Underground investigations – The Grove Pit Disaster remembered

The 1st October 2012 – a couple of hours away from when I post this – will mark 82 years since the Grove Pit Disaster that killed fourteen local men in the mine that stood just off Lime Lane, on the border between Great Wyrley, Pelsall and Brownhills.

Much has been written here about this dreadful accident in the Harrison pit – my searches for John Bernard Whittaker’s grave, finding footage of the rescue on Pathe News archives. I’ve ruminated on the dreadful events of that October day, and how they were overshadowed by more newsworthy events. I, and contributors to this blog, have found the accident report online, and considered and investigated the nature of the Harrison operation and family.

Top readers and contributors Peter Cutler, Andy Dennis and [Howmuch?]  have been instrumental in chronicling both the opulence, and the human cost of the mining companies that operated here. David Evans has documented how hard life was in the local area dominated by pits.

Please, on the 1st October, as you go about your business, stop and think about those men who died, their families and their legacy. Mining was not just employment, it was a culture and a way of life. It changed our landscape and made our local community what it is now – but everything that came was at a huge, human cost.

Those men died dreadful deaths. Reflect on that fact. Don’t ever let anyone romanticise or paint the mining years as rosy; they weren’t. Like many awful experiences, they were formative, character building and enriched our community. However, we’d never want to go through them again.

To the fourteen men below, rest in peace, lads. You’re not forgotten here.

The miners who gave their lives were:
Alfred Boden aged 49
John Brownridge 34
Ben Corbett 52
John Hackett 33
Alfred Heath 27
Jack Holland 41
Richard Howdle 30
Alex Martin 32
James Malley 33
William Robbins 45
John Scoffam 50
Harry Smith 38
John Whittaker 44
William Whittaker 62

Mining Inspectorate plan of the Grove Colliery workings in the immediate aftermath of the Grove Pit Disaster of October 1st, 1930. Click for a larger version.

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7 Responses to Underground investigations – The Grove Pit Disaster remembered

  1. Mick_P says:

    A fine and sobering post Bob, and a good round-up of the excellent work carried out by all involved.

    It made me think of the Pelsall Hall pit disaster of 1872, in which 22 men and boys died when the workings were suddenly inundated. One contrast between that disaster and the one at the Grove that can at least be seen as positive is the differential in the age range of the victims. In 1872 the range was from 13 to 89 (five teenagers, also including two 14-year-olds; and a man of 70 years). One can only hope that the lack of such young and old involved at the Grove was down to an improvement in working practices, school leaving age and employment law.

    As you say Bob, we’d never want to go through such times ourselves and can only be grateful to those who did, many paying the highest price to help lay the foundations of our relatively comfortable and prosperous times.

  2. gabriel says:

    You wrote: “Those men died dreadful deaths. Reflect on that fact. Don’t ever let anyone romanticise or paint the mining years as rosy; they weren’t.” So true. I came across this while browsing The Times’ archive:
    “FATAL COLLIERY ACCIDENT. [The Times, Monday, Dec 25, 1882; pg. 4; Issue 30699.]
    On Saturday morning a fatal colliery accident, resulting in the loss of three lives, occurred at the Cannock Chase Colliery Company’s No. 3 pit, near Brownhills. [I think I’m right in saying that No.3 pit was situated in what is now Chasetown?] The pit, in which 400 men are employed, is one of the best regulated in the extensive Cannock Chase Colliery district. After the workings had been examined and found safe for the men to descend, the wire-rope in the down-cast shaft was tested with a two-ton load and found apparently all right. Three men, named Thomas Collis (50), Herbert Grimley (26), and Francis Horton (19), then entered the cage to go down to “fettle” the horses. Immediately after the cage had disappeared from view the wire rope attached to the cage snapped asunder with a loud report, and the cage, with the three men, was precipitated to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of 150 yards. The manager [Arthur Sopwith?] and other officials and a number of miners were soon at the scene of the accident, and it was found that the cage had gone through the 9inch baulks of timber which covered over the sump at the bottom of the shaft, the cage and the unfortunate men being in the water below. Plenty of help was at hand, and after several hours’ work the bodies of the three men were recovered. The features were almost unrecognizable. It is the custom with the owners of the colliery to replace the wire-ropes every three years; this one had only been in use five months. The sad news soon spread and large crowds of people assembled in the vicinity of the pit. Collis has left a widow and six children; Horton was unmarried; Grimley was only married last Monday.”

    Two days before Christmas… And the description of that plummet is awful – hitting the bottom hard enough to smash through 9 inch timbers. Terrible, terrible situation.

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  5. richard perrins says:

    I have read the reports at the library .and found it fascinating .and very sad .but on reading this you discover .the fatal mistakes that were made by miners .not sure if I saw it in cannock library but it is quite a lengthy report but it was so interesting I forgot the time I was there reading

  6. richard perrins says:

    forgot to say this was the grove disaster inquiry

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