Heys Colliery Disasters

Mossley Road, Ashton-under-Lyne

The Colliery Disaster of Friday, 31 July 1857
In this disaster, 40 men and boys lost their lives. The colliery was owned by Messrs John Kenworthy and Brothers and it was situated on Mossley Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, close to the town centre. The colliery had five coal seams but at this time only the Two Foot Mine (160-yards deep) and the New Mine (225-yards deep) were being worked. There were three shafts comprising one upcast (foul air drawn out) and two downcast (fresh air drawn in).

Shortly after 1:00pm there was an explosion in the No.1 downcast shaft that resulted in fatalities to the men working in the New Mine. Of these, 39 were killed instantly and one, Edward Elliott an engineer, was fatally injured and he died of severe burns on Wednesday night, 5 August. He was found by rescuers at the top of an incline, lying at the back of the winding drum, where he operated the steam engine used to haul waggons over the incline. By 4:00pm on Sunday, 2 August, 31 bodies had been recovered and the last five were recovered at about 10:00am on Tuesday, 4 August, namely George Colbeck, Jonas Copley, William Healey (or Josiah Healey), Samuel Livesey and Francis Smith. The men working in the Two Foot Mine were able to escape by ascending the No. 2 downcast shaft directly after they heard the explosion.

The inquest opened at Ashton Town Hall on Saturday, 1 August before the coroner, Mr W S Rutter, and was adjourned until Monday. The foreman of the jury was John Ross Coulthart. The injured Edward Elliott was able to give evidence and following this it was again adjourned. The government inspector of mines for the Manchester District, Joseph Dickinson, was present at the inquest.

The jury met again on Tuesday evening, at the New Inn, when the last five bodies to be recovered were identified. The New Inn is situated on Mossley Road a short distance from the scene of the disaster. Subsequent hearings were held at the Town Hall.

Among those who gave evidence were underlookers Henry Andrew and John Garside and miners Thomas Andrew, William Baraclough (or Barrowclough), John Lamb, George Livesey and George Vickers. After all the evidence had been given the jury retired for about 20 minutes and then the foreman of the jury announced the verdict. “We say that the deceased came to their death by an explosion of gas in the New Mine, on the 31st day of July, but how such an explosion was occasioned it does not appear.” This means that the disaster was occasioned by an explosion of firedamp, the cause of which was unknown.

Résumé
Mr Richmond, head steward, represented the Earl of Stamford and Warrington who was the landowner and owner of the mineral rights. At this time the earl was George Grey, 7th Earl of Stamford, his full title being George Harry Booth-Grey, 7th Earl of Stamford and 3rd Earl of Warrington.

Abel Buckley of Ryecroft Hall was the Mayor of Ashton-under-Lyne, which had become a borough in 1847.

The colliery was owned by Messrs John Kenworthy and Brothers (John, James and George).

The colliery manager was Mr Pearce.

Mr John Whittaker of Hurst was in favour of a disaster fund. Members of the jury contributed £122 11s 0d to the fund of which jury members Mr Slaney and Mr Stead each contributed £10 and £5, respectively.

Miners from neighbouring collieries assisted with the search and rescue work, in particular from the Fairbottom Colliery Company and Messrs Lees of Park Bridge on the border between Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham.

Samuel Lees gave evidence concerning the identification of bodies.

Mr Lord gave evidence concerning mine ventilation doors situated between the No. 1 downcast shaft and the fire of the boiler used to raise steam for the engine situated at the top of the incline in the New Mine. This incline was 460-yards long with a gradient of 1:2, that is, it had a downward slope of 26.6˚ to the horizontal. This shows that Heys Colliery was situated on an anticline or upward fold in the earth’s crust with steep sides.

Joseph Dickinson, the government inspector of mines, condemned the system of pillar and stall working used at Heys Colliery as well as in many neighbouring collieries. In the pillar and stall technique of mining, a grid of tunnels (stalls) was driven into the coal seam, leaving pillars of unworked coal used to support the workings. Upon reaching the limit of mining, such as a natural fault, the pillars were mined in the retreat back to the shaft. The first part of the technique was known as ‘working in the whole’ and the second was known as ‘working in the broken’. The area from which all the coal had been removed was called the ‘gob’ and here the roof would gradually settle down. It was this that caused subsidence at ground level.

Location of Heys Colliery in Ashton-under-Lyne
The colliery buildings were located on the north side of Mossley Road near the corner with the west side of Herries Street (Grid Ref. SJ 399500). Three shafts were sunk, one by the colliery buildings, a second was on the opposite side of Mossley Road to these and a third was on the north side of Mossley Road near the Whiteacre Road corner.

Roll of the 40 miners who lost their lives
Each name is followed by the age and death register reference at Tameside Register Office, Dukinfield. 39 registrations are in the Ashton Town Sub-District and the registration of Edward Elliott is in the Dukinfield Sub-District.

Edward Elliott lived on Oxford Road, Dukinfield, and he left a widow and four children. He married Harriet Williams at St Mary’s Church in the Market Place, Stockport, in 1846. Their children were Mary (b.1847-d.1848), Mary Ann (b.1849), Edward (b.1851), Abel Martin (b.1854) and Louisa (b.1856).

Care was taken in compiling this roll but, owing to limited records and name spellings, strict accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

NameAgeTameside
RO
BARROWCLOUGH John27AST/34/79
BARROWCLOUGH Richard29AST/34/72
BRAITHWAITE Henry19AST/34/72
BRAMHALL John24AST/34/74
BROOKSHAW Joseph29AST/34/78
CATLOW William21AST/34/78
COLBECK George25AST/34/77
COPLEY Jonas16AST/34/77
DAVIES Thomas20AST/34/76
ELLIOTT Edward33DUK/30/35
EMMETT John23AST/34/79
FOSTER John37AST/34/76
GILBERT George16AST/34/76
GOSLING Thomas30AST/34/78
GREEN Joseph12AST/34/73
GREENWOOD Benjamin26AST/34/74
GREENWOOD Benjamin30AST/34/75
HAMPSON Joshua19AST/34/77
HEALEY William
or HEALEY Josiah
21AST/34/73
HOLLAND Abraham16AST/34/73
HOLLAND Henry53AST/34/76
HOLLAND Thomas21AST/34/76
HOPWOOD Samuel20AST/34/79
LIVESEY Samuel26AST/34/77
MOTTERSHEAD Charles11AST/34/75
NOLAN William30AST/34/74
OUSEY Philip11AST/34/72
PEET John19AST/34/79
PREECE William14AST/34/74
SAXON Samuel26AST/34/73
SCHOFIELD Joseph14AST/34/75
SMITH Francis25AST/34/77
SPEAK William19AST/34/79
TETLOW John20AST/34/72
THOMPSON George40AST/34/78
THOMPSON Robert16AST/34/78
UNDERWOOD John27AST/34/73
WALKER Samuel16AST/34/75
WEBB Jonathan12AST/34/74
WEBB William22AST/34/75

The Colliery Disaster of Monday, 17 March 1851
The disaster of 1857 was preceded by another explosion of firedamp which occurred six years earlier. In this disaster one man was killed instantly and another eight were injured of whom five died shortly afterwards from their injuries.

Though records of this event are deficient it is known that the government inspector of mines for the Manchester District, Joseph Dickinson, published a report and it is probable that the man who was killed instantly was John Ogden.

Uncorroborated Roll of the six miners who lost their lives
Each name is followed by the age and death register reference at Tameside Register Office, Dukinfield. All six registrations are in the Ashton Town Sub-District.

NameAgeTameside
RO
ANDREW James Wright18AST/22/19
BOOTH John20AST/22/19
CONNOR John21AST/22/20
OGDEN John30AST/22/19
ROSE George42AST/22/19
WORRALL John37AST/22/20

Roll of other recorded fatalities