Cleator Moor is a town in West Cumbria, UK, born from the ancient village of Cleator. The town grew across moorland, out of industry, enterprise and geographical advantages. Rich haematite iron ore of the district, and the proximity of the parish to coastal shipping, and new railway system, account for a rapid transformation.

In the beginning, the moorland of Cleator was barren with a few farms tending a stark land. In the 17th Century, Iron Ore was first extracted from beneath the ground. In the 18th and 19th Century mining expanded with Iron Ore being a vital ingredient for the Industrial Revolution, modernising industry.

The town had several iron ore mines and excessive mining caused subsidence. Some parts of the town have been demolished due to undermining in the area, most notably the original Montreal Primary School and the whole of Montreal Street on which it stood.

The town's skyline is dominated by Dent Fell and the town is located on the 190 miles (310 km) Coast to Coast Walk that spans Northern England. The Sea to Sea (C2C) cycle network also passes through Cleator Moor via a disused railway which is now part of the National Cycle Network.

On the outskirts of the town of Cleator Moor lies the village of Cleator with which the town is closely associated. As a settlement of note, it was substantially populated by immigrants from the North Eastern counties of Ireland in the latter half of the nineteenth century, leading to the colloquial title of Little Ireland.

South from Cleator, is Longlands Lake, a former iron ore mine which is now a local beauty spot and haven for wildlife. Longlands Lake nature reserve is on the site of the former Longlands iron ore mine that first produced ore in 1879 from four pits. By 1924 the mines had been abandoned. In 1939 the mines started to subside and flood the area creating Longlands Lake. Longlands was acquired by Cumbria County Council in 1980.

Cleator Moor has a few distinct communities which have emerged as the town has grown; such as Mill Hill, Bowthorn and Wath Brow.

The population of Cleator Moor is estimated at 330 in 1688; it then doubled from 362 in 1801 to over 763 by 1841; then surged across the second half of the 19th century as result of industrial development. The new town of Cleator Moor was laid out on former Common land from the 1880s. By 1861 the population stood at 3,995; it peaked at 10,420 in 1881. It then declined, to 8,120 by 1901 and to low point of 6,411 in 1951, after which it rose to 7,686 by 1971; today, the population stands at around 7,000.

Cleator Moor is within the Copeland UK Parliamentary constituency, Trudy Harrison is the Member of parliament.

Before Brexit, it was in the North West England European Parliamentary Constituency.

Historically in Cumberland, the town was based around the iron works industry and was served in this capacity by two railways. The Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway (WC&ER) was the first railway on the scene and it opened for goods traffic in 1855, then two years later it opened for passenger traffic. The WC&ER sold out to the London and North Western Railway in 1878 but when the Furness Railway objected to the sale it too became a partner, thus forming the Furness & London and North Western Joint Railway the following year. The second railway to serve Cleator Moor was the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway. This new company had a station on the western edge of the town and its double track main line made a junction with the former company at Cleator Moor West Junction.

The town had several iron ore mines and excessive mining caused subsidence. Some parts of the town have been demolished due to undermining in the area, most notably the original Montreal Primary School and the whole of Montreal Street on which it stood.

The Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway suffered from subsidence which forced it to build two deviation branch lines and stations. In Cleator Moor itself a new line was built curving further northwest than the original, with a new station being opened in 1866 some 600 yards further west along Leconfield Street than the original, which became a goods station. The new station was known simply as Cleator Moor, but was renamed Cleator Moor East in 1924.

Subsidence also necessitated a deviation at Eskett. As in Cleator Moor itself, a new line was built to the west of the original Eskett station which was retained as a goods station up to 1931. Yeathouse station was opened on the deviation line as a replacement.

The influx of Irish workers gave the town the nickname Little Ireland. World War I and World War II saw a fresh influx of immigrants from mainland Europe to join the settled Irish community.

In 1938, Jakob Spreiregen founded the company Kangol in Cleator, situated across the road from St Mary's Church. The original factory building still stands but empty, since the company ended its association with the town in 2009.

With the decline of traditional industries and the resulting high rate of unemployment, the town's economy is now dependent on the nearby Sellafield complex, which provides jobs to around half the town's people.

From 1879 Cleator Moor had two railway stations: Cleator Moor West on the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway and Cleator Moor East on the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway. In 1923 both railway companies and their stations passed over to the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). The LMS had acquired shares in the local bus company so to make public transport more lucrative the LMS closed both stations to passengers in 1931.

Cleator Moor West railway station was opened as "Cleator Moor" by the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway (C&WJR) in 1879. The line was one of the fruits of the rapid industrialisation of West Cumberland in the second half of the nineteenth century, being specifically borne as a reaction to oligopolistic behaviour by the London and North Western and Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railways. The station was on the company's main line from Moor Row to Workington Central. Both line and station opened to passengers on 1 October 1879.

The station was renamed "Cleator Moor West" on 2 June 1924 to avoid confusion with its neighbour on the former Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway line to Rowrah, which was renamed "Cleator Moor East".

All lines in the area were primarily aimed at mineral traffic, notably iron ore, coal and limestone, none more so than the new line to Workington, which earned the local name "The Track of the Ironmasters". General goods and passenger services were provided, but were very small beer compared with mineral traffic.

Passenger trains consisted of antiquated Furness stock hauled largely by elderly Furness engines referred to as "...rolling ruins..." by one author after a footplate ride in 1949. No Sunday passenger service was ever provided on the line.

Cleator Moor West closed on 13 April 1931 when normal passenger traffic ended along the line. Diversions and specials, for example to football matches, made use of the line, but it was not easy to use as a through north-south route because all such trains would have to reverse at Moor Row or Corkickle.

An enthusiasts' special ran through on 6 September 1954, the only to do so using main line passenger stock. The next such train to traverse any C&WJR metals did so in 1966 at the north end of the line, three years after the line through Cleator Moor closed.

By 1981 the station had been demolished and the cutting had largely been filled in. By 2008 the trackbed had become a public cycleway.

Cleator Moor East railway station was the second station built by the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway. The line was one of the fruits of the rapid industrialisation of West Cumberland in the second half of the nineteenth century. 

Subsidence led the company to build a deviation line which curved round the west side of the original station and the growing settlement, in a similar manner to what it was forced to do at Eskett a few miles to the east. They built a passenger station on the deviation line - known locally as "The Bowthorn Line" - which would go on to be called Cleator Moor East.

When the deviation line and station opened in 1866 the original station was closed to passengers and became "Cleator Moor Goods Depot." It remained open for goods traffic until the 1950s.

The station closed on 13 April 1931 when normal passenger traffic ended along the line, though workmen's trains were reinstated in March 1940, only to be withdrawn a month later. An enthusiasts' special ran through on 5 September 1954. After scant occasional use the line northwards from Rowrah was abandoned in 1960 and subsequently lifted.

The line southwards from Rowrah through Cleator Moor East lead a charmed life, continuing with a limestone flow from a quarry at Rowrah until 1978, after which all traffic ceased and the tracks were lifted.

Keekle Viaduct
The viaduct is a substantial structure which carried the double-track C&WJR's Cleator Moor West to Siddick Junction via Workington Central main line over the River Keekle. It is situated between the former stations of Cleator Moor West and Keekle Colliers' Platform.

Opened in 1879, it consists of seven equal stone arches across the river. Timetabled passenger services over the viaduct ended on 13 April 1931. Goods and mineral trains, with very occasional passenger excursions and diversions continued to use the line until it closed completely on 16 September 1963.

The tracks were subsequently lifted. The structure was offered for sale for £1 in 1992, but there was no initial response, as any purchaser would have to maintain and repair it, rather than demolish it and recover the stone.

Sectarian troubles (19th century)
It may be that the Irish Famine prompted some increased migration to the town but links between West Cumbria and the northern counties of Ireland had been established before this time. Labourers crossed to work the harvest and, more permanently, take jobs in the mines and ports long before the Famine often prompted by the constant sub-division of farmland among children. From the 1850s to the 1880s, the population expanded rapidly as rich veins of haematite were exploited. From a settlement of 763 in 1841, Cleator Moor grew to house 10,420 souls by 1871, thirty-six percent of whom were Irish. As Donald MacRaild writes, "...formative economic developments, urban growth and the mass arrival of the Irish, took place entirely in years beyond the Famine." The Irish in Cleator Moor were predominantly Roman Catholic but the general influx into the mines and industry of West Cumbria also brought others of a different persuasion from the same country and with them a particular sectarianism to add to the anti-Catholicism of Victorian England.

During the late 1860s the Irish Protestant preacher William Murphy led anti-Catholic meetings throughout the country inciting mobs to attack Catholic targets. Near Chelmsford in Essex they burnt down a Catholic convent. In May 1868, two chapels a school and over one hundred houses and shops in Ashton-under-Lyme were ransacked. This led to the Catholic populations defending themselves and their buildings and when Murphy visited Whitehaven in April 1871, the Catholic iron ore miners of Cleator Moor were determined to confront him. The local authorities requested Murphy and his Orange Order backers to cancel his talks but they would not. He was heckled and threatened at the first meeting in the Oddfellows Hall, Whitehaven and eventually had to be escorted from the place. The following evening there was more concerted opposition as 200 - 300 Cleator Moor miners marched to the Hall and assaulted Murphy before the meeting began. Five men were sentenced for the attack. Murphy died in March 1872 and his death was attributed to the injuries he had received in Whitehaven. Disturbances in the area were regular during the years that followed particularly when Orangemen assembled on 12 July and on that date in 1884, the most serious of them occurred. That was the year the local Orange Lodges decided to hold their annual gathering at Cleator Moor, a deliberately provocative move: "as if to court disturbance the Orangemen... decided they would this year hold their annual demonstration in the stronghold of the enemy". The marchers including eight bands paraded past the Catholic church and held their assembly at Wath Brow. As the gathering broke up and the Orangemen made their way back to the train station, trouble broke out. They were attacked by groups of local men throwing stones and then rushing them. Some of the marchers carried revolvers, cutlasses and pikes which they now used. A local postal messenger, Henry Tumelty, a 19-year-old Catholic was shot in the head and killed while others were listed as having received injuries from these weapons. The local Catholic priests defended their parishioners saying they had been provoked beyond measure by the foul sectarian tunes and the weaponry. Fr. Wray expressed serious regret: "It has thrown us back at least twenty years."

Cleator Moor has a Carnegie library, a grade II listed building which opened in 1906.

The town had two secondary schools but both have closed. St. Cuthbert's stopped functioning in 1977 and in August 2008, after being open for 50 years, the town's other secondary school, Ehenside School was merged with Wyndham School in Egremont, making way for the West Lakes Academy. The academy initially used the Wyndham School buildings until a new academy building was constructed.

Listed Buildings
Cleator Moor contains 15 listed buildings that are recorded in the National Heritage List for England. All the listed buildings are designated at Grade II, the lowest of the three grades, which is applied to buildings of national importance and special interest. The listed buildings include churches and associated structures, houses and associated structures, shops, a bank, civic buildings including offices and a library, and a memorial fountain.

St Leonard's Church
12th century - The nave was rebuilt in 1841–42 by George Webster, and further alterations were carried out in 1900–03 by J. H. Martindale. The chancel is Norman and built in large blocks of sandstone and has pilaster buttresses, the rest of the church is in rubble with stepped buttresses and castellated parapets, and the roofs are slated with coped gables and apex crosses. The church consists of a west baptistry, a nave with a north porch, and a chancel with a vestry. At the west end, over the porch, is a gabled double bellcote

Old Hall and wall
Late 17th century - Originally a hall, later altered, extended and subdivided to form a symmetrical group of nine houses. They are rendered, most with slate roofs. The central house, originally the hall, has three storeys, three bays, a rear wing, and a porch. It is flanked by two-storey two-bay houses, each with a bracketed cornice, and one with a porch. The outer houses project forward, they have two storeys and three bays, the central bay projecting forward and gabled. Most windows are sashes. Along the front of the houses is a wall of sandstone and boulders, with semicircular coping, and pair of monolithic gate posts.

Troughton House
Late 18th or early 19th century - A stuccoed house on a moulded plinth with corner pilasters, an eaves string course, and a slate roof with coped gables. There are two storeys, an L-shaped plan, a symmetrical front of three bays, and a recessed two-bay wing to the right. Steps lead up to the doorway that has a rectangular fanlight, an architrave, and a cornice. The windows are sashes in stone surrounds, and in the wing is a porch.

The Flosh
1832 - Originally a country house, later used as offices, then a hotel. It was enlarged in 1837, and in 1866 a wing in Elizabethan style was added to the south. The building is roughcast with sandstone dressings on a chamfered plinth, with a string course and a Welsh slate roof. There are two storeys and a south front of seven bays. On the south front is a castellated porch with gargoyles in the corners, and gables with decorative bargeboards. The east front has four bays and two gabled dormers. The windows are mullioned or mullioned and transomed.

5 Jacktrees Road and verandah
1856 - The verandah was added to the former Cooperative shop in 1876. The building is in rendered rubble and has a Welsh slate roof with coping at the south end. There are three storeys and 13 bays. In the ground floor is a 20th-century shop front with original fluted and panelled pilasters. In the upper floors are sash windows with stone surrounds. The cast iron verandah rests on a cornice above the shop front; it is glazed and carried on 13 Gothic columns with pierced spandrels.

St John's Church
1870–72 - The church was designed by C. J. Ferguson in Norman style, and restored in 1900. It is in sandstone with quoins and buttresses, and has a slate roof with coped gables. The church consists of a nave with a clerestory, aisles, a chancel with chapels, and a west tower. The tower has three stages, and there is a stair turret to the south. All the windows have round arches and hood moulds.

St Mary's Church
1872 - A Roman Catholic church by E. W. Pugin, it is in sandstone with slate roofs. The church consists of a nave and chancel under one roof, a clerestory, transepts, and a chancel with chapels. The entrance front has a single-storey porch with a lean-to roof, a central doorway and flanking lancet windows. Above the porch are three tall lancets, and an elaborate bellcote. This contains three lancet niches, two circular niches with statues, and a bell in an arched opening.

13–20 High Street and 1 Union Street
Late 19th century - A row of eight shops, stuccoed, with a cornice over the shop fronts, a string course, an eaves cornice, and a hipped Welsh slate roof. There are three storeys and each shop has two bays. In the ground floor are 20th-century shop fronts, the shops separated by panelled pilasters with acanthus capitals. Above the windows in the middle floor are pediments, triangular and segmental alternating in pairs, and the top floor windows have stuccoed surrounds. The Union Street front has four bays and contains a doorway and a decorative panel.

National Westminster Bank
Late 19th century - The bank is in stone on a chamfered plinth, with a string course, an egg and dart cornice, an eaves cornice, and a slate roof with moulded gables surmounted by finials and containing dormers. There are two storeys, an attic, and five bays. The central doorway has an architrave and a serpentine head. The ground floor windows and dormers also have serpentine heads, and between some ground floor windows are engaged Ionic columns. Also on the front are polygonal pilasters.

Local Government Offices
1879 - These comprise two buildings of similar design at right angles to each other. The older contains offices and a market hall, and the other smaller building of 1894 originated as a library. They are in sandstone with hipped slate roofs. Each has a symmetrical front of a single tall storey and five bays, and a central portico with granite columns and a pediment. Steps lead up to the doors that have architraves and semicircular fanlights. The windows are sashes in architraves.

Memorial fountain
1903 - The fountain is in polished grey and pink granite. It has three steps, a moulded plinth, a squat inscribed drum, and a large bowl. From this a column rises and carries a smaller bowl. It was originally surmounted by a pelican, but this is missing.

Lych gate and walls, St Leonard's Church
c. 1903 - Designed by J. H. Martindale, the walls and the plinths of the lych gate are in sandstone. On the plinths is a wooden braced superstructure carrying a slate roof with gablets. On each side the walls, which are about 3 feet (0.91 m) high, form quadrants that are ramped at the ends. On the walls are wrought iron scrolled railings 18 inches (460 mm) high, and on the ends are cast iron lamp supports.

1906 - The library is in sandstone on a chamfered plinth, and has a hipped Welsh slate roof. The symmetrical front has a single tall storey and five bays. The doorway is flanked by granite columns and has a pediment and an inscribed frieze; the door has an architrave and a semicircular fanlight with a mullioned window above. The windows are mullioned and transomed in architraves, and are separated by pilasters.

Cleator war memorial
1922 - The war memorial is in a walled enclosure by the side of the road. It is in grey granite, and consists of an urn with a floral swag on a three-tier pedestal with rosettes and egg and dart moulding on the cornice. This stands on a plinth with a moulded foot on a three-tiered base. On the plinth are stone plaques with inscriptions and the names of those lost in the two World Wars. The enclosure has sandstone walls with embattled coping, decorative iron railings, and a gate.

Cleator Moor war memorial
1922 - The war memorial is in the churchyard of St John's Church. It is in pink granite, and consists of a Celtic cross on a tapering shaft, which stands on a tapering four-sided plinth on one step. On the head of the cross is carved knot work, and on the lower part of the shaft and on the plinth are inscriptions and the names of those lost in the First World War. At the foot of the cross is a tablet with an inscription relating to the Second World War, and the memorial is surrounded by a low wall and eight square posts.

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Six killed by poison gas

In June, 1857, six people lost their lives at Cleator Moor, by the respiration of sulphuretted hydrogen in a diluted form, by reason of thei...
In June, 1857, six people lost their lives at Cleator Moor, by the respiration of sulphuretted hydrogen in a diluted form, by reason of their having slept in small, non-ventilated rooms, into which the gas had penetrated. The gas was attributed to slag, which houses were built upon.

Three of the deceased persons — a husband, wife, and child, of one family (Armstrong) — had retired to rest, in their usual health, on the night of the 9th of June. Two of them were found the next morning dead in bed, and a third (the child) was found in a state of insensibility, and lingered until the afternoon of the same day, when she died. The fourth, a healthy adult, retired to sleep in his bed, with his door closed, and he was found dead in an hour. The fifth, a child, was taken ill on the morning of the 11th, and died the same day. The sixth was taken ill on the morning of the 10th, and died on the 12th of June.

The symptoms complained of by some who recovered were nausea, sickness, giddiness, and insensibility. On inspection of the body of one child, the pupils were found dilated — viscid mucus escaped from the nostrils — there was congestion of the lungs and kidneys, as well as of the membranes of the brain. In the adult who died in an hour, the pupils were natural, the jaws firmly clenched, the fingers contracted, and the nails blue ; there was great cadaveric lividity, and a quantity of fluid with frothy mucus issued from the nostrils and mouth. The lungs were much congested, and serum was effused in the cavity of the chest. The heart contained a little fluid blood, and was somewhat flaccid. The membrane of the windpipe and gullet was redder than natural. In the windpipe there was frothy mucus. The stomach, as well as the large and small intestines, were highly congested, but otherwise healthy.
  • An inquest into the deaths of Mrs. Armstrong, Joseph Armstrong, junior, Robert Armstrong, John Sloane, and Fenton Murray  was commenced following the tragedy. It was held at the Hematite Iron Company's schoolroom.
W. Lumb, Esq., was the coroner who was to conduct the inquiry. The following gentlemen were sworn on the jury: Mr. W. B. Clarke, surgeon, Whitehaven, (foreman); Messrs. Henry Attwood, iron ore proprietor, Hazelholme; Wm. Turner, miller, Low House; James Robinson, corn factor, Cleator; J. B. Wilson, surgeon, Whitehaven; J. D. Fidler, M.D., Whitehaven; Thomas Stanley, gentleman, Keekle Grove; Foster Armstrong, Cleator Moor; James A. Shaw, Pacquet, Whitehaven; George Grey; Daniel Murray, farmer, Hensingham; Joseph Hope, farmer, Hensingham; Joseph Spedding, miller, Cleator; James Russell, farmer, Crossfield; James Dawson, farmer, Bowthorn.

The medical men in attendance having conferred together on the advisability of making a post mortem examination, recommended to the jury that such examination should take place. The jury concurred, and Drs. Fidler and Dixon were appointed to conduct the operation. The inquest was afterwards adjourned until Monday.
Bowthorn Road, C1900
The following evidence was then taken: —

William Banton, sworn: I live at Bowthorn Road, in the parish of Cleator, and am a pitman. I knew the whole family of the Armstrongs: I lived next door to them. On Tuesday night I saw them alive, and apparently in good health. The mother had been with my family the night before, and had been in bed nearly all day. I saw the father about six o'clock. As far as I know the house was fastened as usual. During the night I heard the girls crying; but I cannot say how often; I think four times, and each time I went to see if I could get into the house. I knocked once, and called the other times, but could not get any answer. I went to bed myself, but got up again, in consequence of my family being ill. I have a wife and five children, and all were ill except myself. I expected Joseph Armstrong, the son, up about six o'clock, and went to the door, but no one came. I went and consulted my wife as to what we were to do. We thought it would be better to wait an hour expecting some of the children would be up. At the end of the hour I was determined to break into the house, and I went to get assistance. I and Wm. Wray and another man broke into the house. The things in the house were as usual. We went up stairs, and found Joseph Armstrong, junior, and Robert Armstrong, dead in the back room. There were three daughters alive in the same room, who were lying upon their backs in bed insensible. I then went into the front bed-room, and found Joseph Armstrong and Mary Armstrong, his wife, both in bed in a very bad way. They were all in their night dresses, and had evidently been in bed all night. In both of the bedrooms I found a sort of stifling smell. Both the bedroom doors were open, but the windows were closed. I got some vinegar, and bathed the heads of all the persons alive. I had a bottle of medicine which Dr. Thompson had brought for my family, and I gave them part of it. I also gave them a little laudanum. The Armstrongs had lived in the house about three months. On Tuesday morning, about one o'clock, my wife and children began to be ill. I went for Dr. Thompson, a little after two o'clock, and he got to my house a little after four o'clock. Dr. Thompson prescribed for them and stayed about an hour. They were all getting better before he left. They continued sick till about two o'clock in the day when it abated. They were again taken ill at night, and about one o'clock on Wednesday morning they were as bad as they had been before. They continued very ill at night, but when they got up they were better. This was the last of their illness. On the Monday night before the family were taken ill they supped off porridge and milk, which was our usual supper. During their illness they were able to take their food. On Wednesday morning, about two o'clock, I was taken ill myself, but was always able to move about. I had porridge and milk on Tuesday night about half-past ten. The milk, I think, had been got from Mr. Hewitt's, of the mill. I was affected with a singing in my head. It made me stupid, and I could not tell at times what I was about; but when I went into the open air it seemed to relieve me. My house is a shop, and I have to attend to but I have had my family removed to Whitehaven, and I go to sleep there at night. The furnaces of the Hematite Iron Company are about 200 or 300 yards from the house. On Tuesday morning I felt a strong smell in the scullery of my house — something similar to what I felt in Armstrong's but stronger. The houses are built upon slag from the furnaces, and have been occupied about five months. They belong to a Mr. Holliday, of Carlisle. The company have nothing to do with them. I am a collier, and work for the company at No. 2 pit, which is about 700 yards from the works. The houses are numbered; the number of mine is 48. That in which the Armstrongs died is 49; that in which Sloane died is 48; and that in which Fenton Merray died is 44. Sloane died on Thursday morning. Joseph Armstrong, jr., and Robert Armstrong were found dead in bed on Wednesday morning. Mary Armstrong died on Wednesday afternoon, and Joseph Armstrong on Friday morning at No. 1, to which he had been removed from No. 49. The houses are built upon slag, and several of them have a bank of slag behind. The houses with the slag behind are those in which the deaths occurred, with the exception of No. 1. I do not think any of the affected families bought meal at my house. I have sold meal to other families who have not been affected. I do not know whether any of my neighbours got milk from the same place that my family did, but they used the same water that we did. I got my meal from Mr. Hewitt's mill, of Mill Hill. I gave some meal to Dr. Thompson, and some yeast to Dr. Dickson, to be analysed. The meal stands on the floor. It was very wet weather at the time this sickness commenced. The heavy rain commenced on Tuesday morning about one o'clock. In the intervals between the rain it was very hot and sultry. The wind was blowing in the direction from the furnaces and over the slag heap. Both attacks of sickness in my house have occurred in the night time, when the doors were closed. My children first complained of their bowels and head. They were giddy, and lost themselves entirely, being unable to stand. Their eyes were about half open, and their faces were alternately congested and pale. They were not sick till after the doctor had been to them. The door of their room was open, but the window was closed. I and my wife were not ill till we went into the back room. When we came back from Whitehaven I found that she had been taken violently ill and was in a fit. There is no fire-place in the back bed-room, but there is in the front. There is also a fire-place in Armstrong's front bedroom. In the room in which I slept the chimney was open and also the door. In Armstrong's back bedroom, where the two sons were found dead, there was no fire-place. The youngest child was removed from the back bedroom into the front, and this child recovered before any of the rest. In the front room my children were affrighted the second night. I had them removed. As I was going to Whitehaven I staggered, and twice resolved to return home; but by resting against some railings I recovered, and proceeded on. I left my children in charge of the deceased, Mary Armstrong, and after I got back she was taken home ill. She complained of giddiness and pains in her head, and was staggering. I felt a kind of sulphury smell in the scullery of my house, but did not observe it up stairs.

There is no drainage from the houses; the waste water runs out on the slag. The six houses at the top are the only houses with privies; all the contents of the privies remain at the back of the houses, and I have never seen any of it removed. The smell, as I have frequently noticed, is sulphury. In wet weather the water cannot flow away until it is absorbed by the slag under the flags. The flags have all risen up, so much so that some of the doors will scarcely shut.

Mary Hall sworn, said: I am a widow, and live at No. 1, Bowthorn Road. On Wednesday morning I was present when the door of Armstrong's house was broken open. Mrs. Armstrong died at a quarter before 4 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon. She was never able to speak from the first time I saw her till her death. She breathed very badly. Joseph Armstrong, the father, died in my house, and I was present when he died. He was held in the same way, and had the same symptoms as his wife. He died at 20 minutes past 11 o'clock on Friday morning. I have lived at No.1 about five months, and never knew any people similarly affected. I and my family got the same sort of meal, milk, and beer as Banton's family. On going into Armstrong's house I felt a very nasty smell, which quite disordered my own head. It was a similar smell to that caused by throwing water on burning cinders, but not so strong. I felt a dizziness and singing in my ears in consequence of that smell.

Ann Sloane sworn, said: I am wife of Frank Sloane. I knew John Sloane. He worked at the Company's works. He went to his work on Wednesday night, and returned about six on Thursday morning. He got some dry bread and tea, and then went to bed in the back room. My husband and son had slept in the same bed the night before. They went to bed about 9 o'clock, and the son was taken ill during the night. He had been working at the works with his father the day before. My husband left the bed into which Sloane went about 11 o'clock the night before. I went to bed in the kitchen, and on hearing Sloane moaning I went upstairs. I felt a bad smell which affected my chest and caused me to tremble. Sloane was in bed very sick. He could not speak. This was within an hour after he went up. I then went down to get my husband to come home from the furnaces; but as I was so ill and could not get on very fast, I sent a boy forward. I then returned and did all I could to assist the dying man. When I first went up Sloane looked like one dead, and was frothing at the mouth. He breakfasted on tea and bread, as he had always done since he came to live at my house. I delivered the tea to P.C. Fisher, who afterwards gave it to Dr. Thompson for analysis. My own family were using of the same kind of tea, and made with water from the same spot. The water was from the pump at the Bog-houses. He had sugar in his tea, and a sample of the sugar was also taken by the policeman. He had no milk in his tea. During wet weather the water comes under the back door. It stands in a pond in the yard till it sinks away in the earth.

William Banton recalled: I saw the position in which the two Armstrongs, found dead, were lying. Joseph Armstrong, the son, lay on his back with his hands clenched on his breast. The clothes were lying over the hands as if they had never been displaced. Robert was lying on his side, with his face among some matter which had come up from his mouth. Joseph's eyes were open, but Robert's were closed. The elder boy was of a blueish colour, and cold; but the younger was warm.

Frank Sloane sworn, said: John Sloane lived at my house, I got a message at the furnaces to go home. I ran immediately, and found John Sloane on a bed in the back room. He was quite insensible and frothing at the mouth. He remained in that state half an hour, when he died. When he came from his work he was as merry-looking as ever I saw him, and appeared in good health. I went into the same bed myself with my son the night before about nine o'clock, and staid till between eleven and twelve, when my son was taken ill. I felt him beginning to kick, and asked him what ailed him. He said "Nothing." Afterwards I felt him beginning to kick again, and I got up and lifted him out of bed. He vomited on my breast, and was also purged. I carried him downstairs and called for assistance. Two men came in and dashed two bowls of water in his face, and he immediately began to recover. When lying in bed that night I found a sulphury, heavy, bad smell; but I could not say that I was ill myself. The room door was open while I was in bed. I left the door open and it remained so till John Sloane came to it. My two eldest sons were sleeping in the front bedroom that night, but ailed nothing.

Mary Murray, wife of Timothy Murray, miner, sworn, said: — Fenton Murray was my son, and he died on Thursday afternoon. He began to be poorly about one o'clock in the morning: he was purged, but did not vomit. When he began to be ill, I asked him what was the matter with him, and he said his belly was bad. We were sleeping in the front room, and when I got up and opened the door to take the child into the back room, I felt a strong smell of sulphur. I put the child into the bed in the back room, and on returning into the front room I fell down on the floor; I had a pain in my head, and felt dizzy. My husband lifted me up, and went for assistance. I was affected with pains in my head, and had cramps all through my body. I have frequently found a bad smell in the kitchen after rains, so that I was obliged to keep the door shut. We frequently remarked at nights that there was a sulphurous smell. My husband did not ail anything till after he had been out for assistance; but when he was coming upstairs he was taken ill, and became insensible. The eldest child was taken ill in bed in the front room. When the oldest child was taken ill he was removed into the back room, and remained there till he had partly recovered. My husband is very poorly. He has continued ill ever since that night, and is too poorly to be examined here.

Frances Armstrong sworn: — I am sixteen years of age, and am the daughter of Joseph and Mary Armstrong, and lived in No. 49, Bowthorn Road. I remember Tuesday night last. We all had tea about six o'clock. We had fried meat, bread and butter to the tea. We had sugar to the tea, but no milk. Father and mother and the rest of the family, except my brother Joseph and myself, went to bed about nine o'clock. Joseph and I had supper, consisting of coffee, bread, and cheese. We went to bed about ten o'clock. Father and mother slept in the front room, and myself and brothers and sisters in the back room. When I went up to bed, Robert, the deceased, was in bed crying. I asked what he was crying for, but he never spoke. I bathed his head and face in cold water. I did so because we had done so when he was poorly about a fortnight ago; he was then similarly affected. The bathing did him no good. I called to my mother to tell her that Robert was poorly and would not speak; but I got no answer. I got into bed with my brother, and about two minutes afterwards was taken ill. I felt dizzy, and had a pain in my head. I got up, and went to my own bed, but was unable to walk, and had to creep; I could not stand. There would only be about a yard between the beds. I did not get better when I got to my own bed. The door of the room was open, as was also the door of the front bed room. All the casements in the house were closed. I remember lying down in my own bed, where my sister Mary Ann was crying. I asked her what was the matter: she did not answer, but kept crying. I do not remember anything after that, and I remained perfectly insensible till about four o'clock in the following day. In the night one of my sisters was taken into a neighbour's house. We remained there till the following day, when we were taken to the workhouse. I did not feel any bad smell in the house that night, nor on any other occasion. Before going to bed I took a candle into my mother's room for fear some of us should be taken ill. I did so in consequence of all of us having been taken ill about a fortnight ago in a similar way. When we were ill before, my mother and Robert became insensible about an hour. That illness took place in the morning about seven o'clock, before they had got any breakfast. On Sunday morning my mother was again taken ill, and was insensible about an hour. She has never been well since we went into that house, as she always appeared as if she were being smothered. I began to be ill myself on Tuesday night about ten minutes after going into the bedroom. My brother Joseph went upstairs about a quarter of an hour before me, and none of them ever spoke to me after I went up. My brother was ill on Tuesday morning when he got up. I asked him not to go to his work, and he said if he were disposed to be lazy he could stop away. I then fetched my father down to try to stop him; but my father was ill too. My brother was dizzy, and had a pain his head on that morning. When he was determined to go to his work, I gave him some rum and water, and he seemed better after taking it. We got our water from Boghouses, and that was the water the dinner and tea were made of. The fireplace in the front bedroom is covered over with a piece of paper to keep the smoke out; but the chimney was not stopped up. When I recovered, I felt a taste like brimstone in my mouth. On several occasions the children have been ill, and, in consequence, they could not attend Mrs. Attwood's school. I have been ill myself in a similar way. Both my mother and myself have been ill every morning for three weeks. The illness came on in the morning before breakfast. The symptoms were pains in the head, giddiness, and pains in the limbs. My sisters go to Mrs. Attwood's school, at Hazelholme.

Miss Gill sworn, said: I am employed by Mrs. Attwood to teach her school at Hazelholme. I had three scholars of the name of Armstrong — a boy and two girls. They have attended the school about six year's altogether. They were not often off from illness till the family went to reside at Bowthorn Road.

Dr. Fidler was next sworn, and read the following report: -

On Wednesday morning, June 10, 1857, at the request of Dr. Dickson, I went to Cleator Moor to see a family supposed to be poisoned. I took with me a bottle of brandy, the stomach pump, and some sulphate of zinc. I arrived at the house about 20 minutes after 11, and found three children insensible and violently convulsed. Upstairs were a woman and man convulsed, to all appearance sinking. All that was done afterwards was done in conjunction with Dr. Dickson, who conjoins in the following report. John Dixon Fidler, M.D.

We, finding the persons as before stated, by means of the stomach pumps washed out the whole of the stomachs, and injected brandy and water into them. In the case of the man ammonia was added to the brandy and water. Hot coffee with vinegar was afterwards administered, and mustard plasters were freely applied to the bodies and extremities. In the course of five or six hours we considered the two older girls out of danger, the other one not until late in the evening. The woman never showed any signs of improvement, and died at 20 minutes past 2pm. The man appeared to improve once or twice during the day, but he ultimately sank and died on the 12th, about forty-eight hours after we first saw him. We made a post mortem examination of the woman, 44 hours after death. The body was that of a well developed female. There were no external marks more than the usual after death appearances. The cavity of the chest was first opened. There were extensive adhesions of the pleura. The heart was healthy, the right auricle being distended with congulated blood of a coal-black colour. The lungs were congested, but otherwise healthy. The congestion was chiefly on the prosterior part. On opening the cavity of the skull the sinuses of the dura mater were found congested with blood. The spaces between the membranes were congested and full of bloody serous fluid. The abdominal viscera were all healthy. A chemical analysis of the stomach, duodenum, and portion of the small intestines showed no trace of numeral poisoning. The contents of the stomach as procured by the stomach pump, being reserved for future chemical analysis, if required. There was no gaseous smell of any importance, nor was there any vegetable matter or smell of opium, &c, in the stomach. We consider the cause of death to arise from the inhalation of some noxious gas or combination of gasses, the precise nature of which we are not prepared to swear to. We arrive at this conclusion from the nature of the symptoms during life and the absence of anything in the stomach or intestines of a poisonous nature, and the absence of any morbid lesion likely to cause death.

J. D. Fidler, M.D.


Mr. J. B. Wilson, sworn, read the following evidence: -

On Thursday the 11th of June I was called between nine and ten in the forenoon to visit Timothy Murray and his family, at Cleator Moor. I arrived there about ten and found Timothy Murray, his wife, and younger child in the bed of the front room. Murray and his wife were in a state of great prostration, with a feverish state of the skin and loaded tongues, the pulse of both was quick, they mentioned they had suffered from vomiting and pains in the head and bowels; the younger child was insensible pupils neither dilated or contracted; there was also great rigidity of the hands and sometimes slight convulsive action of the entire frame. The child lingered in this state till half-past three the same afternoon. The elder child was in bed in the back room in a state of prostration; he was brought down to the front room on the ground floor, when he gradually recovered after the use of stimulants, which were given to Murray and his wife with good effect. In the evening, the three were convalescent. In making a post mortem examination of the body I was assisted by Mr. Pearce, of Egremont, and the following is our joint report:-

The post mortem examination of Fenton Murray, aged five years, was made at 1 p.m. on Friday the 12th of June 1857, 21 hours after death.

The body presented the appearance of a well formed child; there was no more than the usual lividity for the period after death. On external examination the pupils were found in a dilated state and the fingers contracted. There was a quantity of viscid mucus flowing from the nose and mouth. On opening the chest there were no abnormal appearances with the exception of congestion at the posterior portion of the lungs, the heart was removed for subsequent investigation.

In the abdominal cavity the stomach externally did not present any peculiar marks; It was removed for the analysis of its contents. The liver was healthy, but the gall — bladder was distended. The large and small intestines were distended with flatus, in other respects healthy. Kidneys natural in structure although congested. The bladder was free from disease and enormously distended with turbid urine. On opening the head the membranes of the brain were seen greatly congested. The structure of this organ was healthy but there was a little serum found in the left ventricle.

J. Bateman Wilson F.R.C.S.

C. W. Pearce, Surgeon.

Previous to analysis the stomach was opened, but the internal coat did not exhibit any congestion, inflammation, or corrosion; there was a quantity of viscid mucus in it.

The stomach and its contents were placed in a glass vessel containing about three ounces of distilled water, and after remaining two hours the liquid was filtered. The following tests were used: — Sitmus indicated the solution to be neutral. Sulphuretted hydrogen, no change. Hydrosulphuret of ammonia, no effect. Nitrate of silver, no precipitate. Sulphate of lime, no change. Oxalate of ammonia, no precipitate. Acetate of lead, no change. Ferro prussinte of potash, neither change of colour nor precipitate. The permarcate and persulphate of iron did not effect any colouring. The water from the well at the back of the second set of cottages adjoining the termination of the railway, was examined with the following tests: — Sulphuretted hydrogen, Hydrosulphate of ammonia, and nitrate of silver without any indications. Oxalate of ammonia gave a precipitate which indicated, but there were no signs of deleterious matter being contained in it. The post mortem appearances and the chemical examination demonstrate that the deceased did not die from the administration of any of the usual poisonous substances, but that death was occasioned by the breathing of a deleterious gas. The symptoms during life, combined with the knowledge of the composition of the materials, which form the ground at the back and the foundation of the houses (and which is called "slag"), lead me to infer that the noxious gas was "Sulphuretted Hydrogen."

Mr. C. W. Pearce, Egremont, sworn, deposed that he concurred in the joint report of the post mortem examination embodied in Mr. Wilson's evidence; but not fully in the opinion Mr. Wilson had given. He had seen cases of poisoning by gases in Staffordshire and other places, but the symptoms were not similar to those presented in these cases.

John Thompson, M.D., Whitehaven, read the following report: —

The body of John Sloane, aged 45, was examined June 12th, about 29 hours after death, in presence of Mr. J. B. Wilson, Dr. Fidler, and Messrs. Pearce and Syme.

External appearance. — Frame moderately stout and well formed, pupils natural, jaws firmly clenched, fingers contracted, nails blue, great cadaveric lividity, a quantity of fluid issuing from the nostrils, and frothy mucus from the nose and mouth. On opening the chest, the lungs were found to be much congested; a quantity of serum was found in the cavity of the chest. The heart contained a little fluid blood, and was somewhat flaccid. The lining membrane of the traches, larynx, and bronchial tubes was much redder than natural, and contained a quantity of frothy mucus. The oesophagus also was much darker than natural. The stomach, large and small intestines, and all the other abdominal viscera were highly congested, but otherwise healthy. The gall bladder distended with a reddish liquid. The brain and its membranes were greatly engorged with blood, which, as in the body generally, was very dark, and of a fluid character. The heart, stomach, part of the small intestines, part of the liver, and part of the spleen, were removed for examination and analysis. The heart was found to be healthy, the stomach contained a reddish, gruel-like fluid; this had an acid reaction. The stomach, part of the liver, and part of the spleen, were tested, but no appearance of poison followed the use of the usual re-agents. I am of opinion that death was caused by the inhalation of some noxious gas or gases, the name of which I am not prepared to state.

(Signed) John Thompson, M.D.

June 15, 1857.

Mr. W. B. Clarke, foreman, said: He was not present at any of the examinations. From all the circumstances of the case, he was of opinion that death had been caused by the inhalation of some poisonous gases.

Mr. Kitchen, builder, Hensingham, on being sworn, said he built the houses, and the foundations of a number of them were on slag from the iron works.

Mr. Randleson said the Coroner need not put that question to witness, as they were ready to admit that all the houses were built upon the slag.

Mr. Postlethwaite and Mr. Armstrong stated that if the inquest were again adjourned, they should be able to adduce evidence to rebut the testimony of the medical gentlemen who had just been examined.

Mr. Randleson said that from all he had heard there was not the least ground for coming to the conclusion that the deaths had been caused by the inhalation of any kind of gas.

Mr. Lumb said if the case were to go to the jury with only the evidence given up to that time, he did not see how they now could give any other verdict than that the deaths had resulted from poisonous gases. If the company were prepared to bring forward evidence to rebut that already given, he should be most happy to receive it. He should send the evidence already taken to the Secretary of State; and it was for the representatives of the Company to consider whether their evidence should not be given before he did so. At present they had only heard one side.

Mr. Postlethwaite said that on that occasion they had attended to hear the nature of the case, but at the next meeting of the jury they should be prepared to give some evidence upon it.

Mr. Clarke then read the letter he had received from the Secretary of State; and, after a short consultation, the jury agreed that, in replying to it, he should again urge upon Sir George Grey to send down some eminent analytical chemist, such a man as Professor Taylor, for instance.
  • The inquest was then adjourned to Tuesday afternoon next at the same place.
Mr. J. Postlethwaite, solicitor, Whitehaven, attended, as before, to watch the proceedings on behalf of the Hematite Iron Company; and Mr. George Armstrong, solicitor, Workington, on behalf of the owner of the houses in which the deaths occurred.

Professor Taylor took his seat at the right of that of the Coroner, through whom he questioned witnesses who were examined on a former occasion, as their depositions were read over by the Clerk.

The Coroner re-opened his court by observing: Gentlemen of the Jury, Shortly after the last adjournment, I sent a copy of the depositions to Sir George Grey, who replied to my letter by stating that Dr. Alfred Taylor had been instructed to come down here and assist in this investigation. Dr. Taylor is now here, and I am sure he will render that assistance which it is so desirable we should have. What I propose to do is to read over the evidence that was taken here the last day; and as the witnesses are here present, Dr. Taylor will have an opportunity of putting any question, which he may deem expedient and necessary on the part of the government. I also wish it to be understood that Dr. Taylor does not attend here as an ordinary witness, but appears here on the part of Her Majesty's government, to assist me, and also to assist you, in coming to a proper decision upon this inquiry. Every assistance you can obtain that will help you to come to a satisfactory conclusion in this inquiry is unquestionably desirable; though I doubt not you will experience no difficulty in coming to a proper decision as to the real cause of the deaths of these unfortunate persons.

The Clerk then proceeded to call witnesses.

William Banton was the first witness whose deposition was read.

Cross-examined by the coroner: I live at No. 48 house. I have a wife and five children. All of my children slept in the back room. My children were all of them ill, more or less. They had never been attacked by a similar illness. The bedroom door was generally open. It was always open. It was open on the night of their illness. The pane of glass in the lattice was shut that night. I think it would be sometimes open in the daytime. I cannot say whether it was open on the day before that night. I never recollect smelling the sulphurous smell in the house so strong as I did on the Tuesday morning, I never recollect smelling it in the house at all before; I smelt it in the scullery house. I also smelt it in the yard. It was a smell something like powder smoke, but a heavier smell. By a heavier smell, I mean that it was a smell more strong than powder smoke is. I still stick to it that it was a smell like sulphur. The smell I smelt on the night of the illness of my children was a sulphurous smell.

I was in the house yesterday with Mr. Clarke. The smell I smelt yesterday was the same I smelt on the night of the illness of my children. I live at No. 48, next door to Armstrong's. I was called into the house by Mr. Clarke. I am living now at No. 27 in the same row. I would know the same sort of smell again if I smelt it. I supplied persons with meal and treacle beer from my shop, who never felt any bad effects from them. The weather was rather wet on Tuesday when my children were taken ill. I cannot say whether there had been rain immediately before or not; it was very close weather. I do not recollect what the Wednesday previous was; I really cannot say. There was a great change in health of my family after I left No. 48 and came to live at No. 27. I had lived at No. 27 before, and the health of my family was always better there than at No. 48. In No. 48 I was troubled with great weakness, and pains in my head. Sometimes I had a sort of trembling all over my body. This feeling would continue when I went to work for a time. When I returned to the house, I was sickly, but not sickly enough to vomit. I did not take my breakfast heartily. I generally breakfasted on tea and dry bread. I cannot tell how much tea and bread I usually took; but I know sometimes more and sometimes less, but never as much as a working man ought. When I first felt the illness came over me, I was in the front room. I slept in the front room, No. 48. No one was with me but my children and my wife. My wife was often in the same way particularly on first getting up. I found her better when I came from work in the afternoon between three and four. I kept the door open generally throughout the day, the back door also. The doors were always open when we went to bed at night. I never felt ill immediately after supper. My wife not being strong, I was frequently in the house at night. My wife has been ill for the last nine or ten weeks. My wife is ill now, but not as she used to be previous to us removing.

The Coroner intimated an opportunity for any gentlemen to put a question to the witness.

Mr. Postlethwaite (to the Coroner); Just ask him (witness) about the ventilation in No. 27 house; ask him whether the ventilation is the same in 48 as it is in No. 27.

Witness: There is one ventilating pane in the back window, and there is a sash window in the front. There is better draft in No. 27 than in No. 48. The back door and the front one is right opposite each other. I have not perceived the same smell in 27 as I did in 48. I smelt the same smell last Sunday night. It was right in at the door. There is not a door at the bottom of the staircase in No. 27; there is in No.48.

By the Coroner: The staircase door at night is generally kept open, but is closed in the day.

Mary Hall's depositions having been read, she was cross-examined by the Coroner: I live at No. 49, I am quite sure that the smell I smelt is like the smell that comes from water thrown upon hot cinders. I didn't perceive the smell in any part of the house except the back bedroom.

The depositions of Ann Sloane were next read.

By the Coroner: John Sloane had not taken anything to eat except what I and the others in the house had taken. He had taken the same a week before and was made ill by eating it. I mean by a bad smell, a weakly bad smell. The heaviness of it made me sleepy. I think it was like sulphur. I had lived in the house three months. As soon as I went into the house, I felt it had a heavy smell. When first I went into Sloane's room that morning I felt a heavy sulphurous smell. I had smelt a sulphurous smell. I don't know what a sulphurous smell comes from; but sometimes when I was lighting the fire I smelt it. I would be lighting a match, but the smell of sulphur came upon me before I lighted the match. Sloane was vomiting in the bed. He was also very frothy at his mouth. It was more than once it would just bulge up out of his mouth. I saw it three or four times. I wiped it off three times, and it came again. I perceived a bad smell from it; and no other body would do it but myself. I was bad myself at the time I helped Sloane. I was sometimes bad myself when I slept in the backroom. If I slept in the daytime I would have a sore head; sore and aching. Two children slept in the backroom. A little lad was taken ill in the room one night, and a girl went to take care of him. She was sick and weak, and took bad every bit of her. She could eat none at all, only drink. The backroom door, when we sleeping in the room was generally shut. The windowpane was mostly shut, when I went up stairs, I went up purposely to open the window, finding a bad smell. The bad smell in the room was the same when first we went to it. I always smelt a bad smell in the backroom. I have seen a kettle boil over into the fire. I think the smell in the backroom was worse than would arise from the boiling over of a kettle of water upon the cinders. I lived at No. 37, next to Banton's. Sloane, during the time he lived with us, never complained of illness. I thought he was a man in fair health. He was always able to go and do his days work as far as I knew.

By Dr. Clarke: I have lived three months in the house. I felt the same smell in the house the first night, or soon afterwards. When the pump goes wrong, the people to obtain a fresh supply would right it again.

By Mr. Attwood: Sloane was employed at the top of the furnace.

By Dr. Clarke: I don't know how long the houses had been completed before we went to occupy one.

The witness Banton was re-called.

By the Coroner: Since I went out, I have been in 48 and 49 houses. In 49, the smell is stronger than ever I smelt yet. No. 49 is now in the same state as on the morning when I found the Armstrongs dead, only there are two flags taken up. Not withstanding the two flags being lifted, the smell is stronger a great deal than I first smelt. The back doors were both open. The depth of the holes where the flags were removed is about a foot in the back premises, and a little more at the front. I left a constable in charge of the whole row. I do not know by whose orders the back doors were opened. When I left yesterday with Dr. Taylor, the doors were both shut.

Frank Sloane, his deposition read, cross-examined by the Coroner: When I went into John Sloan's room he was quite inseusible; I took hold of him, but he did not appear to know that I had hold of him. I saw that he had been vomiting, and was in the room the night before. The child was taken ill about eleven o'clock at night. I got the child up. I did not go into the room after that until going to assist Sloane. The window was shut.

Mary Murray (mother of Fenton Murray, deceased) her depositions read, cross-examined by the Coroner: My number is 44. My husband is not fit to go to work. He got some medicine from Dr. Wilson yesterday. He has a bad cough, and his breathing is bad. He mostly was the worst when we went to bed. The smell got worse at night, and we often had to open the windows at night when we went to bed.

By Dr. Clarke: I have always found the same smell in the back kitchen as upstairs.

By the Coroner: I have smelt a bad smell at the back of the house. I was always ill in my stomach. I never had bad health until I came to that house. My husband has had medicine from the doctor, but I have not. My eldest boy always had his health in No. 44.

By Dr. Clarke: I had a bad cough as soon as I went to that house, which has continued ever since. I think my cough has been better since I left it.

By Dr. Wilson: The back kitchen is damp. I was not so sick in the mornings as at nights.

By Dr. Clarke: I have been repeatedly ill since going into the house.

By Mr. Postlethwaite: The midding stead was cleaned nearly every week during the time we were there.

The depositions of Frances Armstrong were next read, after which she was cross-examined by the Coroner.

By Dr. Clarke: The beds were made that morning about 11 o'clock. The sash in the front room was put up before the beds were made. The back window was also opened. There was a draught through the window on that day.

By the Coroner: There were no slops left in the bedroom on that day. We did not wash ourselves upstairs.

By Dr. Clarke: My mother did not say anything about being attacked. She thought her illness was owing to the air.

By the Coroner: When the door was open there was no smell. There was no smell in the room at night either. There was no smell in the room when I came down in the morning. I didn't feel anything likely to choke me upon first going into the room that night.

By Dr. Fidler: I do not remember what month it was my father went away.

By the Coroner: My father would be from home longer than six months, I think, but I don't know the exact time.

By Mr. Postlethwaite: The door at the bottom of the staircase was open on that night.

By Mr. Attwood: My brother and sister were not affected in the same manner as my mother.

By the Coroner: My brother and sister had been ill about a fortnight. My brother felt ill when he was at work.

James Kitchin, builder, Hensingham, was next called and examined by the Coroner: The foundations of the house are levelled in with slag. The outer wall is six or seven feet. There has been more slag placed there since the completion of the houses, which may be three feet, and in some four feet. That slag was taken from the furnaces. The slag was carted from the furnaces. I haven't seen it smoke from fire. I have seen what we call a kind of reek. I have been there when the carts were thrown up. Cinders were also used from the engine-house, but they were not warm when put in. The contract for the houses was, I think, 521 or 531. The rainwater is taken away just over the surface. The rain goes into the background; there are no drains. If the slagheap is high, it will go into foundation.

By Dr. Clarke: The slag was not put in in a concrete manner.

By Mr. Armstrong: At the time the houses were built there was a descent channel to take the water off.

By the Coroner: The water would go down into the foundation.

By Mr. Armstrong: That would be in consequence of the slag not having been heaped up.

John Thompson was the next witness whose deposition was read over.

The deposition of Dr. Wilson, Fidler, Dickson, Thompson, and Clarke were next read.

Mr. Superintendent Clarke was the next witness called.

The Coroner, as Dr. Taylor would require time to make his report, suggested an adjournment till the following day.

The court adjourned accordingly.


The inquiry was resumed this morning at half-past twelve o'clock.

The Coroner was proceeding to take the evidence of Professor Taylor as he would that of an ordinary witness, when Dr. Taylor remarked that it would perhaps be better that he should read to the court the report he had prepared, as that contained nearly the whole of the opinion it might be necessary for him to give. The Coroner acquiescing, the Dr. read his report. It was as follows: -

On Monday, June 22, 1857 in company with Superintendent Clarke, I visited and inspected certain houses in Bowthorn-row, where the various cases of death are reported to have occurred. The houses which were specially visited and inspected were those which are numbered in the plan, No's 49, 48, 47, 46, and 44. No's 16 and 17 were also visited. There was a close unpleasant smell of a similar nature pervading these houses, especially observable in No, 49, which had been closely shut up. It was strongly perceived in the closets, of which the doors had been closed; but particularly in the small back bedroom, except of the house No, 48 (Banton). In the window of this room, two panes of glass had been broken, which allowed of a certain amount of ventilation. The pavement of the floor of the house No. 49 were taken up, back and front; that is, in the front room near the door, and in the back room or kitchen also near to the door an excavation was made to about the depth of a foot in each case. The ground or soil beneath, and in immediate contact with the pavement, was black and damp. It consisted of a black material, resembling ashes, mixed with a quantity of loosely broken slag, the whole forming a loose and porous mass, into which water could easily penetrate. There was no perceptible warmth in these excavations at the time of the visit. A very offensive smell escaped from both holes. It was more copiously emitted from the soil of the back room or kitchen than from that of the front room. The smell thus emitted was similar to that which was perceived in the houses visited and in the closets, but stronger. Test papers were applied in both excavations, at the very bottom of each, and the result was that in the period of half an hour from the time at which these tests were placed in the pit, they clearly, decidedly, and unequivocally indicated the escape of that deadly poisonous gas, sulphuretted hydrogen. In comparing the results it was remarked that the effects were stronger, or the quantity of this gas which escaped was in the same period of time larger in the excavations of the back room than in that of the front room. It was not considered necessary to raise the pavements in any of the other houses. It was understood that all were built on the same plan; that there was no drainage from any one, that the floors of were laid on broken slag, with a thin layer of ashes, and that all the rain water which fell was loosely discharged back and front without any means being provided for this water being carried off. I may remark with regard to the house No, 49, that the window in the lower or front room was a fixture, so that it did not admit of the slightest current of air, and consequently, the only ventilation was by the front door open through the day, but shut at night. The tiles forming the floor are porous, and the junctures are such as to allow of the passage of liquids and gases. The area of this floor I estimated at about 65 square feet, more or less. The upper back room (bed room) was without any means of ventilation, excepting by the door and the small pane of glass in the window, 9 inches by 7 inches. In the houses numbered 49, 48, and 44, it was observed that there were spots of discolouration on the painted woodwork. The doors of the front bedroom, back and front presented these black marks, or stains, in the strongest degree. Portions of the stained woodwork have been cut and tested, and the result of this chemical examination, as well as their appearance, has led me to the conclusion that the black stains have been caused by the action of sulphuretted hydrogen gas upon the paint. The stains in fact, are due to the formation of sulphate of lead. In No. 49 they were found on the woodwork below and above. In No. 48 and 44 they were found chiefly on the woodwork of the front bedroom door, and they unequivocally prove that the sulphuretted hydrogen, as a gas, has been diffused at some period or other in the air of the upper and lower rooms. The house No. 16 was visited. The tiles in the floor were very damp. I was informed that it had been shut up, and not inhabited for some time. On entering there was the usual close offensive smell, perceived more or less in all the houses. The junctions of the tiles in the cement presented a remarkable yellow appearance. This was spread over from 4 to 6 square feet of the tiles, above the centre of the lower front room. A sample of this was collected and has since been analysed. It consists of sulphur, sulphuric acid, oxide of iron, and a small quantity of lime. This is the residue of the decomposition of iron-slag, under the influence of air and water, and after the sulphuretted hydrogen, one of the products of this chemical change, has escaped.

Analysis Of Slag From No. 49

The slag taken from the excavations made in the back and front rooms of 49 contained lime, allumina, carbonate of lime, and a large proportion of sulphide, or what is termed sulphate of iron. There was no sulphide of calcium present.

The Slag Heap

I at the same time inspected the large accumulation of slag collected at the back of the houses. Samples were taken at various points, some from the surface, and others at from one foot to three or more deep. Samples were also taken from the part farthest from the houses, as well as from the part near to them. They all presented much the same composition, and all yielded an abundance of the sulphide or sulphurate of iron. Some portions that were near the surface yielded a large quantity of hydrosulphate of lime. Others from below the surface yielded sulphide of calcium. At a distance of 57 feet from the house No. 49 a hole had been dug to the depth of about three feet, and from this torrents of hot vapour, charged with a large quantity of sulphuretted hydrogen, was at the time issuing. Other parts, when penetrated, also yielded vapour, showing that there was great heat in the mass below. In some parts towards the edge of the bank of slag, it was at a full red heat. About a foot below the surface sulphur had sublimed the fissures of the surface of the heap, resembling the appearance seen in the crater of a volcano. The vapour produced by combustion consisted of aqueous, vapour charged with sulphuric acid.

I may observe that the slag taken from the house No. 49, as well as that from the heap was tested for arsenic, but there was no trace of that poison present in either sample. The slagheap is close to the back wall of the houses numbered from 44 to 49. It is above the level of the back yard in each of these houses, and at the house No. 49 I estimated that it rose at no great distance to a height of from two to three feet above the level of the back yard; hence it follows that any large amount of rain falling on the slag heap will penetrate through the porous slag and find its way under the floors of the houses, chiefly from No. 49 to 46. To a certain extent this would also happen with respect to the house No. 45 and 44, but the slagheap here slopes rapidly in a westerly direction, so that a portion of the rainfall will pass out at the rear without going under the foundations. I caused the foundation of the back wall of the house No. 49 to be laid bare, and saw the bottom of it. The wall extended but a very few inches below the surface of the slag, properly not more than five inches. I found that there was a complete and free communication from the slag of the heap under the back wall to below the whole of the floor of the back and front rooms of the house, so that any large amount of water falling on this heap would find its way in part under the foundations of this and adjoining houses.

The rain discharged from the roof falls on broken surface of the soil, and penetrate into the slag beneath.

The road in front of the houses is raised in the centre so that on one side there is a tendency of the overflow to find its way to the front of the houses.

On Tuesday, June 23rd, 1857 I attended the adjourned inquest held in this place on the bodies of six persons, into the cause of whose death we are met to inquire. The depositions of all the witnesses previously taken were read in my presence. The evidence of other witnesses were taken, and by the courtesy of Mr. Lumb, the coroner, such other questions were put as appeared necessary to the formation of an opinion of the cause of death in these cases.

Applying my mind to the evidence thus adduced, to the inspection of the houses, and the locality where these deaths occurred and aided by experiments which I have been enabled to perform, I have come to the conclusion already arrived at by the medical gentlemen who have given their evidence at this inquest, viz.,

1st. That the six persons deceased, into the cause of whose death we are inquiring, did not die from any natural or unusual form of disease, but that they died from the effects of gaseous poisoning; and my opinion is that the noxious agent was sulphuretted hydrogen.

This gas did not emanate from the iron furnaces, nor from the surface of the slag heap directly; but it proceed from the rainfall (about the period of the calamity) penetrating the heap and washing the sulphuretted hydrogen beneath the foundations of the houses, at the back of which it is piled. Further the contact of water with the sulphide of iron contained in the slag produces this poisonous gas, so that the rainwater already containing sulphuretted hydrogen, produced by contact with the iron slag beneath the houses, a larger amount of this gas would find its way through every crevice or porous material. Thus, then, the action of water on the iron slag is, in my opinion, the cause of the production of this gas. It is going on at all times, in a ratio proportioned to the undercomposed sulphide of iron present, and the quantity of water which finds its access to the foundation. When once there, there is no escape for the gas but through the floor and the whole of the house. Its evolution at the period of the calamity was greater by reason of the heavy rain preceding the occurrence, and the heated state of the atmosphere.

It has been given in evidence that the slag laid beneath the floor of the houses was taken fresh from the iron works when the houses were built, about six months since. As it had not been exposed to the air sufficiently long to decompose the sulphide of iron, it was therefore used in a state most calculated, under a copious supply of water, to produce sulphuretted hydrogen in the largest amount.

That this was the source of the gas, which caused death, appears to me to be proved.

1st. By the discovery of the gas in large quantities, evolved with steam, at a depth of two or three feet below the slagheap.

2nd. By the discovery of the gas actually evolved when the floor was raised on Monday last in the house 49.

3rd. By the presence of such a substance as sulphide of iron in large quantities from the slag of the foundation of the houses as well as from the heap.

4th That there was no other source for its production if we except the presence of sulphide of calcium in the slag heap, which would considerably add to the augment the danger arising from heavy rain falling on the heap. This arises from the fact that sulphide of calcium is instantly and completely decomposed by water, while sulphide of iron is more slowly decomposed.

That the deadly poisonous gas was evolved beneath the floors and penetrated the house, accumulating in those places where there was the least ventilation and no current of air, is provided.

1st. By the discovery of it in the porous soil beneath the floor.

2nd. By its action on patches of paint in the lower room.

3rd. By the discovery on the floor of a damp house, No. 16, which had not been disturbed for some time, of the oxide of iron sulphur, and sulphuric acid.

This material is the result of the decomposition of sulphide of iron in the slag under exposure to air and moisture. It is the solid part of the decomposed slag, while the sulphuretted hydrogen is the gaseous part.

That this gas was the cause of death is proved by the symptoms and appearances taken as a whole. They are similar to, but more severe and fatal, than those, which I witnessed in 1839 in men working at the tunnel under the Thames (Medical Jurisprudence, 5th edition, 791 pp.) The sulphuretted hydrogen was produced by the action of water trickling through the soil on sulphide of iron contained in the soil.

In conclusion, I beg to make this general observation. Every house built on this fresh iron slag is exposed to dangerous accidents of this kind according to the access of water beneath the foundation. The quantity of fresh slag present beneath the foundation, the porousucess or imperfection of the floor, and general want of ventilation in the closets or chambers, having no current or air through there, becoming boxes for the reception and circulation of this poison, and the four houses from No. 49 to 46 are so situated, with respect to the slag heap as to the house of death to all who inhabit them with the doors and windows closed, and under heavy rain falls. None can inhabit them without injury to health, if not danger to life. This danger will exist in all the houses more or less, until the slagheap is entirely decomposed. The houses 49 and 48 will always be dangerous so long as the washing of the slagheap can find their way beneath the foundations.

Alfred Swaine Taylor, M.D, F.R.S

Lecturer on Medical Jurisprudence and Chemistry, Guy's Hospital

The Professor having enlarged, viva voce, on some of the opinions expressed in his report, corroboratively bearing out those opinions, and answered the inquiries of certain of the jury.

The Coroner announced that the case for the Crown was closed, and wished to know of Mr. Postlethwaite whether he proposed to call witnesses.

Mr. Postlethwaite answering negatively.

The Coroner charged the jury at great length, remarking that from the first hearing of the case his opinion had been similar to that entertained by Dr. Bateman Wilson, who was the only medical practitioner who had gone so far as to give a decided opinion as to the cause of death, and which opinion Dr. Taylor had unequivocally confirmed. The Coroner concluded by passing encomiums on various gentlemen, including the jury, whose time and services had been engaged upon no fewer than five occasions during the inquiry.

The jury retired, and after about half-an-hour's deliberation, returned into court with the following.


"We find that Joseph Armstrong, the elder, Mary Armstrong, Robert Armstrong, Joseph Armstrong, the younger, John Sloane, and Fenton Murray, have come to their deaths accidentally, and that the cause of death in all these cases has arisen from the inhalation of sulphuretted hydrogen gas, generated from the slag underneath the houses in which they dwelt, and from adjoining heap of the same material.

"W. B. Clarke, Foreman."

In returning the above verdict, the jury recommend that the houses at Bowthorn-row, built upon the slag from the Hematite Works, should be efficiently drained, and all communication with the adjoining slag heap, through the foundations of the houses, be effectively cut off; and the jury are further of opinion that the houses so circumstanced cannot be safely occupied till this is done.

Top Photo: Bowthorn Road, C1900

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Cleator Moor (Little Ireland): Six killed by poison gas
Six killed by poison gas
Cleator Moor (Little Ireland)
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