THE OAKS. Barnsley,  Yorkshire 13th. December, 1866.

The colliery was one and a half miles from Barnsley and was the property of Messrs. Firth, Bamber and Company. It had been worked for a great number of years and there had been a disaster there in 1846 when seventy-three men and boys were killed.

There were several explosions in this disaster and the first took place on the 12th December when 340 people were down the mine. Only six of them survived which gave a death toll of 334. In addition to this 27 others who belonged to the colliery and 23 volunteers were killed in a succession of explosions which arose from the pit being set on fire by the first and started in the morning when the workings were being explored.

The first explosion occurred shortly after 1 p.m., and, at the time, it was thought that there were nearly 400 men in the pit when the gas suddenly fired. When the explosion occurred, the banksman was horrified to hear the rumbling explosion in the pit immediately followed by a tremendous rush of air up the shaft. He knew what it meant and ran to give the alarm but the noise carried to the village of Hoyle Mills where a great number of the workforce resided and within a few minutes, anxious men and women arrived at the pit. Immediate steps were taken to find the cause of the calamity. One of the cages was damaged but despite this, no time was lost in descending the pit. At the bottom of the shaft, eighteen survivors who had come from the workings were found. They were alive but injured and were got up to the surface as quickly as possible. Local Doctors, Dr. Blackburn and his assistant and Drs. Smith senior and junior, had gone to the scene and attended these men at the pithead.

A newspaper reporter gave a graphic account of the scene at the pithead:

From all directions men a women came, the most frantic terror and anxiety depicted on their countenances of those whose husbands, fathers, sons and brothers had that morning descended the fateful shaft, were all hurrying breathlessly to the Oaks. To endeavour to describe the streams of human beings as they rushed along to one common centre, would be a task of some difficulty. Here was a wife and mother who had been arranging her toilet against the anticipated return of her loved ones she had seen left home at five in the morning so unsuspicious of danger – alas for the mutability of human anticipation – half running, half walking in dishabille with a babe in her arms and dragging a young one by the hand another with no children or who had left them in the care of a neighbour, rushed widely along, heedless of obstructions, not staying to pick her way along the muddy roads.

Below ground, four bodies were found at the face, mutilated and difficult to identify but were identified as John Chesterfield and John Jackson of Silver Street, Barnsley and a boy named Hurst who lived in Hoyle Mills. The following men and boys were got out of the pit alive, S. Bates, Henry Willoughby, Henry Brookes, Henry Marshall, John Hardcastle, William Hart, John M’Gugh, William Washbury, Thomas Hurst, Robert Thompson, William Wilson, George Borrowdal, Giles Walmesley, Robert Robinson, Joseph Keither, James Beever and William Narran.

The scene at the pit bottom was described in the Press as “being changed from a place of industry to a vast Golgotha.” The stables were destroyed and burned and eighteen horses and ponies had been killed. The workings were unapproachable due to large falls of coal and afterdamp that was encountered and it was realised that the hundreds who were in the workings must be dead.

The exploring party had been down for about an hour when it was decided to repair the damage to the rope and cage and they came up while this was done. The work took about two hours and then the exploration was resumed. A large quantity of brattice was sent down the pit and an attempt made to repair the broken stoppings and renew the ventilation to the pit. The rescuers worked in relays and as they came up the pit they were besieged by the crowd waiting for some news. The few police that were at the pithead had little control of the crowd who invaded the landings and interfered with the operations.  A telegram was sent to Colonel Cobb, the Chief Constable of the West Riding and he soon arrived with a large body of police and the pit top was soon cleared.

The survivors who had recovered at the pit head had no shortage of volunteers to take them home. Brandy was freely available to restore them to consciousness. A man named Tasker had a remarkable escape. He was the furnaceman at the pit and heard a noise like a loud peal of thunder and felt a hurricane which knocked him to the ground, senseless. When he was found he was still unconscious but had a dead cat in his arms.

Mr. Dymonnd, the proprietor of the colliery and Mr. Brown, a mining engineer were at the pit, supervising operations and by that time it was realised that all the three hundred and fifty men in the pit were dead. Up to mining of that first day, fifty bodies had been recovered and a large number of volunteers from surrounding pits provided the relays of rescue teams. The scenes at the pit head were harrowing as bodies were brought up and hastily wrapped in blankets on the landing to be removed to the death house to be identified by their loved ones as they were brought out of the pit and placed there. The coffins were made at the pit. There were many people from the surrounding districts weeping and wailing at the pit head as carts surrounded by grieving relatives, carried the bodies to their homes. One young man who had been identified had a wife who was confined with the birth of their first child and she also lost two of her brothers. The village of Hoyle Mills was desolated and women wept openly in the streets and wandered around the village in shock.

Work was still going on at the pit the following morning and the crowd at the pithead was mainly from surrounding collieries. The mood was different. There was no outward demonstration of grief but a sad resignation. Between 8 and 9 p.m., there was an incident at the pithead which stirred the crowd to feelings of indignation when a party of sixteen men returned to the surface after only a short time down the mine. They had been affected by the bad air and the crowd thought they had left the pit because they were afraid and called them cowards.

These men were replaced by seven others which made the total below, twenty-eight. Amongst those who went down were Mr. Smith, the mining engineer from Lundhill Colliery, David Tewert, the underground steward, William Sugden, the deputy steward, Charles Siddon, the under deputy and Thomas Madin and William Stevenson, firemen. The party was accompanied by Mr. Jeffcock, a mining engineer from Sheffield who was 34 years of age. This party worked restoring the ventilation by erecting brattices and temporary stoppings. Jeffcock had remained underground all night and work was sent to him that he should be relieved. He sent a message back that the temperature in the shaft should be watched as he thought the mine was heating up. A warning came from another party of explorers under the command of William Sugden, when, at about 8.30 a.m., when the parties were about 750 yards from the pit bottom and the ventilation suddenly became disturbed. All the men rushed for the cage and went to the surface but Sugden stayed as he considered it his duty to do so.

There was a party of men waiting to go down. They had lowered a thermometer down the shaft and thought the ventilation all right. It was at this moment that the pit fired again. The men around the shaft were tumbled back over one another. The No.1 cage was blasted into the headgear. The waiting crowds were stunned as this second explosion was heard over a mile away. Dense clouds of smoke poured from the shaft and large pieces of burnt timber were hurled through the air. The other cage was lowered to the bottom of the shaft a raised a few moments later. It was empty. It was realised that everyone in the pit was dead and that little could be done to recover the bodies.

At 7.40 p.m. there was a third explosion and black smoke billowed out of the No.2 Pit discharging sparks and flames into the air. The ventilation of the pit was hopelessly deranged and the air was now going down the upcast shaft and coming up the downcast. Smoke and sparks continued to come from the No.2 pit all night and men were appointed to watch for any change in the situation.

According to an account given by Mr. T.W. Embleton, an incident occurred in the 14th December when the signal bell of the No.1 shaft was heard to ring. This prompted men to shout down the shaft and a little bottle of brandy was lowered down. When the rope came up the bottle had gone. It was thought that there was someone alive in the mine and immediately steam was raised to drive a sawmill engine. Mr. Embleton and Mr. J.E. Mammatt were lowered down in a tub. Their descent was perilous as the shaft had been badly damaged. The pumps were blocked and there were huge torrents of water descending. They had great difficulty in keeping their lights burning but when they arrived at the bottom they found Samuel Brown, the sole survivor.

Brown had been in the party which descended at 7 a.m. on Thursday and had gone down the incline where two more bodies had been found and brought to the bottom of the shaft. It was just after this that the air reversed which sent the men running for the pit bottom. Jeffcock and his party had been seen to go further into the workings. Brown with his companions, Hoylands, Barker and Young had gone into the “lamphole” and rested there. They were there when the second explosion occurred. He remembered little but the blast killed his companions. He said:

I remained in the lamp office until I lost my faculties and remained in that position for some time after which I began to recover. I then made my way to the bell wire and received an answer from above. I have to state that the two persons which I felt with my hands were all that I came across during my stay in the pit and I supposed them to be dead.

Nothing more could be done and the colliery was visited by Earl Fitzwilliam who presented the Company with a wagon load of blankets. Major Waterhouse, M.P., also visited the pit. Mr. Charles Morton, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Mines arrived at the colliery and a consultation took place with the engineers and owners at the pithead. Mr. Morton was only too well aware of the reception of the crowd at the Edmunds Main Colliery some years earlier when he had urged the colliery to be flooded. The strain on him was very great and his health gave out. He was replaced by Joseph Dickenson, the Inspector for the Manchester District and he made the report into the disaster.

The estimate of the loss of life in the disaster was 352 and there was a meeting of mining engineers at the Kings Head to see what could be done with the colliery. At the meeting, it was agreed that the No.1 shaft should be filled to the Melton Field Seam to a point a little below the drift to the pumping shaft. Smoke and choke damp were still coming from the No.1 shaft at intervals and when engineers were examining the No.2 shaft they heard a rumbling noise. Notices saying “Smoking Strictly Prohibited” and “No Lights Whatsoever Allowed” were placed around the shafts.

With the death of Charles Warmeley, one who had been brought out of the pit alive, only four of the eighteen that were rescued were still alive and two of them were reported to be dangerously ill. The inquest into the deaths of the men was opened at Hoyle Mill but the only evidence of identification was taken and the proceedings adjourned.

From the “Barnsley Chronicle” 9th October 1869:


Over two years have now elapsed since the Oaks Colliery shaft was reopened after being closed for more than nine months. Twelve months ago we gave a list of the bodies which had been recovered after the reopening of the shaft and we now repeat with the names of the victims of the explosion whose bodies have been recovered since that date. The total number of victims was 334 by the first explosion of the 12th December 1866 and 26 by the second explosion the following day: Total 360. Seventy-five bodies were recovered prior to the shafts being closed, forty-five were recovered during the first twelve months after the shaft was reopened and seventy during the past years, making the total 190. This deducted from 360 leaves 17 bodies still in the colliery. It is remarkable that all but two have been identified.

 A new shaft was sunk at Stair Foot and an attempt made to get the water out of the pit by means of a pump driven by compressed air. An engine driven by this force was tried some years before to drive a coal cutting machine.

The following is the list that appeared in the “Barnsley Chronicle” with the dates of their recovery, “as far as can be made out.”

Bodies recovered from September to October 1867:

  • John James, married,
  • David Tewart, married,
  • William Sugden, widower,
  • Alfred Hoyland, married,
  • John Smith, married,
  • Parkin Jeffcock, single,
  • Christopher Siddons, married.

Bodies recovered April to December 1868:

  • Charles Fletcher, single.
  • Henry Howard, married.
  • Robert Ratcliffe Hall, single.
  • John Graham, single.
  • Thomas Dickinson, married.
  • Thomas Wilson, single.
  • John Bradley, married.
  • Thomas Hyde, married.
  • Aaron Siddons, single.
  • George Hoyland, single.
  • James Haycroft, married.
  • Edward Evans, single.
  • Lot Brownlow, single.
  • Two boys, not identified, single.
  • Joshua, Reynor, married.
  • Elijah Slater, single.
  • James Massie, single.
  • Joseph Mort, married.
  • Benjamin, Brown, married.
  • Matthew Allen, single.
  • Joseph Roebuck, a widower.
  • Abel Cartwright, married.
  • John Snowden, married.
  • Francis Clarkson, single.
  • Thomas Clarkson, single.
  • Richard Clarkson, married.
  • Alfred Poppleton, single.
  • John Edson, single.
  • John Bradley Sigley, married.
  • John Thomas Clegg, single.
  • John Ward, married.
  • Tom Glover, single.
  • Richard Oakley Nichols, married.
  • George Evans, married.
  • John Evans, single.
  • William Slater, single.
  • George Hoyle, single.
  • Benjamin Makin.
  • Charles Challanger, single.
  • William Haigh, single.
  • Walter Hawley, single.
  • George Hough, single.
  • John Winter, married
  • Thomas Schoneld, single.
  • John Harper, single.
  • Edward Bradley, single.
  • John William Shore, single.
  • Alfred Armitage, married.
  • George Marshall, married.
  • Robert Hosking, married.
  • Samuel Helliwell, single.

Bodies recovered January to August 1869:

  • William Lawton.
  • Thomas Pickles, married
  • Charles Hutchinson, married.
  • William Slater, single.
  • William Wilkinson, married.
  • George Hitchen, single.
  • Martin Gilbright, single.
  • Samuel Dunk, married.
  • Samuel Thorpe Neal, single.
  • John Brownmead
  • Joseph Thorpe, single.
  • George Addey, married.
  • Thomas Anderson.
  • Duncombe Winter, married
  • John James. married.
  • Philip Bates, married.
  • John Hinchcliffe, single.
  • Charles Hinchcliffe, single.
  • Henry Hinchcliffe, single.
  • A boy not identified.
  • George Arnold, married.
  • George Dennis.
  • John Halton, single.
  • William Matrick, single.
  • Thomas Winter, married.
  • Joseph Winter, single.
  • Henry Hall.
  • John Pickford, single.
  • William Boothroyd, single.
  • John Edson, single.
  • George Long, married.
  • Matthew Arnold, married.
  • Edward Kenny, married.
  • William Dobson, single.
  • Joseph Watson.
  • Thomas Bantum.
  • Joseph Hunt, single.
  • George Wilkinson, single.
  • Charles Donkin, single.
  • Thomas Payman, married.
  • Edward Siddons, single.
  • Thomas Dixon, single.
  • John Cadman, single.
  • Charles Brooke, married.


  1. ABBOTT William Collier
  2. ADDY George Collier
  3. ALLEN Matthew Dayboy
  4. ANDERSON Thomas Hurrier
  5. ARMITAGE Alfred Dayboy
  6. ARNFIELD John Collier
  7. ARNOLD George Collier
  8. ARNOLD John Hurrier
  9. ARNOLD Matthew Collier
  10. BAHNFORTH Matthew Collier
  11. BAKER Richard  From Ingleton Hurrier
  12. BAKER Thomas  From Ingleton Collier
  13. BAND Thomas Dayboy
  14. BANTAM Joshua Collier
  15. BARD Joshua Collier
  16. BARKER Andrew Dayboy
  17. BARKER Andrew Jnr. From Ingleton Collier
  18. BARKER Andrew Snr. From Ingleton Collier
  19. BARKER George (1) Dayboy
  20. BARKER George (2) Dayboy
  21. BARKER James Snr. From Ingleton Dayman
  22. BARKER William From Ingleton Hurrier
  23. BARKER William Hurrier
  24. BARRACLOUGH Alfred Hurrier
  25. BATES John Collier
  26. BATES John Dayboy
  27. BATES Moses Hurrier
  28. BATES Phillip Collier
  29. BATES William Hurrier
  30. BATTY James Hurrier
  31. BATTY Joshua Collier
  32. BELLAMY Solomon Hurrier
  33. BENNETT James Collier
  34. BENNETT John Hurrier
  35. BENNETT Thomas Hurrier
  36. BENNETT Thomasn Hurrier
  37. BERRY William Hurrier
  38. BIRCHALL George Collier
  39. BIRKINSHAW Arthur Hurrier
  40. BOOTHROYD William Hurrier
  41. BORROWDALE George From Ingleton Dayman
  42. BRADLEY Daniel Collier
  43. BRADLEY Edward Dayboy
  44. BRADLEY John Collier
  45. BRADLEY John Collier
  46. BROOK Henry Dayman
  47. BROOKE Charles Collier
  48. BROOKE John Dayboy
  49. BROWN Alfred Hurrier
  50. BROWN Benjamin Hurrier
  51. BROWN Charles Hurrier
  52. BROWN John Collier
  53. BROWNLOW Lot Hurrier
  54. CADMAN John Dayboy
  55. CARR George Hurrier
  56. CARR John Dayboy
  57. CARTWRIGHT Abel Collier
  58. CARTWRIGHT Edward Collier
  59. CARTWRIGHT John Collier
  60. CASTLE John Collier
  61. CHALLENCER Charles Hurrier
  62. CHESTERFIELD Henry Dayman
  63. CLAPHAM Richard Collier
  64. CLARKE Thomas Hurrier
  65. CLARKSON Frank Hurrier
  66. CLARKSON Richard Collier
  67. CLARY Charles Hurrier
  68. CLAYTON Henry Hurrier
  69. CLAYTON John Dayman
  70. CLEGG John Hurrier
  71. COLLIN John Hurrier
  72. CONLEY John Collier
  73. CONNELLY Charles Collier
  74. CONNOLLY John Hurrier
  75. COOKE Amos Hurrier
  76. COOPER David Hurrier
  77. COOPER Joshua Hurrier
  78. COOPER Thomas Collier
  79. COWARD Andrew Hurrier
  80. COWARD George Collier
  81. DAMMS George Collier
  82. DAWSON William Dayman
  83. DAWSONS George Collier
  84. DAY Peter Collier
  85. DENNIS Benjamin Collier
  86. DENNISS Abraham Collier
  87. DIXON Matthew Hurrier
  88. DIXON Thomas Hurrier
  89. DODGSON William Hurrier
  90. DONKIN Charles Dayboy
  91. DONKIN Thomas Collier
  92. DONKIN Tom Hurrier
  93. DUCKETT William Collier
  94. DUNK Samuel Collier
  95. EDSON George Hurrier
  96. EDSON John Collier
  97. EDSON John Hurrier
  98. EDSON William Hurrier
  99. ELLIS George Hurrier
  100. EVANS Edward Hurrier
  101. EVANS George Collier
  102. EVANS John Collier
  103. EVERETT John Dayman
  104. EXLEY Benjamin Dayboy
  105. EXLEY Charles Hurrier
  106. EXLEY John Hurrier
  107. FAIRCLOUGH Benjamin Hurrier
  108. FARMER John Collier
  109. FAULKS Joshua Collier
  110. FEARN Charles Hurrier
  111. FEARN David Hurrier
  112. FLETCHER Frederick Collier
  113. GILLCHRIST Martin Hurrier
  114. GLADWIN George Collier
  115. GLOVER James Hurrier
  116. GLOVER Thomas Hurrier
  117. GOTT Henry Hurrier
  118. GRAHAM John Dayboy
  119. GRANT Michael Dayboy
  120. HACKIN Robert Hurrier
  121. HAIGH Henry Dayboy
  122. HAIGH William Collier
  123. HALL Henry Hurrier
  124. HALLIWELL John Collier
  125. HALLWORTH David Collier
  126. HALTON John Hurrier
  127. HAMMOND Thomas Dayman
  128. HARDCASTLE Thomas Dayman
  129. HARRISON Charles Hurrier
  130. HARRISON Joshua Collier
  131. HASSLE Walter Hurrier
  132. HAWCROFT William Hurrier
  133. HAWLEY Walter Collier
  134. HAYCROFT James Collier
  135. HAYELL George Hurrier
  136. HEALEY Alfred Hurrier
  137. HELLIWELL Samuel Collier
  138. HENRY Thomas Hurrier
  139. HIGHLANDS Thomas Hurrier
  140. HILTON Henry Collier
  141. HINCHCLIFFE Charles Hurrier
  142. HINCHCLIFFE Henry Collier
  143. HITCHIN George Hurrier
  144. HOLDSWORTH Frederick Collier
  145. HOLIDAY Samuel Hurrier
  146. HOLLAND David Hurrier
  147. HOLLIN Joshua Hurrier
  148. HOOBECK Matthew Hurrier
  149. HORBURY Thomas Hurrier
  150. HOUGH George Dayboy
  151. HOYLAND Alfred Dayman
  152. HOYLANDS George Hurrier
  153. HUDSON George Collier
  154. HUNT Joshua Hurrier
  155. HUNT Richard Dayman
  156. HURST Robert Collier
  157. HUTCHINSON Thomas Hurrier
  158. HYDOS Thomas Collier
  159. IBBOTSON George Dayman
  160. JACKSON Henry Collier
  161. JACKSON John Dayboy
  162. JONES John Hurrier
  163. JONES Samuel Hurrier
  164. JONES Thomas Collier
  165. JONES William Hurrier
  166. JOWETT Benjamin Dayman
  167. KAY Jabez Dayman
  168. KEIGHLEY Joshua Dayman
  169. KENWORTHY Edward Collier
  170. LANE Austin Dayboy
  171. LANE James Collier
  172. LAWLEY George Collier
  173. LAWLEY John Collier
  174. LEA Joshua Hurrier
  175. LEATHER Joshua Collier
  176. LEATHER Thomas Collier
  177. LEE Joshua Hurrier
  178. LEE Mark Dayman
  179. LEE William Hurrier
  180. LEVER George Dayman
  181. MARSDEN Henry Collier
  182. MARSHALL George Collier
  183. MARSHALL John Hurrier
  184. MASSEY Richard Dayboy
  185. MATTHEWS Charles Hurrier
  186. MATTHEWS William Collier
  187. MATTRICK William Collier
  188. McCARTHY John Hurrier
  189. McDONALD Michael Hurrier
  190. McDONALD Peter Collier
  191. McHUGH John Dayboy
  192. McLINTOCK William Hurrier
  193. MIDDLETON Willam Hurrier
  194. MILLER George Hurrier
  195. MOORE George Hurrier
  196. MOSS Benjamin Hurrier
  197. MOSS John Hurrier
  198. MUSGRAVE Edward Collier
  199. MUSGRAVE George Hurrier
  200. NADIN Ephraim Dayboy
  201. NADIN George Hurrier
  202. NADIN Thomas Dayman
  203. NEWTON John Collier
  204. NOBLE John Hurrier
  205. NORMAN William Dayboy
  206. NUTHALL John Collier
  207. OAKLEY Richard Collier
  208. OSBORNE Charles Dayboy
  209. OSBOURNE Henry Hurrier
  210. PARKER William Hurrier
  211. PASLEY John Hurrier
  212. PAYMAN Thomas Collier
  213. PEARKER Joshua Collier
  214. PICKFORD John Dayboy
  215. PICKLES Thomas Collier
  216. POOLEY John Hurrier
  217. POPPLETON Alfred Dayboy
  218. POPPLETON Henry Dayman
  219. POPPLETON Joshua Collier
  220. POPPLETON Joshua Jnr. Collier
  221. PRIESTLEY William Dayboy
  222. RACE Nathan Hurrier
  223. RAMSDEN Charles Collier
  224. RAMSDEN Henry Hurrier
  225. RANDERSON Charles Collier
  226. RAYNOR James Dayboy
  227. RAYNOR Joshua Dayman
  228. RHODES Charles Hurrier
  229. RHODES Fergus Collier
  230. RHODES George Hurrier
  231. RICHARDSON  John Hurrier
  232. RICHARDSON Samuel Dayman
  233. RIDER Jervis Collier
  234. RIMMINGTON Robert From Ingleton Hurrier
  235. ROBINSON Stephen Hurrier
  236. ROBSON John Deputy
  237. ROEBUCK Joshua Collier
  238. ROWNING Michael Hurrier
  239. SCALES Matthew Dayman
  240. SCHOFIELD Thomas Hurrier
  241. SCISSONS Aaron Collier
  242. SEDDONS Christopher Deputy
  243. SEDDONS Edward Dayman
  244. SEDDONS Samuel Hurrier
  245. SEDDONS Thomas Hurrier
  246. SELLARS Ephraim Dayman
  247. SHAW Richard Hurrier
  248. SHIRT George Collier
  249. SHIRT William Hurrier
  250. SHORE John Hurrier
  251. SIMPSON Samuel Fawcett Collier
  252. SLATER Elijah Dayboy
  253. SLATER William Hurrier
  254. SLONE John Collier
  255. SMITH Alfred Hurrier
  256. SMITH Frederick Hurrier
  257. SMITH George Collier
  258. SMITH John Hurrier
  259. SMITH Joshua Hurrier
  260. SNOWDEN John Collier
  261. STONES William Hurrier
  262. SUGDEN William Deputy
  263. SWIFT Matthew Hurrier
  264. SYDER William Hurrier
  265. SYKES George Collier
  266. SYKES William Hurrier
  267. TAYLOR Thomas Collier
  268. THAWLEY Charles Dayman
  269. THICKETT Thompson Dayboy
  270. THOMPSON John Dayman
  271. THOMPSON William Hurrier
  272. THORNLEY James Collier
  273. THORNTON Robert Hurrier
  274. THORPE Samuel Hurrier
  275. TIMMINGS Isaac Collier
  276. TUPMAN George Hurrier
  277. WALKER Joshua Dayboy
  278. WALL Daniel Hurrier
  279. WALMESLEY Giles Dayman
  280. WALMSLEY John Dayman
  281. WALTON Thomas Collier
  282. WARD John Collier
  283. WARD Thomas Hurrier
  284. WATSON Joshua Collier
  285. WATSON William Dayboy
  286. WEBB Charles Collier
  287. WHARTON William Hurrier
  288. WHITAKER John Collier
  289. WILKINSON Abraham Hurrier
  290. WILKINSON George Hurrier
  291. WILKINSON William Hurrier
  292. WILLIES John Dayman
  293. WILLOWBY Henry Dayman
  294. WILSON Thomas Dayboy
  295. WILSON William Deputy
  296. WINTER Duncan Collier
  297. WINTER Henry Hurrier
  298. WINTER Joshua Hurrier
  299. WINTER Thomas Collier
  300. WINTER William Hurrier
  301. WINTOR John Collier
  302. WOOD Henry Collier
  303. WOOD Thomas Collier
  304. WRIGHT Thomas Hurrier
  305. WRIGHT William Hurrier
  306. HILL William Dayboy
  307. KEONE John Dayboy
  308. HARDCASTLE John Dayboy
  309. BATES William Dayboy
  310. MATTRICK Matthew Dayboy
  311. STENTON Samuel Dayboy
  312. COLDWELL George Dayboy
  313. BURGON Joshua Dayboy
  314. FLETCHER Charles Dayboy
  315. HAYES John Dayboy
  316. ILLINGWORTH Ezra Dayboy
  317. FLEETWOOD James Dayboy
  318. POPPLETON George Dayboy
  319. HOLBROOKS John Dayboy
  320. BARKER George (3) Dayboy
  321. BENNETT Thomas Dayboy
  322. DIXON William Dayboy
  323. CARR William Dayboy
  324. PAYMAN Frederick Dayboy
  325. JEFFCOCK Parkin Volunteer
  326. SMITH John Of Lundhill Volunteer
  327. TOWART David Underground viewer Volunteer
  328. STEAD Thomas Volunteer
  329. HEADING James Volunteer
  330. HEPINSTALL Robert Volunteer
  331. BANKS Thomas Volunteer
  332. BACKHOUSE George Volunteer
  333. ROBINSON William Volunteer

[EDITOR’S NOTE: for some reason the list only contains 333 persons, the official death toll was 361, but later research puts the number at over 380, although some dispute the validity of the data.]

The inquest into the disaster was conducted by Mr. Thomas Taylor, one of the Coroners for the County of Yorkshire and lasted 13 days. Mr. Morton was the Government Inspector for the district but had been taken ill during the events and the evidence was presented to the inquiry by Mr. Joseph Dickenson, Inspector for the Manchester District. Mr. Dickenson noted that:

Mr. Morton’s health broke down under the intense excitement and anxiousness consequent upon the calamitous explosions at the colliery.

When Mr. Dickenson made the report into the disaster, the pit was closed and attempts were going on to put out the fires that were raging below ground. There were 286 bodies down the pit and it was the most serious loss of life in a colliery disaster in Great Britain. It was also very difficult to investigate as it was impossible to enter the workings and draw any conclusions from the evidence.

From the testimony of the witnesses, it was obvious that there had been large accumulations of gas in the goaves and in addition to this were sudden outbursts of gas which the safety lamps, which were used in the mine, had dealt with safely. At the time of the first explosion, work had been proceeding in opening up fresh faces which would have liberated a lot of gas and the explosion took place at the warmest part of the day when the ventilation would have been at its least efficient. One of the ventilation furnaces had been slackened for cleaning at the time and the barometer was falling.

How the gas had become ignited was unknown. All the lamps were locked and in good order but there were gas lamps extending from the bottom of the pit for 150 yards along the Old South Level and for 400 yards down the Engine Plane. Several of the survivors were firing a shot in a place near the shaft and said that they fired the shot and the explosion occurred about two seconds later. The charge was a big one of six pounds. The usual one was two pounds and the shot blew out the bottom of the hole. Wilson, who fired the shot, was found dead in the Engine Plane and he appeared to have gone there to prevent people walking past the place as the shot was fired and a partition blown through. It was thought that the effect of such a shot would be felt throughout the mine and the flame would go a considerable distance and the concussion would disturb the gas in the goaves.

Gas had been found in the goaves by the fireman, Cadman and by Bates and Thompson and there were some naked lights along the South Level. The Special Rules of the Colliery were stringently followed and the Manager, Mr. John Thomas Woodhouse was one of the most competent managers in the country and the ventilation was skilfully laid out. In the North Deep Level, firedamp came from a fault and was piped to the downcast shaft where it was used to light the mine. It was supposed that this could have been a source of ignition buy Mr. Dickenson dismissed this theory as the practice was used in some Lancashire mines and there had never been an ignition of gas from these lights.

Joseph Dickenson thought that the basic cause of the disaster was the system by which the Eight Foot Barnsley Coal was worked. The seam was known to be fiery and was worked on the longwall system. At the time of the explosion, the face was a mile long and the working places rose 1 in 12 to the goaves. When this system was used at the Wallsend Colliery, there was an explosion.

Regarding the events after the explosion, Mr. Dickenson commented:

It is difficult to restrain people from going down the pit when there may be the possibility of saving life, or for rescuing bodies but feelings should not overcome judgement, and the danger of an unnecessary number of persons being allowed to go down at one time for this purpose ought not to pass unimproved. The deputy who in this instance saved so many lives was, it seems, called a coward whilst rushing out whereas, in reality, he was showing good judgement. On similar occasion a few years ago, Mr. Morton, the Inspector of Coal Mines, Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Brown, colliery viewers, were hooted from the pit bank for preventing persons going down, the soundness of their judgement being proved by a serious explosion which followed in the course of a very short time.

With regard to the second explosion Mr. Dickenson went on to say:

It would have been much sadder but for the observation of the slight change perceived in the direction of the air by one of the deputies named Matthew Haigh who attributed it to flue gas and made his escape alarming a great number of persons on the way and so saved the lives of six cage loads of men who rushed in panic from the pit. The number of cage loads being stated as 15 in one cage. The timely warning given by him was, therefore?

The Coroner summed up and the jury retired to consider its verdict which was:

That Richard Hunt and others were killed by an explosion of firedamp or gas at the Oaks Colliery on the 12th December 1866 but there is no evidence to show how or where it was ignited. The jury think it unnecessary to make any special recommendations as to the workings of the mine saving that the Government are collecting information no doubt with a view to better protection of life but they think a strict inspection desirable.

Commenting on the verdict, Mr. Dickenson wrote:

It is not intended nor is it desirable that Inspectors should act as viewers or managers of the collieries but to be in the Districts where matters are referred to them that in case of complaint or reason to suspect danger, the pits maybe inspected and the requisite steps being taken to remedy it without an accident occurring and that when an accident had occurred, which appears to require it, investigation to be made, in order to ascertain whether the provisions of the Law have been complied with, and that, if necessary, the penalties for neglect may be proceeded for. It is apparent that when accidents have occurred, investigations press the responsibility for the management upon the parties to whom it attaches, and are the means of causing precautions to be taken which are likely to prevent a recurrence. Mines continually require attention. New roads are daily being made as the coal is worked, requiring renewed propping and frequent changes in ventilation arrangements, and the ventilation power must regularly kept up wear and tear are also constantly going on the ropes, steam boilers, machinery, pit shafts, &c. If the view is taken by one party, therefore, that inspection should reach further than this, were acted upon, it would tend to relieve the owners and managers of the responsibility which now devolves upon them, and throw it upon the Government, which, unless the Inspectors were made as numerous as the managers and had an equally numerous staff with the power of control over the expenditure, they could not possibly undertake.

As a postscript to the disaster, years later when Mr. Mammett was giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Accidents in the mines 1879-81, Sir George Elliott recalled:

I believe you were at the Oaks when I was there with Mr. Wooodhouse. I remember you performed a very daring deed in going down with Mr. Embleton for which I thought you ought to have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

There were still eighty bodies not accounted for and Mr. Mammett remarked to the Commission that the men were quite reconciled to it now and that “we never hear anything about it now”.  He was asked how the men overcame the sentimental feeling for those who were still in the mine and he answered:

We have a different set of men at the colliery now. For a few months, there was that feeling but is had quite died out now. We sometimes come across some bones and we have them sent up to the top but nobody claimed them and they were buried. There were only a skull and a piece of leg bone.



  • Mines Inspectors Report, 1866. Mr. Joseph Dickenson.
  • Colliery Guardian.15th. December 1866. p.745., 22nd. December 1866, p.491, 1966, 29th. December 1866. p.517., 22nd June 1867. p.574.21st. September 1867. p. 268., 28th. September 1867. p.285., 12th. October 1867. p.332, 24th. September 1869, p. 303, 17th, December 1869, p.594.
  • Barnsley Chronicle.
  • Sheffield Chronicle.
  • Leeds Mercury.
  • Great Pit Disasters in Great Britain. 1700 to the Present Day. Helen and Baron Duckham.

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

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