This article appeared in the Derbyshire Times dated 8 November 1882 and is reproduced here with the permission of the Editor, Derbyshire Times.
DREADFUL COLLIERY EXPLOSION AT CLAY CROSS
THIRTY-NINE LIVES LOST
Yesterday (Tuesday) morning about 10 a.m. an alarming explosion took place at the Parkhouse, or No. 7 Pit belonging to the Clay Cross Coal and Iron Company.
The main shaft of the colliery is situated at Danesmoor, two miles from Clay Cross, and is 185 yards deep. There was also access to the pit from another shaft (No. 8) which is near Clay Cross and about a mile and a half from the other shaft. The ventilation and other arrangements were on the best principles and this is the first explosion that has occurred at this pit, though it opened in May 1874.
The total number of hands employed was 250, and nearly 200 of them coal getters.
At a quarter past ten on Tuesday morning a dull heavy report was heard, followed by a shook as of an earthquake. A volume of smoke, dust, dirt, &c., was vomited from the pit mouth, and the head gear was completely destroyed by the force of the explosion. The noise was so great that it was heard some miles round, and the ominous sound at once brought a large crowd of eager, excited people to the scene.
H.M. Inspector of Mines, T. W. Evans, Esq., was informed by telegram, and the news was also conveyed to Mr. Stokes, the assistant Inspector.
The officials of the colliery were at once summoned to the pit, and after consultation decided to descend by the shaft nearest Clay Cross, as the Danesmoor shaft (where the explosion occurred) was impracticable.
The first exploring party consisted of Mr Croudace (manager), Mr George Dunn (head underviewer), Mr Joseph Booth, Joseph Foster, Philip Vardy, J. Dunn and several experience men. Drs. Chawner and Pegler, also descend with them. Mr George Dunn's conduct is especially deserving of commendation, as he knew that four of hi sons were in the pit, and might have been excused if he had felt unable to undertake a service od such anxiety under the circumstances.
The explorers were for some time in great danger from the foul air and flaming blasts that were flying about the workings. About two o'clock the ventilation had very much improved and about three o'clock no traces of fire remained. The first two who ascended after the explosion were Samuel Stoppard and William Spetch. The explorers were all brought to the bank before nine o'clock, uninjured though much exhausted by their labours, and breathing the gas and foul air. Another exploring party went down the pit at 11 p.m. Up to 1a.m. this morning no bodies had been brought out of the pit, but the number missing is thirty-nine most of whom are believed to have perished. Arrangements have been made to convey the bodies when recovered to the Queen's Head, to await the inquest.
Dr. D'Arcy rendered good service in sending down refreshments, clothing and other things likely to be needed by the medical men who accompanied the exploring party.
The names of those who remain in the pit, and who it is feared are dead, are as follows:—
William Slinn, bricklayer, Alton, single
William Squires, bricklayer, Alton, married
Thomas Barry, or Wheeldon, bricklayer, Tupton, married
John Holmes, Clay Cross, married
Joseph Mitchell, Clay Cross, single
Richard Taylor, Danesmoor, Married
William Briggs, Pilsley, married
Michael Parkin, Danesmoor, married
William Martin, pumping engine minder, Clay Cross, a boy
Thomas Goaler, Clay Cross, married
Thomas Chappell, Clay Cross, single
Elias Bowler, Danesmoor, married
James Smith, Clay Cross, married
Emanuel Clarke, Danesmoor, married
Joseph Frost, Higham, single
James Parker, Clay Cross, married
Joseph Dunn, Danesmoor, married
Henry Beeston, Danesmoor, married
Philip Scothern, Woolley Moor, married
John Beeson, son of Henry Beeson, Danesmoor
Richard Dunn, Danesmoor, (uncle to Joseph Dunn also dead), married
Joseph Stone, Danesmoor, married
William Renshaw, Danesmoor, married
William Vickers, Danesmoor, single
George Hewitt Danesmoor, widower
George Hewitt jun., son of the above
Thomas Hewitt, also son of George Hewitt
William Clarke, single man, son of Emanuel Clarke, Danesmoor (also killed)
Aaron Beeson, another son of Henry Beeson (also killed)
Joseph Walters, married, wife and four children, Danesmoor
Joseph Stone, (stallman), Danesmoor, wife and four children
James Sims (stallman) Danesmoor, married, wife and five children
Edward Baker, a lad, Danesmoor
William Brevitt, bricklayer
Samuel Barker, Danesmoor, wife and five children (father of Edward Barker, also killed)
Joseph Phipps (fireman), Danesmoor, single man
The men who were brought up alive, but most seriously injured, either from the effects of the explosion or the after-damp were:—
George Dunn jun., son of the underviewer; badly burnt
Robert Dunn; very seriously burnt
Wm. Dunn; severely scorched
Unaccounted, believed to be dead:—
Owen Richards : married
John Stanley : married
John Buckberry : married
Joseph Stones : married
Emanuel Clarke, and his son William
Samuel Parker and his son
Edward Thomas Birkin
Up to the present all operations are at a stand and it is fully believed that all in the pit are dead.
Twelve of the thirty men whose lives there is every reason to believe have been lost are married, and several of them leave large families. Two or three are but young married man. James Parker having been only few months a husband. On Monday his foot was injured by a corve running over it, but he insisted upon descending the pit on Tuesday morning to complete some work in the neighbourhood of No. 7 shaft with George Dunn, Jun., who was his companion at work. Instances are not wanting in which men were, by trivial matters, prevented from descending the shaft, and thus escaped injury or death. Below we give a list of the men who had not been brought out of the pit late last night. The bodies of several had been removed from the workings where they had met their fate to the bottom of No. 8 shaft, ready to be brought to the top, and there is, unfortunately, little ground for hope that any of the poor fellows who still are bracketed amongst the missing can have survived the shock of the explosion and the deadly after-damp.
The following men took part in the several exploring expeditions which visited the different working in the course of the day:—J. Parker, C. Bloor, B. Bloor, R. Allen, Reaney. W. Holland, C. Coleman, Yates, W. Sambury, H. Blakemoor, E. Pollard, W. Royden, E. Roberts, S. Wood, J. Taylor, D. Lee, F. Mason, S. Shelton, Jos. Stone, ER. Burdett, — Davison (Morton), — Ealington (Morton), P. Vardy, (Whitworth), Samuel Roberts, Wm. Buxton, Thomas Palfryman, George Knowles, — Hague, John Blower, John Rowe (deputy), D. D'Arcy, Charles Buxton, Richard Taylor, William Wilkinson, James Riley, William Buxton, George Shelton, Samuel Stones, John Pettett, William Marsden, Ed. Guest, John Asn (furnaceman), Mr Clare (manager), E. Askew, Arthur Clarke, Thomas Turvey, W. Wane, George Bentley, Robert Cooke, Thomas Smith, William Cooke, John Wright, Ed. Robinson, Mr Sankey, — Stonghton, — Maltby, — Mann, Alfred Spencer, John Wardle, E. Ellis, E. Morphus, W. Mee, James Short, W. Tyler, jun., John Redwood, Ralph Hunter, Thomas Holland, A. Chapman, sen., H. Clayton, W. Buxton, W. Glover, Richard Swan, Richard Wilson, Samuel Beeston, George Hewitt, A. Hunter, John White, W Buckland, W Hayes, John Spencer, W Snales (Morton), John Bowler (Morton), Wm. Bower, Geo, Fearn, James Shaw, Wm. Skelton.
Amongst the miners who descended the pit to work, and suffered either from the explosion itself or the after-damp, were Richard Wilson, William Lloyd, E. Burdett, William Chadwick, William Bunting, William Spetch, Samuel Bunting, John Nuttall, Charles Buxton, John Smith, senior, Samuel Stoppard, Thomas Wyman, Daniel Farnsworth, Aaron Toplis, Thomas Buckland, George Turner, James Brailsford, William Clarke, William Lowe, Samuel Shimwell, William Williams, Charles Colley, William Jacques, John Cooke, S. Burton, Wm. Birley.
The Sheffield Independent referring to the case of Mr George Dunn and his sons says:—A pleasing feature standing out in bold relief in connection with the gloomy story is the heroism which the disaster evoked. There is perhaps hardly any more dangerous duty than that of descending into a pit in which an explosion has just taken place. On Tuesday there were scores at all times ever willing to volunteer their services to take their lives in their hands as it were, to assist in the work of rescuing those who could be saved. There were few who displayed greater heroism and also few who suffered more from the disaster, than the underviewer Mr George Dunn, of Park House. There were four members of his family in the mine when the accident occurred. His brother Richard Dunn was killed, and his eldest son, Joseph Dunn met with a like fate. It was also believed, during a great part of the day, that his other three sons were beyond hope, and the poor parents was held in the greatest suspense. He went down the pit among the first batch of explorers, and was about the last to leave the mine in the evening: having worked with the greatest assiduity for over ten hours, and shown unflinching bravery in venturing into dangerous parts of the works. He was one of the first to reach his two sons (Robert and William), and it was, no doubt, an immense relief to find that they were alive. He had them removed from the gaffer's cabin, which was in ruins, to the bottom of Pit No.8, and they were brought to the pit bank about seven o'clock in the evening. William, who was the first that was brought up, could be heard crying piteously a considerable time before the cage arrived at the top, and whilst being removed to a carriage moaned very much, as if undergoing terrible pain. The other son, Robert, who was brought up a few minutes later, showed hardly any signs of life, and it was stated that he was insensible. Both were badly burnt, and also severely injured by the fall of the gaffer's cabin, and on Tuesday evening they were reported to be in a critical condition. George Dunn, Junr., who as has been stated, was also in the pit, was brought up about half past two in the afternoon, the three brothers being, in fact, the last three persons brought to the bank of those who were down when the explosion occurred.
The same authority also describes the movement of the first exploring party:—"Our party, which went down very soon after the explosion took place, consisted of Mr George Dunn (the under-viewer), Mr Brailsford, Mr Downing and two others whose names I do not recollect. We tried several times to make our way in the direction of pit No. 7, but we had often to return to the main road leading from No. 8 pit. The after-damp was so powerful in parts that we had either to retire or wait a while. After much delay, occasioned both by the accumulation of gas and the disarrangement of the road, we managed to make our way as far as the stables, which are within 70 or 80 yards of the bottom of pit No 27 . In the course of the journey we was [saw] in all about fifteen bodies, the last we saw being close to the bottom of pit No 7. I have no doubt there are a great many bodies further on, but the after-damp was so powerful to allow us to go to them. I don't believe that there are any alive in the workings that have not been discovered. Of the bodies that I saw there were eleven laying on the main road, and all were more or less disfigured by the fire. At the same time, I don't supposed that they were poisoned by the inhalation of the after-damp. Among the bodies I saw were those of two bricklayers, Slinn and Wheeldon, and also that of their attendant. They were among the debris of the new engine house, which they were erecting. I also saw the bodies of Joseph Dunn, Michael Parker, Edward Parker, Henry Beeson, John Beeson, Richard Dunn, and Joseph Phipps. These bodies were laying in all directions, most of them with their heads downwards, as if they had tried to bury themselves in the dust. Close to Henry Beeson there was a pony standing. It had its hair signed, but still it was alive. We went to the stables and we saw three or four ponies—I am not quite sure of the number—alive, but badly burnt. We should have brought these away, but we could not possibly do so. I understand that an attempt will be made tonight (Wednesday to get all the animals that are not dead out of the pit, or at any rate to a place of safety and comfort. There was one dead pony in the stable. I looked at the watch of one of the dead men and found it going all right. It was then half-past three in the afternoon. We laid the bodies out in order. When we found them they were heaped up in all directions. Some had evidently been blown with great force against the sidings, whilsh others were covered with rubbish and bind. Th gaffer's cabin, which is close to the bottom of pit No. 7 was a complete ruin. In the debris was found the body of James Parker and laying close by were the two sons of Mr Dunn (the underviewer). they seemed as if they were asleep, but on examining them we found that they were alive, and they have since been brought out of the pit. The main road was in many places rendered almost impassable by the destruction of the fittings and the fall of the roof and sidings, and I believe it will take all night to make it sufficiently clear to get the bodies away in the morning. I understand that the volunteers which are going down to-night intend getting a little farther than the stables, as there are, I have no doubt, several bodies in that direction. As to where the explosion originated, it is impossible to say, and indeed, when the pit has been cleared of gas and thoroughly examined, I think it will be found difficult to get at the root of the matter. the person who is responsible for the accident was, in all probability, one of the first sacrificed.