprays had been used but have been given up, and now the watering is done by hose pipe, which as proved the best system. This colliery has for some years been, and is, one of the best watered in the district. The main level on which the explosion occurred was said to have been watered that morning.

The coal was worked on the day shift and most of the repairing of the roads down on the night shift. About 1,240 tons of coal was drawn by day and 440 on the night shift. The number of men employed underground in the several seam was 1,150 by day and 440 at night.

No shots had been fired in the No.1 seam since it was started five years before as the roof was weak and the use of explosives was not necessary. No shots were fired in the colliery on week days with one exception. There was hard heading and the shots were fired between shifts. Any other shots were fired on Sunday mornings when all the men are out of the mine.

The explosion occurred at about 3.10 p.m. on the 10th. November which was a Saturday and the working shift had ended at 2 p.m. At the time there was repair work being carried out with about 50 men in the No.1 seam, 53 in the No.2 and 40 in the No.3. There were no signs that anything was wrong at the surface until a haulier, who felt a rush of air, and thinking there had been an accident at the shaft went to see. He found everything all right there he telephones the surface to say that there had been a heavy fall somewhere in the C district of the No.1 seam. The undermanager sent Henry Hill, the overman, down to see what had happened and when Hill was away for a long time, he followed him.

He found repairers at work on at a fall on the main level which completely blocked the road. He went up Russell’s heading and after passing through the doors, he noticed the smell of afterdamp and concluded that there had been an explosion. Near the top of the heading, he met Hill and two men who were helping a man out who had been affected by the afterdamp. He went down Aitkin’s heading to the main level and along to the parting at the mouth of Gill’s heading. There he found two men alive and the bodies of three others, all of them badly burned. Medical aid was summoned and the living attended to before they were taken to their homes. The men were so badly burned that one died the following day and the other two days later.

A search was made for Hill, the missing overman and his body was discovered. He had died from the effects of afterdamp. The man who accompanied Hill said:

We had gone some distance from Russell’s heading in the direction of the main level when I told him I could not go further as my legs were failing and I would stop there. Hill went on, and when he returned he said, “All badly burned I am going for assistance.” We started to walk out. I was holding on to his waistcoat but I soon dropped to the floor and my light was extinguished. He continued on his way but soon after I heard him say, “I have lost my way.” I was unable to move until some men came to assist me.

The reason that Hill died and the man lived was explained because where he fell there was air and was getting purer each minute and Hill went into a place where the afterdamp had not been diluted since the sheets had been blown down. He should have gone through the crosscut but had missed it.

Mr. Gray was not well enough to go to the colliery but he sent his assistant, Mr. Trump, but was able to go on Monday. He heard from the men who were working at the fall on the main level. It was large fall and about 150 trams were involved. The men thought they heard a heavy “pouce” which was accompanied by a rush of dust-laden air which extinguished their lights. They thought a fall had taken place further along the level. They sent their lamps back to be re-lit and carried on working.

Some of the men were working at the parting on Russell’s heading at the mouth of Nelson’s heading, felt a strong rush of air but heard no noise and saw no flame but for a few minutes the air became hot. These men were the nearest on the return side to the seat of the explosion.

Mr. Gray inspected the site of the fall which had then been cleared but another fall further along prevented him progressing in that direction. He travelled up Russell’s heading and down Atkin’s heading to the main level, and out along it to the parting. At the mouth of Gill’s heading was the rubbish which the deceased had drawn down and on it was laying the body of a horse and near it a tram that had been partly filled.

In Gill’s heading, a lamp station had been built for the district. The roof had been taken down to lengthen the parting and the relighter was taken out of its brick building and placed on the side of the parting for fear the roof would fall which would take place when the timbers were taken out. The man in charge of the spot was helping with the operations and would have remained until the end of the shift when it would have been replace and locked up.

After the explosion, his body was found within a few feet of the relighter and a few feet from him there were three lamps on the ground as if someone had been carrying them and had dropped them. One lamps was hanging on the belt of the men in charge and the fifth was found three to five feet from the relighter. All the lamps that were found were in perfect condition.

Those who died were:

  • William Morris aged 40 years, fireman,
  • George Bennett aged 30 years, collier,
  • Henry Hill aged 53 years, overman,
  • John Jones aged 36 years,
  • Richard Hughes aged 39 years, repairer,
  • Abraham Lloyd aged 21 years assistant repairer,
  • Francis Strong aged 40 years, assistant repairer,
  • Thomas Prosser aged 41 years, master haulier.

The formal inquest was opened on the 13th November at the Commercial Hotel, Cilfynyyd before Coroner R.J. Rhys of Aberdare and E. L. Reece of Cardiff.

In the opinion of the Inspector, the explosion was caused by the falls. In the interval between the first and second fall, gas was liberated and carried to the second fall which extinguished the lamps. The men would not know why their lamps went out and went to the relighting station and in putting those on the dish did not put them in the right position. Pressing the bottom would cause a spark which would ignite the gas.

After considerable deliberation the jury returned the following verdict:

In view of the theory advanced by Mr. Lewis, the agent of the colliery supported by H.M. Inspectors, that the explosion was probably caused by the emission of sparks from the electric battery, we are agreed upon that theory and that there no fault or negligence can be attached to any persons concerned.

The Inspector thought that it was an explosion of firedamp and dust played little part. After the disaster the management moved all the relighters near the downcast shaft.


Mines Inspectors Report.
Colliery Guardian, 16th November 1906, p.951, 30th November, p.1040.

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

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