HIGHAM. Barnsley, Yorkshire, 15th February, 1860.

The colliery, near Barnsley, was the property of Messrs. Charlesworth and the explosion took place in the Silkstone Seam on the northern limits of the workings, claiming the lives of thirteen men and boys. The Seam was known to be fiery and in 1857, gas coming from the goaves ignited at the ventilating furnace and killed all the horses but the furnaceman, who was the only person underground at the time, was rescued.

The place where the men hewed the coal, was at the bottom of a steep incline and was at the far end of the workings where the ventilation was not good. There were pillar works and were close to the goaves on all sides. They were intersected by three large faults which ran parallel to each other.

On the morning of the explosion, one of the goaves showed gas and there were other large goaves close by where gas was continually found. Even so, the boys near these goaves carried naked lights and the colliers carried locked Davy lamps. After the explosion, all the lamps that were found were locked and in good order but the horse drivers, who were boys, were permitted to carry candles to the bottom of the steep incline which was less than 20 yards from the furthest goaf. One poor lad was found lying burnt alongside his lantern about a dozen yards from the goaf.

  • JAGGER David 72 Coal getter Of Cawthorne. Left a wife.
  • JAGGER David 14 Hurrier Grandson of David.
  • CAWTHORNE Levi or John 33 Coal getter of Cawthorne. Left a wife and three children.
  • SOMERS or SUMMERS George 12 Hurrier Stepson of Levi Cawthorne.
  • BLACKBURN 12 Horse driver Of Cawthorne.
  • WILSON John 40 Coal getter. Left a wife and four children.
  • WILSON Joseph 11 Horse driver Son of John.
  • CLARKE George or Jospeh 23 Collier Of Higham.
  • WHITEHEAD John 27 Of Dodworth. Left a wife and four children.
  • BROWN Henry 12 Hurrier Son of Mathew colliery banksman.
  • DEPLEDGE William 26 Labourer of Gawler.
  • WILSON Henry (injured)
  • HIGHAM John (injured) 11 Son of Henry.
  • CROSSLEY Joseph (injured) 19

Mr. Morton had inspected the seam in October 1857 and again in December 1858 and on both occasions, he advised the underviewer, John Ainsworth, to remove all candles and to work the pit with locked safety lamps only and expressed the opinion that the explosion would not have occurred if his advice had been taken.

The Inspector, Mr. Morton commented:

It is surprising that the underviewer and deputies in charge of the pit should have supposed that person in this particular spot could be protected from the explosion when boys carried candles in close proximity to the edges of the goaves (or abandoned excavations) where men used locked Davy lamps.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and recommended the owners to adopt safety lamps in the mine. The proprietors of the mine, “wisely determined to banish naked light lights entirely from the Silkstone coal seam.”


Mines Inspectors’ Report, 1860. Mr. Charles Morton.

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

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