Mining Accidents - The Price of Coal!



Thankfully Walkden never suffered a devastating pit disaster such as that at Clifton Hall Colliery when in 1885 178 died; or Westhoughton’s Pretoria Pit Disaster of 1910 in which 344 men and boys lost their lives. Accidents did happen in the Walkden pits and these ‘everyday’ roof falls, explosions or sidefalls probably in the long run cost more lives than any major disaster.
The Farnworth Journals of the 19th century regularly reported inquests on men killed in mining accidents, graphically illustrating the dangers and hardships faced by the Victorian miners. An example can be found in the Journal of 5th January 1884, it reports the inquest, held at the Bulls Head, into the death of James Crompton. The facts of the case are as follows.
Crompton, aged 22, lived at Half Crown Row with his mother and sister Sarah.
A miner employed by the Bridgewater Trust at their Linnyshaw Colliery, he was working the night shift on the 2nd January when, at 11pm, there was a roof fall. He was not completely buried but pinned by a large lump of coal weighing approximately 2 tons. Quickly released he was taken to the surface, wrapped in rugs and kept before the fire as he complained of being cold. No transport was available so he was walked the couple of miles home by two men and handed over to his mother at 1 o’clock. He died half an hour later.
One juror suggested that stretchers should be kept at the pits, commenting “three or four weeks ago there had been an accident and I saw one of the men lying bleeding on the road. He had been trying to walk home and was covered in blood. I think if a stretcher had been at hand it would have been a good thing”.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and the “opinion of the jury in the matter of stretchers would be conveyed to the Bridgewater Trustees”.