CALIFORNIA  Aspull, Lancashire. 12th. September, 1865.

California Colliery belonged to the Kirkless Hall Company and was at Aspull near Wigan. As eight persons were ascending the pit, the round wire rope got off the drum and fell from the top of the drum onto the main shaft of the engine. The rope was either broken by the fall or severed by the eccentrics of the shaft. They were within thirty yards of the top when this happened and they fell 270 yards to the bottom of the shaft to their deaths.

It was a compensating drum with no grooves for the rope to coil on and fixed to the main shaft of the engine. The engine worked with great speed and the diameter of the drum increased from each side towards the middle so the ropes had to coil and uncoil up and down at an angle of more than 400. The drum had a large diameter and the elasticity of the steel rope would cause the cage to travel a short distance when the steam was shut off. After the speed of the engine had been reduced the rope would become slack on the drum and because the flanges were not high, the rope slipped off.

Those who died were:

  • Edward Ashcroft, aged 26 years.
  • John Dunn aged 17 years, drawer.
  • James Ramsdale. collier aged 24 years.
  • George Ingram aged 19 years, drawer.
  • Robert Fletcher, aged 11 years.
  • William Bradshaw aged 18 years, drawer.
  • Ronald Eatock aged 40 years, collier.
  • John Holland aged 20 years, collier.

The inquest was held at the Running Horses at Aspull when it was heard that it had been observed by the men for some time that the engineman, Thomas Lees, had been running the engine at great speed and some of them had spoken to him about it but no complaint had been made to the manager. The inquiry was carefully conducted and a verdict of “Accidental Death” returned by the jury.


The Colliery Guardian, 23rd September 1865. p.230.
Mines Inspectors Report. 1865.

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

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