FOGGS.  Tyldesley, Lancashire. 4th. October, 1907.

Foggs Colliery was owned by Andrew Knowles and Sons Limited and the accident occurred as ten men were being taken up the pit when their cage collided with the descending cage. The rope drew from the capping and Owen’s safety catches did not hold the cage which fell to the bottom of the shaft killing all the men.

The shaft in which the disaster occurred was the downcast and was very old. It was 10 feet 6 inches in diameter with the two cages back to back running on pitch pine conducting rods which, when they were new, were 5 inches square. The bearers, buntons or horse trees were of American Oak, 5 inches square and placed 15 feet apart. Before Easter, 1907, the two cages were single decked but at that date, double-deck cages were fitted. There were two shoes to each end of the cage, one at the top and at the bottom, guiding the cages by the conductors.

The cages were 6 feet three inches long, 3 feet 5 inches wide, and 10 feet deep. The top deck was 6 feet high and the bottom deck, 4 feet high. Where the cages passed each other in the shaft, at the meetings the clearance was three and a half inches. Owen’s safety catches were provided on each cage to grip the conductors in the case of the rope breaking or becoming detached from the cage. The winding engine was a single-cylinder vertical engine with the valves worked by vertical tappet rods. The ropes were attached to the cages by cappings, 2 feet 6 inches long, formed by turning back the wires of the rope end to form a bulge, taper wedges on each side, the whole enclosed by a three hooped iron capping.

The winding engine was described as an old fashioned one with a single vertical cylinder. The drum was hidden from the view of the engineman and was fitted with a steam brake which was in working order at the time of the accident. Mr. Redmayne stated that:

One is frequently able with this type of engine when riding in the shaft, to determine the “dead” points of the stoke, especially when going slow, owing to the variation in the speed, which imparts a somewhat jerky motion to the cage and I found this engine no exception. It was customary when just about bringing the cages to meetings for the engineman to partially cut off the steam.

The accident happened just after four in the afternoon which was the time the men started to ascend the pit. The onsetter at the bottom, Jacob Fletcher, had sent away six cageloads of men. The cage was on the Office side of the shaft and the descending cage on the canal side; two of the men who came up in the last cage on the Office side. Albert Smith and James Cowburn said that they observed nothing unusual. At the time of the accident, there were 10 men on the upper deck and two full tubs in the lower. There were four empty tubs in the descending cage. The first indication that something was wrong was a metallic-sounding crash heard in the shaft followed by a second as the descending cage crashed into the wooden scaffolding and into the sump.

The winding engineman noticed an oscillation of the rope but felt nothing on the engine and he ran the cage about 20 yards before he pulled up the engine. They heard a crash and when they went to the door of the engine house, he saw that the rope on the office side was off its pulley. The banksman heard the collision and described it “as like a gun going off” and also noticed that the rope was off the pulley.

After the accident. Britland, Greenhalgh and William Angrove went down the shaft in a pit-box, slowly lowered by a capstan engine down the office side and when they were about 20 yards above the meetings they found the end of the rope that had been attached to the descending cage drawn from its socket and dangling loose. A little further down they found the descending cage leaning over from the canal side to the office side of the shaft, its openings upwards and the four empty tubs still in the cage. Not being able to pass the cage they came to the surface.

Another party consisting of the colliery manager, Mr. Jones, Britland, Greenhalgh, Angrove, and Baxter made a descent and decided to straighten up the cage. This they did and a third party made up of Britland, Morris, the enginewright and the manager then went down when Britland observed that part of the No.3 conductor had penetrated the bottom of the hanging cage. He pulled out a piece about half a yard long and nearly all the remainder was missing

Those who died were:

John Bithell Snr. aged 58 years, collier
Alfred Thomlinson aged 43 years, collier
James Mullineaux aged 42 years, collier
James Berry aged 28 years. collier
Peter Bleakley aged 23 years, collier
John Bithell Jnr aged 27 years, drawer
William Taylor aged 28 years, drawer
William Bond aged 60 years, dataller
Thomas Yates aged 18 years, dataller
John William Lambert also known as Baldington, aged 37 years, collier

The inquiry into the accident was held at the Town Hall Bolton on 18th. December. After the accident, it was found that the rope of the ascending cage was hanging free with the wires pulled out of the capping. the descending cage was ten or twelve yards below with its bottom wedged against the sides of the shaft with a broken wooden conductor end protruding through the bottom. The top of the cage leaned over towards the centre of the shaft. Four wooden conductors were broken for a distance of 30 to 40 feet at the meetings.

Mr. Gerrard, the Inspector, said:

In my opinion, the colliding of the cages was caused by one of the wooden conductors’ rods breaking from the vibration of the ascending cage, one of the cages became free and very shortly before meeting the other cage, so the shock of the two cages to that extent coming into collision drew the rope from the capping. OwenÕs catches failed to hold the cage, it fell to the bottom of the shaft. Instances are on record of these catches operating successfully and failures are also on record. In this case, the wooden conductors, having broken, or the derangement of one of the iron cage rods from the collision or form the detached capping, safety hook, and cage chains falling thereon, may have hindered the catches from, operating.

Mr. Gerrard went on:

The cause of the accident was simple, the remedy if simple. The distance between the bearings, 15 feet was too great by introducing bearers halfway between, so reducing the distance by one half, the vibration of the cage is reduced and therefore less chance of a conductor beige broken. If this were done for a distance above and below the place where the cages pass, the travel of the cages would be safer. This has been proved at more than one shaft in the district, notably in the shafts at Mossley Common.


Mines Inspectors Report.
Report on the causes and circumstances attending the shaft accidents which occurred at Foggs Colliery on the 4th October 1907 by R.A.S. Redmayne, M.Sc., M.I.M.E., F.G.S., Professor of Mining at the University of Birmingham. Cd.3979.
Colliery Guardian, 18th October 1907, p.726.

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

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