DEAN LANE. Bristol, Somersetshire. 14th. August, 1886.

The colliery was the property of the Bedminster Coal Company. The explosion occurred in the Gas Coal Seam in which there were twenty men working at the time. Only ten escaped with their lives and ten died in the explosion. The seam was about two feet eight inches thick and pitched to the south at about fifteen inches to the yard. It was reached by a staple which was known as the “tip” about 50 yards deep and sunk on the side of the great vein up which the coal was raised in a single cage worked by a small engine on the opposite side of the branch. At the top of the “tip” there was a level which cut the coal after about 28 yards. At the end of this there was an incline driven 300 yards to the seam. Carts were hauled up here by means of an engine at the top of the pit.

The seam was known to give off firedamp but only in small quantities and was worked with open lights. On the 1st September, some gas was found in a working which was known as “P”, in a hole in the roof. The men, who were working there, were provided with a safety lamp but after that, according to the evidence that was presented at the inquest, no gas was found there again.

When the explosion occurred, the cage was blown up the shaft into the pulley and jammed there. A door on the west side was blown and an arch was damaged. It was also found that the timbers on the incline were covered with burnt dust on the upper side.

Those who died were:

The hewers:

  • James Marsh aged 34 years.
  • Richard Davies aged 27 years.
  • Samuel Moxham aged 48 years.
  • William Garland aged 29 years.
  • James Jones aged 26 years.

The fillers:

  • Albert Latham aged 18 years.
  • Robert Towey aged 18 years.
  • James Millard aged 16 years.
  • John Brake aged 14 years.
  • George Higham aged 16 years, banksman.

All the men who died lost their lives from suffocation with the exception of the banksman at the top of the “tip”. He was pushing a tram in to the cage when it was blown over his head and he fell with the tram into the pit.

The inquest was opened by Mr. Wasborough, coroner, on the 11th and adjourned until the 20th, when all interested parties were represented. The general arrangements for the colliery were closely looked into and evidence was given by men who worked in the mine, disclosed that the air supply to the west roads was defective but this could not have affected the explosion occurring at the top of the incline. a theory was put forward and strongly pressed by some of the men that the gas fired at the bottom of an old incline known as “K” but this was discounted by the evidence since if the explosion had originated there, the force would not have been enough to throw the cage into the pulley, would have destroyed two doors and the dust and charring would have been on the other side of the props.

One of the overmen was in the main return with a naked light shortly before the accident; it was evident that there was no gas then. A thick piece of coal which gave off firedamp was driven through while driving the level from the shaft and the most probable explanation that Mr. Cadman, the Government Inspector, made was that the gas came from this and had found its way through cracks in the arch and exploded at a naked light carried by a boy named, Jeffries who was standing close to the place where the explosion was thought to have started.

The jury found that the explosion originated in the arch and that the ventilation was sufficient which amounted a verdict of “Accidental Death”. After the accident new ventilation roads were driven and locked lamps adopted in the mine. Mr. Cadman commented:

The colliery is dry and dusty, which greatly aggravates and extends the effects of an explosion. Had there been no dust it is reasonable to suppose that only two persons who were in the arch at the time, both of whom recovered, would have been affected.


Mines Inspectors Report. 1886.
The Report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the Dean Lane Colliery Explosion J. Bros, Esq., Barrister-at-Law and T. Cadman, Esq., one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Mines.
The Colliery Guardian, 17th September, p.458.

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

Return to previous page