A report of an untimely death
and the enquiry there into.
The following accounts were researched and extracted from The Staffordshire Sentinel (with due acknowledgement to them) by Joan Bell.
I have provided footnotes to clarify one or two items (M.G.).
The Staffordshire Sentinel,
Wednesday, September 27, 1882
THE HANLEY COLLIERY ACCIDENT
Mr. J. West Jones, borough coroner, swore in a jury, at the Town Hall, Hanley, on Tuesday afternoon, to inquire into the cause of death of James Goldstraw, a miner, 53 years of age, formerly residing in Mayo street, Stoke. On Monday morning, the deceased was employed at the Spendcroft Gutter Pit of the Rowhurst Colliery, Slippery-lane. With another man named Owen he was being brought to the surface, when, from some cause as yet unexplained, the wagon in which both were shot up above the mouth of the shaft. No doubt, dreadful of what might follow, the deceased jumped from the wagon. Instead of clearing the shaft, however, the poor fellow caught the side, and fell down the pit, a distance of 180 yards.
Owen remained in the wagon longer, and saved his life in an extraordinary manner. He seems to have been knocked out of the wagon at a higher altitude than that at which Goldstraw jumped out, and by some means saved his life by catching hold of a wire conducting rope about twenty yards down the pit, being brought to the surface by a rope. Mr. Thomas Wynne, Government inspector, was present throughout the inquiry, as was also Mr. J. Lucas, the manager of the colliery. Chief Constable Windle watched the proceedings. The following evidence was then called:
Henry Parker, assistant manager in the employ of Earl Granville, deposed that ten o'clock on Monday morning he was sent for to Spendcroft Pit, an accident having taken place there. He at once went to the pit, and found a man named Owen in a cabin on the pit bank. Owen could hardly speak. On the pit bank the men were making preparations to descend the pit after a man who they said had fallen down. Witness, accompanied by two other men, descended the pit. At the bottom it was found that one of the conductors had been disarranged, and was standing on one side of the pit. Near to, the man Goldstraw was found lying on his back. Portions of the wagon were lying about, some on top of the deceased. Deceased was terribly mutilated about the lower part of his body, his left arm having been cut off. His remains were brought to the surface in a bag. The machinery at the surface was disarranged.
- By Mr. Wynne: Witness had been to the works that morning and saw a man named Pendleton at the engine. He was not a regular engineer, but had been doing odd days' work at different pits. Witness did not look to see if there were anything the matter with the engine that morning. Pendleton had been engaged managing the engine for about three weeks.
- By a juryman: It was the accident on top of the pit which caused the disarrangement of the conductor below.
George Owen, both of whose hands were bandaged, said he was a miner living at Sneyd Green. On Monday morning, he was employed at the Spendcroft Pit, working under the deceased. Close upon 10 o'clock they gave the signal to be drawn up. They got on to the wagon together, and as they approached the top the deceased remarked, "He is going too high for us now." Thereupon both of them shouted out to the banksman to signal the engine man to stop. Witness felt himself going to the pulley, and then he remembered no more until he found himself clinging to the conducting wire rods. He caught hold of the rods about twenty or thirty yards down the pit. [He] did not know what happened to the deceased, but they were together on the wagon emerging from the mouth of the pit.
- By Mr. Wynne: Saw the banksman pull the signal as he (witness) passed towards the wheel.
- By the foreman (Mr. J. Babbington): They were going at a speed faster then usual.
- By Mr. Wynne: As a rule the winding was slow.
- By the Coroner: It was usual to slacken the speed as they approached the top, but on this occasion they had not slackened their speed, and witness was of the opinion that that was the reason for the remarks of the deceased. Witness was shaken very badly; his hands were cut and one wrist sprained.
Isaac Macdonald, banksman, employed at the Spendcroft Pit, deposed that on the previous morning, at about 6 o'clock, he saw the last witness descend the pit with the deceased. Remembered the wagon coming up about 10 o'clock. Heard both Owen and the deceased shout out "knock." Witness accordingly at once knocked to the engine man, who should have immediately stopped the engine. The engine was not stopped, however. As far as he could judge, only a second elapsed after he heard the call when the wagon appeared at the mouth.
- By Mr. Wynne: When the men called out, witness was near the signal; he signalled before the men were at the top of the pit. The deceased jumped out of the wagon when it was three or four feet above the level, and caught the plates at the side of the shaft and fell down. Could not see how Owen fell.
Henry Pointon, engine man, living at 33 Granville street, stated that he let the deceased and Owen down the Spendcroft Pit on the previous morning, afterwards leaving the engine in charge of Pendleton. At 10 o'clock he was again fetched to the pit. When he left in the morning, the machinery was all right; on returning, he found the indicator in the same condition it was when he left it.
- By Mr. Wynne: When he left in the morning, there was nothing to prevent the engine man knowing when the wagon was at the top. Never had any difficulty in stopping the engine at its proper place. Could not in any way account for the accident.
At this stage, Thomas Pendleton, the man who was in charge of the engine at the time of the disaster, was asked whether he desired to make any statement. Having been cautioned, he said he went on duty at seven o'clock on Monday morning, when Pointon left. He worked until snapping time, and after stopping a short time the banksman knocked for him to go on again. He found the indicator a little altered by the wet weather. While he was drawing the deceased and Owen to the surface, the banksman did not knock: he never knocked until the accident had taken place. He (Pendleton) was watching the indicator all the time.
Mr. Wynne said he had examined the machinery at Spendcroft Pit, and could not find that there was any defect in the engine, brake, or indicator. The (indicator) clearly showed where the engine ought to have been stopped, and to have cleared it, it must have gone at least three more strokes more then it should have done. It would take three strokes to reach the pulley after the mouth of the pit was reached, and the engine might have been stopped at half a stroke. Whatever the weather might be, it could not alter the indicator sufficiently to account for this accident. If it had been wet, the indicator would be lower down, but not to such an extent as to cause danger.
- In answer to questions, Mr. Wynne said his district was particularly free of accidents by over winding. With reference to the hooks, which were patented to prevent over winding, he said there had been accidents where hooks had not been kept in proper repair. So long, however, as these hooks were kept in repair, they were a perfect safeguard against over winding.
Mr. J. Lucas deposed that no safety hook, or anything of its kind, could have prevented this man being killed. The whole of the gearing stopped at the top of the pit, and, with the exception of the wagon, nothing fell down. As regarded the safety hooks, he has used them for many years, and he assured the jury that, unless great attention was paid to them, they were liable to get out of order. He would sooner have a good engine man and a good rope than any safety catch in existence.
- The Coroner: You think they demoralise the engine man?
- Mr. Lucas: Yes, I have bad instances of it.
James Schofield, engineer, stated that the rope broke close to the drum of the engine. If the deceased had not jumped out of the wagon, he would have been saved in all probability.
The Coroner having summed up, the jury retired, and after a short absence brought in a verdict of "Manslaughter" against Pendleton, who was thereupon taken into custody.
The Staffordshire Sentinel
Wednesday, October 4, 1882
THE HANLEY MANSLAUGHTER CASE
At the Hanley Borough Police Court, this morning, Messrs. G. P. Bradford and H. Palmer being on the Bench, the case was resumed in which Samuel Pendleton, engine man, was charged with causing the death of James Goldstraw, at the Spendcroft Pit, belonging to Lord Granville , on the 25th ult. Mr. Sword again appeared to prosecute; and Mr. Richardson (instructed by Mr. B. S. Abberley) defended prisoner. - In the outset, Mr. Richardson complained of the action of the police in refusing the sureties who undertook to be responsible under the Coroner's warrant, and asked the magistrates if they were willing to accept the sureties.
- The Chief Constable explained that he did not know the parties who were willing to become sureties, and he had simply detained prisoner in order to make inquiries, and now expressed himself satisfied. The examination of witnesses was then proceeded with.
Isaac Macdonald, Trafalgar street, said he was a banksman employed at the Spendcroft Pit. This was the first occasion he had ever held the position of banksman, but he was familiar with his duties, which he explained at considerable length.
- Cross examined by Mr. Sword, he said that if a person wished to come up the pit, he would signal the engine man and banksman to that effect. It was his duty, when persons were being would up the pit, to hold the wire so as to signal the engine man when it was necessary to stop the cage; but if he neglected to signal, he thought the engine man ought to know when to stop, without it.
- To Mr. Palmer: It was not customary for him to signal the engine man; he ought to know when the cage was at the top. The engine man usually drew the cage level with the top of the shaft, and the men stepped out without the pit mouth being closed. He closed the pit shaft when coal and dirt were being brought to the surface, so as to take away the wagon, but not when men were being drawn.
- To Mr. Sword: The doors were not for safety, but for the simple purpose of running the wagon off. He had no instructions what to do in case the men were being drawn up too rapidly. If he saw the possibility of an accident he should signal the engine man, but he had no specific orders to do so. On the occasion of the accident, he received a signal to the effect that someone wished to ascend the shaft. He was standing near the pit mouth, and he knew that men were being drawn up. The cage was drawn up as usual, but, when near the top, the men, alarmed at the speed of the cage, shouted to him. As soon as he heard them he knocked "one" to the engine driver which signified that the engine should be stopped. So far as he knew, the wagon was about four or five yards below the mouth of the pit when he knocked.
The engine did not stop or slacken speed. When the cage got about two feet higher than the mouth of the pit he saw Goldstraw jump out of the wagon and drop on the door, which was not closed. This prevented him shutting the door, as the cage was not high enough for him to close it before Goldstraw jumped out. After Goldstraw jumped, if he had closed the door it would have thrown him down. Owen was in the wagon when Goldstraw jumped out. It did not seem more then a second after Goldstraw jumped out before the wagon fell down. Goldstraw fell down first, and the wagon followed him. He did not see the wagon fall as he was looking at Goldstraw, but he heard it fall.
No attempt was made to slacken speed at any time before the accident occurred. After the accident, the engine man came out of the engine house, and witness went to look at the broken rope. Witness asked prisoner what was the matter, but he could not answer him. Pendleton never at any time made a statement to him as to how the accident occurred.
- Cross examined by Mr. Richardson witness said that if Goldstraw had jumped the right way he would not have fallen against the door. He saw him slide off the door down the pit.
James Schofield said he was the head engineer at the Shelton Colliery. He had charge of the whole of the machinery at this shaft, and on the morning of the accident he saw that the machinery was working all right. Prisoner was the engine man then on duty. Witness saw the indicator; it was in proper working order. He went to the shaft again after the accident. He found three teeth of the cog-wheel on the drum broken, and also a cotter pin. Only the tub had fallen down the pit, as the rope was broken near the drum. In witness' opinion, no attempt whatever had been made to stop the engine; the brake had not been put on. Witness, on seeing Pendleton, asked him how he had done it, and Pendleton answered that he did not know. The indicator showed that the cage had been drawn too high. The engine must have run after the rope had broken.
- In answer to a question he said the engine could be stopped instantly in more ways than one.
- By Mr. Richardson: The engine could not not be stopped so quickly in lowering a heavy load as when rising one. If a carrier got askew, the more pressure there was put upon it, the less it would give way. A person jumping out of the wagon on the wrong side might throw it against the bridge-tree, and break the ears off the tub, thus letting it fall down the shaft. The fact of two men jumping out of the wagon would prevent the engine being stopped so soon as if the men had remained in it; but even then the engine could stop within a yard.
Mr. Richardson said he had no need to address the magistrates. He did not desire his worships to dismiss the case, preferring that it should be dealt with at the Assizes on the depositions now taken rather than those taken by the Coroner.
The prisoner was then formally committed to take his trial at the next Assizes, bail being allowed.