The whole business of coal mining in Wednesbury was filled with every kind of danger.
“A million years of stored sunlight” was how someone once described the black stuff.”
There were the leaks of poisonous gas, fire hazards and underground streams.
Death by all four elements was perfectly possible.
Fire – Earth – Air – Water.
At St Bartholomew’s, the earliest fatality recorded is in April 1577 when Christopher Delye was buried.
The vicar noted: “He was slaine in the Bullryddige in the coal pitt.”
When vicars chose to record the cause of death – the “coal pitt” claimed a lot of victims.
Two miners died within days of each other in February 1690, while seven more died in accidents in 1753 alone.
When Daniel Haynes died in a coal mine in June 1719, the vicar added in the burial register that it was “seven days before he was dug out
In March 1753, Paul Skidmore died in a mine, just two months after his father had met the same fate.
By the 17th Century, being a Coal miner had become a profession were a boy would follow his dad into the trade.
In May 1685, the Wednesbury vicar buried John and Thomas Slater, who were the sons of Thomas Slater, a collier.
In 1758, the vicar recorded that George Crowder was going down to work when the rope broke.
In 1706 a collier was killed by drowning, after he discovered an ‘old well’.
And in June 1731 Edward Danks was scorched and roasted to death by the wild fire.
But it was not only the miners that were in danger from the pitts.
With so many abandoned pits around, it was a dangerous place to walk, especially at night.
I can imagine that the locals knew where the traps were, but strangers wandering into Wednesbury did so at their own risk.
In February 1745, for example, George Perry, a W’Hall man was found dead in a Cole pitt in Wednesbury field.
In 1752, a Birmingham man: Thomas Harpur, also fell into a coal pitt at Wednesbury, where he lay almost a week before he was found.
Of course a lot of abandoned pits were covered over, (crowned) but that did not remove the dangers.
In 1753, John Eaton was looking over a rail into an old covered pit, about six yards below.
The rail gave way and he was killed by the fall.
Because of the dangers, the miners were a suspicious lot and any sign which foretold trouble was taken very seriously.
A list of omens once hung above the chimney breast in the Cock fighter’s pub Wednesbury.
“If you meet a woman at the rising of the sun, turn again from ye pit. It is a sure sign of death.”
“When foule smell be about, a sure sign that ye imps be aneare.” … The smell of gas was something to avoid.
So, it seems Wednesbury was not a place to be if you didn’t know the area and for those living among the pitts?
Well, ……. just living was a dangerous thing.
The ‘black lung’ caused from just from breathing the air around you, well this became a reality years later….
But “that” is another story.
Following on from the post about the dangers of Wednesbury:
1749 – John Stokes, walking home from work in the dark fell into a coal pit and broke his neck.
1750 – Another Wednesbury bloke also fell into a coal pit breaking his neck also
1753 – Daniel Skidmore, was killed when the sides of a mine he and his son where working in collapsed, his son escaped. But only 2 months later, the son Paul Skidmore, who escaped before, came a cropper in the same mine.
1753 – Later in the year, a man they called “just William”, as no one knew his surname, died after having his head crushed by falling coal.
1756 – Two more accidents, one right after the other. Firstly a man was killed when the roof of his mine collapsed. Then a few days later, ‘Curiosity’ (The same one that killed the cat) killed poor Jane Rowley. She fell down that same collapsed pit, after going to take a nose.
1756 Later in the year another woman died. The subterranean fires caused a lot of damage, not least causing holes to open up suddenly, as it did for another Jane.
While walking back home, the ground suddenly gave way beneath her and she fell into the hole and was suffocated by the fumes.
I’m sure there will be more….