Creswell - Neil's Local History & Mining Site

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Creswell Colliery SK 47/57 52297360

The colliery was the second of the Bolsover Company Collieries and shafts of 445.5 yards deep and eighteen feet in diameter were sunk to Top Hards between 1894-6 with production commencing in 1897 from that seam by the Bolsover Colliery Company and a 'Model Village' was constructed in the shape of an elongated octagon for the colliers, officials and their families in line with other collieries of the company, the village was started at the time the colliery was sunk and completed by the early 1900's. The colliery was later modernised in line with all other collieries after Nationalisation. In line with the company brief the pit or Model Village gave the miner cheap accommodation for the family and had all the modern amenities including a sports ground with the pit itself having baths and a canteen.

Production from the Top Hard or Barnsley Bed of fine quality steam, household and engineering coal from 1897 and continued until exhaustion in 1942 when the colliery turned to the High Hazels seam for its bread and butter which it had been developing and working since 1933 until it too was exhausted in 1969. The Clowne Seam was developed and worked between 1958 and 1968 with the Threequarter Seam and Deep Soft Seams.

The shaft was 444.5 yards to Top Hards and in 1939 the No.2 shaft or upcast was deepened to 736 yards to explore the Low Main seam. A cross measure drift was engineered at a gradient of 1in3 between the Top Hard and Low Main seams to enable the seams development. The seam lay at a 1 in 30 gradient and was about 4foot 6 inches thick. 1144 men were employed underground 355 on surface in 1950. The shafts also passed through the High Hazel seam which lay at 329 yards from the surface.

The colliery was later deepened 1935-40 to access further coal reserves. In the early years of 1900 the colliery was able to produce an average of between 3,000 and 3,200 tons of coal per day and at this time the colliery held a world record for winding 3,800 tons in a single day.

Lighting was introduced into the colliery by 1907 powered by a battery and charged by a dynamo, unfortunately these lights were not too bright but at least this was an improvement to the working environment.

An accident occurred at the colliery in 1938 on 2nd June when a tub train accident resulted in three deaths and a number of injured men.

Later in 1950 on 26th September a fire broke out in the colliery on the South West District resulting in the loss of eighty lives. (Derbyshire's worst pit fire). As a result of the fire all rubber belts were withdrawn from all mines throughout the world. Later during the 1960's the 'Self Rescuer' device was implemented. This device worn about the miner’s belt could be easily removed and used as a breathing mask in a fire; it converted the deadly carbon monoxide into harmless carbon dioxide. The majority of miners killed in fires were not burnt but were simply overcome by the deadly carbon monoxide fumes in the air; they then collapsed and died of asphyxiation.



Christian Names Surname Age Occupation

1. Leonard Bower 38 Shot Firer
2. Harry Godfrey 5 1 Overman
3. Horace Attenborough 45 Packer
4. Willlam Henry Bird 39 Ripper
5. John Henry Bowden 29 Meco Moore Operator
6. Ernest Briggs 33 Packer
7. John William Brocklehurst 44 Packer
8. Robert Brough 36 Cutterman
9. Alfred Edgar Bryan 56 Packer
10. Herbert Stanley Buckle 48 Gummer
11. Sam Cocking 42 Cutterman
12. Ernest Deakin 60 Gummer
13. Ernest Dodd 37 Ripper
14. John Dodd 45 Packer
15. Fred Doncaster 27 Conveyor Erector
16. John William Doxey 45 Packer
17. George Ellis 51 Packer
18. Charles Foulkes 49 Cutterman
19. George William Gillert 38 Ripper
20. Kenneth Amos Goucher 42 Conveyor Erector
21. Peter William Green 53 Packer
22. Colin Hemingray 25 Conveyor Erector
23. Gecil Hendley 34 Cutterman
24. Reginald C. Holmes 44 Cutterman
25. Arnold Hutton 48 Packer
26. John Thomas Jackson 58 Gummer
27. Robert James 52 Packer
28. Ernest Johnson 36 Packer
29. Edward Johnson 46 Packer
30. Reginald Kirk 39 Ripper
31. William Mellish 55 Steel Supervisor
32. Edward Millward 44 Packer
33. Ernest Leslie Needham 44 Stone Contractor
34. William Henry Orvice 49 Conveyor Erector
35. Kenneth F. Robinson 25 Packer
36. George Sydney Rogers 44 Ripper
37. Victor Rose 52 Cutterman
38. Leslie Rutherford 25 Culterman
39. Thomas Joseph Senior 42 Packer
40. James Shaw 56 Ripper
41. Herbert Shipley 38 Cutterman
42. Thomas Smith 51 Packer
43. Thomas Traylor 43 Cuttennan
44. Robert William Thomas Walker 38 Packer
45. Colin Clifford Ward 30 Packer
46. Frederick Whitlam 52 Packer
47. George Yearham 57 Face Timberman

In each case the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.


48. Leslie Marshall 42 Deputy
49. Reginald Teasdale 46 Supports Economy Officer
50. William Adams 51 Packer
51. Frederick Barker 41 Ripper
52. Lee John Buxton 59 Steel Supervisor
53. Allen Davis 63 Stone Contractor
54. Leslie Dodd 47 Ripper
55. Thomas Henry Evans 50 Packer
56. Gordon Fox 62 Ripper
57. Leslie Hancock 28 Packer
58. James Arthur Harrison 60 Cutterman
59. Thomas Hart 39 Datal
60. John William Humphreys 50 Ripper
61. Albert Lewis 46 Packer
62. Edward Limb 55 Datal
63. John Henry London 48 Ripper
64. William James London 51 Packer
65. Albert Cecil Mallender 47 Ripper
66. William Mellish 36 Datal
67. Eric Parkin 36 Cutterman
68. Robert Idris Price 34 Packer
69. Arnold Loftin Robinson 29 Packer
70. James Lewis Sadler 41 Ripper
71. Thomas Arthur Severn 46 Datal
72. William Ernest Stonach 36 Ripper
73. Joseph Taylor 42 Face Timberman
74. George Wass 37 Packer

In each case the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.


75. Thomas William Hunt 51 Deputy
76. Harry Clarke 46 Ripper
77. George Charles Cope 59 Datal
78. McDara Connolly 28 Ripper
79. John Edward Oliver 53 Ripper
80. Carey Gersham Thorpe 46 Gummer

In each case the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.

All parties agree that the fire started at the No. 2 Transfer point about 3.45am on 26th September 1950 when 232 men were underground of whom 133 were employed in the South-West District beyond the site of the fire. Two men left the district before the fire leaving 131 men inbye of the fire. 51 men escaped the fire by travelling along the return airway, the eighty who lost their lives all died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The conveyor had been seen to be damaged by scouring along its length but the cause was not found until after the incident.

The fire was initially fought with portable extinguishers, sand bags, stone-dust and the water main hoses; however the fire hydrant system was in the process of being updated to larger diameter pipes and was fed by tanks which were in turn fed by a pump. The pump was not working that shift as it was broken down mechanically and resulted in a lack of water pressure to the fire fighting hoses, it was said at the Inquiry ‘that it was just like standing in a garden watering flowers’. Repeated telephone messages failed to improve matters. It was not until after 5.10am upon the arrival of the Colliery Engineer that matters improved.

It was found that the atmosphere in the mine was so deadly and there may have been a build up of methane which may have led to an explosion and that it seemed impossible that anyone inbye of the fire would be alive. It was decided to suspend any further rescue attempts and seal off the roadways to help extinguish the fire by starving it of oxygen. The two stoppings were constructed by men wearing self contained breathing apparatus in shifts from sand bags and were some 1000 yards from the pit bottom, one on the intake 8 yards long and the return airway stopping, which was both difficult and dangerous 7 yards long. At one time the rate of man-handling sandbags was 800 an hour. The stoppings were then strengthened by being bricked up at the outbye end some 3 feet thick, a ten inch diameter pipe was built into the construction of the stoppings to allow for sampling of the air which was done at regular intervals and sent to the laboratory at Bolsover initially and then a makeshift laboratory was found on the colliery site.

It was decided at a meeting on December 18th 1950 that as the burning had ceased a plan was to be drawn up to reopen the area during Easter 1951 (22/3/51). A plan was prepared and laid out at a meeting of all departments on 23rd February 1951.

Rescue teams opened up the stoppings and found that the fire had travelled 610 yards, full ventilation was restored to the complete colliery by August 10th 1951and the remaining bodies were recovered.

The conveyor was inspected and it was clear that the fire had been ‘started at the top of the chute plate by frictional heating between the wedged torn belting and either the No.2 delivery roller or the No.2 belt, as it passed around the roller’. The resulting fire burned a large amount of torn belting which was lodged in the conveyor delivery chute. The gear head of the No.2 conveyor was removed from underground and re-constructed on the surface and tests carried out to find out what caused the tearing and shredding of the belting. It was concluded after testing that a reasonable explanation of the damage to the conveyor belting would be that a piece of ironstone had wedged in the top of the No.2 chute and moved the belt over and wore and tore at the conveyor and rollers. The cotton material of the belting being the fuel for the fire followed later by the rubber from the construction of the belt.

There had been some criticism of the way in which messages by telephone were sent, it seems that there was little warning to the men underground of the impending danger nor to instruct them to evacuate the mine and as a result the future siting of telephone exchanges should be on the fresh air side or intake and not the return or upcast side of the mine to avoid foul air and fumes in cases of emergency as at Creswell. In some mines the exchange should be sited on the surface and a log should be kept of any emergency and an emergency procedure should be practiced.

In conclusion the report made several general recommendations which covered all the inadequacies of the systems in place at all collieries:

A. Qualitative and Statistical Analysis of incidents involving fire. Where the Hazards Lie.
B. Origin and Spread of Fire. Sources of Ignition. Detection of Heating and Study of. Temperatures of Ignition of Coal Types. Travel of Fires. Fire Hazards Involved with Diesel Locomotives.
C. Underground Communications. Warning Systems. Emergency Warning Systems. Siting of Telephones and Exchanges. Patrolling of Conveyor Systems. New Systems of Communication.
D. Automatic Devices. Warning Devices and Sprinkler Systems. Fire, Heat, Smoke, Gas, Activated. Switch Off Power. Sequence Control of Conveyors. Dust Removers.
E. Fire Fighting. Fire Drills. Use of Current Equipment. Development of New Equipment. Standardisation of Equipment. Testing and Maintenance of Equipment. Extinguishing Agents.
F. Rescue. Apparatus. Self Rescuers for all Men. Drills.
G. Fire Proofing. Conveyor Belting. Timber. Lubricants. Brattice Cloth. Cables. Paints. Standard Tests for Fire-proofness. Noxious Gases Produced in Fireproofing.
H. Preventative Measures on Equipment. Use of Hoods. Self Lubricating Rollers. Rubber Lined Driving Pulleys. Belt Joining and Stitching. Belt Maintenance. Conveyor Chutes. Auxiliary Driving Belts. Use of Open Type Conveyor Structures. Width and speed of Belts. Means of Preventing Overloading Belts.
I. Colliery Layout. Roadway design and linking. Location of Conveyors. Installing of Conveyors. Use of Alternative Haulage Methods. Water Supply, Quantity, Quality and Pressure.

The colliery at the time of the Disaster.
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