We are continuing our Bentinck Colliery posts this week with further reference to the Bentinck Colliery cage collision in 1915.
We wish to thank the Northern Mines Rescue Society for this text and their rigorous research. This is the link to the article: Bentinck Colliery Shaft Accident – Kirkby-in-Ashfield – 1915 – Northern Mine Research Society (nmrs.org.uk)
BENTINCK COLLIERY SHAFT ACCIDENT – KIRKBY-IN-ASHFIELD – 1915
BENTINCK. Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottingham, 30th. June, 1915.
The colliery was the property of New Hucknall Colliery Company, Limited and the accident occurred in the No.2 winding shaft when the cages collided when fourteen men were descending to work and two others were ascending at the end of their shift. Ten lives were lost and six others were injured.
The No.2 shaft was 440 yards to the Low Main Seam mouthing and after being sunk to than seam in 1895, it was deepened to the Blackshale Coal Seam at 500 yards the following year. The Blackshale seam was worked for only five years and abandoned in 1901. The water rose in the shaft to a considerable height above the Blackshale mouthing when it was abandoned. The shaft was 14 feet in diameter, though parts near the surface and between the meetings were a foot wider. It was fitted with two double-decked cages 9 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 6 inches, each carried on six chains coupled to a detaching hook and a steel winding rope four and half inches in circumference. The clearance in the shaft between the projections on the cages was about 11 inches. Men were carried on the lower decks only, both of which were fenced by iron gates which opened outwards. Each cage ran on three wire rope conductors, two on the outer side and one on the inner, clamped underneath by string timbers at the Low Main inset and tightened in the headgear by screw bolts on helical springs. The cages were guided up and down the conductors in the shaft by brass lined thimbles fitted in six brackets attached to each cage.
Originally the conductors or guides were one and one eighth inch in diameter. They were installed in 1896 to the Blackshale, each being weighted at the bottom with about 4.5 tons of metal. With the exception of one conductor which was replaced in 1913, they remained as originally placed and showed considerable signs of wear. One in particular was found to have been reduced to 1 inch in diameter in some parts when it was taken out. It should be noted that after about eight years when the weights and lower parts became immersed in water, the conductors were secured by clamps under the strong timbers previously referred to. The weights had not been seen for five years and the management, in view of the insertion of the clamps, no longer relied upon them for tension.
In addition to the wire conductors, the pit top and pit bottom were fitted with wooden guides or spears for a short distance. The cages were operated by a pair of large winding engines, fitted with an automatic contrivance to prevent overwinding. The speed of the winding was said to have been normal, 440 yards in about 55 seconds. The pit top was enclosed by an airlock, the wooden erection forming the enclosure being carried up nearly to the pulleys. The entrance to the shaft was gained by a porch fitted with double doors at the landing level.
When the accident happened at terrible bang in the shaft was heard both by the banksman and the onsetter. Lamps and parts of the cages fell into the bottom along with some of the men. The winding engines were quickly stopped and the cages remained suspended on the ropes and the conductors retained their position though they were found to be slack. Seven men had been knocked out of the descending cage and killed, leaving two dead men and five injured inside the cage. The two men in the ascending cage were also injured, though not dangerously.
Charles Simpson, one of the men in the down cage said:
The first inkling I had that anything was the matter was when a vivid flash lit up the shaft. Then came the tilting of the cage and the iron door by which we enter was flung open and several men standing on that side jerked out, while the next moment part of the floor was torn away and a number of others fell through. I happened to have my feet on a piece of flooring, which, although shaky, did not give way and I clung like grim death to the hand railing until it snapped. Then I clutched a piece of the iron framework to which I held on for two hours until the cage was lowered to the bottom. I was the only one of the six men left in the cage who was able to speak and I returned answers to the shouts of the night men who were in the cage above. My feet were pinned down in the ironwork but I managed to get them out myself and to give water to one poor fellow who we found half hanging out of the cage. Every moment I expected to fall and how it came about that a narrow piece of flooring left after the collision did not break away, I am at a loss to explain. When we got out two of our party were dead.
The men who died were:
- Willie Sysan aged 18 years,
- William Bacon aged 40 years who left a widow and seven children,
- Harold Brown aged 14 years,
- Ferdinand Wright aged 45 years who left six children,
- Percy Staton aged 32 years who left a widow and four children,
- Amos Allen aged 32 years who left a widow and a child,
- George Simpson,
- Willis King aged 25 year
- John C. Fletcher aged 39 years.
The injured were:
- W. Bacon aged 60 years who had a broken leg and head injuries
- C. Baron who was seriously injured and taken to hospital.
Five others were sent home.
- James Smith,
- E. Ainger aged 32 years,
- Robert Walker aged 24 years,
- Harold Shelton aged 28 years
- Charles Simpson aged 37 years.
The inquest was held by Mr. D. Whittingham, H.M. Coroner. Percy Francis Day, the manager of the mine for the last three and half years, said that he was not aware of any difficulty in the winding apparatus up to the day of the accident but two years before a tub had caught the side and dislocated the gear. The competent persons appointed by the manager under Section 66 of the Coal Mines Act to make statutory inspections of the guides and shafts were the enginewright and three assistants whose work was to be supervised. The daily and weekly reports were signed by his three assistants and countersigned by him. According to the enginewright’s evidence, the daily examination of the conductors was not altogether done during the hour stated in those reports and therefore they were incorrect so far as the times were concerned, but the inspection was made daily, except so far as a 6 feet length of the conductors below the Low Main inset was concerned. It also transpired that when any screwing up of the conductors or such matter as changing the brasses in the slipper brackets on cages was found necessary during inspection, such operations were not mentioned in the daily report books.
The Inspector pointed out to the witness in Court that the section referred to required “he result of the examination” to be recorded, and if this was not done the reports of the condition were unreliable. Both manager and enginewright acknowledged having misread these requirements of the Act, and stated that the adjustments or changes were first done and the reports signed to show that everything was safe.
Following the accident Mr. Mottram, the Inspector, made the following recommendations to the management:
- That an additional guide be provided to each cage.
- That isolating guides be installed to prevent the cages colliding again.
- The substitution of weights to give adequate tension in the guides
- The adoption of sliding gates of the cages in place of whose swinging outwards.
Mr. Mottram went on to say:
After several inspections and many inquiries, it cannot be definitely stated what was the real cause of the oscillation and consequent cause of the collision of the cages. There was no clear evidence of anything having fallen down the shaft to obstruct the cages nor was there any evidence of the cages having caught the side of the shaft. It was suggested by the manager that one of the gates on the ascending cage might have opened while the cage was running, by acting as a lever against the side of the shaft, thrust the cage under the descending one at the meeting place. Certain vertical marks opposite one end of the cage and running in a straight line on the shaft wall were used as an argument in support of this theory. Such an assumption was not unreasonable, but the marks referred to were not, in my view, conclusive, as parts of the cages, including pieces of sheet iron, fell down the shaft when the collision occurred, and the marks referred to may have been due to that cause alone.
It was suggested that as the conductor thimbles brasses on the cages were worn and not in a thorough state of repair there must have been accordingly considerable “play” on the guide ropes. The worn condition of the brasses would not account for much more than half an inch of play and the accident could not be attributed to this. The thimbles were, however, held by steel brackets on the cage hoops, and if one or more of these broke loose on the ascending cage, especially a corner one, before the impact, it was probably the cause of the accident. Three of these brackets were missing but it was impossible to determine whether or not any of these had broken loose and cause the collision, but the slackness of the guides as discovered after the disaster did suggest that the oscillation of the cages had been caused by insufficient tension on the guides.
The jury’s verdict was that:
The deceased were accidentally killed by reason of the two cages coming into violent contact owing to oscillation of the cages or the guide ropes whilst descending No.2 shaft at the Bentinck colliery and the jury regrets that the miners have not taken advantage of the Mines Act. We recommend that a better method of recording the examinations should be adopted.
With reference to the expressed regrets of the jury that miners had not taken advantage of the Mines Act, the Coroner mentioned rumours he had heard of previous rubbing of the cages and the miners representatives also frequently referred to the same matter in Court.
Mr. Mottram commented:
The jury did not attach blame to anyone for the accident but it was evident from the statements of the colliery officials that the daily reports on the condition of the shaft fittings did not always accurately state either the correct time or the result of the examination, and some doubt was expressed as to whether the time, said to have been half an hour daily, was sufficient to enable a thorough examination to be made, though there was no evidence to show that the shaft was used for winding men before discovered defects were remedied. It transpired that the guides and clamps below the Low Main mouthing were not examined daily, but that the examination commenced at the surface and terminated at the inset. This was not as it should have been, and in all winding shafts ready means of access should be provided below the inset so that the daily inspection of the shaft guides can be thoroughly made.
I fear that in wet shafts this is not always done And that in some cases the water is allowed to rise in the sump top such a level as to render it impossible for the competent person to carry out entirely the examination of the guides and appliances in accordance with Section 66 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911.
Mines Inspectors Report. Mr. Thomas H. Mottrram.
The Colliery Guardian, 30th July 1915, p.233.
Mansfield Reporter and Sutton Times.
Information supplied by Ian Winstanley and the Coal Mining History Resource Centre.