27 February 1904

By Joseph Isaac NEWTON — No II

The colliery working at Copperas House is only winding at one shaft in place of two formerly. Still, owing to improved methods of winding this may not affect the number of men employed. The contrast from the old to the present method of winding coal is somewhat marvellous. Here, as at other collieries in olden times, they used to wind one tub only at a time, which tub was slung from each side at the centre by two short chains attached to the rope beam — whose ends slid on the conductor leading to the bottom. To land the loaded tubs there was a slip from the main conductor, which slid the tub on the bank, where it was unhooked and replaced by an empty one.

For a casual observer to watch the men get into the tub as it hung and swung over the mouth of the deep pit was terrifying. Some men preferred getting into the tub as it rested on the pit bank; but this involved greater care on the part of the engineer in lifting the men some distance up the head gearing out of the bank slip the down conductor, an occupation, one would think, which requires a sober, trustworthy man. Happily, this perilous system of winding has long been abolished, and even its first substitution — the one-deck cage has been improved onwards to the triple-decked cage — carrying from three to nine tubs at each lift at large collieries.

In place of a single tub being dropped on the pit bank, the long cage is now held in working position by means of a moveable catch, which places each deck on a level with the pit bank; then, while the loaded tubs are being withdrawn off the more convenient side, the same number of empty tubs are inserted on the other. It is still more safe in dealing with the workmen, in place of the men having to risk the danger of descending to work as stated above. The workmen safely walk into the waiting cage, and stand erect for the time of a rapid descent to their labour.

Formerly it was quite amusing to see callers for coal, prodding the coal as it came up to the surface with a sharp iron poker to find whether it contained any lumps or not, and sometimes several would wrestle each other about in securing their choice. But now, through the aid of improved machinery, you may readily be served with coal, variously separated, from large lumps, cobbles, nuts, or small to powdered coal dust. This has not only dispensed with the poker, but with the hurry and disagreeableness that were often occasioned on the pit bank

In 1873 a sad misfortune occurred here, by an overwinding accident, when 6 men were killed and six badly injured. Whatever might be the age of this colliery, it has raised coal for the past half century, and though having changed proprietors in the meantime, ie from the Fairbottom Colliery Company to the Chamber Colliery Company, it still echoes its daily employment, to the joy of the neighbourhood. Its produce, disposed of partly by local cart custom, and for more distant use, is still conveyed by the old system in deep-sided wagons to their boats at Crime bank wharf on Bardsley canal.

In addition to certain shafts being opened for ventilation to the existing ones, including one opposite the Half-way House, and such operations being worked by means of a horse-gin, there was another in Knot-lane, which was opened by Messrs JAQUES and EASON, two well-known colliers, who worked it for a time during the swell in the coal trade to about 1875-6.

Passing the Church towards Ashton we come to a colliery with portions of the working still standing, the two shafts known as Wild’s pits, formerly superintended by Mr J HIBBERT, who retired in 1864, afterwards succeeded by the late Mr Geo WILD, who remained in connection with the collieries until they closed in Aug 1887 Those collieries during their time worked an extensive business, and in addition to awaiting cart custom, they sent coal in the mine wagons down a jig brow on a series of lines to their canal wharf at Valley Dale, where they had also a dry dock for the repair and making of new boats.

On February 2nd 1853, there was an unfortunate explosion at these collieries, causing the death of 42 men and boys. At that time boys could begin working at nine years of age. This winter was a rather hard one. There was a good thickness of snow on the ground, and the ponds were well frozen. We boys were sliding at the time when we were startled by an apparent swell of earth around, and the ice under us cracking all over the pond, so that we thought the ice was giving way.

All in a moment, as in hurrying off, there was a deafening, thundering report, and the tremor of the earth made us more alarmed. In looking round in Astonishment for the cause, we saw huge volumes of fire and smoke issuing with terrific force from the upcast shaft of these collieries. In the village, the people themselves were running about in wild despair and confusion.

As the relief party began to bring up the dead and dying to the surface — with little of their charred features left to tell who they were — the lamentable nature of the disaster was more fully realised. At that time, burials were allowed on Sundays. So on the Sunday following the explosion — despite the bitter cold weather and many places deep in snow — the village was crowded with sorrowing people watching over fifty funerals that took place during the day.

It would be difficult to say in what manner coal was raised in ages past beyond that of the simple windlass once used in winding. A passing observation on the working of the endless chain may be of interest in relating the character of its machinery. First there was a long driving shaft connected at one end with the engine, and on the other were fixed two toothed wheels a little wider apart than the actual width of the pit mouth. These worked in union with two large wheels, about 36 inches in diameter.

The difference in the size of the two wheels allowed the desired speed motion in the manoeuvring of the tubs. Now, from the fact that a through shaft crossing over the centre of the pit mouth would obstruct the system of overhand motion with the chains, larger winding wheels only were fitted on several shafts, which work on pedestals on each side of the pit. On the inner ends of these two iron shafts was fixed the chain bearing pulleys, and so arranged over the mouth of the pit that the chains, as they travelled over the pulley, would thus hand down in a straight line to the mine.

To prevent the chains slipping with loads, the rims of the pulleys were spiked on which the links of the chain locked in travelling, working like the driving gear of a bicycle, and in order to keep the two chains in position they were stayed with a series of cross bars. The bars, by means of a clip-hook attachment in the centre, also carried the tubs in winding, which were carefully hooked on and off the bars while the machinery was in constant motion.

To the casual observer, this part of its work would seem most dangerous, and certainly it did require much care from the men in charge. To meet the difficulty, however, there was a moveable stage which slid on a pair of slips to within a working clearance of the winding chains, and as each tub ascended it was carried over and between the pullies which caused the tub of coal to swing from one side of the pit to the other and then alight on the inverted stage; when at the same moment the chain carrying the tub was carefully unhooked from the moving cross-bar, and the stage again withdrawn by means of a balance weight adjustment. The man attending the stage on the opposite side acting in a similar manner would hook on another one on the coming bar, and the loaded stage now being withdrawn would allow the empty tub to descend for further treatment.

No doubt this complicated method of winding was accepted as an ingenious improvement in colliery gear at the time it was instigated. The machinery was apparently found inadequate to the advancing times.

Previous to about 1863 the Bridge Pit mine was worked by the owner of Bardsley estate, Mr Jonah HARROP. But about this date the pit was temporarily closed, and the chain machinery was pulled out, and renewed by the headstock gear with one pulley for winding, and afterwards worked from an engine in the pumping house adjoining the smithy remaining in Bardsley Brow. On the completion of these alterations the colliery again restarted under the name of Messrs HULTON and SUTHERS, but finally closed about 1877.

I may here mention that at this date Mr Charles SUTHERS then resided at Rivers Vale house, which, prior to that gentleman taking possession, was much enlarged, the grounds relaid, and some beech trees planted along the drive leading on to Oldham-road. His partner, Mr M HULTON, a son of the Rev A H HULTON, became the owner of the estate on the death of his grandfather, Mr Jonah HARROP, in 1866, whose residence at Bardsley Fold bears a most ancient history, with a legend of past generations from about the 11th (could be 14th — Ed) century

(To be continued.)

Sir, — Will you permit us to point out a slight error in your very interesting article entitled, “Some reminiscences of Bardsley and district,” in the issue of the 20th instant, in reference to these mills. We are not makers of saccharine, this substance being prepared by special patented processes, of which we are not licensees. Our manufactures mainly consist of compressed drugs, medicated lozenges, pastilles, and general pharmaceutical preparations. — Yours faithfully,
Bardsley Vale Mills, Feb 23, 1904

Sir, — In your last issue under the above heading are some inaccuracies which, by your permission, I will point out. Bardsley Church was built by the Hulme trustees on their land known as “college land,” and by whom it is endowed.

The Rev A H HALTON was never the vicar of Bardsley, but of Christ Church, Ashton-under-Lyne, and was interred in the HARROP’s vaults under Bardsley Church in January 1858. The first incumbent (vicar) was the Rev Thomas GREEN, October 30th, 1844. The Rev John WILSON should be the Rev Theodore Percival WILSON, who was vicar from 1854-1862.

The Copperas works were owned by Mr Samuel NEWTON, who died in 1845, and afterwards carried on by his sons James, Thomas, and Samuel.

Ethel WILDGOOSE, a young lady residing at Hurst, on Monday sued John SHARPLES, who is stated to be assistant cashier in the employ of the General Electric Company at Birmingham, for breach of promise of marriage. The case came before the Under-Sheriff and a jury at St George’s Hall, Liverpool, for assessment of damages, defendant having allowed judgment to go by default, when Mr J B POWNALL, solicitor for plaintiff, said a settlement had been arrived at, defendant undertaking to pay £50 as damages and costs.

Action of the Grocers and Chip Potato Dealers

The tradesmen of Ashton are just now passing through a period of depression consequent upon an increase in the price of certain kinds of foodstuffs and the reduction in the purchasing capacity of the people through the poor time in the cotton trade. In view of this, a further advance in the price of flour by dealers — a full 2s 6d a sack dearer than it were a month ago — a special meeting of Ashton grocers was held on Thursday night, when it was decided unanimously to advance the price of flour 1d per dozen pounds, equivalent to 2s per sack.

The price in Stalybridge has been advanced some time and the result has been an influx of Stalybridge people buying their flour at the Ashton establishments. According to an authority, the local grocers have been retailing flour at a less price than they could buy it. The bakers and bread dealers will shortly hold a meeting to consider their position, as the present prices have been in operation for nearly two years, and there seems to be a desire for a uniform twopenny loaf of about 1½lbs, instead of, as at present, two similar loaves for 3½d

Side by side with the grievances of the grocers of the grocers comes a recurrence of the unsettled conditions which led to a closing of nearly all the chip-potato establishments in the district about 9 months ago. On that occasion the price of potatoes advanced to £1 per load, which, however, dropped with the closing of the various shops. At the present time the price is from 11s to 13s per load, as compared with 8s the same time last year, and the price is expected to increase further next month, as is generally the case in March and April.

The local dealers are naturally incensed, and complain that there is no profit at present prices, and that there is a probability of again closing. Accordingly they are considering a scheme of amalgamation with other dealers in Lancashire, and at a recent meeting, Messrs J C HARROP (president), Mr WROE (secretary) were appointed to represent the Ashton and Dukinfield Fish Friers’ Association at a conference to be held in Rochdale, on March 1st, to deal with the question of buying potatoes direct from the farmer, and other matters. There are at present close upon 100 members in the Ashton, Dukinfield and District Association.

The death took place at the Ashton District Infirmary, on Wednesday, of George Henry POWERS, aged five years, son of Samuel POWERS, of Astley-street, Dukinfield. It appears that the mother went into the kitchen to fill a kettle with water, and whilst there heard the boy call out, “Mamma,” and on turning into the house saw that his nightdress, in which he had just come downstairs, was in flames. She extinguished the flames, but not before the child was badly burned about the face, chest, arms, and legs. Dr MILLER was called in, and ordered the child’s removal to the infirmary, where death took place as stated.

An inquest was held at the White Hart Inn, Park-street, Ashton, on Tuesday afternoon, by Mr J F PRICE, district coroner, regarding the death of Isaac CHADWICK. There were present Messrs COBBETT, of Manchester (for the employers), Mr J H CRABTREE (factory inspector). And Drs COOKE and TWOMEY.

Jane CHADWICK, wife of the deceased, said she lived at Park-street, and her late husband was a labourer. He was 43 years of age last birthday. He had enjoyed very good health. He had been troubled with a cough during the last six months, but would not see a doctor. He worked on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On the last-named day (the 17th) he came home about seven o’clock at night, when he complained of his cough, and also told her of an accident having happened to him.

On Friday morning his breathing was laboured, and witness suggested a doctor, but he would not have one. Most of that day he remained in bed, never coming downstairs. On Saturday he seemed somewhat better, until seven o’clock on Sunday morning, when his breathing became laboured and he consented to have a doctor. Dr TWOMEY was sent for, but he became worse and died about a quarter to ten, before the doctor arrived.

Dr Patrick Nolan TWOMEY deposed to making a post-mortem examination that morning. Extrernally he found no marks of injury, and the skull was unfractured and the brain normal. The lungs were normal; in the abdomen the organs were generally normal, except the kidneys, which were slightly cirrhosed. The cause of death was perfectly natural, and he was satisfied death was not caused or accelerated by injury.

Mr COBBETT remarked that Dr COOKE was present at the post mortem, and was of the opinion that death was due from perfectly natural causes. A verdict of, “Death from natural causes” was returned. It was at first supposed that the death had been due to an accident the deceased had received at his work, but the evidence given at the inquest showed otherwise.

Alice GREENWOOD and May BUTCHER, young Rochdale women, and Wm McPEE, of Uppermill, were charged at the Oldham Police Court on Monday morning, the first two with stealing, and the last named with receiving, a gold watch, valued at £3, from James ROACH, of Ashton-under-Lyne.

The prosecutor’s story was that he met the two female prisoners in West-street, Oldham, on Friday evening, and he asked him to treat them. The three visited the Stag’s Head Inn, and afterwards the Little John Inn, and had drinks at both places. On coming out of the latter house they stopped in the street, and ROACH pulled out his watch, stating that he was going home. He had his watch in his hand, when BUTCHER knocked him down with her fist, and GREENWOOD snatched the timepiece. He gave chased, but soon lost sight of them.

GREENWOOD admitted snatching the watch and BUTCHER striking the prosecutor. They said the man got them drunk.

McPHEE, who was arrested by Detective PIGGOTT, had the gold watch, which was a very small one, in a match-box, with a layer of matches over it. When charged, he said, “GREENWOOD gave it me on Saturday morning, stating that she had found it.” Prisoner at first denied he knew the watch was stolen, but when told he would be sent to the Sessions for trial he pleaded guilty.

As all were first offenders, and the female prisoners had good homes to return to, the Bench bound them over in the sum of £5 to come up for judgment if called upon.

Prisoner Acquitted

At the Salford Hundred Intermediate Sessions, on Monday, before Mr YATES, KC, John ALLAN, Minto-street, Ashton, was indicted for having obtained a lamp and other clothes from Lewis ANDREW, of Ashton; with obtaining two blankets and other articles from Messrs LEIGH and ARDERN; and with attempting to obtain certain goods from Elijah ROEBUCK, with intent to defraud in each case. The evidence was given in the preliminary inquiries at Ashton was repeated.

Mr Abraham PARKS, J.P.; and president of the Federation of P.S.A. Societies, was sworn, and said he did not know the prisoner or his wife. — Mr Overend EVANS put it to the jury that the prisoner never represented that he knew Mr PARK. What he said was that his wife knew Mr PARK. ALLAN’s wife had been in the habit of singing at P.S.A. meetings, her father was president of the Royton P.S.A., she and her parents had seen Mr PARK frequently at P.S.A. gatherings, and he asked the jury to believe that she might well innocently and reasonably suppose that Mr PARK knew her — and that she could give him as a reference.

Mrs ALLAN was sworn, and her counsel echoed that her real name was BLACKSHAW, and that she took the name of ALLAN “for family reasons” — “through family differences” suggested the prosecuting counsel. She said she had been a member of the Royton P.S.A., of which her father was president. She used to sing at P.S.A. gatherings and through this she was “contracted” with Mr PARK.

It was she who first went to Mr ANDREW’s shop, and it was she who mentioned Mr PARK’s name when asked for a reference.

Mrs Emma MELIOR, Oldham, widow of the late William MELIOR, said her husband took a great interest in the P.S.A. movement, and was president of the Royton P.S.A. Her daughter used to attend the P.S.A. and there she “knew” Mr PARK through her father.

By the prosecuting counsel: I have always been on good terms with my daughter. There have been “little bits of upsets” as there have were in most families. It was not because I found they had been obtaining goods in my name that they took the name ALLAN.

The Chairman said this was a somewhat slender case, and the jury must take great care at arriving at a decision. Did the prisoner ALLAN obtain and attempt to obtain those goods with intent to defraud by giving Mr PARK’s name as a gentleman who had authorised him to do so. It was urged that prisoner only corroborated what vhis wife had said — that she knew Mr PARK and that Mr Park knew her.

If that was all she did, it would not be a false pretence, such as would make him liable to be dealt with criminally. Even if they believed that the prisoner himself used Mr PARK’s name without authority they must be satisfied he did so with an intent to defraud.

The jury postulated, and the foreman said: We think there is doubt in this case, and we have agreed to acquit him. — The Chairman (to prisoner); You are discharged.

Paris, Sunday, Feb 21st

Consul, the “human chimpanzee,” is dead. Mr BOSTOCK, the “Animal King,” received a telegram from Berlin late on Saturday night telling him that after three days’ illness the wonderful monkey had breathed his last. ”Consul” appeared for the last time in public on Tuesday evening, when the members of the German Imperial family went to see him at Sehaumann’s Circus. His death was due to bronchitis.

In spite of every effort made to save him by Dr BOOTH, the physician who traveled with him constantly, he succumbed to a relapse on Friday evening. Consul was valued at £25,000. His performances brought in from £200 to £300 a week. He was insured for £20,000.

The body is being embalmed, and when confined will be brought to Paris, where it will lie “in state” for a week. Mr BOSTCOK says that “Consul” was the greatest animal attraction he had ever known, and that he counted his loss as much from a personal, as from a financial point of view.

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