THIRTY-NINE MEN WERE KILLED IN THE JARROW COLLIERY EXPLOSION OF 1845.
One of them was my cousin, George Cram - his father, Martin Cram had died in the same pit in 1838, and Martin’s wife then married to Jacob Defty, an overman in the same pit at the time of the 1845 blast.
Article from the Gateshead Observer, 23rd August 1845:
Fatal Colliery Explosion - Extensive Loss of Life at Jarrow, near South Shields
Another of those calamitous colliery explosions, for which the North of England is notorious, has occurred in this district, hurling two-score pitmen to instant death ; and yet, the casualty will hardly excite in the country a tithe of the attention and sympathy which are provoked by a "railway accident," inflicting only wounds and bruises on its victims ; for, nowadays, all men travel by "rail," and are alarmed by mishaps which occur thereon, while a comparatively small portion of the public go down into coal-mines.
It was about half-past one o'clock on Thursday afternoon, when a tremendous report, accompanied by a shower coals, was heard at Brown's Wallsend pit, Jarrow, near the mouth of the Tyne, in this county (Durham). Then followed a loud and awful roaring noise, created by the rush of air into the pit, to supply the vacuum occasioned by the explosion. A second explosion, of much greater violence than the first, now ensued, threatening destruction to the whole of the standing gear of the colliery. The men at the "bank," and all within hearing, were terror stricken by the deafening noise.
Mr. Thomas Jopling, the viewer, and Mr. Jacob Defty, overman, descended the pit as soon as was practicable, to ascertain the fate of the men below, and, assisted by several of their subordinates, and Mr. Defty's son, Emmanuel, they rescued 48 from the Bensham seam, and also brought up three who had perished, viz :-
James Stewart, aged 60, (leaving a wife and family).
Benjamin Robinson, (leaving a wife).
Robert Fairgrieve, aged 12.
These are all that have perished in the Bensham seam. Of those in the Low Main seam we have yet to speak.
Mr. Defty twice came to the surface, in a state of great exhaustion. He was warned to be cautious how he periled his own life, but he persisted in once more going down on his errand of humanity, and in company with his son. The father was afterwards brought up dead! He had missed his way, it is supposed, in the workings, and got too far. His son, Emmanuel, who was also brought up, seemed, at first, little affected by what he had undergone in the foul atmosphere of the mine; but he had hardly walked a few yards in the upper air, before he fell down in strong convulsions, and five men could with difficulty hold him. Subsequently, however, he recovered. The death of Mr. Defty, senior, is much deplored, he was 46 years of age. His hapless widow lost her first husband, Martin Cram, in the same pit; and two of her sons, James and Martin Cram, by the former marriage.
It is in the Low (not the Bensham) seam, that the pit is believed to have fired; and they were from 36 to 49 men and boys working therein, none of whom are likely to be saved. We give their names, so far as we have been able to ascertain them :-
William Walker, aged 26, (having a wife, but no family).
Thomas Liddell, 32, (wife and six children).
Thomas Wailes, 60, (wife and family).
Thomas Wailes, jun., 18.
Thomas Love, 46, (wife and family).
John Burdes, 60, (family).
Thomas Burdes, jun., a boy.
- Wanless, 40, (wife and family).
Ralph Arrowsmith, 30, (wife and three children).
Joseph Scrafton, (single man).
John Musgrave, father and son.
John Colhoun, brothers (single men).
Mark Willis, 33, (wife and three children)
George Willis, 24, (married a fortnight ago).
Cuthbert Bell, 25, (married recently).
Robert Ramshaw, 20, (single man).
- Hills, (wife and family).
Jacob Bainbridge, 40, (wife and four children).
John Foster, 20, orphan brothers.
Peter Peel, 60, (wife and family).
William Weddell, 30, (wife and family).
James Hall, (wife and child).
William Charlton, 30, deputy-overman, (wife and family).
John Charlton, 16, (son of the above).
William Charlton, 30, (wife and three children).
John Macleod, deputy-overman.
George Atkinson, 16.
John Elliott, 20, brothers
William Elliott, 14.
William Cranston, 33, (wife and five children).
George Cram, 30, (wife and two children).
Robert Bird, 12.
The mind is crushed beneath the weight of so heavy a calamity, bringing death and desolation to so many households.
Fifteen years ago, 1830, this same pit exploded, and 26 men and boys were killed, (one of whom was the father of the brothers Elliott, mentioned above, and another was, Martin Cram, the first husband of Mrs. Defty). It also fired 22 years ago, and destroyed 35 lives.
25th August 1845
The man Defty went down the pit. On entering the Bensham seam, a few of the men who had been at work there were found to have reached the shaft alive, whereupon Defty was ordered to bank to place waterfalls on the two downcast divisions of the pit. Here an incident occurred of a striking and peculiar character. The men when discovered where in a state of great exhaustion, but one or two recovered speedily when placed in the current of fresh air, and as there were several other men in the workings of that seam, it was deemed advisable that the weaker of those who had been found should go up the shaft with Defty, while the stronger remained with Mr. Jobling, the viewer, to render him any assistance they might be able in searching for their comrades till Defty returned ; but such was the state of delirious excitement in which the men were, that one of them in the dark sprang to the rope in the centre of the shaft, and clung to it with the tenacity of despair. Had he missed the rope he would have fallen a depth of nearly 20 fathoms, and must inevitably have perished. He was fortunate in retaining his hold, and he ascended the shaft in safety, shouting in delirious excitement to be out of the place. The scene was an awful one to witness. Defty, after placing the watercourses on, descended in a cage, and remained in the shaft some time assisting the other men.
Defty, who had been some time engaged in the shaft, assisting in getting the men to the surface, then descended to the bottom, and was directed into the workings of the Bensham seam, to ascertain the state of the communication with the low main by means of the oval pit, being cautioned by Mr. Jobling not to go too far if he found the air dangerous ; but, such was his anxiety to save the other men, that he himself fell a victim to the choke-damp after being but a short time in the mine. The three bodies found dead in the Bensham seam were but a short distance from the shaft, and they had evidently been killed by the after-damp, as they were not at all burnt.