ALDWARKE MAIN. Rotherham, Yorkshire. 23rd. February, 1904.

The colliery was the property of Messrs. John Brown and Company, Limited. The No.2 Parkgate shaft at the colliery was used exclusively for raising and lowering men to the Parkgate inset, 406 yards from the surface. It was an upcast shaft and an outlet for exhaust steam from the hauling engines. At about 5.20 a.m., eight men were being lowered in the top deck of the cage and when they were about 50 yards from the bottom, the winding rope snapped at a point six yards below the surface. The cage fell 400 yards to the bottom of the shaft. One man was killed on the spot and five died shortly afterwards after being liberated from the tangled mass of steel that was the cage. Two died the same day in Rotherham Hospital. the eighth man, Arthur Ramsden, recovered after some months in hospital.

The rope was three and a half inches in circumference (2.9 cm diameter). It was examined at p.m. on the day before the accident by the appointed examiner and reported to be all right. It had been in use for 18 months and the breaking strain should have been 56 tons and the working load about five and a half tons and the weight on the rope when it failed was three tons seven and a half cwt.

Those who died were:

  • Martin Marsh aged 46 years, collier
  • Mark Dyson aged 41 years, collier
  • Peter Rockett aged 54 years, collier
  • Thomas Ramsden aged 55 years, collier
  • Henry Wright aged 36 years, trammer
  • W. Downing aged 30 years, trammer
  • Albert Kent aged 26 years, trammer

The inquest into the men’s deaths was held on the 25th February for formal identification and resumed on the 3rd. March under the direction of Mr. J. Kenyon-Parker, Deputy Coroner, at the Station Hotel, Aldwarke. It was attended by Mr. W.M. Gichard who represented the owners and Mr. J. Raley who was instructed by the Yorkshire Miners’ Association and appeared for the relatives of the deceased.

E.W. Thirkell, the manager of the mine, said he heard of the accident before 6 a.m. and immediately went to the place. He could see that the rope was broken. The cage was on the low landing with the lower deck telescoped into the top deck. The rope was made of improved plough steel and was installed on the 14th. August 1902. The rope was replaced after two years of use and then used as a haulage or balance rope. During he last nine years no rope had worked for longer than two years. The total number of draws in the shaft was about 134 in 24 hours, 67 for each cage. The ropes were examined every day and he said that there was steam in the shaft and the pit water was slightly salty.

John Walker was the winding engineman on duty hen the accident occurred. He had gone to work at 4 a.m. and had worked at the colliery for 28 years and had learned to wind 35 years before. He was letting down the third cage load of men at the usual speed and shut off the steam before he had got halfway down. When the cage was about six revolutions off the bottom he reversed his level to pull up. At about four revolutions the cage came to a standstill for a moment and the ascending cage began to descend. The broken end of the rope came over the engine house. He had tried the ropes before he began winding the men and had found everything all right. He swore that there was no sudden application of the brake and in fact, he had not used the brake at all before the accident.

Thomas Brameld told the court it was his duty to examine the drawing rope and he had inspected it at 3 p.m. The inspection took about 10 minutes. He examined it by holding a piece of rubber and letting the rope run through. Sometimes they put callipers on the rope and there had been a slight reduction in the diameter due to wear.

The rope was examined by experts and John Edward Stead, F.R.S. who practised as a metallurgical chemist in Middlesborough and he did not think that there was any fault in the rope but that the accident was caused by a sudden strain being placed on it and W.H. Pickering, Chief Inspector of Mines in the York and Lincoln Districts thought the rope had been weakened by internal corrosion which was probably hidden. He expressed the opinion the winding ropes should be re-capped every six months.

The jury returned the following verdict:

That the deceased lost their lives through the breaking of the rope whilst descending the Parkgate shaft, but there is not sufficient evidence to prove the cause of the rope breaking and the jury further recommend that the ropes in the upcast shaft be more frequently changed.


The Mines Inspectors Report, 1904. Mr. Walker.
Colliery Guardian, 26th February 1904, p.449, 18th March, p.614

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

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