RAWMARSH. Rotherham, Yorkshire 20th. November, 1874.

The colliery was the property of Messrs. John and Joseph Charlesworth and was at Rawmarsh near Rotherham. It had worked for thirty-five years before the disaster and the explosion claimed 23 lives which occurred in the dip levels of the Barnsley seam. The colliery was an old one and had abandoned workings which were very extensive. It worked the Barnsley seam at a depth of 127 yards. there were seven shafts which communicated with this seam, four of which were downcast, including a pumping shaft. The remainder were upcast shafts. The colliery was ventilated by furnaces. From the “Old” or Rawmarsh pit, three bords were driven in a north-easterly direction parallel to each other and at the time of the disaster, extended for almost a mile. The bords were driven with a sectional area of about sixty to seventy square feet each and were perfectly straight at an average gradient of about two and a half inches to the yards. The part of the pit that was affected by the explosion was No.7 in the dip south levels and this was about 1,400 yards from the shaft.

On the day of the explosion, there were about 460 men and boys in the Warren Vale and the Rawmarsh pits. William Hargreaves was the certificated manager and had been at the colliery for nineteen or twenty years. John Harrison, fire-tryer at the colliery was on duty on the 20th. November and at about 6.45 a.m. was in the dips of the No.7 south level and found it clear of gas. Thomas Roebuck entered this report in the book and went to the north side. He was at the pit bottom when the explosion occurred at about 7.50 a.m. He did not feel anything but heard someone say, “Oh dear! Something is up”. John Waddington, another fire-tryer, also found no gas.

George Johnson Kell was the colliery engineer and had been at the colliery from April 1862 and went down the pit at 10.10 a.m. after the explosion and met Roebuck travelling down the man bord and after examining the return air for gas he made an examination and came to the conclusion that there was no fire, and he gave instructions to put out the furnace. Men were found suffering from the effects of afterdamp.

John Fretwell Thompson, a mining engineer who lived at Wath and worked at Manvers Main, gave an account of the events in the pit after the disaster. He said:

When I got to the pit I saw the manager, Mr. Hargreaves and asked him if I could be of assistance. He asked me to go down the pit and I went down. In the engine plane, I met Mr. Kell and the others just where the explosion had taken place. We went to examine the bottom of the gates in the first bank and found it full of gas. We then had a consultation and we decided to go and re-light the furnace. I took charge of the exploration party after that. When I got back to the level end, I took some men with me and examined the stoppings, which had been put up in a great hurry and they require repairing. We then went into the second gate in the far bank. I then ascertained how far the gas had got up there. When we got about halfway up we found a body. We went a few yards further and found another two. We found gas on the far side of the bank next to the face. I then examined the levels coming round to the far gate again. While I was there was a report of a fire in the first gate of the bank. I returned with the man who made the report, Charles Moore, that there were two bodies in the first gate and a fire. We tried to put it out but did not succeed. All the men left the pit with the exception of Ward, Brown, Firth and Lazenby. We went to the fire and found it burning just behind the gate. A man’s jacket was on fire and a clog. We got it out as best we could with the assistance of a bottle of water. There was a deal of smoke and there was gas five or six feet off. We found the body of and there with a stone on his head which had killed him. We then came across the bank face, the roof of which was heavily weighted. We found two men at the far side of the first bank, near the second gate. We found four near the far gate of the first bank. We came out to the level and after a short rest we went back and brought one man out of the first gate to the level and the found that we could do no more. I sent out of the pit a note for fresh men and when they came, we got all the bodies out.

Those who died were:

  • Joseph Thompson.
  • Thomas Beighton.
  • Richard Skelton.
  • Thomas Astill.
  • Henry Cooper.
  • James Mort.
  • George Wright.
  • William Cooper.
  • Samuel Thompson.
  • Samuel Skelton.
  • Thomas Roberts.
  • William Byron.
  • John Jowett.
  • Henry Stead.
  • John Woodin.
  • Ben Turner.
  • John Tomlinson.
  • George King.
  • Luke Oxley.
  • Isaac Oxley.
  • Frederick Cliff.
  • John Walker.
  • George Taylor.

The inquiry into the disaster was conducted by the Coroner Mr. D. Whiteman and Mr. Wardell had the assistance of another Inspector Mr. Thomas Evans. George Kell thought that the explosion was the result of an outburst of gas in the No.1 bank and that it was lighted by the naked candles of the men who were working nearby. John Fretwell Thompson believed that the cause of the explosion was fall of roof in the goaf which drove out the gas. Several colliers said that they would sooner work with candles than with Stevenson lamps. Mr. Wardell recommends that the mine should be lit by Stevenson’s lamps.

The Coroner summed up and the jury retired and returned the following verdict:

That the deceased was accidentally killed by an explosion of gas at the Rawmarsh Colliery on the 20th, and the jury recommended that Mr. Wardell’s recommendations should be adhered to.

Mr. Wardell reported that the Stevenson’s lamps had been adopted by Messrs. Charlesworth and that William Hargreaves, the manager of the colliery, who was ill at the time of the explosion, had died.


Mines Inspector Report, 1874. Mr. Wardell.
Occurrences and Events of Interest in the Barnsley District, Notable Colliery Explosions and Disasters in Yorkshire since 1672.
Colliery Guardian, 27th. November, p.790, 4th. December, p.825.

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

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