ALDWARKE MAIN. Rotherham, Yorkshire. 5th. January, 1875.

The colliery was the property of Messrs. John Brown and Company and the explosion took the lives of seven men. Charles Edward Rhodes was the manager of the colliery and J. Brown and Company had purchased the Aldwarke Main and the Carr Houses Colliery about eighteen months before the disaster. Both the colliers were now worked together. Naked lights were used in the pit which worked the Barnsley Seam. Both the pits were ventilated by furnaces and in the latter, the air passed directly over the furnace. The upcast shaft at Carr House acted partly for Aldwarke Main. There was stopping in which there was a regulator built in between the workings of the two pits.

To a great extent, most of the coal had been worked and there were only a few pillars at the extremity of what was called the Carr House Levels. The district in which this coal was worked was called the Third South which was 1,100 yards from the shaft.

A deputy, Mr. Ford, used to go round the pit with an open lamp to test for gas and at the inquest, Mr. Wardell said he strongly disapproved of this practice. At the time of the explosion, there were about 300 men and boys in the pit with only one deputy in charge.

Robert Copley of Mangham Quarry, Parkgate was the fire-tryer at the colliery and was on duty on the 15th from 10 p.m. on Monday to 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning. It was his duty to inspect the south of the pit and he saw nothing wrong with the roadways or the ventilation. He went along the pack road on the Tuesday morning and inspected the roof which seemed all right. There had never been gas found in the mine before except in the deepest workings. He was in bed when he was told of the explosion. He went to the pit and went down to help with the rescue operations but was overcome by the afterdamp.

Thomas Speight who was a deputy on duty on the morning of the disaster made a report that the Carr House workings where the explosion took place were “all right and safe” When the explosion took place about 6.20 a.m. when there were about one hundred and twenty men and boys in the pit. He was at the pit bottom and did not hear anything as he was about 1000 yards away. The firs the heard of the explosion was when a man brought him a report that his father thought that there was gas in his place on the south level. Speight did not think there was danger in that place as the ventilation was very good and he told the man to go back to work and sent Holroyd, one of the deputies to see if there was any danger and followed him. It was then that he realised that there had been an explosion. He made his way to the scene and found Usherwood’s body in the third south ending. The others were buried under a considerable quantity of fallen material. It was thought that Usherwood had been behind the others when the explosion took place. He went to the top but the afterdamp was so strong that he had to return to the first south ending where a stopping had been blown out and he and a man named Ford repaired it. Thomas Ainsworth, a deputy at the pit, found the last six bodies buried in the goaf wall at the third south ending of the Old Carr House Colliery.

When the Inspector arrived at the colliery as the bodies were being recovered and observed that by gradually carrying on the air through the affected district, it made the recovery of the bodies possible and the pit workable again. On inspecting the pit he was of the opinion that the gas came from the top of the south heading from the goaf which extended over about 50 acres. He recommended that locked lamps be used in the mine and better discipline should be enforced in keeping the statutory record books.

The men who died were:

  • Thomas Griffiths aged 35 years,
  • George Bilyard bricksetter’s labourer,
  • Benjamin Ege aged 21 years,
  • George Cooper aged 29 years,
  • Samuel Usherwood aged 19 years,
  • Richard Bennett aged 25 years and
  • William Whitehead aged 24 years.

The inquest was held by Mr. D. Wightman, Coroner. An examination of the mine had been carried out at the request of the men by Mr. Ford and the coroner said that this was an improper proceeding, not that they did not have the right to make an examination but the fact that they had published the result of their report and placed before the jury was what he thought improper. Mr. Wightman went on to say:

If Mr. Ford had not moved the blame from his shoulders then I would have felt it my duty to severely reprimand him. It was a most imprudent thing to publish a report of an investigation and state that nobody was to blame before the jury had heard the evidence of a single person on oath. I might state that the newspapers stated that the investigation was made at the invitation of Mr. Ford and that the newspapers do not always get the correct information. I have heard Mr, Ford’s explanation but the report which had been published at any rate threw a certain amount of suspicion on Mr. Ford and he ought to have known better than to allow such a proceeding to take place.

The room was cleared and after a short consultation, the jury returned the verdict of “Accidental Death” and added the recommendations that the use of naked lamps should be discontinued and safety lamps only should be used and that there should be more deputies.. The jury also referred to the manner in which the danger record books were kept and Mr. Rhodes, the manager, assured the jury that their recommendations would be strictly carried out.


Mines Inspector Report, 1875. Mr. Wardell.
Colliery Guardian, 8th. January, p.58, 15th. January, p.91, 22nd. January, p.129.

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

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