CLIFTON HALL. Manchester, Lancashire. 18th. June, 1885.

The colliery was a Clifton about 4 miles from Manchester and within half a mile from Clifton Junction on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. There were two shafts at the colliery which were started about 50 years before the disaster and for thirty years the Rams and other upper seams were worked at the colliery until the shafts were sunk to the Cannel Mine at 595 yards but that seam was not worked. There was a hooking-on place in the Trencherbone Mine at 534 yards. From that point, the Trencherbone and the Five Quarters and Doe mines which were above were worked. The lower part of the shafts where there was no working was used as standing room for water and the water level almost reached the Trencherbone. The shafts were 10 yards apart. The winding shaft was also the downcast and was 10 feet in diameter and was fitted with wooden conductors and two cages. The other shaft was the upcast and was 9 feet in diameter. It had no internal fittings but there was a capstan engine with pulleys and rope ready for use in either of the shafts if required.

In addition to these shafts, there was travelling way between this colliery and the Agecroft Colliery where there were two winding shafts. Both collieries belonged to the same owner and this way was not used for working the coal but only for the occasional use when repairs were being made to the connections to the shafts or engines at either colliery. The two collieries were kept separate by four separation doors.

The hooking-on place at the Clifton Hall Colliery was in solid rock a little above the Trencherbone seam and there were large chambers for moving the tubs and for steam boilers, engines, offices, stables, etc. the place was lit by gas that was piped down the pit from the surface. The level course ran east-west and the strata dipped at one in three and a half. From the south side of the winding shaft a spacious level tunnel or stone drift, worked by an engine and endless chain haulage, crossed through the dipping strata until the overlying Five Quarters and the Doe Mines were intersected. At each side of the shaft in the Trencherbone mine, there was an engine brow or incline to the dip, where the lower workings were about 700 yards from the surface.

The seams to the rise of the shaft had been worked out some years before the explosion leaving only a large pillar in each seam for the support of the shafts. The dip workings in the Trencherbone mine also left a pillar to support the Agecroft and the Agecroft Hall shafts. There was also a continuous pillar left in all the seams against the Great Irwell Valley Fault which threw the strata down 1000 yards at the opposite side. The Doe or Dow Mine was the top of the three seams that were being worked at the time of the disaster. It was sunk through the shafts at 422 yards. The seam was 9 feet 4 inches thick of which about seven and a half were of good coal. At the time of the disaster, the workings were on the rise of levels driven from the end of the tunnel. Those in the east were almost worked back to the tunnel but those on the west side were about one and three-quarter miles from the shafts. The Five Quarters Mine lay 14 yards below the Doe. It was a thin seam and was worked by tunnels from the Doe seam. The Trencherbone Mine, in which the explosion took place, was 98 yards below the Doe. It had a clean bed of fine splint coal about 6 feet thick and a roof about 2 yards thick of hard white sandy shale called white metal-stone and about a foot of worthless coal called California or Cally. Above that, there were 21 yards of solid rock known as the Trencherbone rock.

These seams of coal were being worked near the middle of the section of the Lancashire series. Their characteristics varied in different parts of the coalfield so there was much difficulty in correlating them. between Radcliffe and Bury, the Doe and the Five Quarters lay within a few feet of each other. At Clifton Hall, they were 15 yards apart and at Little Hulton the upper part of the Doe seam became bass and only the bottom coal was good. At Tyldesley and Shakerley nearly all of it was bass and at Wigan, it was supposed that it correlated with the Wigan Five Feet.

The Trencherbone underwent similar changes that were so numerous that it was doubted that the strata in this part of the coalfield was conformable. At Elton near Bury, the shaft was sunk to the Hinds or Cannel Mine, the Trencherbone was represented by only a trace of coal. At Little Lever, the bed including dirt bands, and at Outwood, it was up to three yards thick and dipped at one in two and a half. At the west part of Clifton, the white stone along with the California coal swells out at places to about 5 yards in thickness. At Kersley and Atherton, the overlying rock meets the floor without there being any coal in between. Parts of the rock in this area are pebbly with fossil branches and red iron ore, like ground that had been disturbed or tipped. At Atherton, Westleigh and Westhoughton the seam is about 5 feet thick and the rock is less characteristic. At Wigan, the Trencherbone Mine appears to correlate with what was originally known as the Wigan Nine Feet but later as the Wigan Six Feet.

Firedamp was found in these seams all over the coalfield and the Doe Mine gave off a lot of gas when it was opened up. The seam was first sunk to in the Wardley Pits in Worsley and gave off so much gas that for a time it was considered unworkable. At Foggs Colliery in Darcy Lever when levels were being driven, a row of Davy lamps were placed on the high side to burn off the gas and in the Trencherbone or Six Feet at Wigan, there had been an explosion in almost every colliery. at Westleigh, the issue of firedamp was so strong that boreholes had to be put into the floor to a thin coal 40 feet below from which the flow of gas had to be stopped by means of a pipe and stop-cock when ordinary persons were working in the mine and it was thought by liberating the pressure in this way the cost of boring save by the lessened breaking of props. At Ladyshore in Little Lever, there were issues when it was being opened out and the gas was piped up the shaft where it was burnt. At Outwood, while driving a tunnel through the rock from the Doe to the trencherbone, an iron pipe had to be laid with branches from it to numerous crevices from which firedamp issued and the gas was piped away to the shaft where part of it was used for lighting and the rest burnt above ground.

John Knowles was one of the managing directors of the Company who controlled the Collieries near Manchester including Clifton Hall and Agecroft and Simon Horrocks was the old and trusted manager who acted as agent for these collieries. Mr. Johnathan Hall was the certificated manager and had previously been an underlooker at the Pendlebury Colliery belonging to the same owners. Under Mr. Hall two underlookers, one of them David Doxey, aged 45 years, for the Trencherbone Mine and the other, Thomas Worrall, for the Doe and Five Quarters. Under Doxey were five firemen, four during the day and one at night and under Worrall, five firemen, four of them by day and one by night. About 417 people were employed underground of whom 349 worked by day and 68 at night. Of these 100 were datallers, 50 of whom were in the Trencherbone and 50 in the Doe and Five Quarters.

Two steam engines worked in the mine, 12 horses, and engine brow, an endless chain road, 42 double and 43 single gigs or ginneys, and 17 double and 20 single cranes. The ventilation furnace was 8 feet long and 9 feet wide and two fires in one of two large steam boilers. Only one of the boilers was working at the time of the disaster and the boilers provide steam for the two engines. The boilers were fed with fresh air and the furnace with the return air from the Trencherbone Mine. There was one air course in which all the return currents and escapes of fresh air were mixed before reaching the furnace. The furnace drift entered the upcast shaft a few yards above the Trencherbone Mine and the return air for the Doe and Five Quarters Mine went into the upcast shaft at the point where the Doe was sunk through about 100 yards above the furnace drift. The furnace was kept constantly lit, even on Sundays and it consumed 4 tons of coal and the boiler fires about 3 tons in 24 hours. One man and a helper, who wound the coal up a short brow, attended the furnace by day and one man by night. It was cleaned twice every night and was partially cleaned during the day. The total quantity of air was about 88,000 cubic feet per minute with 52,000 cubic feet for the Trencherbone and 356,000 for the Doe and Five Quarters. The airway of each working bay in the Trencherbone was made 6 feet high and four and a half feet wide which was found to stand the best, but this was squeezed when the weight came on, to three to three and a half feet.

The system of working the coal was to drive out roads to the far end and work the coal back towards the shafts by bays or faces. The bays in the Doe Mine were 8 to 10 yards wide, with one pack or gob wall which was three yards wide built next to the drawing road. The bays in the Five Quarters were 20 yards wide with the goaf behind, except drawing and air roads which were stowed full. The bays in the Trencherbone were 20 yards wide with two pack walls each 3 yards wide being built one on each side of the drawing road. These pack walls were built of roof stone and any other stone or dirt that was available. They were not thrown together but were built of stone walling on each side with the dirt stowed between them and at every 8 feet as the walls became extended the end was faced across with walling stone. This formed a continuous wall in 8 feet lengths by 9 feet wide. In front of these walls and at part of the faces of the bays, chocks built of wood 2 feet by six inches by six inches, and ordinary wooden props were used. The brows were almost all worked to the rise of the face of the coal, and the coal was then run down self-acting gig-brows but some of the brows were worked upbrow from narrow tunnels driven downbrow, the coal being drawn by crane or windlass.

The fireman made their first rounds of the working places in the mornings and also in the evenings when a second shift was worked and examined with a safety lamp and if all was well, they allowed the men to pass the appointed station. At the station, the miner’s lamps were inspected and they had to work with the lamps until the fireman returned and gave them an open light, after which all safety lamps, except those required for testing, could be extinguished. The colliery was considered an open light colliery but people had to work with safety lamps where gas was found and near any place where the ventilation had become deranged. The lamps that were in use were Davy Lamps for the fireman and chiefly Davy lamps for the men but some used Clanny and a few the Bainbridge Lamp. The men paid for their own lamps and candles.

Gas could be heard fizzing out in new openings in each of the seams but the ventilation diluted it at the point of issue and all issues of gas, large or small were reported in the Report Book under General Rule 2. Powder was taken into the mine in cartridges as required and these had to be kept in canisters or cases. The shots in the Doe and Five Quarters Mines were fired by a competent person appointed for the purpose. In the Trencherbone, the coal was divided into rhombic forms with smooth, slippery surfaces so that, when the weight was on the coal it could easily be worked in the bays, and the powder was not needed. The only parts where powder was being used was in the preparations of the levels and on those occasions the shots were fired by a fireman. In the dry parts of the mine, the roadways were watered from tanks and about 300 gallons of water a day was used to lay the dust.

Work was going on as usual at 9.20 a.m. on the 18th June 1885 when a loud report with smoke and dust came from the two shafts. This continued for a few seconds and some flame came from the downcast shaft. The ventilation current then reversed and the ordinary upcast became the downcast and continued to do so for about fifteen minutes. Black smoke came for 13 minutes and then changed to white for two minutes. After this, both the currents in the shafts went back to their normal course.

Mr. Dickinson, Inspector for the District, was informed and he sent the news by telegraph to Mr. Martin, Inspector of Mines, and Mr. Turton the newly appointed Assistant Inspector. All three men had arrived at the colliery by the evening. On his way to the colliery, Mr. Dickinson found men coming out of the Agecroft Colliery who were suffering the effects of afterdamp and exhaustion in travelling from the Clifton Hall Colliery. When he arrived at the colliery he found the winding cages fast in the downcast shaft and the manager along with Aaron Manley, carpenter, and George Hindley, blacksmith, at work using a capstan and a hoppet to loosen them. The cages appeared to be nearly at the meeting when the explosion took place, running at full speed when both received the full force of the blast and were held by their safety catches with the loose rope dangling.

The manager gave up his place to Peter Horsefield and the Inspector conferred with him and Simon Horrocks, the Agent as to the best way to proceed. Later Mr. Dickinson went into the pit six times assisted by Martin and Turton.

At noon the cages had been loosened and the shaft repaired sufficiently to be used and the manager, Mr. Horrocks, the agent, and Israel Barker and Mr. Wallwork, managers from other collieries belonging to the same company, accompanied by Aaron Manley and Robert Ogden descended in the first cage. Mr. Dickinson commented in his report:

It has not by any means so usual as it deserves to mention the names of the principal explorers, there being seldom, if ever, any lack of heroic devotion, even on less stirring occasions, when scarcely any except the few helpers know what has to be done, and they themselves do not consider it extraordinary but as on this occasion some of the principle ones have been selected for decoration, I have added my tribute by recording them here.

At the bottom of the shaft the party found, amid the utter destruction, the underlooker of the Doe and the Five Quarters Mine, Thomas Worrall and his two firemen, Charles Parkinson and George Higson had arrived there first. They had been in the Doe Mine, near the end of the tunnel when the explosion occurred and with the help of a metal-stone man, had helped fetch the men from the extreme end of the workings and directed them to travel out of the Agecroft shaft. When the afterdamp had partially cleared, they made their way along the tunnel to the Clifton Hall shafts. They found that Mr. John Crook, manager of the Agecroft Colliery and one of his underlookers, Thomas Williams had arrived there soon after with a party of men who had gone in through the Agecroft shaft. This party had met casualties on the way and helped them. The manager and underlooker went on to meet Worrall. Crook and Worrall had done what they could for the dead and dying and put out a fire that they found at the ventilating furnace and the steam boiler.

It was then apparent to everyone that a terrible explosion had taken place in the Trencherbone Mine. The survivors from the bottom of the shaft were quickly sent out and all except one, who had a fractured skull, survived. Ten others were rescued from the extreme end and these were the only survivors from the Trencherbone. There were other survivors from the Doe and Five Quarter Seams.

Arrangements were made and the workings were explored as far as the falls and the afterdamp would permit. The parts a round the shafts and the enginebrow, having a rock roof were left almost intact but the No.1 East Level from the engine brow was found to have fallen and the rock above was grinding as though it had been shaken or a ground weight had occurred. The No.2 East was inaccessible because of afterdamp and so was the engine brow further down. The exploration was continued and air-crossings and the furnace were found to have been blown away and other loose objects were lying shattered. The steam pipe from the boilers was blown up the brow. In the levels and workings, props and chocks were blown out and the stone between the coal and rock fallen. The men seemed to have been struck dead, some at work and some eating their breakfast. It was obvious that a large body of gas had ignited and the flame extended through most of the workings. The main blast had come out of Nos.1 and 2 East divided in the engine brow, part going upbrow to the shafts and part going down and entering the other levels on both sides.

Work went on in making a way past the falls and temporary screens of tarpaulin were put in to replace the doors and crossings. Ambulances, made of two poles with tarpaulin between were used for carrying the bodies over the falls. Firedamp was found in the extreme rise working in No.1 and no.2 East and a fire was found under a fall on the west side. While the explorations were being carried on and before it was known if any part of the mine had been set on fire, the ventilation suddenly reversed and the explorers quickly got out by the travelling way to Agecroft. Brickwork loosened by the blast had fallen in the upcast shaft and reversed the air. The fall of this brickwork also opened an old cut-through between the two shafts, through which the afterdamp passed from the upcast shaft and fouled the air in the downcast. This opening was temporally stopped with bags of hay and sawdust which kept the afterdamp on the upcast and allowed operations to go on until it was safe to light the ventilation fires. The bags were then taken out and new brickwork was put in but this caused a short delay.

Ten men were found alive at the extreme end of the Trencherbone Mine. They were in the No.3 East which consisted of three levels from the bottom of the engine brow but were not cut through to the level above so that the flame and blast could not sweep around this part as it did in other levels but merely compressed the air in the intake and the return. One of the survivors, Samuel Travis described that the pressure blew out their lamps and candles, and when they tried to escape they were stopped by the afterdamp and had to return. They tried again with the same result at 2 o’clock and at 4.30 six of them were able to enter the engine brow and reached the shaft at 10 p.m. and four others were helped out afterward. The horse that was with them died from suffocation and exhaustion. The Inspector commented in his Report:

The rescue of the ten men from the Trencherbone Mine shows that even under the most discouraging appearances hope should be sustained and efforts continued until facts are ascertained.

Samuel Lambert, a miner who escaped, said:

I was startled with the flash and a rumbling noise of the explosion and at once hurried towards the pit eye. It was with great hardship that I battled through the water and while thus engaged found a little boy who had fallen beneath the wheels of a wagon and was apparently much hurt. In response to the appeals of the lad, I took him and carried him for a considerable distance through the water. Before reaching dry ground I felt my strength failing and was forced to abandon the youth and the next moment I fell unconscious. I could hear the voices of the rescuers and I was brought out to safety.

Besides these men all but nine of those employed in the Doe and Five Quarters escaped by the travelling way and one man who was close to the shafts. The total loss of life was 178. Of these 158 were brought out of the Trencherbone, dead and 11 from near the shafts were brought out alive but died at home and nine from the Doe and Five Quarters died from exhaustion and suffocation in the travelling way. 168 died from burns and injuries which caused shock and 10 from suffocation. Six of the 12 horses in the mine were also killed.

There were problems in identifying the bodies. One body was identified by Patrick Gavin as that of Thomas Slattery, his workmate, and fellow lodger because the man’s wife was too ill to make the identification. After the burial, about 20 people identified another body as Slattery but Mrs. Slattery would not agree and the man was buried as “Unknown”. As a result of this mix up one woman was left without the body of her son, Harry Marshall and she could not obtain Burial Money from the Colliery Club. The coroner suggested an exhumation unless the society would accept the evidence given by the manager as to the death. This was found to be satisfactory and an exhumation order was not issued.

A card was published by “The Atlas Printing Co., Pendleton.” “In Loving Remembrance of the following Unfortunate Men and Boys Who Lost Their Lives by the Terrible Explosion, at Clifton Hall Colliery, Pendlebury, June 18th. 1885,” listed 176 victims but there are 178 in the Inspectors report.

Those who died were:

  • Thomas Hall, fireman aged 42 years, of 110, Prestwich View, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by his brother, Moses.
  • John William Greenall, taker-off aged 16 years, of 73, Jane Lane, Swinton, single and identified by his uncle, John Massey.
  • David Doxey, underlooker aged 45 years, of 311, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, married with three children, identified by his daughter, Mary.
  • James Turner, fireman aged 34 years, of Irlam-o’-th’-Height, married with three children, identified by his brother-in-law, Samuel Mather.
  • Samuel Kilver, furnaceman’s helper aged 14 years of 37, Downing Street, Swinton, single, identified by William Kilver.
  • John Colley, fireman aged 37 years of 9, Oak Street, Pendlebury, married with four children, identified by his father, William.
  • Richard Sedon, oiler of wagons aged 41 years, of 9, Hilton Street, Pendlebury, married but no children, identified by Maria Seddon.
  • John Constantine, stoker of boiler furnace aged 33 years, of Algernon Street, Pendlebury, married with three children. Identified by his wife, Sarah.
  • Ralph Daniels labourer aged 65 years, of 46, Granville Street, Swinton married, with four children, identified by George Daniels.
  • Daniel Hardman, ostler aged 37 years, of City Walk, married with no children, identified by his wife, Mary.
  • William Reynolds, day wageman aged 20 years, of 183, Jane Lane, Swinton, single, identified by Sarah Slattery.
  • James Crook, coal miner, aged 40 years, of 56, Jane Lane, Swinton, married with eleven children and identified by Betty, his wife.
  • Thomas Collier, taker-off aged 19 years, of 7, Melbourne Street, single and identified by Joseph Sutton, a carter.
  • James Rothwell, coal miner, aged 23 years, of 20, The Deans, married with one child and identified by Sarah, his wife.
  • John Evans, engine driver, aged 25 years, of Rake Lane, Clifton, married with no children and identified by Thomas, his father.
  • William Turner, day wage man, aged 30 years, of Union Street, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by Hannah Turner.
  • John Collier, bricklayer, aged 35 years, of 5, Folly Lane, Swinton, married with no children and identified by his wife Alice.
  • James Williams, coal miner, aged 27 years, of 25, Torrens Street, married with no children and identified by Maria Williams.
  • William Bradley, pony driver, aged 20 years, of 30, City Walk, Pendlebury, single and identified by his brother, Frank.
  • John Berry, jigger aged 16 years, of 66, Bolton Road, Clifton, single and identified by Ralph Berry a druggists assistant.
  • Matthew Brooks, waggoner, aged 16 years of 15, Algernon Street and identified by Caroline Lees, his mother.
  • Ralph Wadsworth, coal miner, aged 23 years, of Cavendish Street, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by Mary, his wife.
  • Rueben Banks, jigger, aged 19 years, 9, Worlsley Street, Newton, single and identified by Robert Banks.
  • James Feeney, coal miner, aged 21 years, of 8, Redmond Street, single, and identified by his brother, Thomas
  • William Jones, coal miner, aged 38 years, of 132, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by his sister, Ann Daiues.
  • John Eckersley, coal miner, aged 33 years, of 18, Hilton Street, single and identified by his brother Thomas.
  • James Tatlock, coal miner, aged 21 years, of 19, Old Street, Clifton, single and identified by his sister Jemima Rothwell.
  • Isaiah Griffiths, coal miner, aged 47 years, of Ling Buildings, Swinton, a widower with three children and identified by John, his son.
  • John Hardman, coal miner, aged 24 years, of 108, Turton Row, married with three children who was identified by his wife, Mary Ellen.
  • Edward Humphreys, coal miner, aged 28 years, of 132, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, single and identified by his friend John Jones.
  • William Henry Reed, filler and waggoner, aged 16 years, single and identified by John Edwards.
  • William Page, coal miner, aged 37 years, of 33, Eaton Street, married with four children and identified by Priscilla, his wife.
  • John Mellins, waggoner, aged 16 years, of 8, Holland Street, single and identified by Susannah Edwards who was described as a hostess.
  • William Ryder, coal miner, aged 48 years, of, 19, Grosvenor Street, married with seven children and identified by Sarah, his wife.
  • John Edwards, coal miner, aged 29 years, of 8, Holland Street, married with no children and identified by Susannah, his wife.
  • Thomas Percival Buck, coal miner, aged 18 years of Partington Lane, Swinton, single and identified by his uncle, James Berry.
  • John Henry Dunkerley, wagoner, aged 19 years, of Brindle Heath, single, identified by a friend, Ann Davies.
  • William Henry Edwards, coal miner, aged 20 years, of Bank Buildings, single, identified by his brother, Samuel.
  • William Franklin, waggoner, aged 23 years, of 5, Richmond Street, Clifton, single, identified by a friend, James Morgan.
  • John Mannion, coal miner, aged 25 years, of Holland Street, Swinton, married with four children and identified by his father, Michael.
  • Thomas Barlow, coal miner, aged 54 years, of 20, Carrington Street, married with six children and identified by Henry Ashworth, his son-in-law.
  • Frederick Barlow, coal miner, aged 23 years, single, Thomas’ son.
  • Noah Barlow aged 20 years, single, Thomas’ son.
  • Edward Roberts, horse driver, aged 19 years, of 26, Torrens Street, single, identified by Edward Roberts.
  • Thomas Mattox, coal miner, aged 22 years, of 22, Old Street, Clifton, married, identified by Elizabeth Merrick.
  • Thomas Barlow Jnr., coal miner aged 30 years, of 22, Long Street, Swinton, married with one child and identified by Henry Ashworth, his brother-in-law.
  • Alfred Stazicker, waggoner, aged 16 years, of 10, Bold Street, Newton, single, identified by William, his father.
  • John Ryder, coal miner, aged 46 years, of Bridge Street, Pendlebury, married with three children and identified by William Hauxwell.
  • Ernest Edge, coal miner, aged 18 years, of 75, New Street, Pendlebury, single, identified by his mother Annie.
  • William Gee waggoner aged 18 years, of 30, Union Street, Pendlebury, single, identified by his father, John.
  • Peter Willcock, filler, aged 17 years, of 8, Irlam Square, Irlan-o’-th’-Height, single, identified by his father, Reuben.
  • Thomas Sackfield, waggoner, aged 13 years, of 32, Union Street, single, identified by his mother, Jane.
  • Thomas Edwards, coal miner, aged 27 years, of 30, Jane Street, married but no children, identified by his wife May.
  • Leonard Charles Barter, wagon-coupler, aged 13 years, of 9, Oldham Street, Pendlebury, single, identified by his step-sister, Elizabeth Grimshaw.
  • John Sackfield, coal miner, aged 48 years, of 32, Union Street, married with seven children, identified by his wife Jane.
  • John Quinan, day wage man, aged 20 years, of 23, Worsley’s Buildings, single and identified by a friend, James Greenalgh.
  • John Hilton aged, coal miner, 26 years, of 5, Muirhead Street, married with one child and identified by his wife, Harriett Ann.
  • John Wolstenholme, coal miner, aged 25 years, of 6, Filton Street, Clifton, married with one child and identified by John, his father.
  • William Hilton, coal miner, aged 36 years, of 184, Whit Lane, Pendlebury, married. with two children and identified by his wife, Ellen.
  • Thomas Hilton, coal miner, aged 29 years, of 4, Muirhead Street, married with one child and identified by his wife, Ann.
  • Arthur Wallace, filler, aged 19 years, of 29, Union Street, single and identified by his mother, Sarah.
  • John Davies, coal miner, aged 26 years, of 29, Oak Street, Pendlebury, married with a child and identified by James Johnson, his brother-in-law.
  • James Dyson, coal miner, aged 38 years, of 43, Grosvenor Street, Pendlebury, married with three children and identified by his brother-in-law, William Andrews.
  • Samuel Williams, pony driver, aged 16 years, of 22, Pitt Street and identified by his step-father, George Gerrard.
  • Luke Gardiner, coal miner, aged 29 years, of 132, Bolton Road, single and identified by a friend, John Jones..
  • James Redford, coal miner, aged 21 years, of Spence Street, Irlam-o’-th’-Height, single and identified by a friend, Robert Redford.
  • William Johnson, coal miner, aged 32 years, of4, Church Street, Irlam, single and identified by his father, Daniel.
  • John Riley SNR, coal miner, aged 44 years, of 11, Bolton Road, married with six children and identified by his wife Alice.
  • John Done, coal miner, aged 34 years, of 3, Jackson’s Buildings, married with three children and identified by his wife, Mary.
  • John Riley Jnr., waggoner, aged 20 years, of 11, Bolton Road, single and identified by his mother, Alice.
  • Daniel Johnson, coalminer, aged 36 years, of Chalmer’s Buildings, married with four children and identified by James Johnson..
  • Edward Davies, coal miner, aged 36 years, of 3, John Street, Jane Lane, married with three children and identified by Harriett Green
  • Walter Ewing, coal miner, aged 20 years, of 5, Park Street, Swinton, and identified by his mother, Emma.
  • Richard Cheadle, coal miner, aged 24 years, of Downing Street, Swinton, single and identified by A. Cheadle, his sister-in-law.
  • William Williams, coal miner, aged 30 years, of Cavendish Street, Pendlebury, and identified by his father-in-law, John Jackson.
  • Benjamin Bell, coal miner, aged 18 years, of 32, New Street, single and identified by Elizabeth Davies who lived in the same street.
  • Joseph Whitehead, coal miner, aged 30 years, of 19, Union Street, Pendlebury, married with two children and identified by his aunt, Betty Whitehead.
  • William Booth, waggoner, aged 17 years, of Harrol Gate, identified by his mother, Mary.
  • Kay Porter, coal miner, aged 40 years, of 53, Union Street, married with five children and identified by his wife, Ellen.
  • Joseph Price, coal miner, aged 29 years, of 35, George Street, married with five children and identified by Caroline, his wife.
  • Samuel Porter, waggoner, aged 14 years, of 53, Union Street, and identified by his mother, Ellen.
  • Samuel Dyson, coal miner, aged 24 years, of Rake Lane, Swinton, married with two children and identified by Thomas Dwyer, is brother.
  • John Dermody, waggon filler, aged 20 years, of 74, Harrol Gate, single and identified by Elizabeth Meredith, his landlady.
  • Herbert Grimshaw, waggoner, aged 15 years of 48, Union Street, single and identified by Ellen Grimshaw.
  • John Gretton, waggoner, aged 17 years of 11, Wellington Street, and identified by his mother, Naomi.
  • Henry Green, coal miner, aged 28 years of 28, Jane Lane, married with three children and identified by Harriett, his wife.
  • Edwin Greenhalgh, filer, aged 19 years, of 33, Union Street, single and identified by Peter Greenhalgh.
  • William Riley, waggoner, aged 17 years, of 11, Bolton Road, and identified by Alice, his mother.
  • James Kay, coalminer, aged 35 years, of 175, Jane Lane, Swinton, married with three children and identified by his wife, Ann.
  • Hamlet Taylor, coal miner, aged 36 years, of 9, Bury Lane, married with five children and identified by John Taylor, his brother.
  • John Taylor, coal miner, aged 44 years, of 22, Carrington Street, single and identified by his father, John
  • Thomas Williams, day wage man, aged 19 years, of 68, Stapleton Street, single and identified by John Corbett.
  • Samuel Vickers, coalminer, aged 56 years, of Thomas Street, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, married with six children and identified by James Dunn.
  • Thomas Dunn, coal miner, aged 26 years, of 13, Cotton Street, Clifton, a widower who was identified by his brother, James.
  • John Hamlet Taylor, coal miner, aged 20 years, of 91, Manchester Road, Worsley, single and identified by his uncle, John Taylor.
  • Israel Atkinson, coal miner, aged 22 years, of 126, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, married and identified by his wife Eliza Ann.
  • William Mawdsley, waggoner, aged 16 years, of 32, Engine Brow, and identified by his uncle, William Roberts.
  • William Ashton, coal miner, aged 52 years, of 17, Moore Street, a widower with two children and identified by John Astley.
  • William Parkinson, coal miner, aged 17 years, of 169, Jane Lane, Swinton, single and identified by his mother, Mary Ann.
  • Thomas Slattery, coal miner, aged 34 years, of 77, Jane Lane, Swinton, married with one child and identified by Patrick Gavin.
  • Peter Wolstenholme, coal miner, aged 25 years, married with one child and identified by Margaret, his wife.
  • George Hall, day wage man, aged 42 years, of 9, Oldham Street, Pendleton, married with three children and identified by Eliza Grimshaw.
  • Joseph Davies, coal miner, aged 26 years, of 32, New Street, Pendleton, married with three children and identified by Eliza, his wife.
  • George Loader, coal miner, aged 22 years, of 44, Lonsdale Street, Swinton, single and identified by Arthur J. Loader, his brother.
  • Thomas Bradley Snr., coal miner, aged 45 years, of 4, George Street, Pendlebury, a widower with four children who was identified by Thomas, his son.
  • Thomas Hotchkiss, waggoner, aged 14 years, of 23, Thomas Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Mary Jones.
  • Enoch Jones aged, coal miner, 29 years, of 23, Thomas Street, Pendlebury, married with four children and identified by his wife, Mary.
  • Henry John Penny, day wage man, aged 29 years, of 14, Worsley Street, Newtown, married with one child and identified by his brother-in-law, Jesse Smith.
  • Patrick McHugh, coal miner, aged 38 years, of 140, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, single and identified by John Watkins.
  • Joseph Dyson, coal miner, aged 25 years, of 4, City Walk, Pendlebury, married with two children and identified by Harriett Davies, his mother-in-law.
  • Joseph Colley, coal miner, aged 35 years, of 81, Clifton Terrace, married with three children and identified by Esther, his wife.
  • John Davies sen., coal miner, aged 56 years, of 4, City Walk, Pendlebury, married with two children and identified by his wife, Harriett.
  • John Davies Jnr., waggoner, aged 15 years, of 4, City Walk, Pendlebury, single, identified by his mother, Harriett.
  • James Blomerby, coal miner, aged 47 years, of Bank Lane, Pendlebury, married with three children and identified by his father-in-law, John Ratcliffe.
  • George Worthington, coal miner, aged 33 years, of 17, Cobden Street, Pendlebury, married with four children and identified by his wife, Mary.
  • Henry Mattox, coal miner aged 23 years, of 1, Cobden Street, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by his mother, Elizabeth Merrick.
  • David Davies, coal miner, aged 20 years, of 4, City Walk, Pendlebury, single and identified by Harriett, his mother.
  • John Sutton, waggoner, aged 26 years, 7. Melbourne Street, married with two children and identified by his wife, Elizabeth.
  • Robert Crossley, coal miner, aged 32 years, of 70, Harrol Gate, Swinton, single and identified by his brother Samuel.
  • James Vickers, coal miner, aged 22 years, of 3, Thomas Street, Clifton, single and identified by his mother, Ann.
  • George Maddon, waggoner, aged 21 years, of 9, Birkdale Green, single and identified by his aunt, Ellen Massey.
  • Thomas Staley, coal miner, aged 23 years, of Pott Street, Newtown, single and identified by John Sharples.
  • Joseph Derricot, coalminer, aged 39 years, Harrol Gate, Swinton, married with four children and identified by Mary, his sister.
  • James Edward Pugh, coalminer, aged 20 years, Harrol Gate, Villas Swinton, single and identified by his brother, John
  • Thomas Seddon, coalminer, aged 37 years, of 2, Hilton Square, Pendlebury, married with five children and identified by his brother James.
  • William Hall, day wage man, aged 25 years, of 432, Twenty Row, Pendlebury, married and identified by his wife, Eliza.
  • Thomas Morris aged, coalminer, 40 years, of 66, New Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by William Seddon.
  • Alfred Parry, day wage man, aged 31 years, of 15, Holland Street, Swinton, married and identified by his wife, Jane.
  • John Atkinson, coal miner, aged 40 years, 60, New Street, Pendlebury, married with six children and identified by his brother-in-law, James Seddon.
  • John McCarthy, waggoner, aged 17 years, of 24, Saxby Street, Irlam-0ÕthÕ-Height, single. and identified by Elizabeth Robbins.
  • John Dyke, coal miner, aged 34 years, of Muske Buildings, Swinton, married with no children and identified by John Stevens.
  • William Henry Merrick, filler, aged 19 years, of 56, Oak Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by his uncle, William Merrick.
  • James Hughes, waggoner, aged 20 years, of 15, Cobden Street, single. and identified by John Stevens.
  • Charles Edward Gaskell, coal miner, aged 20 years, of 46, Bolton Road, Clifton, single and identified by Simon Gaskell.
  • William Wardle, coal miner, aged 34 years, of 60, Bury Lane, Swinton, married with four children and identified by his wife, Mary.
  • William Darby, filler, aged 23 years, of 60, Jane Lane, Swinton, single and identified by Sarah Darby.
  • John Smethills, coal miner, aged 32 years, of 22, Alice Street, Swinton married, with six children and identified by Mary Jane Smethills.
  • Joseph Clamp, coal miner, aged 44 years, 8, Bridge Street, Pendlebury, married with six children and identified by Herbert Wild.
  • Thomas Robbins, coal miner, aged 38 years, of 24, Saxby Street, Pendlebury, married with six children and identified by Elizabeth Robbins.
  • Walter Blower, coal miner, aged 28 years, of Victoria Terrace, Stone Acid, married with one child and identified by Albert Blower of St. Augustine’s School House.
  • Samuel Sharples, coal miner, aged 34 years, of 56, Bolton Road, Clifton, married with seven children and identified by Richard Sharples.
  • John Yates, coal miner, aged 26 years, of 6, Knowles Square, married with three children and identified by Alice Yates.
  • Samuel Matthews, coal miner, aged 21 years, of Cobden Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Thomas Stevens.
  • John Taylor, waggoner, aged 16 years, of Harrold Gate, Swinton, single and identified by Thomas Wallwork.
  • Daniel Porter, coal miner, aged 35 years, of 50, Union Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by James Porter.
  • William Porter, waggoner, aged 15 years, of 53, Union Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Ann Porter.
  • John Howell, coal miner, aged 21years, of 7, Moore Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Harriett Worsley.
  • William Rushton, waggoner, aged 17 years, of 19, Birkdale Grove, Swinton, single and identified by James Rushton.
  • Samuel Leach, coal miner, aged 37 years, of 54, Union Street, Swinton, a widower and identified by William Stavely.
  • Edward Sofield, coal miner, aged 29 years, of 5, Moore Street, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by his wife, Rachael.
  • James Hopwood, aged 15 years, of 17, Burying Lane, Swinton, single and identified by James Hopwood.
  • James Warren, waggoner, aged 17 years, of 42, new Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Samuel Warren.
  • Samuel Eaves, day wage man, aged 27 years, of Cavendish Street, Pendlebury, married with a child and identified by John Eaves.
  • John Evans, coal miner, aged 25 years, of 25, Spencer Street, Pendlebury, married with two children and identified by Alice Evans.
  • John Hughes, coal miner, aged 18 years, of 28, Spencer Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by his brother, James.
  • Thomas Taylor, furnaceman, aged 44 years, of Harrold Gate, Swinton, married with seven children and identified by his brother-in-law, Thomas Wallwork.
  • Albert Valentine, bricklayer’s labourer, aged 27 years, of Folly Lane, Swinton, married with two children and identified by his wife, Sarah.
  • The body of T. Slattery was claimed but later was found to be Harry Marshall.

Bodies recovered at Agecroft on the 18th June 1885:

  • Thomas Worsley, wagon filler, aged 28 years, of 12, Kent Street, Pendleton, single and identified by his father, John.
  • Robert Worrall, waggoner, aged 13 years, of 12, Chaple Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by David Jackson his putative father.
  • George Enoch Berry, waggoner, aged 20 years, of Albion Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Harriet Barnsley, his sister.
  • George Roberts, coal miner, aged 25 years, of 30, New Street, Pendlebury, single and identified by Robert Roberts
  • Shemei Jackson, coal miner, aged 33 years, of 39, Union Street, Pendlebury, married and identified by Sarah, his wife.
  • William Baxter, coal miner, aged 20 years, of 20, Spencer Street, Irlam, single, and identified by his mother, Maria.
  • Ralph Crook, coal miner, aged 42 years, of 103, Jane Lane, Swinton, single and identified by his brother, Simeon.
  • John Crook, coal miner, aged 19 years, brother to Ralph.
  • William Berry, coal miner, aged 54 years, of Albion Street, Pendlebury, married and identified by his daughter, Harriet Barnsley.

The men who died at their homes:

  • Walter Barker, stable boy, aged 13 years, of 12, Carrington Street, single and identified by his mother. Died at home.
  • John Hardman, hooker-on, aged 25 years, 22, Back Oak Street, Pendlebury, married with one child and identified by Ann Hardman, his sister-in-law. Died at home.
  • Thomas Hardman, hooker-on, aged 28 years, of 375, Bolton Road, Pendlebury, married with five children and identified by Sarah, his wife. Died at home.
  • John Allen, hooker-on, aged 29 years, of 40, Brackley Street, married with no children and identified by Sarah, his wife. Died at home.
  • Joseph Pearson, aged 50 years, of 13, Park Street, Swinton, married with five children and identified by Sarah, his wife. Died at home.
  • Samuel Jones, aged 24 years, of 19, George Street, single and identified by his father, Samuel. Died at home.
  • Peter Kimer, oiler of wagons, of 37, Downing Street, single, identified by his brother, William.. Died at home.
  • James Whittingham, aged 33 years, of 3, Hornby Street, Pendleton, married. with four children and identified by his wife, Margaret. Died in hospital.
  • James Crook, foreman aged 23 years, of 96, Bolton Road, Pendleton, married but no children, identified by Sarah, his wife. Died at home.
  • William Lycett, aged 16 years, of Franchise Street, Pendleton, single and identified by his father, J. Lycett. Died in hospital.

A Relief Committee was formed and the Queen sent a message of condolence. The Lord Mayor of London opened a subscription for a mansion House Fund and the Mayors of Salford and Manchester presided over meetings to raise funds for the dependants. The Relief Committee estimated that there were 85 widows and 279 children to be provided for and in addition to this, 36 persons who were dependent on those who had been killed. The total number who was dependent would therefore be about 400 and it was reckoned that between £15,000 and £20,000 would be needed for the effective relief of the bereaved.

To raise money for the appeal, a Wigan Band gave a concert at which they raised £7.10s.0d. but played a piece of music that was copyright. The result was a claim for £14 from a firm of solicitors which they had to pay.

The inquest into the disaster was held at the Pendlebury Institute by Mr. Frederick Price, the county coroner and a jury with Councillor Addison Pendleton as foreman. All interested parties were represented. At the opening of proceeding, Mr. Dickinson received an anonymous letter that was undated which related to the ventilation of the Trencherbone Mine and Mr. Martin made an inspection the following day when he found gas in Joseph Derricott’s place in No.2 East when the air had become stopped and the men sent home. Martin saw Derricott, who explained that he had released the air to the No. 1 Level and Mr. Martin went to the face of the east and west side levels, testing for gas but found none but he found naked lights were in use in all the places.

Betsy Taylor widow of Thomas Taylor, one of the furnace tenters, stated that her husband had told her that an explosion would occur. He had said, “that the roadways were so that a person could not walk up straight as they were when James Baker was manager three and a half years before.” The Christmas of 1883, the Clifton Hall shafts were under repair and Taylor had to travel the Agecroft way on his hand and knees and was thankful to get back. The air was bad and he complained of the slack or small coal he had to urn was so bad that he could not loosen the clinker from the bars. She was not aware that he had told the officials for fear of losing his job. Her son, who was lost in the disaster, complained to her, three days before the disaster that the roof was loose in the place where he worked. Thomas Wallwork and friend of Mr. Taylor, supported this story and said that they had been given better coal to burn when the Inspector was expected.

Ellen Hilton, widow of William Hilton who had worked for 26 years for the owners also told the court that her husband feared an explosion and that the place where he and his brothers worked was safe but there were other places that were fouled. He was going out of his mind about the pit and there was no management about it, the fireman was not fit for his place and on occasions, he had been down the pit with the fireman he had made no inspections but left it to the men. He also thought that the underlooker was not doing his duty. Similar stories came from Ann Hilton, widow of Thomas and William Hilton’s brother, and Harriet Ann Hilton, widow of John Hilton and brother to Thomas and William.

John Tatlock had worked in the Trencherbone Mine since it was started in May 1865 and had finished working there three years before the disaster and he thought it was the “best fitted up place” he had ever worked in. Firedamp came from the goaf occasionally but he had hear his son, John who also worked in the mine and was killed in the disaster, say that they expected an explosion and he had asked the underlooker to move him to another mine but he would not. John’s place was on the west side and was considered a bad one, not because of the gas but for the fact that there was plenty of coal and not enough waggons to get it away and this prevented him from making enough wages.

Sarah Jackson, widow of Shinei, a miner in the Doe Mine and was one who lost his life travelling through to Agecroft, said that her husband had told her that there would be an explosion as there was a very bad return air in the Doe Mine. Three men, George Battersby a miner, Thomas Buckley, a day wageman, and John Wolstenholme stated that they had never heard anyone say that they expected an explosion.

John Taylor, a fireman for the previous eighteen months and had worked at Agecroft Colliery previous to that took part in the exploration of the mine after the explosion and was one of the first to enter the No.1 East level after the explosion. The level was then weighting between the engine brow and the working places and there was firedamp in Porter’s Place. He thought the explosion started in the No.1 East level. He lost a brother and a nephew in the explosion and said he had never had anything said to him about the mine being dangerous.

William Buck was the previous night’s fireman and had been ill the previous week. He said that he reported all gas in the report book including that which was found in Robin’s and Derricott’s bay, No.2 East on the 22nd October 1884 when coal had fallen into the airway. This was repaired and before the explosion, this bay and two others had been completed. No workman had ever complained to him about gas. Thomas Buckley, a daywageman who had been in the mine for three years knew of this and told the court that William Buck had been ill, he had acted as fireman and the reports were put in the report book by the underlooker as Buckley could or write and simply placed his mark on the report. Another daywageman, John Wolstenholme, who worked with Buckley corroborated this evidence.

Benjamin Crook, the night fireman was on duty the night before the explosion did not find any gas an did not perceive any weighting and George Battersby, Thomas Price, miners and Wint’s two sons said that there was no gas when they left work and there was no weighting but just at the end of the shift, Wint’s lamp showed a little gas. He did not tell anyone.

Samuel Travis, collier, was in the No.3 East when the explosion occurred and was one of the 10 men who came out alive and survived and stated that a horse was with them and died of afterdamp.

Jonathan Hall, the certificated manager gave evidence that he went down the pit at different times, sometimes before six in the morning but generally about nine and he conferred with the underlookers for about half an hour every afternoon between three and four o’clock. There was nothing that the owners did not do for the safety of the mine. He thought the explosion stated at the far end place in No.2 East where Dyke worked by day and Price at night and that the gas came from the old goaf. A pillar of coal that had been left to support Agecroft Hall supported rock which suddenly weighted and produced a sudden outburst of gas. It appeared to have been sudden for some of the men were found with picks and shovels in their hands. The explosion came as a surprise to him and he had never heard any talk of the mine being dangerous or of the quality of coal that was used in the furnace.

The name and address of Mr Dickinson, the Inspector, was posted up on the Official Abstract of the Act and the special rules in a conspicuous place. Mr. Dickinson visited the mine several times a year and Mr. Martin, the Assistant Inspector had been down three times that year, and Mr. Turton, the new Assistant once.

Mr. Hall told the inquiry that the day fireman in the Trencherbone districts was James Crook, No.1 East, Thomas Hall, No.2 East, John Colley No.3 East and No.4 West, James Turner, Nos.1, 2, and 3 West and the night fireman for the parts where the men worked was Benjamin Crook. Concerning safety lamps he said:

There was a strong disinclination on the part of the miners in this neighbourhood to work with safety lamps, although personally, I am in favour of them. I overheard men in this colliery say that they would strike if they were put on with lamps. It had been thought that, taking all things into consideration, it was safer to work with open lights, as there was more careful inspection. I believe that, notwithstanding the explosion, had Messrs. Knowle’s collieries been worked with safety lamps during the last 4 years, more deaths would have occurred from falls of roof, which are very much more numerous than explosions.

Joseph Dickinson. Her Majesty’s Senior Chief Inspector of Mines who lived in South Bank, Pendleton, near Manchester said:

Having received the information of the explosion of the 18th June last, I telegraphed to Mr. Martin and Mr. Turton the two inspectors of mines assisting in the district, and I arrived at the colliery about 11 a.m. I conferred with Mr. Hall, the manager, Mr. Horrocks and others, and took part in the explorations having been in the mine on about six occasions.

I concur in the view that the blast came out of Nos.2 and 1 East Levels of the Trencherbone Mine, and I believe it commenced in Thomas Price’s bay in No.2 Level, where there is coked coal dust nearly half an inch thick on the sides of props and chocks, showing that flame when there both into and from the goaf, but other gas has apparently been drawn or forced out and lighted in other parts of the mine.

As to the causes that may have led to the explosion, Mr. Dickinson pointed out that powder did not appear to have been used and there was a system of watering the roads. There had been an earthquake felt in parts of the country on the day of the explosion but this was not detected in the area and other mines in the district were not affected. Atmospheric changes were recorded and the pressure fell steadily from noon on the 18th when it became stationary.

Other expert witnesses we called and then the Coroner made his summing up to the jury. A verdict was returned on the 9th of July to the effect that the deaths were accidental and that the explosion if firedamp was suddenly and unexpectedly emitted from the goaf or old workings and was ignited with a candle. The jury seeing the diversity of opinion that existed on the use of naked lights declined to express an opinion on safety lamps but recommended that it be referred for consideration.

The verdict did not satisfy anyone. The Miners’ Representatives were very critical of the verdict and Mr. Morley, M.P. made a report that stated that the pit was generally well managed and there were no grounds for prosecution under the Act.

Another body had been found under a fall which made the total of deaths 178 and a further inquest was held on 27th. July with a new jury and at this inquest, it was heard that safety lamps had been introduced throughout the mine. On this occasion, the coroner put it to the jury to record their opinion on naked lights and 11 were in favour of using lamps and three were in favour of using candles..

On the recommendation of Sir Richard Assheton Cross, Secretary of State, Her Majesty was pleased to confer the “Albert Medal of the First Class” upon Mr. Thomas Worrall, underlooker of the Doe and Five Quarters Mine, Clifton Hall Colliery, and Mr. John Crook, manager of the Agecroft Colliery.

The Albert Medal Second Class was conferred on Mr. Charles Parkinson, Fireman, Doe and Five Quarters Mine, Clifton Hall Colliery, Mr. George Higson, fireman, Doe and Five Quarters Mine, Clifton Hall Colliery. Mr. Aaron Manley, pit carpenter, Doe, and Five Quarters Mine, Clifton Hall Colliery and Mr. George Hindley, blacksmith, Doe, and Five Quarters Mine, Clifton Hall Colliery.

The ceremony took place on Friday evening, 6th. November 1885 at the Institute at Pendlebury which Dr. Fraser, the Bishop of Manchester attended. As well as the presentation of the decorations, seven other people received a silver watch, six a bible, and about five a copy of an illuminated certificate, and six with the Humane Society’s Gold Medal.

 

 

REFERENCES
The Mines Inspectors Report.
The Report on the circumstances attending a fatal Explosion which occurred on the 18th June 1885 in the Trencherbone Mine of the Clifton Hall Colliery.
Minutes of proceedings taken at the adjourned inquest on the bodies of the 178 men and boys killed by the explosion at Clifton Hall Colliery on the 18th day of June 1885.
The Colliery Guardian, 26th June 1885, p.1022, 3rd July 1885, p.22, 10th July 1885, p.63, 9th October 1885, p.574, 23rd October, p.662, 13th November 1885, p.785.

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

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