Here’s another wonderful local newspaper report, found by the diligence of local history ferret [Howmuch?], and transcribed by the wonderful Richard Burnell. Richard is proving indispensable lately, for he’s a whizz at typing and a great chap, to boot.
Richard and his wife, Rose, are expecting a new arrival very soon, and I’m sure all readers will join with me in wishing this great Brownhills couple well. I certainly owe that man a beer…
This report was spotted in the newspaper archives, and comes from the Birmingham Daily Post, of Thursday, December 15th, 1887. This must have gone with one hell of a bang, and just goes to show the hazards working folk faced back then. This ties in nicely with an article I have to come from Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, who’s very concerned with the accurate understanding of working conditions of our forefathers.
To find out more about the Pelsall Coal & Iron Works, take a look at the excellent Pelsall History site.
BOILER EXPLOSION AT PELSALL.
THREE MEN KILLED, FOURTH INJURED
Shortly after mid-day yesterday, a boiler explosion occurred at one of the pits of the Pelsall Coal and Iron Company (Limited), Pelsall, which resulted in the loss of three lives, serious injuries to four other persons (three men and a boy), and some damage to property, two horses that being also so badly hurt that in mercy there were ordered to be shot. The pit where the disaster occurred is known as the No.9 plant, and is one of the smaller pits belonging to the company, raising only about 100 tons of coal per day. The boiler which exploded was one of three which lay side by side on the bank, and was the outer one on the side furthest from the engine house. It was known as a Goscote diagonal, was about 2ft. by 7ft 6in. in diameter, and was constructed of iron seven-sixteenths of an inch in thickness. When it was placed in position on the bank some seven years ago it was thoroughly overhauled, and was considered capable of bearing any amount of pressure that was likely to be put upon it when in use there. Ordinarily it was used simply for ventilating purposes to meet the requirements of a steam jet in the shaft, and then the pressure at which it was worked did not exceed 20lb, per square inch, but sometimes it was also required for driving a pair of pumps used in throwing water a distance of about sixty yards from the mine to the surface, and then it was said it might be worked at a pressure of perhaps 40lb. What the pressure was at the time of the explosion has not transpired, nor is it quite clear what the engineer- Thomas Elwell, of the Town Road, Pelsall- was doing at the moment. But he was on the top of the boiler, and his fireman, William Lever, of Pelsall Wood, was in his place at the stoke-hole at the end nearest to the Wolverhampton Road; whilst a third man, named Thomas Ledbury, surface foreman, was by the side of the boiler, and other men and boys were engaged on different parts of the bank, or were in the hovel. Suddenly the air was rent by the noise of the explosion, and filled with clouds of steam, dust, bricks, and general debris ; and the work people who had survived, as well as all the residents in the locality, were terror-stricken. As soon as the air had cleared a little it was seen that the place which the outside boiler had occupied was vacant. The body had been lifted up, carried to the left and a little backwards between the engine house and the stack, and deposited, almost flattened out, some twelve or fifteen yards from its original seat ; the tube and the two ends – one still adhering to the tube and showing signs of overheating – had gone to the right and a little backwards, falling about twenty-one yards from the original seat of the boiler ; a third piece had shot forwards seventy or eighty yards, and demolished the front of a house in Wolverhampton Road, occupied by a young man named Ray ; and a fourth and smaller piece had taken a direction a little to the right of the last and fallen in the yard at the back of the house or Mr, A. Snape, so injuring a valuable horse that it had to be shot. Another Horse which was on the pit bank was also so injured that in mercy it too was ordered to be destroyed. A further examination showed still worse consequences, Elwell, Lever, and Ledbury being all dead ; and four other persons – three men and a boy – being injured. Elwell’s body was in the reservoir just beyond the body of the boiler ; Lever’s terribly knocked about lay in Wolverhampton Road, a few yards away from the piece of the shell which had demolished the front of Ray’s house ; and Ledbury lay on the bank. The names of the injured are Thomas Meakin, Goscote ; John Rowley ; Pelsall ; Wm. Hutchings, Brownhills Road, Pelsall ; and a boy named Edward Morgan, otherwise Sedgwick. Fortunately Mr. Houldsworth, assistant to Dr. Somerville was passing near at the time, and he at once attended to the suffering people, the ambulance corps connected with the works also being of much service. Morgan was removed to the Cottage Hospital, Walsall, his right arm being broken ; and Meakin, Rowley, and Hutchings were taken to their respective homes. They were all suffering from the effects of the shock they had received, and Hutchings from injury to the spine also ; but when they were seen at a later hour by Dr. Somerville they were found to be going on as well as could be expected. The two remaining boilers were not seriously damaged, the three being disconnected from each other, and the engine and winding-gear are, strange to say, almost intact ; but the windows of the engine-house are completely smashed, the roof is broken through in places by the flying bricks, and in addition to Ray’s house, some damage was done to the tenements in Wolverhampton Road. The miners in the pit – only about twenty – passed in to No. 10 pit, and came to the surface up the shaft of that pit. Mr. Bullock (general manger), Mr. Hough (Colliery manager), were present immediately after the explosion, and Superintendent Barrett attended, from Brownhills, with a body of constables.