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hardly ever broken out of the glass. In all colliery rules, the locking of the safety-lamps should be prominently named, and rigidly enforced. The lock should not be by a common screw, which men can unfasten, but either by a long key passing up the pillar of the lamp, or by a padlock brazed to the oil-box, or, better still, by a lead rivet, passing through cheeks on the upper and lower part of the lamp, and clinched by nippers which leave a letter or die mark on the end of the rivet. To open the lamp, the rivet can be cut across the middle with a knife, and then the two ends drop out: this is an effectual barrier to the carelessness and wickedness of bad men in the pit. In Stephenson's lamp, and other similar lamps protected by glass, as long as the glass remains whole, the gas will not affect the intensity of the flame beyond a certain degree; and if the glass breaks, the lamp then becomes a simple Davy.


The history of coal-mine explosions is one of the most harrowing that exists, apart from the annals of warfare. It would answer no good purpose to repeat the details, especially as the daily journals give them at the time of their occurrence. ourselves were once eye-witnesses of the effects of such an explosion in a pit near Newcastle, which we descended shortly after the unhappy accident. No time can efface from our memory the mournful sights we then beheld. The shattered pit, the immense masses of fallen stone and coal, the blocked-up passages, the crawling and creeping we perforce performed, the sudden encounter with several excavators who had exhumed a dead body, which appeared, by the feeble light of our Davys, more like a lump of charcoal, than any thing once human,-the charred and blasted props of wood, the battered waggons, and the broken "rolleys" heaped up confusedly with dislodged trams and pointed stones, and finally the neighing of a little pony in his stall, who was the sole survivor of the whole number-thirty-two-of living beings who had but shortly before breathed and laboured in this pit,-all these particulars of horror have impressed themselves indelibly on our memory, although we write these lines fourteen years after the event. Nor was the scene above ground less harrowing, as we visited cottage after cottage of newly made widows and orphans, and, in reply to their melancholy invitations, looked shrinkingly upon the bodies already recovered and lying in their hasty shells. Some of the poor men had been stifled with the "afterdamp,"* (a fatal foe,) and their countenances bore the mark of moveless slumber, rather than of violent death. Only those who had perished by the fire-damp-the carburetted hydrogen

* After-damp consists of eight parts of nitrogen, two of aqueous vapour, and one of carbonic acid gas. But the component proportions vary in the peculiar circumstances of each explosion. It is also called "choke-damp."

-were burnt and blackened. Then, finally, on the following Sunday afternoon, crowds of miners and their wives and children thronged the church and the churchyard, to hear the funeral sermon for the thirty-two deceased; and the lamentations and weepings which were at first heard at the scene of the accident, were renewed and shared by a multitude of miners. Let this suffice for all details of explosions.

Lamentable and lamented as these have always been, yet it is a remarkable proof of negligence, that no authentic record of them has been kept. Fourteen years since, we attempted to produce a list of them; and the negligence was so complete, that we could find no data for the catalogue. By the favour of the Secretary of the North-Shields Committee, we recorded an approximate list of explosions in the Northern district; but it must have been very far short of actual events. Mr. Blackwell has presented us (in Appendix No. II. to the Third Report of Committee, 1853) with a list of the principal colliery explosions during seven years ending 1852, and of the ascertained causes, for the whole of England. In this list we find that the number of fatal cases for the seven years is 1,099. The great proportion of these accidents are attributed to ignition of the gas at naked light, and the other causes are very few. One advantage of Government inspection will be tolerably accurate records of accidents and explosions. The following is the result of such inquiries relating to a brief period of time, namely, from November 21st, 1850, to December 31st, 1852, for England, Scotland, and Wales:-Deaths arising from explosions, 645=30 per cent. of the whole number. From falls of roof, 744-347 per cent. of the whole. Accidents in shafts during ascent and descent, &c., 457=21.32 per cent. of the whole. From other causes, 297 13.86 per cent. Total deaths, 2,143.

The number of casualties in pits not terminating fatally are very numerous. One of the Inspectors informs us, that he considers that in some districts more than ten to one are maimed or seriously injured, for every one killed.

While upon explosions, it may be remarked that two-thirds of the deaths are occasioned by "after-damp," and not by the common fire-damp, or light carburetted hydrogen. Stalls of refuge were proposed for persons who have escaped the effects of the explosion of fire-damp to repair to, and to avoid the "after-damp;" but unless very numerous and closely adjacent, they would mostly fail. Some mines have a sort of fatal facility for exploding. A mine called Jarrow, on the Tyne, is noted for the number of its fatal explosions. In former periods Wall's-End was remarkable, and latterly Haswell in Durham has become so, for deaths. These are all extremely fiery or gaseous pits.

In Lancashire, the Ince-Hall Company's mines have a dark

Statistics of Fatal Explosions.


and dismal record of this kind. On March 23rd, 1853, there was an explosion in those mines, attended with great loss of life; and this was followed by another very fatal explosion on the 18th of February, 1854; by which eighty-nine persons were hurried into eternity, within the workings of the Arley mine (Ince-Hall Company's). The evidence of this calamity, as taken at the inquest at Wigan, has been printed for private circulation, and forwarded to us. It is a pamphlet of fifty-seven closely printed pages, and merits the careful perusal of mining engineers. The object of the Company's mining engineer, who has printed the pamphlet, is to exculpate himself from the animadversions of the Government Inspector, and from the blame cast upon him by the jury. The case is very instructive, as one of collision of mining views and opinions.

Some collieries have histories of this kind so painfully attached to them, that they cannot be visited without the idea of their being dark holes of danger and death.* It is remarkable, however, how soon the men who survive an accident recover courage, and descend to work again. A poor maimed pitman once pointed out a mine to us, exclaiming, “Ah! Sir, there's a leg and two fingers of mine in that pit."

In a recent paper in the "Journal of the Society of Arts," Mr. Mackworth, a Government Inspector of Mines, states it to be the issue of his calculations, that at least one out of every eight colliers meets with a violent death; and that out of the 250,000 colliers now at work in Great Britain, 30,000 are certain to be killed, unless the present negligence, especially in the ruder districts, be remedied. The ratio of deaths by accident in Great Britain per 1,000 colliers, is 45 per annum. In Lancashire it amounts to 5.2, and probably in Staffordshire to even more. In the coal mines of Belgium the deaths amount to only 2.8, and in Prussia to 16, per annum. Mr. Mackworth believes that this excessive mortality in England is owing chiefly to the exceedingly great difficulty of obtaining criminal convictions or civil damages, in cases of accidents in mines. The convictions are at the rate of about 1 for every 1,000 lives lost, and little or no compensation has been recovered hitherto by the widows of children and miners under Lord Campbell's Act. Accidents in mines are generally difficult to elucidate, and yet the jurymen are commonly ignorant persons, selected by the constable, and are often in the employ of the manager of the mine; and the jury and Coroner seldom or never visit the scene of the accident. We have heard of a verdict on four unfortunate colliers who had been killed by fire-damp, to this

* The other principal recent explosions have been at Nitshill, Scotland, 61 killed; Guindraeth, South Wales, 27 killed; Middle Dyffryn, Aberdare, Wales, 68 killed; Hebburn, 23 lives lost; Washington, 28; Coppul, 36; Killingworth, 9 lives lost.

effect: "We finds 'em died of the pit a-firing, and we recommends 'em to be more careful in future !"

Mr. Mackworth justly observes, "The little that has been done in this country, and the appointment of the Committees of Parliament who have investigated the causes of explosions of fire-damp, may be traced to Lord Ashley's Commission (the 'Children's Employment Commission') in 1842; but since then the sanitary question has lain dormant." To the Reports and local labours of the Sub-Commissioners on that Commission may be attributed, in effect, the whole of what has been done subsequently, not merely in the appointment of Committees, but also in the local improvements in the mining districts themselves. We could find some convincing proofs of this remark, were it necessary. The truth is, that when a number of competent gentlemen visited and examined the several coal fields, and descended the pits, the managers thought it high time to bestir themselves; and although some neither thanked, nor even aided, to any extent, the Sub-Commissioners, they owe more to their visits than they choose to acknowledge. Some of the most eminent Northern viewers (such as Messrs. Wood and Taylor) were friendly; but a principal witness in the evidence of the Committee of 1853, to our certain knowledge, defied the Sub-Commissioner for the Newcastle coal field, forbade him to enter his mine, (though he gave an ungraceful subsequent permission,) and yet now appears as one of the foremost of improvers. In the Report of the Sub-Commissioner for the Newcastle collieries under Lord Ashley's Commission, are to be found very numerous and detailed statements of pit life and labour, taken down from the viva voce examination of some hundreds of working colliers, and subordinate and superior officers, of the Northern pits; together with ample accounts of the physical and moral condition of the pitmen and their families. To that Report we refer for such matters.* We may here appropriately present a very brief notice of the efforts made by Government, in connexion with this subject.

In 1835 a Committee of the House of Commons, of which Mr. Joseph Pease was Chairman, sat hearing evidence respecting accidents in mines for about nineteen days, and produced a Report, &c., of three hundred and sixty pages, which, however, did not prominently recommend any particular plan of prevention, but possessed its value in the information imparted in the evidence.

In 1839, a private Committee of gentlemen of South Shields was formed, having originated from the period of the lamentable explosion at St. Hilda colliery, South Shields, by which fifty persons were killed. This Committee has met occasionally

Report on the Collieries, Lead Mines, and Iron Works of Northumberland and Durham. By J. R. Leifchild, Esq." 1841.

Committee of Inquiry on Explosions.


during three years, and in 1843 issued a valuable and not bulky Report, which has been re-published as an Appendix to the Report of the Committee of Commons, in 1852. The conclusions of this Committee are in favour of the steam jet, and against confident reliance on the original Davy lamp.

In 1840-2, the celebrated "Children's Employment Commission" was in operation, and a number of highly respectable gentlemen personally visited the chief mining districts, descended the mines, and inspected the condition of the children and young people. Accidents in mines formed a part of their inquiry; and, finally, a very voluminous and invaluable body of information was published as the fruit of these gentlemen's labours. The periodicals and journals were filled with extracts; and it may be said, that never before did the country manifest such an interest in mines and miners. The result of all was, that Lord Ashley obtained the Act (5 and 6 Vic., c. 99) which prohibited the working of women and girls in mines and collieries, and regulated the employment of boys, and made other salutary provisions for miners. Doubtless, this Act was the greatest boon which the colliers have, as yet, obtained from the Government. It has worked admirably, and all fears of the evils it would originate have been removed.

In 1844, a very fatal explosion occurred at Haswell colliery, and Government sent Messrs. Lyell and Faraday to report thereon, and to suggest preventives. Their suggestions were by the viewers deemed impracticable.

In 1815, Government appointed Sir Henry de la Beche and Dr. Lyon Playfair to inquire into the explosion at Jarrow colliery, in September of that year, and into the subject of accidents in coal mines. In 1847, these gentlemen published elaborate Reports, which included the recommendation of Government Inspectors, and of the compulsory use of the safety-lamp in all fiery collieries. They were in favour of the simple Davy lamp.

In 1846, there were serious explosions at Risca, South Wales, and also in Warwickshire and Lancashire, and at Ardsley Main, in Yorkshire; to investigate which a Commission was appointed, without particular results.

In 1849, in consequence of the continuance of fatal accidents, a Committee of the Lords was appointed, of which Lord Wharncliffe was Chairman. This Committee received evidence during eighteen days, and produced a "Blue Book" of six hundred and fifteen pages, which chiefly directed attention to inspection, to the improvement of safety-lamps and of ventilation in general, and particularly to the steam jet. During this Session, Government appointed Professor John Phillips and Mr. J. K. Blackwell, two highly qualified gentlemen, to investigate and report on the ventilation of mines. These Reports are valuable and thoroughly practical.

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