Home Industry and Commerce Industrial Deaths Barnburgh Pit Blast – Men from Thurnscoe Injured

Barnburgh Pit Blast – Men from Thurnscoe Injured

June 1957

South Yorkshire Times June 29, 1947

“Back Flash” in 180 yards face at Barnburgh Main
20 men injured in Pit Blast
19 in hospital, some severely burnt, others able to walk
If It Had Been Coal Getting Shift
It Could Have Been Much Worse, Said NCB Official

20 miners working in the Newhill seam at Barnburgh Main Colliery on Wednesday afternoon were burned, some of them severely, following an explosion after shot firing.

The 20 men, mainly rippers, waste drawers and conveyor belt turners, were speedily rescued by the pit rescue squad and other miners who answered an SOS for help.

Fortunately they were not hampered by serious roof falls and 19 of the injured were in hospital at either Mexborough, Rotherham or Doncaster within about three houses of the explosion.

The Other Man

The 20th man, John Thomas Auty (61), Wath Road, Mexborough, was treated at Montagu Hospital and allowed to go home.

All the other men were detained.

Mr Donald Blyth, Press Relations Office of the Coal Board, told the “South Yorkshire Times” at the pit that the explosion occurred in the North West 1 district of the Newhill seam at the main gate.

“An ignition had occurred after shot firing about 70 yards from the coalface,” he said, “Air going in through the main gate blew the whole thing forward ‘like a back flash’and the ignition must have met a pocket of gas which exploded.”

Working were miners operating the conveyor belt and miner C doing packing and drawing. Mr Blyth said there must have been just over 20 men on each side of the hundred and 80 yards long face. Of these 20 were injured and taken to hospital.

One of our staff learn that some 300 men were working the shift. It was not a coal working shift, but if it had been twice the number of men would have been working at the coalface and the accident could have been much more serious, a NCB official said.

1000 Feet Underground

The accident, which occurred at about 2:45 PM occurred after the men reach their work in the afternoon shift. It happened over 1000 feet underground, offer mouthful of pit bottom. Rescue squad at Pictionary were alerted to standby – were not called to the pit. The Barbara rescue squad, aided by other miners, were responsible for bringing the injured men to the surface.

A fleet of smart navy blue NCB ambulances from neighbouring pits were soon busy doing shuttle services between the pit and hospitals as the injured men were brought to the pithead and carried on stretchers to the ambulance room and waiting ambulances.

As the injured men were taken into ambulances on stretchers covered in thick blankets and other coverings, some of their mates gave them sips of water from their Dudley water bottles and comforted the men, many of whom were in extreme pain.

Most of the injured men were brought out of the pit in the first hour and a half, but it was about 6 pm – over three hours after the expulsion – that the last three injured men were taken to Doncaster Royal infirmary. The majority of injured were taken to Mexborough Montagu Hospital, where six patients in the Male Surgical Ward were transferred to Wath to make room for the Miners. Four of the injured were taken to Rotherham Hospital, and the remainder to Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Silent Group

Crowds of miners and pit employees formed a silent group around the ambulance room as stretcher after stretcher bearing injured men was carefully carried from the pithead by grimy faced, weary looking miners.

Some of the injured had their faces covered to protect their burns and one was so badly burned about the face that some of his workmates could not recognise him. One man, who had burns on his face, but could walk, sat at the front of one ladened ambulance with the driver. In the back were two miners on stretchers.

It was not long before groups of women and relatives made their way to the pit yard to see if husbands, boyfriends or relations were in the mishap. One woman from Thurnscoe arrived very quickly to see if her husband was all right – so fast had the news of the accident travelled.

District Shocked

All over the Dearne District groups of miners and their womenfolk gathered in the street or at their doorways, discussing the accident which had shocked the district.

On Wednesday night senior NCB officials including Mr Williams Sales, North-Eastern Divisional Chairman, and several Minds Inspector, went to the pit.

Mr S Bowman, manager of the pit, and other colliery officials, along with Mr Derek Swift, NUM branch secretary, and other union officials, descended the pit shortly after the explosion and were still down several hours later.

All miners in the Newhill seam were sent home and the seam was still idle yesterday.

After the explosion came the story of the courage and devotion of 51 years old deputy, Mr Robert Ashton, a former member of DENABY Parish Council, of “Fieldside come” Ferry Lane, old Denaby.

Though Bennett himself on the hands and face, Mr Ashley moved amongst his men comforting them and seeing that the seriously injured obtained assistance first.

He was the last of the injured to leave the pit. He insisted on walking but collapsed and was put on a stretcher..

Tragic Estate

The news of the Barnburgh Main explosion a soon reach the large new housing estate at Bolton on Dearne, where hundreds of local miners and their families live. Three of the men taken to Mexborough Montague Hospital, Herbert Edwards, Daniel Dunness and Sam Gratton all live on the estate within a few hundred yards of each other.

Midnight Bulletins

Shortly before midnight last night all the 10 injured Barnburgh a miners in Mexborough Montagu hospital were reported to be “critically ill.”

The conditions of the five minus in Doncaster Royal Infirmary were stated to be called: Martin Quigley, “ill”; John Hemsworth, “Fayre”; Ernest Downing, “ill”; Albert Staniforth, “fairly comfortable”; and John Scott, “fair.”

The conditions of the four men in Rotherham and Doncaster gate hospital were Robert Turner, Brian Silcott and Thomas Wright, “ill but improving”; and Derek Smith was reported to be “remains the same”-earlier he was reported to be “seriously ill.”

Details of Some Of The Injured

The following are the biographical details of some of the injured

Mr Herbert Fells (41),  21 Taylor Street, Thurnscoe, had previously worked underground at Hickleton Main colliery, after leaving Barnburgh. He later returned to Barnburgh about five years ago and as remain there working as a packer since. He has a 20 year old daughter, Janet and four sons, Lauren, aged 18 (who is employed as a painter Mexborough Urban Council), David (13) Stephen (9) and Robert (7).

One of oldest

At the age of 40, Mr Daniel Lunness, of 7 Hall Broom Gardens, was one of the oldest men taken the Mexborough Montagu hospital.

He has worked in the mines for 32 years, and has two sons and three daughters.

An underground worker at Barnburgh since age of 14, Mr Charles Trevor Stott, (32), of 20, School Street, Great Houghton, is the father of three young children, Wendy (8), Peter (), and 10-month-old baby Andrew.

Four sons

Four young boys Denis (12), Raymond (10), Geoffrey (6) and Thomas (2), waited anxiously for news of their father Mr Herbert Edwards (37), of 3, Brow View, Bolton.

Their mother rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard the news. Mr Edwards works on the conveyor belt at the pit.

Mr Albert Staniforth (46) 32 Meadow View Road, Kilnhurst, was working his second shift in three weeks when he was hurt in the explosion.

His wife, Hilda, told the “South Yorkshire Times” that he had gone back to work on Tuesday after having his teeth out. This according to be absent from work three weeks. He began work at Barnburgh 12 years ago after being transferred from Kilnhurst.

He has two children Roy (17) and Pamela (12).

Mr Sam Gratton (35) had worked at Barnburgh Main Colliery as a packer for about three years. He is married and lives with his wife and two children, Malcolm (12) and Lorraine (10), at 161 Ring Way, Bolton.

The Youngest

The youngest of the 10 men taken to Mexborough Montagu Hospital or John Charlesworth (20), who lives with his parents, Mr and Mrs J Charlesworth, at 10 Wellington St, Goldthorpe. His father is a miner at Manvers Main Colliery, and his two brothers, Denis (17) and Robert (19), both work at Barnburgh on underground jobs. Fortunately however, neither of them were working this particular shift.

Mr Charlesworth said that his son intended returning home at 3:30 pm so that he could get “cleaned up” before leaving for Selby to continue work on a cabin cruiser, which he owns jointly with Mr Gordon Shepherd of Homecroft Road Goldthorpe. The men are preparing the craft for a summer cruise.

An old boy of Wath grammar school Mr Thomas Silcock, son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Silcock, of 7 Victoria St, Goldthorpe, is employed in the survey department at Barnburgh and is in charge of the equipment used for measuring underground. His father works in a different section of the pit.

Mr John Hemsworth (27), 12 Melbourne Ave, Bolton was also injured in the explosion and was taken to Doncaster Royal infirmary. He is a native of Bolton.

On Same Seam

Mr Thomas Wright of 24 Heath grow, Bolton came to Yorkshire three years ago from Workington. He has three sons, Joseph (16), Tom (11) and William (7). Joseph is employed as a haulage hand on the same seam as his father, but was transferred to the morning shift only two weeks ago.

Mr Robert Turner who lives with his wife Rachel and baby daughter at Thurnscoe.


Mr Derek (Tiny) Smith of 1 Melbourne Ave, Bolton, was a farmer at Hickleton before taking a job at Barnburgh. Because of his building acquired the name dining farming friend. He was with his wife Audrey six June, Carol (7), Lane (five), Derek (4 Paul (2), Wayne (1) and six or so baby Kevin. He has two brothers, Ernest, a farmer and Cyril, who works at Hickleton Colliery.

A ripper 49 years at Barnburgh, Mr Martin Quigley (32) of 16 E. Street, Bolton is a native of southern Ireland. His wife Annice, is a local girl, being born in Goldthorpe. There have four young sons.