Fochriw Pit Explosion

Questions in the House of Commons Hansard Report dated 16 June 1902
(HC Deb 16 June 1902 vol 109 cc701-2)

Mr D.A.Thomas MP Merthyr Tydfil. I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the  nature of the evidence given at the coroner’s inquest into the death of eight men who were killed by the explosion of an accumulation of gas in Fochriw Pit on the 4th instant; whether he is aware that the pit was worked at one time by safety lamps and at another time by naked lights, and at the time of the accident there was no overman in charge of the pit; and, in view of the fact that the Chief Inspector of Mines for the district stated; that the men should have been withdrawn as soon as the fall in the main drift was found, and condemned the type of lock on the lamps, whether he will institute further enquiry into the cause of the accident.

Mr Ritchie. I have received from the inspector a brief provisional report on this accident from which it appears that the facts are as stated in the question. An overman was in the pit at the time of the accident though not in charge of the district where the explosion occurred. There seems to be no need for further enquiry as to the cause of the accident; but I will call for a full report from the inspector as to what steps should be taken in view of the dangerous practices alluded to.

VOCHRIW No.2. Gellingaer, Glamorganshire. 4th. June, 1902.

The colliery was the property of Guest, Keen and Nettlefold’s, Limited and eight men lost their lives in an explosion. It was in the Parish of Gelligaer about three miles from Dowlais. There were two shafts, the No.1 was the up-cast and the No.2 the down-cast. They were 44 yards apart, oval, 22 feet by 12 feet and 420 yards deep. Coal was drawn up both shafts but only during the day. The Rhas Las and Red Coal seams were worked from the downcast and the Upper Four Feet and the Big Coal were worked from the up-cast. All the seams produced steam coal and the colliery had worked for 30 to 40 years.

The agent was Mr. H.W. Martin, mining engineer who was assisted by his son, Mr.Stuart Martin. Mr. John H. Jones was the manager with Mr. Thomas Roberts, snr. and Mr. Thomas Roberts, jnr., as the under-managers, one for each pit. On the day shift there were two overmen and four firemen in the No.1 Pit and three overmen and four firemen in theNo.2 Pit. On the night shift there was one overman and three firemen in the No.2 Pit and an overman and three firemen in the No.2 Pit. The No.1 employed 397 men during the day and 111 at night and the No.2 Pit, 550 were employed by day and 114 by night but on the night of the explosion there were 105 persons at work.

The explosion affected only one ventilating district in the Rhas Las seam which was at a depth of 420 yards and was worked to the dip of the shafts by an engine or drift for a distance of 1,600 yards. The seam dipped 3 inches to the yard. The coal was worked by the longwall method that was practised in the district, with stall roads about 11 yards apart. In the longwall method, the whole of the seam was removed in one operation and the necessary roads were maintained through the goaves by means of pack walls. The roof immediately behind the working face was supported by cogs and props and the goaf filled with rubbish partly got from working the coal, and partly from falls, and the roof rippings on the roads. Double timbers stood on the roadways for supporting the roof and sides, where the management considered timbering necessary. There was no shotfiring in the seam.

The ventilation of the colliery was provided by a Schiele fan, 15 feet in diameter which was driven by a belt from an engine which had a 32 inch cylinder and a 3 feet stroke. When the engine was running at 50 revolutions and the fan at 152 revolutions per minute, 223,600 cubic feet of air was circulated through the