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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Whinney Hill Colliery Explosion, 1848

Whinney (Whinny) Hill Colliery was sunk in 1839. A main band coal 9 feet thick was found at a depth of 114 fathoms (208 metres) in 1843. Own...

Whinney (Whinny) Hill Colliery was sunk in 1839. A main band coal 9 feet thick was found at a depth of 114 fathoms (208 metres) in 1843. Owners, Richard Barker and George Harrison sub leased the pit to Whitehaven Haematite Iron Company to provide fuel for their Cleator Iron Works. The mine closed in 1863. 

  • Whinny is derived from Whin, meaning Gorse.

On October 28th, 1848, an explosion occurred between six and seven o'clock in the morning. 30 were killed instantly.

At the inquest into the men’s deaths, evidence was given that the colliery was in a very dangerous state and the atmosphere, foul to within thirty-five yards of the shaft.

The accident took place when a workman took the top off his Davy lamp to light his pipe. The deaths had been occasioned by the explosion of fire-damp. 

One lamp was found in the colliery, near the steer-head and not in the workings, with the top removed. It was suggested during the inquest, that John Cummins from Hensingham was responsible for the disaster. 

Married Men:

  • James Thompson, Goose Butts, aged 26, leaving a wife and four children.
  • Thomas Aitken, Goose Butts, aged 39, five children.
  • Richard Lawson, Hensingham, aged 46, seven children.
  • John Cummins, Hensingham, aged 24, two children.
  • James Milby, Goose Butts, aged 26, two children.
  • George Vetch, Hensingham, aged 47, nine children — not found.
  • Daniel Lochery, Hensingham, aged 39, one child.
  • Wm. Lish, Cleator Moor, aged 23, two children.
  • John Barwise, Hensingham, aged 28, two children.
  • John Atkinson, Padstow, aged 32, two children.
  • John MacDougall, Hensingham, aged 46, one child — not found.
  • Patrick Kelly, Low Harris, aged 31.
  • John Hall, Mill Hill, aged 30, three children.
  • Donald Savage, Whitehaven, aged 26, one child — not found.
  • Patrick Monaghan, Whitehaven, aged 41, seven children.
  • Thomas Fitzsimons, The Moor, aged 20.
  • Alexander Davidson, Goose Butts, aged 23, one child.


  • William Dryden, Whitehaven, aged 23.
  • John Lawson, Hensingham, aged 16.
  • Robert Lawson, Hensingham, aged 12.
  • John Disley, Hensingham, aged 22.
  • Charles Lochery, Hensingham, aged 21.
  • James Dowie, Hensingham, aged 18.
  • John Aitkin, Goose Butts, aged 17.
  • Robert Clark, The Moor, aged 13.
  • Henry Mash, Goose Butts, aged 12
  • John Milby, Mill Hill, aged 18.
  • James Harrison, Goose Butts, aged 29.
  • John Ward, Bragg's Cottages, aged 13 — escaped, but subsequently died.
  • George Watson, (stranger) — not found.

  • Edward Bradley — escaped.
  • Thompson Piper (furnace man) — escaped.

The inquest into the disaster was held before Mr. Bragg, Coroner. Robert Foster, the head overman at the colliery said that on the day of the explosion he was at home but went to the pit as soon as he was told of the disaster. He, and a party of explorers, managed to get about halfway down the shaft but had to return because of the “stythe” (asphyxiant, reducing the available oxygen content of air to a level incapable of sustaining human or animal life).

Cumberland Pacquet
31st October 1848

Dreaful Colliery Explosion - Thirty Lives Lost

It is our duty today to record the particulars of one of those melancholy and fatal accidents which unhappily are too common in mining districts, and against which careful management in the working of pits, and the needy adaptation of scientific precautionary measures are frequently found to no avail, owing to the carelessness or obstinacy of that class of men engaged in the drudgery of mining operations.

The fearful sacrifice of life which now engages our notice, occurred between six and seven on Saturday morning in the Whinney Hill Pit, Cleator Moor, about three miles from this town, and was occasioned by an explosion of fire damp, caused it is supposed, by some of the colliers having incautiously removed the tops of their safety lamps, to light their pipes, — a conjecture which is much strengthened by the fact, that subsequent examinations led to the discovery of certain separated portions o safety lamps in that quarter of the pit, where it is proved smoking was going on, in express defiance of instructions to the contrary.

As soon as intelligence of the sad catastrophe reached the neighbouring villages inhabited by the mining population, the works were crowded with an immense number of spectators, many of whom included the nearest relatives of those who had descended the shaft at an early hour in the morning, and were, in the course of the forenoon, brought up, so many mangled and suffocated bodies.

We will not attempt to describe the piteous scene which presented itself, as each corpse was taken from the pit, and recognised by those claiming kindred with its lifeless remains, — our time permitting us merely to enter into some allusions to plain but melancholy matters of fact.

The majority of the suffers being members of the Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Mr. Holden, a priest of that persuasion, was in attendance early in the morning, in case his ministrations were required; but as will be seen by our list of those killed, his services were not wanted, only two persons having escaped with their lives.

Mr. John Thompson, surgeon to the Hematite Mining Company, to whom the pit belongs, assisted by Mr. Fidler, were soon on the spot, and adopted such means as their medical skill and ingenuity could suggest under the melancholy circumstances. By eleven o'clock, eighteen bodies had been taken from the pit in a lifeless state, and one boy named Ward alive, but so severely burnt that he died in the course of the same evening, having in the meantime been removed to the home of his parents.

Upon the eighteen bodies, William Bragg Esq., Coroner of the Lordship of Egremont, proceeded, during the afternoon, to hold an inquest. After going through the preliminary duty of viewing the large number of corpses placed upon planks in two of the adjacent pit buildings, and receiving such proof of the identity as would justify the Coroner in permitting the relatives to make the necessary removal previous to the internment, — the inquiry was adjourned till Monday morning at ten o'clock.

We may remark that but three of the bodies presented any marks of having been severely or extensively burnt; the others having evidently been suffocated by the choke-damp when they arrived at that part where a stage is usually placed and found that it had been blown up by the force of the explosion thus cutting off all chances of escape by the means of the shaft. The only two who escaped were a man named Bradley, whose evidence is given below, and another man named Thompson Piper, whose duty it was to superintend the furnace.

In the course of the same evening, four other bodies were taken from the pit, and conveyed to their respective dwellings which, not being within the manorial coroners district, rendered it necessary for W. Lumb Esq. the County Coroner, to summon a jury to assemble at Hensingham yesterday morning, to inquire into the circumstances under which those individuals, together with the boy Ward, already alluded to, came by their death. Another sufferer named Dryden, a resident of Whitehaven, was also discovered, and an inquest will be held on his body this (Tuesday) evening, by Mr. Lumb, in this town.

The explosion has cast seventeen wives into widowhood, and rendered fifty-two children fatherless. It is some mitigation of the calamities thus occasioned, to know that in the large families left by Thomas Aitken, Richard Lawson, and George Vetch, there are several old enough to obtain their livelihood by honest industry.


On Monday (yesterday) morning, at ten o'clock, Mr. Bragg resumed his inquest, upon the bodies of Barwise, Davidson, the two Locherys, Dowie, McLaughlin, Thompson, Clark, Marsh, the three Lawsons, the two Aitkens, Hall, Lish, Kelly and Cummins.

The following were the jury empanneled on the occasion:

  • James Russell, Crossfield, farmer, foreman
  • John Hewitt, Mill Hill, farmer
  • Robert Hewitt, Mill Hill, Miller
  • Joseph Reid, Trumpet House, pit manager
  • John Wear, Threapthwaite Colliery, pit overman
  • John Litt, Jack Trees, farmer
  • William Jenkinson, Todholes, yeoman
  • John Benn, Crossfield, farmer
  • Joseph Storey, Goose Butts, shoemaker
  • Issac Fisher, Gale Mire, Blacksmith
  • Thomas Litt, Aildby, farmer
  • Thomas Nicholson, Chapel House, farmer

The Coroner opened the proceedings by saying that he jury had seen the bodies of the deceased miners, whose deaths had been occasioned by the explosion of inflammable air or fire-damp, — one of the greatest dangers to which mines were exposed. It would be their duty to inquire into the cause of the accident, which they might find difficult, for he presumed it would be shown that the pit was in a fit state to work, and that every precaution had been used by the occupiers of the Colliery, who were right in wishing that every inquiry should be made into that part of the subject. If any of the men were imprudent enough, which he was afraid they were, to risk their lives by exposing the flames of their lamps, the accident might be attributed to that. He believed that all the men employed were furnished with safety lamps, and knew the state of the pit, and had no right to risk the lives of others if they chose to hazard their own. It would be necessary, however, that the jury should be satisfied that the mine was in a fit state for working, and that it was sufficiently ventilated; it being requisite both in reason and law that every precaution should be adopted in works attended with danger, independently of every available means to prevent workmen who were thoughtless and incautious, from exposing their naked lights to the atmosphere of the mine.

Several members of the Mining Company were present, including Mr. Spencer, Mr. J. Thompson, Mr. Barker, Mr. G. W. Hartley, Mr. Foster &c.

A plan of the Wyndham Colliery having been laid before the Coroner, and Jury, the former gentleman proceeded to examine the following witnesses.

Robert Gambles sworn — I am a coal hagger at the Whinney Hill Pit at Cleator Moor. The pit fired on Saturday morning. I was then in bed and was alarmed by a woman who informed me the pit was on fire. I went there, and went down the pit with John Clark and William Dawson to render any assistance we could to the men in the pit.

We could not get down, but were forced back by the styth. We afterwards went down; it was not quite clear, when we got to the bottom, we found a great number of bodies lying at the shaft foot. There were perhaps fifteen bodies not far apart, and the others at some distance. I heard someone moaning further on in the work, and I went to his assistance, and brought out a boy named John Ward, alive. I came up to the top with him in the basket. I then returned down the shaft again and examined the men whom I had left; all of them were dead; some I identified and some I could not. I then assisted to bring them up, there were fourteen or fifteen.

We went further and found four or five, some of whom I knew; some were on their faces; the first one found, after the first lot, would be lying thirty yards from the others; the others were very few yards distant. Those were all dead.

I recognised the bodies of John Atkinson, the foreman, John Hall, James Thomspon, John McLaughlin, Alexander Davidson, Richard Lawson, John Lawson, Robert Lawson, Patrick Kelly, John Barwise, William Lish, Daniel Lochery, Charles Lochery, Thomas Aitken, Henry Marsh, Robert Clark, and James Dowie, who was the first that I saw. I recognised the whole nineteen with exception of Cummins.

My opinion is that this accident was caused by someone taking the off the top of his lamp. On further examination after all the men had been taken out, I found one safety lamp with the top off. The top of the lamp could not be taken off without unscrewing it. We had all safety lamps, and had the care of them ourselves. The top could not have been blown off by the force of the explosion. The lamp I allude to was found near the steer-head and not in the workings. I am of the opinion the lamp fired at a certain distance from the pit head, some thirty or fourty yards off, where there was a little foul air lodged which was bleeding off. That foul air I think must have caught the flame of some of the lamps, the tops of which were off, and caused the explosion.

I was at work in the pit on Friday night repairing the shaft where I had previously been sinking. There was a little foul air in the shaft underneath the stage, which was bleeding off from the boreholes. There was no foul air in that part of the shaft where I was working. The pit was in a fair workable state. Where I was, we were working with the lamp tops off, at twenty yards from the bottom. I came up about five o'clock, or a little before it, on Saturday morning.

The man I could not recognise, was Cummins, and him I charge with firing the pit in my own opinion. He was lying two or three yards from the steer-head. He was very much burnt, I did not take notice where his lamp was. The lamps found, were some distance from any of the bodies. Cummins was a man who used a pipe very much; and that is my reason for charging him with firing the pit.

All those men were found between the Bannock Band door and the shaft, all apparently making their road out. The distance between those points is about one hundred yards. In my opinion it is not safe to light a pipe at all.

The Coroner — If that be so, smoking should be prohibited in pits. 

Witness — Lish was lying with his face toward the shaft.

By the Jury — I believe that Cummins was making his way off.

Robert Foster sworn — I am the head overman of the collieries on Cleator Moor. On Saturday morning, about a quarter or twenty past six, an explosion took place at Whinney Hill Pit. I was at home, and being sent for, I went across. When I got there J. Gambles, another overman, and I, went half way down the shaft; we returned as we could not get further for the styth. (5) We then put the furnace out, which is nearly half way down the shaft; we put it out with water. After that, I sent the men in different parts to repair the shaft, and a temporary circulation of air was caused by throwing water down. I then went down the pit with Gambles and another, taking lights with us, to get the bodies out and save any who were living. When we got down to the five foot eye where the coals were hooked on, we saw the body of a man hanging over into the shaft; his legs were entangled with ten other bodies which were all within three feet of the edge of the pit, and where the was only room for a man and the basket without the stage.

We crept over the eleven bodies and got to the top of the steer to find if any of the others were living. Gambles found a little boy whom he has spoken of. He brought him up, and I remained down the shaft till he came back again. We then went further and found the remainder of the bodies, nineteen in the whole; the little boy made twenty; all the others were dead. I did not examine to ascertain whether they had been killed by burning or suffocation. They were sent up.

We went as far as we could get, to the Bannock Band door, and fifty yards beyond the five foot door. At the Bannock Band door, two men were sent down Dryden drift, where two men should have been working, but they found nothing but their clothes. We had previously put up a temporary stopping at the five foot door. Having been down Dryden drift, we pulled down the stopping, and two men and myself went into the workings, but could not get further than fifty yards owing to the styth. We found no more bodies.

I think the men must have been smoking. The men were all provided with safety lamps; there is not a candle allowed in the pit, except when I go to survey. The men have been in the habit of taking off the top of their lamps, to light their pipes, not with-standing orders are given to all to the contrary. I cautioned some.

I was in the pit on Friday morning; I was coming up just about 8 0'clock. The pit was just in the usual way. It was in a good working state; I saw nothing dangerous or I should have reported it and stopped the men from going down. I was not in the pit from Friday morning till the time of the accident. I can't tell where the explosion happened. The diameter of the shaft is ten feet and a half. The ventilation of the pit is conducted by partition from the top to the bottom of the shaft, and two stapple pits, or internal shafts, from one band to the other; that is necessary where two bands are working; those stapple pits were five feet in diameter. We were working in the five foot Bannock band, which is the top band.

I have been employed in collieries for 12 years; have been brought up a collier from a driver lad. I have worked one year in the north of England, and eleven in Lancashire. In my absence from Friday morning to the time of the accident, the pit was under the direction of proper overmen, and persons fully competent to superintend the colliery. There are four men found since.

The Coroner — I cannot ask you any questions about them, as they are not in my district.

By the jury — Four sinkers and engineer were working in the pit all night. The works were all viewed, I expect, on Saturday morning before the men went down; it was the duty of those who went down to do so. The parties deputed to do that were Vetch, the two Locherys and McLaughlin. The works are examined every morning, previous to the workmen going in, and the persons whose duty it was to view them on Saturday morning are all killed. According to what the banksmen tell me, they went down the pit before the other men. There was no blood about the bodies. The gas came not from the shaft but the old workings; that is all supposition.

Mr. John Thompson, surgeon, of Whitehaven, was then examined; said that he saw the bodies of the eighteen individuals on which the inquest was then holding, and that John Barwise, Daniel Lochery, James Dowie, Richard Dawson, John McLaughlin, John Lawson, John Aiken, Robert Lawson, Charles Lochery, William Lish, Patrick Kelly, were all suffocated by choke damp. Alexander Davidson, who was bruised about the chest, and James Thompson burnt about the face, were also killed by suffocation.

Robert Clark was very severely burnt, sufficient to account for his death without the damp; Henry Marsh was also very severely burnt, and no doubt that caused his death. John Cummins was the only one who was seriously burnt, and he met his death in that way.

Immediately after the incident witness was sent for as the surgeon to the Company, to render any assistance that might be required, and remained there, going backwards and forwards, during the day in case his services might be needed.

The Coroner — You did your duty, acting for the company, who were anxious to save lives of all they could.

Witness — I was there when the first body was brought up, and also when the boy was brought up alive, I got there before eight o'clock. Mr. Fidler was also present during a considerable portion of the time, to render all the assistance he could. I attended the boy, with Mr. Fidler. None of the others came up alive.

By the Jury — Suffocation and choke-damp I have spoken of as one and the same thing. It is a poisonous gas, given off after an explosion.

Edward Bradley, the person who made so miraculous an escape from the pit, was then called, but upon having the Testament handed to him, he exclaimed "What's that for? I won't swear for you or any other person. I am a Roman Catholic in creed, and never swear on a book. My religion won't allow me to swear. I never took an oath in my life. I can tell a fair story without an oath. That is not our book."

The Coroner said that he should decline to receive the evidence of the man without he was sworn. He had handed to him a testament on which the figure of a cross was inscribed, and upon that book he (the Coroner) had sworn large numbers of persons professing the same religion tenets as Bradley.

After considerable delay, and the manifestation of much obstinacy, the witness consented to be sworn, and then deposed as follows:

I am a hagger at the Whinney Hill pit. I went to work there on Saturday morning at half past four. My fellow-partner was John Cummins. We went down together, and were at work in the Bannock Band, we got up to our place of working. Cummins started to work, but I did not. We were sitting and John Atkinsons' underman (Dan. Lochery) came in. There were some words about a basket of coals between John Cummins and Dan., who began to abuse Cummins. I told Dan to go away for that was no place to come and fratch in, and he said to John Cummins that he would knock his brains out with a hammer he held in his hand.

Cummins left me a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes before the explosion took place. I never saw him alive again.

When the explosion took place I made my way to the shaft, and got up safe. No one came up with me. When I got to the top I was senseless. No one was about when I got into it. I calculate the shaft was about 300 yards from where I was working. I heard the explosion, and went off as fast as I could, and said to Pat Kelly, who was near me in the working, "we must be gone", — for we knew where it came from. As I proceeded from the working to the shaft, the choke-damp became stronger. There was no foul air to hurt anyone when I went in at half past four. The explosion was between six and seven. We are all provided with safety lamps, and all cautioned not to take of the tops of the lamps.

I believe the explosion took place betwixt the five-foot door and the shaft. That explosion could not have taken place except by the flame of an open light.

As I was making my way to the shaft, I met one man and brought him as far as I could. I don't know of any person having been with a light between the shaft and the Bannock Band door before the explosion took place. I saw nobody as I was going to work, with a safety lamp with its top off. I did not see Atkinson, the overseer, that morning. Some shiftsmen went down before we went; George Vetch was one. Cummins left me to go and speak to Mr. Thorburn — he said he would not strike a bat till he had seen him about the basket of coals. I don't know where any of the bodies were found. The man I saw as I was coming along towards the shaft was Alexander Davidson; I passed him alive; he was greatly too heavy for me to help along further. He had his lamp with him, and the top was on. I am sure he did not bring a bogie.

By the Jury — I never heard any man say that he had done so. There are very few but are guilty of smoking. (It may not be un-interesting to state that Bradley attributes his escape to the close manner in which he muffled his face with his coat; and thereby, prevented that continued respiration of choke damp which proved so fatal to his fellows)

Thompson Piper — sworn  I am the furnace-man at this pit. On Saturday morning when the explosion took place I was at the fire. The furnace was put out after the explosion took place. I went to work in the morning at half past five. The furnace was then burning in the usual way.

Mr. Barker said that Mr. Percival, General Wyndham's viewer, who examined the pit only a fortnight ago, was in attendance; but the Coroner did not deem either his evidence or that of Mr. Thorburn, who knew nothing of the circumstances actually attendant on the explosion, at all material.

Mr. Thompson said that the Mining Company were anxious to show, by every possible evidence, that he pit was in good condition for working.

The Coroner was satisfied of that. There could be no question as to how these men lost their lives, but no one could possibly ascertain the origin of the explosion.

Having inquired whether there were any more witnesses to be examined, and been answered in the negative, the Coroner proceeded briefly to charge the jury. He said that he need not recapitulate to them the evidence which they had just heard, and from which they must be convinced that no blame could be imputed to the overseer on the score of neglect of duty, or against any one acting under him.

An explosion took place and immediately after Mr. Foster came to the spot and did all in his power, by putting out the furnace, and using other means by pouring down water, to promote temporary ventilation of the pit. There was only one observation which he considered it necessary to make; namely that it was essential to distinguish in the verdict to be delivered whether these men were burnt or suffocated; and upon that point they had the clear medical testimony of Mr. Thompson who had given them his opinion as to each particular case.

He apprehended that their verdict must be somewhat as follows —

That John McLaughlin being employed as a hagger in a certain coal pit called Whinney Hill pit within the said parish it so happened that from some cause or other unknown, the inflammable air which was in the pit, ignited and exploded, by reason whereof the said John McLaughlin was suffocated from the choke-damp arising from the said explosion, of which he did die. — or, in case of the three whose deaths were caused by burning "of which burning they did die".

After a few minutes deliberation the jury found verdicts to the effect that Clark, Marsh, and Cummins had been burnt to death, and the fifteen other persons suffocated.


The inquiry before W. Lumb Esq. commenced at the Globe Inn, Hensingham at nine o'clock yesterday (Monday) morning upon the bodies of John Atkinson, James Milby, James Harrison, and John Ward.

The Jurors engaged in this investigation were Messrs —

  • David Farish 
  • James Davidson
  • Nelson Little
  • Joseph Sumpton
  • Joseph Nicholson
  • Richard Taylor
  • William Norman
  • Thomas Usher
  • Joseph Mawson
  • Isaac Robinson
  • James Carnigan
  • William Irwin
  • Peter Lewis
  • John Lancaster
  • Launcelot Sumpton
  • John Sumpton

These individuals having viewed the bodies of the deceased, the Coroner adjourned the inquest until three o'clock the same afternoon, when the proceedings were resumed by an examination of the witnesses previously interrogated by the Coroner at Cleator Moor.

Robert Foster, being sworn, said "I live at Cleator Moor and am the principal overman or steward of the collieries there. My duty there is to examine the pits. I know a coal-pit called the Whinney Hill. I am the overman or steward of this pit. I have been so for three weeks." There are generally 43 or 44 men employed about the pit. Thirty -six of these are employed below.

I was in the Whinney Hill pit at eight o'clock on Friday morning, but I was there examining the works with the overman John Atkinson, now deceased. I have been in the pit twenty times or there abouts. (Witness produced a plan of the pit, which he explained) I consider the pit ventilated as well as any pit could be with a partition. I do not consider the pit requires any more than ordinary care in its ventilation. I have seen one pit worse than that. I know two pits in Lancashire quite as bad as Whinney Hill pit. As far as I know the proprietors of the pit have endeavoured to render it safe. I could have and order what I chose for the purpose.

The Davy lamps were used by every workman in the pit, and I never saw a naked candles used there. It is usual for men to work with their lamp top off, and I have seen them do so. With care this may be done without occasioning an explosion.

About eight o'clock on Friday morning, the whole of the workings I was in, were in good order. I was in all the workings except the five feet workings, and found those I inspected in good order, and I was informed by Atkinson, the deceased, that the five feet workings were generally clear, and there was no necessity for men there to work with their lamp tops on.

I first heard the explosion about half past six on Saturday morning, when in my own house, and it might be seven when I got to the pit top, and descended the pit accompanied by Robert Gambles and William Bland, an overman, but we were only able to get about half-way down the shaft, when the foul air compelled us to return. We came out of the pit and having put out the furnace, succeeded in getting to the bottom at eight o'clock.

When we got to the bottom, the first that we saw was that the stage was gone. We proceeded into the pit, and when we got about thirty yards from the bottom of the shaft, we saw the bodies of several men. I heard someone making a moaning noise, and the men holding up a light, I found it was the little boy John Ward, who was the first sent up; he was alive. He died at about 7 o'clock on Saturday night. I knew that Atkinson, the Milby's, Harrison and Ward, were all killed by the explosion.

I suspect some of the men must have been taking the tops of their lamps off, so that the gas from one of the eyes fired off. There are about six eyes. These eyes are considered safe when properly regulated. The greater number of eyes, the greater ventilation is required. The pits in Lancashire that I have been in, are generally more extensive in workings than this. There is plenty of ventilation to keep this pit safe. I never heard any complaint by the men employed in the pit; I have heard of no complaint of any description whatever calling my attention to the ventilation or foulness of the pit.

Some men have been leaving us lately and some others have been coming. They have given a reason for leaving, namely, that we made them riddle the coals; they are paid 4½ d for round, and 2½d for small coals, and some 5d; that price is regulated according to the distance from the shaft. The prices were fixed before I came. I do not know the prices of other pits near here. I consider those reasonable prices, and that a man can make a fair wages — better than where I come from.

We have some Whitehaven men working here, and most of the men come from Hensingham and that way. I can't say that many came from Cleator Moor. I never heard that the men came to the pit for better wages. I do no know that the wages are not the same as other pits. They are making a shilling a week more than where I left. Dryden complained of the wages; he had 7s a yard for driving Dryden pit; he was a hagger; he had not so much per basket, and that was the complaint.

My opinion is that the explosion must have been caused by some of the workmen there at the time taking off their lamp tops; and I can't account for it any other way. Both lamps and tops were found afterwards; the bottoms by themselves, and the tops by themselves. I saw one gauze lying in the shade.

I do not know the owners of the pit. Mr. Thornburn, the manager of the Hematite Iron Works employed me. These four men and the boy have all been in the pits since I have been there. The father of the boy asked me to employ the boy, but I did not know his precise age. I believe no boy under nine years of age can by law be employed in a mine. I believe the lad was above that age. John Ward was got out immediately, alive, between eight and nine; John Atkinson soon after, perhaps in half an hour; James Harrison about seven o'clock the same evening; the two Milby's came up about the same time as Harrison and Dryden.

The Coroner — We are not now proceeding with the case as regards Dryden.

By the Jury — I think the gas must have ignited in the direction of the five-foot door, and thence got to the pit bottom, and blown the stage up.

I think the gas must have ignited in the direction of the five-foot door, and thence got to the pit bottom, and blown the stage up.

Mr. W. G. Hartley — (a member of the Mining Company) suggested that the witness should be asked some few questions to show that he had been accustomed to the management of coal mines. It was very important that that point should be clearly ascertained.

The Coroner remarked that those questions had been put before Mr. Hartley entered the room, and that the witness had proved himself to be a proper person for his present situation, having risen by his own industry. He had sworn that he was in the pit on Friday morning, and that it was then in a perfectly good state.

Henry Bradley was the next witness called. He raised the same objection to being sworn as in the morning, but evinced a more dogged resistance to the obligation, and in the course of his remarks said that if he were sworn on "that book" (the Testament) he did not consider himself sworn to tell the truth. Subsequently he qualified that statement, but it was not until the Coroner threatened to commit him, that the obstinate fellow consented to be sworn.

Bradley then deposed as follows — I have been a collier for twenty-three years. I know these four men and the boy. I work at the Whinney Hill pit. I have worked for five years under Mr. Barker; and in this pit for the last three or four years in and out.

I was last in the pit on Saturday morning. I went down at half-past four, with John Cummins, who worked with me in the same working. He had commenced working but I had not. The explosion was between six and seven. Cummins had been at work twenty minutes or half an hour, I was looking at him. We had not room to work together he was to work till he was tired; and I was to relieve him.

We were at work 300 yards from the shaft. I was first frightened by the fire by a shock of which I was lifted off my feet. I heard no noise. I had not commenced to work. Cummins had then left me to go and see Mr. Thornburn. Cummins was killed.

There was a quarrel between Daniel Lochery, a master, and Cummins about some coals taken off Cummins and myself. I was not friendly to Lochery. Eleven-penny-worth of coal had been taken from us. It had fallen off the roof. Lochery refused to pay us for it, and we thought it should be paid for. Some rubbish had fallen with the coal. It was our duty to shift on the road-side; we did not do so, because we had not time, and when the shiftsmen moved it, it belonged to the Company. I never knew any such dispute to have occurred there before. I worked fifteen years in the William pit at Whitehaven, and never knew anything stopped for that. I have heard of money being stopped but it has been paid after all. It has been stopped for a time, and yet it was not stopped.

When the explosion lifted me off my feet, I ran to the shaft, and saw plenty of dead men laying about. I got up by the rope and into the basket, which was empty. I shouted as hard as I could; I was taken up immediately. I was weak and stupefied when I got up to the top. I walked home in about two hours. We work with Davy lamps in that pit. I have worked with the tops off. I have fired shots with it.

Q. Would not that be dangerous if there were any foulness about?

A. I do not reckon a little quantity dangerous. We beat out any foulness there may be. I have seen it done, and a little foulness fired off in the Whitehaven pits. When Cummins commenced working his top was not off, neither was mine. We never went in without the work being examined before us, by the master or shiftsman. We have been ordered by the shiftsman to be careful. I would always examine for myself even if the shiftsman had examined it. I examined it on Saturday.

Some of the workings are large, one was seven feet; sometimes we have to lie and stand both; the average height was seven feet. If the lamp was put out we should think it high time to get out ourselves; if our lamp could not live, we could not. I think the pit was fired within 20 or 30 yards of the shaft, by a naked light, but I do no know by whom. There is no candle in the pit. There are no horses in the pit — we have had them.

Q. How do you do without them?

A. We make horses of ourselves; a man is still a horse, if they can't do the work, a man is forced to do it. The pit is sometimes dirtier than other pits. I have worked in other pits and all those at Whitehaven, and this one, are much alike in ventilation and for dirt. The ventilation is sometimes good and sometimes bad; it is often so. I consider the best wind for the pit that which goes right down her.

I had 5½d a bushel for round and 3d for small. We were going to run both. I do not know what the colliers in other pits get. I got in them next to nothing, because I could not work, it was too low. The wages in Mr. Barkers other pits are much alike. I don't say that they do not give higher wages at Whinney Hill pit. I got in the William pit 8d per basket and 11½d, 5½d in this pit would be as good as that. I have not been in the William pit this four years, except four weeks, and that was two years ago, hagging coals at 7d a basket of 13 or 14 cwt. We never get the size of these baskets; they change the baskets at this pit, but do not enlarge the wages; we take rough and smooth together.

I never made a complaint to Mr. Foster of dirt and foulness in this pit. John Atkinson, who is killed, was foreman before Foster; I never made any complaint to him of foulness. I have had occasion to complain. I coufe out when the air is too foul, and so do other men. I have complained to Atkinson, and he would set to work and do what was right, after which we could go back. I have no complaint to make against anybody connected with the pit. I believe no one has a complaint. When I first went down into the pit on Saturday the air was as usual, but as I passed the place where I think the explosion was, it was something adulterated — it was middling.

There certainly was not danger for me when I passed through it. Atkinson, the fireman, had not been in the pit before me.

By Mr. Barker — The upper end of the pit was in good healthy state of ventilation.

By the Jury — When it lifted me off my feet it did not put my lamp out. I lost my lamp where I expect the Explosion took place. I was trampling over dead bodies. I was almost stifled and reeled, I did not know whether the stage was gone or not, for I still had hard footing.

The Coroner — You ought to be very thankful to God for your miraculous escape; and I trust you have not forgotten His mercy in your prayers.

Alex Berry, in addition to the circumstances detailed by him at Cleator Moor, said that, although a stonemason by trade, he had worked at Whinney Hill pit between four and five years with the exception of two days. There was only a day shift at present. The state of the ventilation of the pit was just in a middling way. During the time he worked in the pit she was all sorts of ways; was now working in the shaft. The pit had a worse name before the furnace was put on than since; it was put on to cause a better air, three or four months ago, and a great improvement had followed. If the furnace had not been put, the pit could not have been worked. Had complained to Atkinson. Had frequently burnt candles himself in the shaft close to the steer-head; but never saw anything in the workings of the pit. Had worked with the lamp top off, but not recently. It was a great advantage to workmen to do that, they got a better light and earned more money. There were about thirty-one lives lost by this explosion. This pit had as good a name as others. Had heard it talked about like other pits. Never had any fear to go down and work in it. Never saw anything in the pit before this to frighten him. Had no complaint to make against the pit, or anybody connected with it, master, servant or agent?

Robert Gambles also detailed the principle points of his evidence of the morning and added, it was a customary thing for the men to take off the top of their lamps even before going to work and coming from it; and that he saw them smoking in the pit some parts where he objected to it, because he thought there was a danger from a lighted pipe. Had heard the men cautioned against it. Had several times heard the public report that the pit was dangerous but had as often said she was a safer pit than the Whitehaven pits because more looked after. If the orders of the master had been gone by, there would have been no explosion. The furnace was in good working order on Friday; it was all right on Saturday morning and the air going quite right.

Foster — The furnace was right when I saw it a little past seven: it was burning brightly.

The Coroner — There are reports that the pit was in a dangerous state and unfit for work. For myself I do not believe it; but still I think it is very desirable we should have some satisfactory evidence to condemn or put down such a report.

Foster — said that that before he had entered upon his present engagement, his brother, who was part proprietor of a pit in Lancashire, and a practical viewer of mines, has gone through Whinney Hill pit, and pronounced it safe, and allowed him (Foster) to enter into his engagement. His brother was 17 years older than himself, and resided at Standlish near Wigan.

The Coroner had heard that, a few weeks ago, the pit was examined by a gentleman and pronounced to be unsafe. Now the most effectual way to silence such a report would be to send into Lancashire for Mr. Foster, and to adjourn the inquest for that purpose. His evidence would settle the thing beyond all doubt.

Mr. Barker said that if such a report were abroad, the proprietors would be glad to fall in with anything the Coroner might suggest.

The Coroner said that the proprietors had nothing to do with it; if it was necessary he should send his warrant for Mr. Foster, and he must come at the expense of the county.

Mr. Barker said that when the further workings were well ventilated it was fair to infer that the colliery generally was in as good a condition as human foresight was capable of ensuring. The simple fact of Bradley making his way from the extreme point where he was at work, was a proof of the general condition of the pit.

The Coroner, having solicited the jury upon the propriety of enforcing the attendance of Fosters brother, and adjourning the inquest for that purpose — the jury did not consider it necessary that such a course should be adopted.

Mr. John Thompson, surgeon, sworn: I have examined the bodies of the deceased. John Ward, the boy, brought out alive, died from the effects of the severe burns, chiefly about the face and mouth. James Milby died from effects of choke damp; J. Milby had his right thigh broken and his face bruised, and he was killed by falling down the shaft on to the scaffolding. Harrison and Atkinson were killed by choke damp. That is my opinion, as a medical man, given to the best of my judgement. I was assisted in my examination by Mr. Fiddler.

The Coroner said that the inquest had up to this point gone on very satisfactory, but it was his duty to put a stop to all such reports as the one he had alluded to, and elicit the truth in every possible manner. It was his duty to the public — in this case it would be but fair to the proprietors of the pit and the sad memory to himself. Without adjourning the inquiry, he would suggest that that Mr. Peile be sent for, as he (the Coroner) has been informed that it was that gentleman who had inspected the pit, and pronounced an opinion as to its unfitness for work.

The jury readily adopted the suggestion, and after an interval of time, Mr. John Peile arrived from Whitehaven, and being sworn, said — I have been connected with collieries all my life. I never was in Whinney Hill pit. I never pronounced such an opinion as that the pit was dangerous: I never was in it, and therefore, could not say what state it was in. I know an accident took place there two years ago, but I believe nobody was killed.

The Coroner, in charging the jury, recapitulated the evidence of the witnesses, and said that the questions he had put to them in reference to the state of wages paid at the pit, had been drawn from him, in consequence of a report that the proprietors were offering a larger amount of remuneration than others in order to induce men to work in a pit that was unsafe; but the evidence went to prove the very reverse. Unfortunately nearly all the persons who could have offered evidence on that point had been killed; but there was an important fact established, namely that before the present overseer entered upon his duty, the pit had been examined by an experienced practical man, who was not likely to allow his own brother to be placed in a position of danger.

It was, perhaps, desirable that the painful subject of this explosion should be examined by two, three or four juries, as it could not but be highly satisfactory to all parties, if the juries agreed in the spirit of their verdict.

Tomorrow an inquest would be held at Whitehaven upon a person named Dryden, and, in all probability, other inquests would take place to investigate the same circumstances in reference to the several bodies not yet found.

The inquests held that morning were upon individuals belonging to Mr. Braggs' district; they had nothing to do with himself. Mr. Bragg was not only justified, but it was his express duty to have instituted the investigations in which he had been engaged; but the law expressly required that if any bodies went into another district, before an inquest was held, the Coroner, in whose jurisdiction those bodies might be, must hold the inquest. He (Mr. Lumb) should be happy to be spared the trouble of holding another court like the present, and hoped that, in reference to this sad accident, Mr. Bragg might be called upon to discharge that duty; but the law did not prevent the friends of the deceased parties from claiming the bodies, and taking them to their own houses, regardless of any question as to jurisdiction.

At half-past eight in the evening, the jury delivered the unanimous verdict of "Accidental Death" in each case, in the manner described by the medical witness.

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[/fa-history/ CLEATOR MOOR HISTORY]_$type=three$m=0$l=0$c=6$cm=0$hide=home$source=random

[/fa-address-card/ POSTCARD STORIES]_$type=three$m=0$l=0$c=6$cm=0$hide=home$source=random

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Book,1,Cleator Moor History,54,Cleator Moor News,14,News,3,Photography,30,Photos For Sale,11,Photos Of Cleator Moor,16,Photos Of West Cumbria,14,Postcard Stories,16,Walking Routes,3,
Cleator Moor (Little Ireland): Whinney Hill Colliery Explosion, 1848
Whinney Hill Colliery Explosion, 1848
Cleator Moor (Little Ireland)
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