13 October 1866 Gloucester
Journal FATAL COLLIERY ACCIDENT The adjourned inquiry into
the death of John Hooper, a pit sinker, who was killed on 30 September.
Edward Henderson deposed: I am a master sinker, and have had a contract from June last sinking the Flour Mill Colliery with drifts. The deceased had worked at the colliery since July last. On Saturday week about 5 o’clock I saw the deceased in a pit, about 10 feet from the bottom. The pit was being sunk and walled, and on the scaffold the deceased was at work. He was the master of the men when I was not present and had full charge of the work and machinery. On the Sunday morning at about 1 o’clock I was called up by a person who stated that the man was in the pit, and was either drowned or killed. I, in company with William James, went down the pit to the sump, below the place where the deceased was at work. In my opinion deceased had fallen from his stage to the sump and was drowned.
There were no signals in the pit, there was no banksman, the man was his own master.
Lionel Brough, Government Inspector of Mines: There was a good steam engine on the work, well adapted for sinking, and in my opinion, together with the tackle, remarkably good. The pit appeared well walled as far as I went down, which was as far as I could go for water. There are pumps in the pit in connection with the engine, for raising the water or any other matter. There was only one steam engine in the place, and that, as far as I could see was applied to both pumping and winding.
Act not complied with, no indicator to show the load in the pit; absence of proper communication between men in the pit and those above; no banksman to communicate between those in the pit and those engaged above; no guides in the pit although in sinking pits guides might be dispensed with; there was sufficient break power; no special rules, some should be submitted at once.
William Trafford, mining engineer, Blakeney: There is a steam engine, ‘two fourteens’ nominal power, together about 40 horse. I went down the shaft with Mr. Henderson and found the ‘half moon’, a temporary stage, at about 22 or 23 feet from the bottom of the pit. There were from 6 to 8 feet of water in the pit. The half moon was not made as secure as I would have had it done. The deceased would be the person to see to this. There was a boarded stage under the half moon at about 12 feet depth and on one side of this was an opening where the deceased must have fallen through. The area of this aperture would be from 4 to 5 feet. One engine to pump and wind I think dangerous.
The Jury found that John Hooper died through his own want of caution and consider that he ought to have appointed someone to have officially watched the top of the pit they srongly recommend more caution for the future on the part of the proprietors and managers.
FLOUR MILL COLLIERY
Flour Mill was first galed on 4th August 1843 to William Jones, who applied to the Crown for a lease of one and a half acres adjoining a site for a colliery for the purpose of erecting buildings and apparatus. By 23rd August, however, it would appear that he had disposed of his interest to George Skipp. This worried the Crown’s deputy surveyor who believed that Skipp intended building a chemical works on the site and feared the possible pollution of the stream. The main reason for his concern was probably that the stream ran past his house in Parkend! The chemical works was built by 1844, but the pollution is not recorded.
It would appear that the dead rent on the Flour Mill gale was not paid for some time, possibly because Skipp was not interested in the minerals. Certainly he was two and a half years in arrears at Xmas 1845. In April 1859 the gale was put up for auction at the Feathers Hotel in Lydney but the bidding did not reach the reserve price and the sale did not go through. By Midsummer 1861 the arrears of rent stood against Messrs. Bailey, Greatrex & Co., bankers of Monmouth. They had probably acquired the gale in lieu of payment on a mortgage.
New owners had been found by May 1864, these being Messrs. Ralph and Arthur James Price of London, who applied for a license of two acres of land. The Crown surveyor thought this to be a large area of land for a colliery, but was informed by the Prices that this was the smallest area on which they were advised they could erect engine houses for the pumping machines and winding engines, forges, stables, carpenters’ shops, tip ground and other accommodation needed to work the colliery on ‘the very large scale’ they intended. The lease was granted from 24th June 1864 for a term of 31 years at a rent of £5 per annum.
Work on opening up the gale commenced with shaft sinking being in progress during 1866. In October, following a fatality to a man engaged on the sinking operation, it was reported that there was one steam engine on the work used for both pumping and winding whilst the shaft appeared to be progressing well.
Work on the shafts may have been completed sufficiently to allow some coal to be won as in 1870 the owners applied to lay a tramroad connection to the Oakwood tramway, presumably to allow output to be carried away.
In December 1873 a new company was formed, The Flour Mill Colliery Co. Ltd., with the intention of acquiring the Flour Mill and Ellwood Collieries. The capital was £12,000 in 240 £50 shares. The main promotors behind the company appear to have been Capt. Francis Pavy and Thomas Head and they entered into an agreement with Arthur Price. They were at liberty to use the pumping engine to dewater the pits and to complete the sinking of the land pit and if by the 1st August 1874 they had unwatered the pits and completed the sinking then they could either complete the purchase or withdraw. The latter seems to have been the course of action taken as the company was in liquidation in January 1875. George Skipp was said at this time to be the agent of Price while an indication of some of the plant at the colliery was given. There was a 15" pumping lift complete weighing 28 tons, a 12" lift weighing 36 tons, five iron pit tubs and 120 yards of pit rods. From the terms of the agreement it would appear that no work was being done at the colliery as it would seem that the shafts were flooded and that sinking was not complete. Some coal however, was won around this time as an advertisement in September 1874 stated that prime Coleford High Delf coal could be had at the colliery daily from 7 am to 3 pm at a price of 17s. per ton.
In February 1876 the owners of the colliery became involved in legal proceedings brought by the owners of the adjoining Princess Royal gale. This was because the owners of Flour Mill had stopped pumping in December 1874, probably due to the failure of the company as mentioned above. This cessation of pumping brought about the flooding of Princess Royal and the court found in favour of the plaintiffs. In March the Crown’s attention was drawn to an accumulation of water in two of the pits, known as Park Gutter, in the deep gale of the Princess Royal Colliery. This had been allowed to rise above the level of the workings to the injury of Flour Mill Colliery, on the land side of the Princess Royal gale, and the Crown was requested to ‘cause such water to be removed by the galee of the Princess Royal Colliery’!
In November 1877 the Flour Mill gale was being assigned to Mr. W. Fowler, but it would appear that he did not carry out any further development, as in early 1882 an inquiry was made to the Gaveller as to whether any work was being carried out following the terms of the gale grant. In May ownership passed to Mr. Chapman, executor of Fowler’s will, and as work had not restarted by September, the gale was forfeited to the Crown.
By November 1886 Flour Mill had passed to William Camm and Richard Watkins, owners of Princess Royal, who were anxious to open the colliery but not prepared to install expensive pumping equipment immediately. Instead Watkins proposed to drain the collieries by continuing to drive the old Dyke’s (Whitecroft) Level to the Whittington seam.
The Flour Mill Colliery was working the coal from the bottom of the shaft, which was 190 yards deep, upwards towards the western boundary of the gale, almost to the outcrop of the seam. In 1904 it therefore became necessary to sink a new shaft, 140 yards deep and fourteen feet in diameter, which enabled the company to develop the dip of the seam. The area they were working in, however, proved to be very heavily watered and required the pumping of up to 3,000 gallons per minute. Later considerable geological difficulties were met and it became necessary for yet another shaft to be sunk. As will be seen later this was overcome by deepening the shaft at Park Gutter.
In March 1908 it was reported that an underground engine house was being built for a haulage engine which had been delivered. On the surface two new boilers with steam range and an economiser had been erected and a third boiler was expected daily. The electrical generator house was being roofed and was thus nearing completion.
Flour Mill Colliery suffered from a strike in October 1909 when six buttymen came out in dispute over the cuuting of a pillar of coal. The rest of the 700 men also came out and the pit ponies were put up for sale. The buttymen took the matter to Court but lost and the srike was over within the month. A more serious strike was the national one of 1912 and it was after this shutdown that the decision was made to start work on the deepening of the Park Gutter shaft to assist the winning of coal from Flour Mill and to open up new areas of the Coleford High Delf as laid out in the 1904 arrangements.
Flour Mill and Park Gutter were connected underground in early 1916 to provide efficient ventilation and to enable the start of coal production on a larger scale. Some coal was still being brought up the middle shaft at Flour Mill until 1928, a peculiarity here being that the cages in the shaft were small and pit ponies had to sit on their haunches when entering them to be let down the shaft.
For the rest of the history of Flour Mill see Princess Royal below.