People – Lives and Loss


Accidents, fatal and less serious were an all-too-common part of the experience of working people in coal mining.

Below we list details of accidents and events affecting the lives of people, including miners, at Hemingfield Colliery throughout its working life.

This page will be added to as further information emerges.

Fatal accidents at Hemingfield

1847 – Perhaps the earliest recorded death associated with Hemingfield Colliery was the unfortunate case of John Hunt, an Irishman lodging in Wakefield. On Thursday 7th January 1847, after 5pm, the men engaged in sinking the winding shaft of the pit, including William Cawthorne and Joseph Hoyland had left the pit and gone to their cabin where there was a large firepan burning. It seems the light of the fire had drawn Hunt to the place, but unfortunately he had not seen the shaft, despite it being fenced on three sides. Tragically he fell down the shaft some 120 yards and was killed.

1853 – Thursday 6th January 1853, Allan Cocking, aged 10, grandson of the underground steward, James Uttley. Killed falling into machinery in the engine house.

1853 – Wednesday 15th June 1853, at 6.30 in the morning, 28 year old Luke Hill was killed by a fall of roof whilst he was employed in removing stone.

 Year Date Name Event
1859 15th December Joseph Firth Fall of roof in the mine
1860 10th May George Cardwell Crushed by corves in the mine
1860 5th July (died 7th July) George Bagnall Horse driver, run over by corves in the mine
1862 7th November Abraham Taylor 14, Run over by corves in the mine
1863 4th February Luke Evans 17, Fall of coal in the mine
1863 20th November George Cawthorne Fall of coal in the mine
1867 26th April Thomas Clarke Collier, fall of coal
1867 31st August Joseph Hoyland Fire trier, 56, fall of stone. Connected with the pit since its beginnings as a sinker.
1870 15th August Joseph Hobson collier, fall of coal
1871 27th June Thomas Rodgers 51, fall of coal
1873 13th June Joseph Ely Packer, fall of roof
1882 20th January James Taylor Carpenter, 30, crushed by corves on surface
1884 Oct William Kidger 14, underlad to William Drury
1886 7th May J. Swift Collier, 52, Fall of Roof
1895 16th May J. Jessop 67, byeworker, fall of side
1903 29th January Oscar Hirst underground haulage man, accidental death
1912 17th February (died 22nd February) Charles Senior 22, trammer, fall of roof
1918 June Arthur Utley


Earl Fitzwilliam’s Elsecar Collieries
Fatal Accidents 1868-1895
Year No. Deaths
1868 2
1869 1
1870 1
1871 2
1872 3
1873 2
1876 2
1877 2
1878 3
1879 1
1880 3
1881 3
1882 2
1884 5
1885 1
1886 2
1895 1

Other accidents


Three persons buried alive in a burning coal mine near
Barnsley. Much as the people of Barnsley have been
accustomed to colliery explosions and accidents, one
occurred on Tuesday Morning, in a colliery at
Hemingfield, the property of Earl Fitzwilliam, which
excels any other in that or any other neighbourhood, for
the extraordinary singularity of the occurrence, and
which we believe is without parallel in the history of
coal mining. On the above morning, soon after the men
have begun work, one of them fired a shot, to dislodge a
quantity of coal, by which the coal became ignited. The
men endeavoured to extinguish the fire by using their
caps and smocks; but the more they tried, the stronger
became the ignition, in consequence of the air which they
wafted upon the burning mass being impregnated with gas,
which added fuel to the fire. In the end, it became such
a burning mass, that they gave up the task, and got out
of the pit as soon as possible. When they got to the top,
the fire was so strong that it roared like a furnace, and
they saw no chance of extinguishing it but by smothering
it out by closing the mouth of the shaft, which they
immediately set about doing, by making a stage a few
yards down the pit, and covering it with sods and other
material, to prevent any air getting down the shaft.
While doing so, the signal bell rang, which was thought
to be caused by the material they were throwing down
catching the bell wire. In a short time it rang again.
The men began to look about them, to see if any one was
missing and then it was discovered that one of their
fellow workmen was missing, named Thomas Swift. Some
thought they had seen him amongst the others on the pit
hill. However, as there were doubts as to the fact, and
for the satisfaction of all, a messenger was sent to his
house, to see if he had gone home; but during the absence
of the messenger the bell was again rung more loudly than
before, which caused the engineman to prevail upon the
others to get out what material they had put upon the
stage, and send down a corve, which was accordingly done
and drawn up again, and it not only contained Swift, but
also two boys, all alive and unhurt, although they state
that the two horses and an ass lay dead in the pit. It
appears that Swift and his two boys (for we have been
informed that they are his sons) stopped some time with
the others who were trying to extinguish the fire, and
thinking it would be easily put out, went forward into
another part of the pit and commenced work, which they
continued at until the alteration in in the air caused
them to stop, and they found the pit on fire, and all the
other men out. They then found their way to the bottom of
the shaft, and ultimately reached the top unhurt,
although they had been immured above an hour after the
pit had been covered in.

Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 6th September 1851, p.5

4 thoughts on “People – Lives and Loss

  1. In the records of my ancestor, Thomas Frost, he is said to have died in Pilley Colliery in 1862 (he was 34 and it was Christmas Eve!). I was assuming this is Wharncliffe Silkstone, but he is not mentioned above. At present I know no more than that – but should there be any more information or guidance I would be interested to hear. Thank you.


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