CADEBY MAIN. Denaby, Yorkshire. 9th. July, 1912.

Cadeby Main Colliery was the property of the Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries, Limited and was in the Don Valley in South Yorkshire, almost midway between Doncaster and Rotherham and the collieries were about 2,000 yards apart. The area of mineral tract worked by the Colliery Company was about ten thousand acres.

The Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries were under the general control of a Managing Director, Mr. W.H. Chambers, who was well known throughout Yorkshire and the Midlands as a Mining Engineer of high standing and experience. He lived near the collieries and took a more active part in the management of the mines than was usual for a Managing Director. Mr. H.S. Witty was the Agent over the two collieries and previous to this appointment in September 1911, he had been manager of the Cadeby Main Colliery. Under Mr. Witty, as manager of Cadeby Main alone, was Mr. C. Bury who was seriously injured in the second explosion and died a few days afterwards. There was one undermanager at the mine. Mr. Bridges, an assistant undermanager, Mr. Cusworth, killed in the second explosion and Mr. Eli Croxhall, who also lost his life in the second explosion, acted as undermanager on the afternoon shift.

There were two shafts at the Cadeby Main Mine which was close to Conisborough Railway Station and were sunk to the Barnsley bed which was the only seam that was worked at the mine at a depth of 763 yards on the dip side of a large fault which had a throw to the south of 126 yards. The coal on the north side of the fault was won by a pair of headings which were driven through the fault. The mine produced about 3,000 tons per day and the coal was wound at both shafts. The No.1 was the downcast and the No.2 was the upcast both 16 feet in diameter and 752 and 738 yards deep respectively. The coal was wound from the bottom of the No.1 shaft and the coal was brought to the temporary inset on a level with the seam on the north side of the fault at the No.2 shaft. an inset was being made at the bottom of this shaft but had not been completed. Some of the coal worked on the north side was brought to the No.1 shaft and this was lowered down by a staple pit sunk from the north side level to the south side level.

The Barnsley Bed had Bind roof and floor of fireclay or shale and about 7 feet 3 inches thick of coal was worked About 49 feet above the Barnsley Bed was a seam of coal 2 feet 2 inches thick and the top coal of the Barnsley Bed was of inferior quality and mixed with dirt. The Barnsley Bed was known to be a gassy seam but at Cadeby it was not subject to blowers or sudden interruptions of gas. The undermanager, Mr. Bridges, told the inquiry that after a weighting in the No.2 Pit, about two years before the accident, it was necessary to withdraw the whole of the workforce from the mine on account of the gas.

In South Yorkshire, the seam was liable to spontaneous combustion and the colliery had suffered no less than 35 fires and to work it, it required great care and vigilance of the part of the management. The seam dipped at 1 in 14 to 1 in 12 to the south-west and the workings were divided into five man districts, the First North, the Second North, the East, the South and the West Districts. The coal was worked on the longwall system and the distance between the gateroads was usually 40 yards. Packs were built on either side of the roads for a width of 7 feet 6 inches, and every seven yards a gob pack was built, 6 feet wide. The material used to build the packs was stone got from the wastes and from the rippings in the gates. In the main roads, a good deal of ripping had to be carried out in the bind roof which had the effect of forming stone dust. This had a great limiting effect on the propagation of the resulting explosions. All the coal was got by hand and there were no mechanical coal cutting machines nor conveyors used to transport the coal along the faces. The coal was friable and there were quantities of coaldust made at the face.

No shots were fired except in the stone drifts and then only at weekends when there were few persons in the pit. as an additional safeguard, only the manager was permitted to fire the shots. The mechanical haulage of the coal was in the main intakes and the haulage system used an endless rope which was electrically driven from the bottom of the shaft. The secondary haulage was done by horses and ponies. The ventilation of the mine was by a Schiele fan, 21 feet in diameter which ran at 119 r.p.m. at a water gauge of about three and a half inches. A Waddle fan, 9 feet in diameter and electrically driven, was kept as a standby was being replaced by a reversible Sirocco fan. Although the Cadeby Main mine is connected to the Denaby mine by means of an emergency outlet, the ventilation system of the two mines was quite separate and the iron doors at the outlet were kept locked.

With the exception of some of the lamps carried by officials and a number of electric lamps used when working at fire holes, the colliery used Marsaut lamps. After the accident, safety lamps were found in the explosion area and found to be intact but several found on the 14 level were broken and one in 19’s crossgate had been broken from the outside.

The surface arrangements were designed to prevent the coal dust from tipplers, screens, conveyor belts and hoppers from being carried down the downcast shaft. The dust was collected by funnels attached to pipes which were in turn connected to an exhaust fan which created a two and a half inches water gauge pressure. The dust-laden air was passed from the fan into a cyclone where it entered a steamy atmosphere maintained by a steam jet from the boilers. This arrangement, which had been in operation for about five years, had proved most effective in clearing the air about the hempstead from dust and practically none was carried down the downcast shaft into the workings.

In each district, there was a senior “charge” deputy who worked with an afternoon and night shift charge deputy. The senior, and more experienced of the charge deputies, were on the morning shift which was the most important shift of the three. The afternoon and night shift deputies were considered inferior to the morning deputies only in that they received their instructions from the undermanager through the senior deputies. They had the same duties and responsibilities as the morning deputies. Besides these, there were assistant deputies, tow to a large district and one to a small district. These men assisted the charge deputies and examined and reported as if they were full deputies.

The examination before the commencement of work in the morning shift was made by the night deputy and his juniors and they each reported the results of their examinations. all the deputies and their assistants were carefully and wells selected. Generally speaking, the charge deputies were drawn from the assistant deputies.

The mine was worked on three shifts, two coal getting shifts and one repairing shift. The first coal getting shift was from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., the second from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the repairing shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.. and the deputies went down with the men in the first cages.

The number of men working underground on the 8th July was 10 p.m., 7th July, to 6 a.m., 8th July, 505. 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. 938, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. 52 and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., 9th July, 11. The numbers working on the corresponding days of the previous week were 10 p.m., 30th. June to 6 a.m., 1st. July, 489. 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 853 and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. 238. The difference in the numbers on the 2 till 10 shift was accounted for by the fact that H.M. the King visited the neighbourhood on the 8th and 9th and many people made it an occasion for a holiday.

The explosion took place in the East District which was dry and moderately dusty. The coal was filled into tubs at the face with shovels, not forks as was common in collieries in South Yorkshire. As a result, there was not as much fine coal dust at the face. The endless rope worked as far as the 14 level. The tubs were hooked on by a tail rope and a clip and travelled for 150 yards down the level. After this, the haulage was by horses each horse drawing tubs of 10 cwts.

The South district was not expected to be worked for long for to the south it was not far from the boundary between Cadeby Main and Dalton Main Collieries and to the east it was approaching the pillar of coal which had been left to support the Dearne Valley Railway Viaduct. There were several faults cutting the area of coal that was being worked. Gob fires had been known in the neighbourhood. The first occurred at the face in August 1906 and the fire was dug out. The second fire occurred not far from the first where some timber had been left. A third fire occurred in old 121’s stall against the fault. The fire was first discovered on 20th. November 1911 and when scouring roads were driven to it was found that the fore had backed from the fault for about eight yards into the gob. On 20th January 1912, a small explosion of gas occurred at this fire, slightly burning four men who were working at the face. The effect of this was felt by men 150 yards away and frightened them so they all came out.

The deputy, Springthorpe said he saw fire on 2nd. February which “broke out over the top of the bars that had been set to scour forward towards the fault” This was about two yards back from the fault and it was the top coal which caught fire. This was a very small fire and Springthorpe soon put it out.

The chargeman at the spot, Saunders, who was killed in the explosion, stated on 10th. April that he had seen “a flash over the pack”, about 20 yards away from where Springthorpe had seen the fire. At the time the management was under the impression that the fire was out and Saunders was in charge of the operations of “drawing off” and stowing up the scouring roads in the area. During these operations, no signs of fire were found.

On the morning of Tuesday, 9th July between 1 and 2 o’clock, William Humphries, a road layer was at work at a spot about 260 yards along the South Level when he noticed:

A sudden stoppage of air followed by a warm heat which travelled past me. Presently it came back, there being electric lights, I could see it picked up the dust and came up the landing, coming from the pit bottom picking up all the distance from this level and filling it full of dust.

Seeing that something was wrong, he went to the pit bottom where he knew two men were working. he explained to these men what he had seen but in his own words, “could not get anything out of them”  and went back to the level again but could not settle down to work as he thought there was something wrong with the pit. He went to the top of the pane and found the ventilation normal so returned to his work. Shortly after he was joined by J. Farmer, who had come out of another district. It was 2.15 a.m. Farmer heard Humphries story and came to the conclusion that there had been an explosion and he went further along the level. When he had got 200 or 300 yards he found signs of violence, saw dust he had place on greaser was blackened and dust had been blown from girders. He went through the doors at 33 level where he found the atmosphere foul so he hurried out and found the separation doors intact. further down he found five tubs disturbed by the explosion. At a point 100 to 150 yards outbye of the 14 level he shouted two or three times but got no answer. At this stage, he felt a little strange and retraced his steps intending to get assistance.

At the top of the plane, he met a man named Senior and sent him to fetch another man named Bullock. Humphries and Farmer went down the plane again and they were later joined by Senior somewhere beyond the 33 level who told them that Bullock, Sylvester and Nicholson were coming. On opening the doors at 33 level they saw these three men coming out “all of a lather”. They ad been about 200 yards along the level and was then joined by Wildman and the while party proceeded down the plane. When they got as fat as 14’s landing they found 50 or 60 tubs blown out by the force of the blast. It was then that they agreed to send Nicholson and Wildman to fetch Fisher, the deputy in the West district and Cusworth, the undermanager. Those who remained out over the broken tubs and went about 100 yards inbye when they found the air bad and had to retrace their steps where they waited for the arrival of an official. Fisher joined them there and it 4.55 a.m., when Nicholson found Fisher.

Fisher went to the South district as so as he heard the news and went through the doors at 23 where he found the air was foul. he came out and closed the doors and went to 33 where the doors were closed. He then joined Humphries and the others, examined their lamps and set out with them along 19’s crossgate. They found a door open and arranged for it to remain so and a little further along they found a fall. Just over the fall they found the body of Mulrooney. Fisher continued and then stopped to think. He came back and closed the 19’s cross gate door and, coming to the bottom of the crossgate, sent Humphries out to the pit bottom for assistance and then set off on a tour of inspection. He got as far as 64’s but then lost his light while testing for gas. This was the first time he found gas but before this, he knew he was in afterdamp because of the effects on him. He fenced off 64’s, warning anyone who came that it was a dangerous place. Then with Bullock’s light, the two men came out and met Cusworth and Springthorpe.

On his way out to summon the rescue party who were trained in the use of breathing apparatus, Humphries met Cusworth and Springthorpe coming down the South Plane just below 33 level and he told then that he knew where Bullock and Fisher were. Cusworth told him to bring back the Report Book which was kept in the “box-hole” near the shaft. In the book, the deputy recorded the position of the workmen during the shift and this record was in addition to the statutory report book.

Humphries found, Hulley. a deputy, at about 5.30 a.m. and they collected a rescue team of Murgatroyd, a deputy named Humphries, Carlton and Stribley. The team went to the enquiry office and telephoned Mr. Witty and Mr. Bury and the Wath Rescue Station. They set off with four sets of rescue apparatus and some spare oxygen cylinders. By the time they were ready and descended the pit, it was 5.55 a.m.

Fisher, Cusworth and Humphries, the deputy, went along 19’s crossgate and found an electric lamp against an old stopping in old 121’s. Springthorpe and Hulley went back along the 19’s crossgate with a message about rescue apparatus and Fisher and Humphries came out along 33’s level and back to 19’s crossgate. Mr Bury, the manager, had come into the workings. Fisher followed and caught up with him and they went to the low side face. Where they found a fall in 131’s. In evidence Fisher said that he had no conversation about anyone about a gob fire but thought that the explosion had originated somewhere between 121’s and 7’s. He went to the surface at 9 a.m. and went home.

At the inquiry, Hulley said that after Fisher and Humphries had gone out of the 33 level, Cusworth, Hulley and Murgatroyd inspected the slits. Hulley suggested that everything should be left as it was until the Inspectors arrived and Cusworth stopped the bodies being taken out. On his arrival at the scene, Mr. Bury said that it would be all right and he would put a mark on the sides where the bodies had been found. After that Mr. Bury asked them to go with him on an inspection of the district and Hulley, Murgatroyd, Farmer and Carlton went with him. They found two bodies in 64’s on the low side of the crossgate where there were signs of burning, another at 7’s gate where a stopping was being built, which was not burnt. At the suggestion of Bury, Hulley and Carlton went back down 64’s gate and on to 19’s level where they met Bury, Springthorpe and Murgatroyd at 19’s gate.

About 8.45 a.m., Mr. Bury suggested to Hulley and the others that they should go home as they had been up all night and there was plenty of help. When Hulley got to the surface at about 9.20 a.m. he met Mr. Witty, and Messrs. Pickering and Hewitt in the inquiry office and Hulley told him of the situation underground and had no idea that there had been a gob fire. Word was sent to the rescue party at 14’s level that the breathing apparatus would not be needed as the air was good and the party took off their suits and placed them in a manhole and Humphries, the road layer, stayed to look after them. Percy Murgatroyd, one of the rescue brigade, kept his apparatus. Cusworth sent for Humphries who wanted the workbook he had brought in. The agent, Mr. Witty, arrived at the mine at 6.45 a.m. and learned that a party of trained rescuers made up of men already at work in the pit, had gone inbye and that Mr. Bury and Cusworth had gone down the pit. Mr. Witty did not go down and the report from the pit bottom was that the South District had been travelled and the ventilation restored. The position of the bodies had been located but that help was required to get them out.

Mr. Witty had the pay shed prepared for the reception of the bodies, placed a man in charge and sent for a lot more stretchers. He also asked the crowd that had gathered for volunteers to carry out the bodies. He asked for 20 men and 20 took up their lamps and went down the pit.. The Mines Inspectors, Messrs. Pickering, Hewitt and Tickle arrived at the colliery between 9 and 10 a.m. and went down the mine. Two other Inspectors Messrs. Wilson and Hudspeth arrived later and they delayed going down while they studied the plans of the district. This delay probably saved their lives.

From the time that Fisher left the pit at 8.30 a.m. and the news of the second explosion between 11 and 12 o’clock, Humphries went out at the shaft bottom and telephoned for Mr. Bury, at Springthorpe’s request. Fisher and Bullock went out by 33 level, Cusworth and Springthorpe went straight along 14 level, passing the bodies of the men and horses on the way and then along the 121’s crossgate, into 19’s level down the crossgate into 14 level again. When he arrived at 14 level Springthorpe was suffering from the effects of afterdamp so sat down for a while.

Somewhere in 19’s crossgate Mr. Bury joined Cusworth and Springthorpe was nearly overcome by afterdamp so that when they got to new 131’s crossgate, Bury and Murgatroyd came out by the crossgate. On the way out Bury and Murgatroyd went into 143’s. On 14 level Bury sent Murgatroyd out with Springthorpe to the level where he arranged to stop and assist in getting the bodies up the plane. Eighteen or nineteen bodies were sent out while he was there. A few had already been sent out. A man named Littlewood stayed with him. Between the two explosions, samples of the atmosphere were taken in various part of the pit and the sample at the 7’s gate showed that there was nearly 3% of methane.

Shortly after Springthorpe had got into the 14 level end the Inspectors arrived and he asked Prince, the assistant deputy, to take him to Mr. Bury, which he did, and returned for something. Springthorpe could not remember what.

An hour and a half or two hours after the Inspectors passed him, the second explosion occurred. Springthorpe was standing about 8 to 10 yards topside of 14’s level end and Littlewood was 10 yards from the topside where he was waiting while another stretcher party brought out a body. Suddenly he heard a rushing noise and had just time to shout “Look out Herbert” when he was knocked about and his lamp knocked out of his hand. He then struggled out in the dark in very bad air and an atmosphere that was clogged with dust.

Shortly after 11 o’clock, Mr. Witty received a telephone message from Captain Brook at Wentworth to ask Mr. Pickering something so he telephones down the pit to get in touch with Mr. Pickering. The reply he received was:

I cannot get Mr. Pickering, and it had gone off again, and the men are all imprisoned behind a fall.

Mr. Witty went down the pit at once with another man. He said:

I met several men who had been slightly injured, Springthorpe was one of these and Harold Booth. The others were only slightly touched. I met others coming from where the explosion had been. I met Mr. Hudspeth first and we examined the return and found the stuff coming from there very foul. It smelt strongly of gasoline or benzoline or something of that sought. I saw the doors were uninjured. we went lower down an found a road had been made over the fall. I went through there and found Mr. Wilson paying attention to some of the injured who were beyond the fall. I went then on 14’s level, and part of the way on there I found Mr. Edwin Chambers who had just come off, and he told me where he had found his son. he said “straight on there” so I went to 121’s crossgate and then went up to the crossgate through the door. The door was slightly ajar. I went higher up, nearly to 19’s landing, and I found bodies in a cluster I should think twenty yards below the landing on the cross gate. I saw Mr. Douglas Chambers, and then in front of him was Mr. Pickering and on his right Mr. Hewitt and Mr. Tickle. In front of Mr Pickering with his feet under Mr. Pickering’s head, was Mr. Bury and two bodies in front of Mr. Bury who I did not recognise. All the bodies were facing inbye. The only signs of force in the neighbourhood was a tub on end by a slight fall. The bodies were somewhat discoloured by dust but there was no signs of burning about them. Bury and Farmer were both found alive but breathing badly.

Birch was also alive but this was not mentioned in the evidence to the inquiry by Mr. Witty.

The atmosphere had the appearance of “not exactly smoke” but of “white steam” and this caused the eyes to smart. Bury and Farmery were carried out into fresh air and were attended by Sergeant Winch, who had a pulmotor with him, and the carriers.

Messrs Wilson and Witty rested at the junction between 19’s crossgate and 14 level and after a while, came out of the pit. When Mr. Witty was up the straight-on road in 14 level he had found a waistcoat on fire and he extinguished the fire. A prop was also on fire somewhere near the same place. At the point where 14 level and the 19’s crossgate there were signs of considerable violence and bodies were “in all sorts of positions” and badly injured.

Murgatroyd now takes up the story from the point after Hulley had left the workings and the rescue men had left their apparatus behind in a manhole:

There were several of us, I believe, stayed at the bottom of 19’s crossgate waiting for orders and I believe we were sent for, I am not quite sure, and we must have been sent for to go up 19’s crossgate with the apparatus to examine where the electric light was because nobody knew what was there.

Murgatroyd was told that someone with apparatus was required and he donned his apparatus and examined the stoppings in these three roads and met Mr. Bury at the bottom of 19’s crossgate at about 7.10 a.m. He went on the route suggested by Mr. Bury but he did not know this part of the mine. he returned to the bottom of 19’s crossgate about 9.30 and took off his apparatus. Bury Chambers and Cusworth consulted for about half an hour. Murgatroyd, Famery and man named Thomas Flick were sent to remove the fall just inside the door in 19’s crossgate. While they were carrying out this work, Mr. Bury summoned Murgatroyd as he wanted to go round with the apparatus. The three Inspectors had arrived and Mr. Pickering asked Mr. Bury what he had done. Mr. Bury asked Mr. Pickering, “if he was right in removing the bodies” and Mr. Pickering said it was quite right.

Mr. Pickering and the party then went to make an inspection at 19’s landing and to 64’s cross gate. While they were there, Mr. Hewitt to a temperature reading. It was too hot for Mr. Hewitt and Mugatroyd took the temperature and brought the thermometer back to Mr. Hewitt who was fifty yards away. When they were coming down 19’s, Murgatroyd heard Bury remark to Mr. Pickering that he thought there was a fire somewhere.

They had just gone into the crossgate, Bury leading followed by Pickering, Murgatroyd, Hewitt, Tickle and Douglas Chambers in the rear when the second explosion occurred. Murgatroyd described it:

It was like a door shutting with a great amount of pressure behind it and then the roar came afterwards. Several shouted, I think it was Mr. Chambers. Mr. Bury shouted, “Down on your faces, lads.” I think they knew what it was, I think everyone obeyed them and afterwards I think everybody would be stunned for a moment. When I came to my senses, I turned the oxygen on and got the tubes in my mouth and I suppose I went straight to the crossgate. I think everybody had not the slightest idea where to go when it happened.

After I came to I hear someone say something, Ben Ward, Albert Farmery and Tom Stribley. They said. “Let’s get hold of each other’s hands, we will die together,” I struggled on and hit my head on a girder And I think I realised what was going on. i turned about and came out the other way, breathing oxygen all the time. I did not meet anybody and when I got to the bottom door of 19’s crossgate, I could not open it, only with some difficulty, whether it was off the hinges or not I could not say. Perhaps I would be struggling for ten minutes with the door before I got it open, I had to clear some dirt on the other side before I got it opened any further. I thought if I got it opened it would clear the air in the crossgate. When I got to the bottom of the crossgate I fell. I suppose it was some bodies I fell over. I could not see with the lamp. It was an electric lamp. I suppose there would be smoke, I had lost my goggles and I had to cover my eyes with my hand. it was not very hot. I supposed the ventilation had asserted itself but the atmosphere was thick. I went to the telephone at the bottom to telephone up and I got a ring back, but could not get an answer. The next thing I knew someone was coming over the fall. I did not know then who it was at the time but it was Mr. Wilson and another I did not know. They told me the air was good and I could take off my apparatus. I took it off and I think put the tubes into someone else’s mouth that was injured nearby. After they made a road so that I could go through, I got over the fall at 200 yards out and I saw Mr. Witty and told him about Mr. Pickering and the other, where they were.

Mr. Basil Pickering, Mr. Pickering’s son, arrived at the pit and he heard Mr. Wilson ask Mr. Witty of there was anyone who would go down with him. Mr. Witty offered to go, but he was the only official available and his proper place was on the surface. Basil Pickering said that he knew the district as he was a former official at the colliery, so Mr. Wilson and Mr. Hudspeth accompanied by Basil Pickering and Mr. Ashwin of the Wath Main Colliery and two workmen went inbye.

They had just passed the old 37’s at the top of the plane, almost two miles from the shaft when they were met by the blast of the second explosion. The blast reversed the ventilation and they were covered with a cloud of white dust so they could not see what they were doing. They turned to go out as quickly as possible but had not gone far when Mr. Wilson observed that the ventilation was taking its normal course again, so they turned and went in again.

Mr. Ashwin went out to get help an summon the Wath Rescue Brigade and Pickering, Wilson and Hudspeth pushed on to the end of 14 level meeting men coming from the explosion area in the dark. They arrived at a large fall at the 14 level end and Basil Pickering was sent out to report at the pit bottom and say that help was urgently needed. Mr. Wilson clambered over the fall and while on to of it, detected gas at his lamps. Mr Hudspeth found a hole through the fall underneath a girder and managed to squeeze through where he heard Murgatroyd. Mr. Wilson followed Mr. Hudspeth and while they were there they were joined by Mr. Edwin Chambers, father of Douglas. Mr. Chambers asked Mr. Wilson to keep in touch with him. He did so for a little while, but he was becoming affected by afterdamp so he went back to Mr. Hudspeth and said that he had lost touch with Mr. Chambers.

Three men besides Murgatroyd were rescued alive from Mr. Pickering’s party. Birch and Famery could remember little and Famery when he was rescued was unconscious even so he got off the stretcher three times while being carried out of the pit and on one occasion, he even broke the straps that were retaining him. It was reported, “his legs were going, apparently he was running, trying to get away.”  Later Mr. E. Chambers returned, having found his son’s body.

Mr. Wilson remained underground until 4 p.m. directing operations. Fisher and Hulley but he returned to the mine after they heard of the second explosion and searched the workings for any one who might be alive. This was accompanied by considerable danger and as they were experienced pitmen, they must have realised the very real danger of another explosion. the Inspector considers their conduct, “worthy of the highest recommendation.” Hulley remained down the pit and was present when there was the third explosion at abut 3 a.m. Fisher heard of the second explosion and went down the pit about 1.30 a.m. and went straight to the fall at the end of 14 level and helped with the recovery of the bodies.

Those who lost their lives were:

  • William Henry Pickering aged 53 years, H.M. Divisional Inspector of Mines
  • Henry Richardson Hewitt aged 45 years, H.M. Senior Inspector of Mines
  • Gilbert Young Tickle aged 34 years, H.M. Junior Inspector of Mines
  • Douglas Chambers aged 28 years, manager
  • Charles Bury aged 35 years, manager
  • Herbert Cusworth aged 39 years, assistant undermanager
  • Eli Croxall aged 49 years, undermanager
  • Emrys Evans aged 22 years mining student
  • Sydney Ellis aged 32 years, surveyor
  • W. Berry aged 47 years, deputy
  • William Humphries aged 33 years, deputy
  • Charles E. Prince aged 32 years, assistant deputy
  • Samuel G. Jackson aged 32 years, assistant deputy
  • John William Carlton aged 38 years, deputy
  • Richard Winnepenny aged 56 years, deputy
  • Sam Webster aged 41 years, deputy
  • W. Summersacales aged 37 years, deputy
  • George Whitton aged 32 years, deputy
  • Jarrett Philips aged 44 years, deputy
  • F. Richardson aged 50 years, deputy
  • Frank Walton aged 39 years, assistant deputy
  • John W. Kelsall aged 26 years, assistant deputy
  • Thomas S. Williams aged 36 years, assistant deputy
  • J. Springthorpe aged 19 years, surveyor
  • F. William Horsfall aged 21 years, surveyor
  • J. Boycott aged 67 years, dataller
  • William Frankland aged 43 years, dataller
  • Edward Henderson aged 41 years, collier
  • C.W.P. Radley aged 22 years, filler
  • George Denton aged 21 years, dataller
  • Cyrus Rodgers aged 29 years, collier
  • M. Jordan aged 52 years, dataller
  • Joseph Turner aged 27 years, dataller
  • Thomas Sanders aged 51 years, dataller
  • John Smith aged 58 years, collier
  • John Fletcher aged 66 years, dataller
  • John Mulhearn aged 27 years, collier.
  • John Marron (alias Marsden), aged 30 years, dataller
  • Thomas Cody aged 32 years, collier
  • William Green aged 26 years, filler
  • Henry Thompson aged 21 years, filler
  • Charles Alderson aged 23 years, dataller
  • J. Thompson aged 54 years, dataller
  • M. Mulrooney aged 35 years, dataller
  • Joseph Roodhouse aged 39 years, dataller
  • R.W. Chapman aged 37 years, dataller
  • A. Dungworth aged 24 years, dataller
  • A. Carroll aged 26 years, dataller
  • P.E. Nicholson aged 18 years, driver
  • Thomas Walsh aged 41 years, dataller
  • Charles A. Hunt aged 28 years, dataller
  • J.B. Fox aged 24 years, driver
  • Thomas Byrne aged 48 years, dataller
  • William Ackroyd aged 49 years, dataller
  • William Henry Wallace aged 56 years, dataller
  • J. Shuttleworth aged 47 years, corporal
  • Charles Edward Tuffrey aged 20 years, driver
  • Thomas Stribley aged 35 years, dataller
  • Thomas Wraithmell aged 53 years, onsetter
  • Thomas B. Talbott aged 28 years, filler
  • John William Tarbrook aged 23 years, contractor
  • William D. Walters (alias Walker) aged 31 years, driver
  • J. Burdekin aged 24 years, dataller
  • George Heppinstall aged 28 years, corporal
  • Thomas Fleck aged 24 years, dataller
  • George P. Evans aged 48 years, dataller
  • Richard Gascoyne aged 22 years, driver
  • Herbert Neil aged 38 years, onsetter
  • Ben Ward aged 30 years, collier
  • J. McDonagh aged 49 years, collier
  • Tobias Hancock aged 29 years, onsetter
  • Robert Neill Edington aged 24 years, dataller
  • William Lambert aged 29 years, dataller
  • Joseph Ross aged 37 years, collier
  • Michael Hayden aged 30 years, dataller
  • William Charles Davis aged 26 years, filler
  • Arthur Flynn aged 21 years, driver
  • Edmund J. Tuffey aged 22 years, corporal
  • Charles Johnson aged 34 years, contractor
  • A.E. Rowell aged 33 years, dataller
  • James Breech aged 44 years, dataller
  • W.H. Godsmark aged 28 years, dataller
  • C.W. Fletcher aged 29 years, dataller
  • George Hindson aged 25 years, dataller
  • George Steadman (alias Young) 31 years, dataller
  • W. Dove aged 42 years, dataller
  • Frederick Stones aged 34 years, collier
  • Robert P. Bunyard aged 21 years, filler

Manchester Guardian 10th July 1912
Conisborough, Tuesday Night.

The King’s visit to the West Riding has been accompanied by a terrible calamity.

Today it was appointed that the Royal visitors should see something of the coal industry of the county, should see the miners at their normal workaday life.

Yesterday the king was taking tea in the ancient keep of Conisborough which is known and celebrated in the literature of romance. Many of the miners saw him and cheered when he came into view on the topmost stone of the grey weathered ruin.

Even in these rejoicings, the village was on the eve of a dreadful disaster. Men must work, and when the King had left, some 500 men went down the mine for the night shift.

The explosion occurred at five this morning. About 35 men were in the south district, some 850 yards deep and a mile away from the pit mouth. All the morning and afternoon they were bringing out their bodies.

Worse still, a second explosion occurred at noon, shortly after 12 o’clock and in this the members of a heroic rescue party perished.

Before evening over 50 bodies had been laid n the office where the men are paid, and more were being brought up. Some men had been taken to the hospital, blackened, unrecognisable, but drawing a breath of life.

The Watchers

The Cadeby mine is in the beautiful valley of the Dearne. The colliery itself is an ugly object but it does not spoil either the colour of the sweeping configuration of the country around.

All day today rooks have been flying over the colliery yard, clawing down on the heaps of shale, the sailing off to the elms across the valley.

The two winding wheel revolved steadily and by and by on the gangway emerged a little group, six men feeling their way down among them a little smear of colour – a blue bed spread on a stretcher.

Then the crowd on the road lost them, recovering them to sight in the colliery yard below as they passed behind a brick building with the smear of colour still amid them. this was repeated again and again.

The King and Queen have paid a visit to Conisborough tonight. Some f the leaders of the second rescue party came all begrimed and toilworn and told of the dreadful happenings and the things which rescuers must do and endure.

The Queen broke down completely, in able to control the emotion called up. She was still weeping when she left the colliery offices.

The managing director, Mr. Chambers, was in Sunderland when he head of the disaster and he reached the colliery at about 3.20 p.m. As he was convinced there was no one left alive in the workings of the South District he discussed the situation with Messrs. Ashwin, E. Chambers, Laverick, an experience mining engineer from the Midlands, Wilson, Witty and came to the final conclusion that the proper course of action was to build stoppings shutting off the 14 and 23 levels. This was agreed by all and arrangements put into effect.

Mr. Chambers , his brother and Mr. Witty went down the pit and marked off the places for the stoppings. A dry brick stopping, 9 inches thick in the 33 level and another to be built in front of it and in 14’s level, which was wider, a 14-inch dry brick stopping to be plastered over and when it was finished, another stopping 2 feet thick, constructed of bricks and mortar in front of it. The first stopping built was the one in 14 level.

Mr. Chambers himself took pains to see that all living persons were withdrawn from workings. He then went to pit bottom and gave instructions that only twenty men were required in mine and work was started. When Mr. Redmayne arrived at the colliery, Mr. Chambers went to the surface to meet him and the underground work was supervised by Mr. Laverick. The stopping in 14 level was completed about 7 a.m. and when all work was completed, all men were brought put of mine. The stoppings were then strengthened.

The inquiry into the loss of 35 lives in first explosion and 53 in second was opened by Mr. Redmayne in the Guildhall, Doncaster. After the sealing off of the district, a partial recovery of workings was effected and an inspection of the explosion area was made. The inquiry came to the conclusion that the first explosion originated above 64’s gate and travelled along the face of 121’s gate with little force but great heat. It split at 121’s and passed partly down 121’s cross gate developing force and partly along the face to 12’s gate. The other direction pursued by the blast was down 64’s gate with force and flame along 19’s landing and to 19’s cross gate.

As to cause of explosion Mr. Redmayne said:

I think the fire originated some years ago in the neighbourhood of the fault which had never been completely eradicated but gave occasional evidence of its existence and as coal was worked off the fault, a great cavity formed, both fire and cavity keeping pace with the extraction of coal, that an incipient explosion had occurred previously, viz., on January 20th, 1912 and that the condition of affairs on Monday night provided just combination of circumstances necessary to cause an explosion on a more extended scale, viz., the effective sealing off of exit from the fire area, but the failure to seal off the inlet, allowing the accumulation of an explosive mixture, and a vent for the consequent explosion. That Mr. Chambers’ instructions were well-conceived for effectively sealing off the affected area and were of the nature set out in an earlier part of the report, I believe to be the case, but I do not believe these instructions were carried out in their entirety. Who blundered in I do not know. Mr. Bury, being dead, cannot appear in his defence. I refrain from attaching blame to anyone in particular.

The second explosion seemed to have travelled wholly along he face and not to have divided. Mr. Redmayne said:

It may be that there was a large accumulation of gas on the rise side of the district after the first explosion, which igniting at the fire, burnt more or less quietly up and down the face until an explosive mixture was formed at the 14’s level, when it detonated. The force of 14 level was very much greater than in the first explosion. The greatest evidence of burning was along the face also. The flame of the second explosion extended nearly to the end of 14 level or it may be that seeing that the purest and consequently the most dangerous coal dust undoubtedly existed at the face, the explosion followed that route in consequence,.

I consider that the facts which I have stated above are eloquent testimony to the value of inert dust, acting, as it does, as an adulterant to the coal dust, as a preventative to the spread of a colliery explosion.

I have arrived at the conclusion that lending the complete isolation by stowage and stoppings, all the men not engaged in combating the fire should have been withdrawn from the district in which it occurred. It was stated that to do this would be dangerous, for, it was stated if the face is allowed to stand fires break out. I cannot accept this, and, in my opinion, no reason which will bear investigation had been advanced in support of this contention.

With regard to the rescue operations, the report stated:

Whilst there was provided at the colliery as fine a body of men trained in rescue work as one could wish to see, the organisation at the mine on the occasion of these explosions was most defective. When Mr. Witty made the arrangements at the surface he should have issued instructions prohibiting the descent into the mine of all persons unprovided with a written authorisation to do so. He should also have placed a guard at the outbye end of the south plane to prevent the entry into that district of unauthorised persons from other parts of the mine. Had this been done the loss of life occasioned by the second explosion would, I an sure, have been much less heavy.

The further question as to whether the work of recovering and bringing out the bodies should have been undertaken at this stage is one respect of which there will doubtless be differences of opinion. I have no doubt on the point. I know that sentiment weighs heavily in the consideration of a problem of this nature and that there is an intense desire on the part of relatives of the dead to see and bury the bodies. I do not think, however, that the management of a colliery is justified in allowing persons to risk their lives in order to recover and bring out dead bodies, for that such a procedure is always attended with the great risk of a second explosion when a fire is known to exist underground after an explosion is evidenced by case after case. Instances may be cited in which the bodies have been recovered after an explosion of this nature, e.g. Jamage Colliery. I agree, but it is a race with death. It is hard, however, to make people realise this, and so strong may feeling run on these occasions that it sometimes requires higher moral courage to resist the impulse and prohibit persons from undertaking, and undertaking oneself, a risk of this nature, that to allow the risk to be undertaken.

I should also remark that great difficulty was experienced in obtaining a correct number of casualties. This was not definitely ascertained for three days after the disaster owing to the indiscriminate issue of lamps after the first explosion. This was a very regrettable incident and one which emphasizes the necessity of strict discipline on these occasions.


Report to the Right Honourable The Secretary of State for the Home Department of the causes and circumstances attending the explosion which occurred at the Cadeby Main Colliery on Tuesday, 9th. July 1912 by R.A.S. Redmayne, C.B., H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines.
Colliery Guardian, 12th. July 1912, p.85, 19th. July, p.189, 9th. August, p.295, 30th. August, p.445, 13th. September, p.549, 4th. October, p.701, 13th. December, p.1206, 23rd. February 1913, p.1057.

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

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