NORLEY. Wigan, Lancashire. 21st. December, 1868.

The explosion occurred in the Orrell Four Feet Seam on the Monday after payday when the general operations of the mine were suspended. Elijah Cheetham, the fireman in charge of the workings in question, was ordered to level the floor of the mine near Dauber’s place and was told by the underlooker that the use of gunpowder would not be necessary as the floor was soft.

As Cheetham went to work he had to pass some men who were working near the pit eye from whom he obtained some gunpowder. In a short time, an explosion occurred which claimed eight lives and did considerable damage to the workings.

The men who died were:

  • T. Tinsley,
  • T. Sharrock,
  • William Taylor, left a widow and four children,
  • William Fairhurst,
  • Robert Fairhurst, dataller,
  • Elijah Cheetham, fireman left a widow and five children,
  • Thomas Sharrock aged 35 years left a widow and four children,
  • Thomas Rutter, pony tenter aged 34 years,
  • William Caunce left a widow, Dauber
  • Elijah Cunliffe, dataller, unmarried.

It was some time before Mr. Higson was able to examine the workings but he came to the conclusion that the explosion had been caused by Cheetham firing a shot. Mr. Higson went on to say:

It was Cheetham’s duty to have made a careful inspection of the workings as soon as he got there and more particularly on this occasion as the furnace had been out, undergoing repairs from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. If such an inspection had been made, he must have found the gas that had accumulated. Careful supervision had been neglected as at Hindley Green and Winstanley collieries.


The Mines Inspectors Report 1868. Mr. Higson.

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

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