Belvidere Colliery

Belvidere Colliery – On Tuesday an accident occurred at Belvidere colliery to the eastward of this city, which had at first a very alarming aspect.

The colliery has not been working for about three weeks, having been undergoing repair, and during that time the hard coal, thirty inches thick, filled with water. When the water is drawn away, the roof of the pit becomes soft, and the stones fall from it, sometimes to the extent of seven carts in one mass, and obstruct the proper current of free air. About eight o’clock on Tuesday morning, some of the colliers descended the pit, which is32 fathoms deep, for the purpose of opening the trap-doors to clear the air-course, and remove the stones that had fallen from the roof.

The workmen had proceeded from the pit bottom, on their way to the work-rooms, about 60 or 70 yards, when they encountered fire damp. Several of them fell from inhaling the impure air, and on returning to the bottom of the pit, three of the number were missing. By the exertions of the oversman, one of the men was immediately brought up in life. In making the attempt to recover the two others, three more were overpowered. One of those that first fell, Henry Reid, belonging to Parkhead, was brought up at 11 o’clock. Every exertion was made by Dr Craig to recover him for two hours, by trying to inflate the lungs and putting him into a warm bath, but life proved extinct. He was found lying on his back, which is a bad position for inhaling the gas, and though he was a strong man, his chest was weak. He was a sober industrious man, and has left a family.

It was distressing to observe the anxiety of those who had friends working in the pit, and who were arriving from all quarters. The workmen belonging to the pit, with two or three exceptions, refused to go down, although Mr Houldsworth offered each man a reward of five guineas. A number of stranger colliers, and two weavers, volunteered their services to bring up five that were still below. At three o’clock, three of the men were brought up in an exhausted state; but by the most unremitting exertions they all recovered. Some of those who so gallantly volunteered their services, were themselves repeatedly overcome by the foul air, and were drawn up in an insensible state. They, however, no sooner recovered, than they again went down on their humane errand. At nine o’clock at night another man was brought up, who also recovered.

Three of those who recovered were six hours in the pit. They describe their sensations to have been like a person becoming very drowsy, and then losing muscular action, repeatedly dropping down and rising up, imagining there was nothing wrong with them, till they had lost all recollection. They state that it would be a very easy mode of death, being without the least pain. The only remaining collier in the pit, a young man of the name of Sharpe, could not be found that night, the searchers carrying no light, as they were afraid of an explosion, and only groping their way in the dark. He was one of those who went down to save the deceased, and was given up for lost.

Yesterday morning at 10 o’clock to the great astonishment of every person, he was discovered breathing, after being 26 hours in the pit, and the usual remedies being applied, he is now in a fair way of recovery. He also states that he fell into a lethargic powerless state, and gradually lost all recollection. He was found lying stretched with his face to the pavement, which is considered as having been the means of saving him, as whatever pure air exists in such a crisis is next the ground. The neighbourhood was crowded all day, and the most exaggerated reports were in circulation as to the extent of the disaster [The Times 24 January 1826]