VICTORIA. Pontefract, Yorkshire. 7th. March, 1879.

The colliery was the property of Rhodes & Dalby and was in the village of Snydale near Pontefract. Abraham Wordman was the surface manager and James Eley the certificated underground manager. Eight men lost their lives in an accident at the colliery when the cage fell down the shaft. The seam that was worked at the colliery was the Stanley Main Seam at a depth of about 220 yards. The shaft was fitted with wooden conductors and “shoes” which were about four inches wide which ran on the conductors. The rope to the cage was made of steel wire and was four and one eighth inches in diameter.

About 9 p.m. on the 7th March, a Friday night shift of about 40 men and boys started to descend. Eight persons went down in the cage at one time and three cage loads had reached the bottom. The fourth was being lowered when the rope began to vibrate and the banksman knew that something was wrong. He signalled the engineman to stop when the rope broke. James Armitage, the head banksman heard a rumbling in the shaft and knew something was wrong and so stopped the engine immediately and sent a message for Mr. Wordman or Mr. Eley who quickly arrived.

For some time those in authority at the surface did not know what had happened a they could not contact the shaft bottom as the signalling wires had been broken. It was considered too dangerous to move the other cage without knowing the state of the shaft. A message was sent down the shaft attached to a safety lamp by a cord. The message read:

Send word up how this has happened. Are you all safe? Getting ready at the top as quickly as possible. Where is the other cage. Is your cage loosed?

After a considerable amount of time had and answer was received from Thomas Summister which said:

We want you to send the second cage down as the other cage had gone into the sump and all with it. All is quiet.

Two men went down the shaft in a skip attached to a new rope and they found that the cage was wedged between the conductors. By degrees it was freed and lowered to the bottom of the shaft. The bodies of the men were retrieved from the sump and brought to the surface. The past was brought up at 1 p.m on Saturday.

The sixteen men and boys who were in the pit were drawn up the upcast shaft. The rope that had broken had been in use for about two years and when it was carefully examined it was found that it broke at a long tear which could not have been seen before the accident.

Those who died were

  • S, Kerfoot aged 37 years, byeworker,
  • William Douthroit aged 38 years, byeworker,
  • Charles Allsopp aged 35 years, byeworker,
  • John Brown aged 42 years, miner,
  • William Oldridge aged 32 years, miner,
  • William Pegg aged 28 years, miner,
  • J. Calconnon aged 29 years, miner,
  • Samuel Clamp aged 20 years, driver.

At the inquest which was held at the Station Hotel, Syndale before Mr. Thomas Taylor, Coroner, and the men spoke of the cage being lowered at the ordinary speed and nothing irregular had been noticed. Mr. Wardell, the. Inspector, examined the shaft and found that the ascending cage had left the conductors about 30 yards from the bottom. One of the conducting rods was disconnected at the bottom. He thought the cage had got out if its guides before this and that they had collided in the shaft. This would cause the rope to slacken and the suddenly tighten which caused the rope to break. The shaft had been reported in the Report Book to be in good order by the enginewright. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death”.


Mines Inspector Report, 1879.
Colliery Guardian, 14th. March, p.428, 21st. March, p.455

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

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