Transcription from ‘The Times’ newspaper dated Wednesday 8th November 1882.
Shortly after 10 o’clock yesterday morning a terrible explosion resulting, it is feared, in the loss of 30 lives, occurred at the Parkhouse Pit, situate near Claycross, Derbyshire, and belonging to the Claycross Coal and Iron Company. The pit, which was opened in 1864, has been free from disasters of the kind up to the present. The scene of the explosion was No. 7 shaft, which is sunk to a depth of 185 yards. Since the opening of this shaft another has been sunk for the convenience of the men at a point near Claycross, the total extent of the whole workings being about 1¾ mile, running north and south. Close to the pit bottom the working “dip” very much. The main workings are situated near No. 7 shaft, the coal being worked, to use a collier’s term “on end.” There are usually in the pit 250 men and boys, 199 being coal getters. Thirty-six horses are also employed in the underground workings. Yesterday was regarded as a play day among the men, and on this account only 90 men descended the shaft at 7 o’clock. According to the arrangements made, most of them were to return at 10 o’clock. Eight men usually ascend or descend in the cage at a time, and at 10 o’clock nearly 40 men returned to the surface. At a quarter past 10 Mr. William Johnson, a clerk employed on the bank at No. 7 shaft, who was sitting in his office at the time, was startled by a tremendous report. A dense volume of smoke issued from the mouth of the shaft, while bricks and wood were shot into the air. Some repairs were being done at the No. 7 shaft under the superintendence of George Dunn, jun., in the absence, through illness, of his father, who is the underground manager. James Elliott, the engineman, was at the engine at the time of the explosion, he had just sent a carpenter, John Barker, to repair a wagon, some distance off. Joseph Stephenson, a banksman, was standing near the pit mouth waiting for the cage to come up, when he was blown into a gullet where wagons are loaded, six yards off and five yards deep. He was very badly injured by the fall, and is now lying in the company’s hospital at Claycross in a critical state. Barker was talking with Stephenson when the explosion occurred, and had both arms broken. Elliott, who was uninjured, says the noise of the explosion resembled that of bursting of a cannon. Much of the glass in the offices and neighbouring buildings was broken, and the wire-ropes and signalling wires round the shaft mouth were all twisted. Mr. Croudace, the certificated manager, promptly arrived at No. 8 pit, where he was joined by Mr. Clare, the general manager, Mr. George Howe, Head engineer, Mr. Dickinson, an underground official, and Mr. Wilkinson, cashier. Communication by No. 7 shaft was, of course, cut off, and arrangements were made for liberating the imprisoned miners by descending from No. 8 pit. Mr. George Dunn, sen., the underground manager, who had been confined to his bed since last Thursday, despite his weakness, descended the shaft with Mr. Croudace. By this time hundreds of people had gathered about the pit, and many pressed forward to render assistance. Among the earliest arrivals were Dr. Chawner and Dr. Pegler, of Claycross, who descended the shaft. Mr Knowles, certificated manager, and Mr. Butler Haigh, certified manager of Alma Colliery, North Wingfield, and others were promptly on the spot. Dr. D’Arcy remained at the shaft’s mouth to look after the injured as they were brought up. Cage after cage descended with volunteer explorers, whose task was difficult and dangerous, as when they returned to the surface they were suffering severely from the effects of after-damp. At this time it was supposed there were 40 or 50 in the pit. George Dunn, who managed during his father’s illness, was among the first to be brought up. He was terribly burnt about the face; his hair, eyebrows, and whiskers were singed off. Joseph Shimwell, who was in the pit when the calamity occurred, found Dunn lying unconscious, and stopped to assist him, till they were met by several of the explorers. Dunn would undoubtedly have perished but for the timely help of Shimwell. Patrick Leville, who was working in the dip till 10 o’clock yesterday morning, states that when he left thee pit he could not carry a naked light, as the current of air was so strong. Leveille, who came up with the last batch, thought there would be no men working where the explosion occurred. He left eight at the bottom of the shaft. One of the first to be brought up after the disaster was Samuel Stoppard, who was suffering from after-damp. About 11 o’clock William Jacques and John Cook were rescued, and found to be very slightly injured. They were working down the “incline,” about half a mile from No. 7 shaft. They saw an unusual light, and Jacques remarked that there must be an explosion of gas somewhere. As they made their way along they found “archings,” bricks, and barrows scattered about. Halfway up the incline they saw John Holmes, better known as “Tarrier,” lying on the ground, apparently lifeless. A little further along they saw Holmes’s companion, Philip Scothern, lying face downwards, and he also appeared to be dead. Aaron Toplis, Joseph Foster, and Joseph Buckland were also rescued during the morning, and were found to be suffering from after-damp. The first exploring party, consisting of Mr. Croudace, Mr. George Dunn, sen., Mr. Joseph Booth, Joseph Foster, and Jedadiah Orme, descended half an hour after the explosion. The ventilation at the time was very bad, and several of the explorers had to be brought up. Mr. George Howe, the head engineer at No. 7 pit, succeeded in getting very near the shaft of this pit in the afternoon, and found that the ventilation was being rapidly restored and no signs of any further explosion. Charles Colley, who escaped from the “Dips,” says that when he came out he heard one of Mr. Dunn’s sons, a lad of 15, crying for help from the cabin close to No 7 put, but he could not render him any assistance. This boy, however, was rescued during the afternoon. His brother Robert was also brought up wrapped in a blanket. He was still alive, though motionless. Another brother, William, with an uncle, remains in the pit. Henry Blakemore, who came up at half-past 3 o’clock, states that he fell over Holmes’s body, and also discovered that of Henry Beeson, both of whom are believed to be dead. About 4 o’clock one of the young men employed by the company, who was near No. 7 shaft, thought he heard someone calling, and climbing over the barricading, listened for some time. At last he heard a faint “Hallo.” He asked, “Are you all right?” and the reply came, “We are all right; we have come from the workings; we want lights.” In the result it was made known that the brothers William Dunn and Robert Dunn had been found. It was not until two hours had elapsed that they could be brought up. Their uncle and the fourth brother, Joseph, still remains in the pit. With the exception of the three brothers Dunn, who are very seriously burnt, the others rescued were chiefly affected by after-damp, and recovered sufficiently to walk home with assistance. When the exploring party was drawn up late last evening there remained below 30 colliers and bricklayers, who, it is feared, have all perished. The following is a list of those known to be in the workings: Colliers.―James Parker, married, Claycross; Joseph Dunn, married, Danesmoor; Henry Beeson, Married, Danesmoor; Philip Scothern, married, Woolleymoor; John Beeson, single, Danesmoor; Richard Dunn, married, Danesmoor; Joseph Stone, married, Danesmoor; Jacob Stone, married, Danesmoor; William Renshaw, married, Danesmoor; William Vickers, single, Danesmoor; George Hewitt, widower, Danesmoor; Thomas Hewitt, single, Danesmoor; George Hewitt, jun., single, Danesmoor; Michael Parkin, married, Danesmoor; John Holmes, married, Claycross; Joseph Mitchell, single, Claycross; Richard Taylor, married, Danesmoor; William Briggs, married, Pilsley; William Martin, boy, Claycross; Tom Goaler, married, Claycross; James Smith, married, Claycross; Tom Chappell, single, Claycross, Elias Bowler, married, Danesmoor; Emmanuel Clarke, married, Danesmoor; Jospeh Frost, single, Higham. Bricklayers.―William Slinn, single, Alton; William Squires, married, Alton; Thomas Berry or Wheeldon, married, Tupton; Brovitt, bricklayer, residence not stated; Barker, a lad, residence not stated. Injured.―Joseph Stephenson, banksman; John Barker, carpenter; George Dunn, collier; William Dunn, collier; Robert Dunn, collier. Naked lights, with Glenny’s patent safety-lamps, were used in the pit.