High Brooks Colliery

Sixty Imprisoned.

(Wigan Observer 3rd. January, 1863)

On the day of the mishap, there were fifty to sixty men down the pit in the Five Foot mine when the crank of the winding engine failed, as it was winding. Fortunately no one was hurt in the incident but on inspection it was found that the casting had become weakened and the piston was also broken. A new one was ordered from Martlew's Foundry in Wigan but they did not have one in stock and the men had to stay below until another could be found.

Mr. Mercer, the owner of the colliery, had a windlass set up, and food and tobacco were sent down to the trapped men. Smoking in the pit was not allowed due to the obvious danger of explosion, but the owner of a colliery was a powerful man and the Rules of the Colliery were relaxed on his orders and responsibility. The situation was potentially very serious. Not long before over two hundred men had died at the Hartley Colliery in Durham when the beam of the engine had broken and fallen down the shaft but in this case the shaft was not damaged.

Notes came up the shaft from the men trapped below:

'Dear Sir, We are all enjoying ourselves and we have set up a little concert and sang sentimental songs but we are weary and we want to see our wives and children. Satisfied that you are doing your best. Tell my wife that we are all well.

Your Obedient servant.'

Unfortunately the letter gave no name.

Another note read:

'We are all singing as if we were in the Red Lion, one of us has given 'Lively Flea' and 'Leather Breeches' etc.'

The trapped men were brought to the surface none the worse for their experience, when the necessary parts for the winding engine arrived and were fitted.

The Red Lion was the public house nearest to the colliery and of course, figured in the lives of the colliers along with the Park Lane Hotel. They were also the places where the inquests into the accidents at the colliery were held.

From 'The Unfortunate Colliery' by Ian Winstanley

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