Source 3

Durham Advertiser 17 February 1882 A survivors account



The following is the narrative of Mr Ralph Winn, one of the rescued who is landlord of the Station Hotel, and worked as a hewer in the Harvey Sea :- I heard a report which appeared to come right to me from the direction of the shaft. I said to my marrow, “What’s that?” to which he replied, “I think it’ll be a shot.” I said, “That’s no shot,” and as I spoke a boy came running up and shouted “Be sharp out-bye; there’s a something happened. All the ‘overcast’ is blown out”. We went off as hard as we could towards the shaft, other men and lads joining us. As we ran, the dust was so dense that it was like to smother us. We reachedthe shaft, however, and there we found the tubs all blown about, and the “way” torn up, and the timbering and brattice piled up in a heap. The first thing we saw was the dead body of a young man which we recognised as that of William Jefferson, We lifted him up and placed him by the side of the way. We then tried to get round to the other side of the shaft, but on our way we came upon the body of a man whose head had been blown off, a terribly mutilated body. One of our party succeeded in getting round, and saw a young boy’s foot peeping out from beneath a tub. We all cowered about the shaft, and wondered if we should get out; it was then efident that no one but those about us could be saved. When we had waited from between half-an-hour and an hour, we saw the lights of lamps coming towards us from the direction of the Cross-cut Flat. There were about nine men in this party, and one of them, just as they came up to us, dropped down. The men got him and brought him safely to the shaft where we were. The other eight men were all very bad from after-damp, and asked for something to drink, but of course we could give them nothing. We stood about the pit for someone to come to us. No one else was found there whilst I was at the shaft bottom. These nine men told us that in the Cross-cut Flat, from which they came, all the boys were killed. When the explosion took place Jacob Soulsby, the deputy-overman in charge of that district, said, “Tell them (the boys) to wait at the ‘Rest’ a bit.” They delivered this message, but the boys did not do so, and they were all killed by the choke-damp. The cage was broken in the shaft, but at length the slings were let down, and we were drawn to bank by thm and the “kibble.” The engineman underground and I got into the slings together. He told me that when the explosion ocurred he was blown away from his engine, but he did not appear to be seriously hurt. There were about thirty men and boys drawn up at the bottom of the shaft – gathered up from the various parts of the workings. None of them appeared to be much the worse, although they had all suffered more or less from choke-damp. The engineman and I came to bank in the sidings, but the kibble was afterwards let down and brought the remainder of the men to bank.


Hewer – Coal Cutter

Outbye – towards the shaft

Shot – An explosive charge, fired to break up the coal so that the hewers could dig it out the coal.

Marrow – mate or friend

Overcast – roof of the mine

Cowered – crouch down nervously

After damp / Choke Damp – Both of these gases made breathing difficult and could cause death.

Kibble – wooden tub

« Return to 19th century mining disaster

3. This is the account of Ralph Wynn, a survivor of the Trimdon Grange disaster.

  • What did Ralph see when he reached the shaft?
  • Why could he not get out of the mine?
  • After Ralph had waited for about an hour what did he see?
  • How well were these men?
  • What news did these men bring?
  • How did Ralph and the other men get out of the mine in the end?
  • Ralph was there at the time. Does this mean that we should believe everything he has to say about the explosion?
  • Can you now say why 74 men were killed?