A lucky escape

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 23 May 1891


Yesterday afternoon week, during the thunderstorm which then prevailed, the chimney of a house (in a block of buildings) occupied by a person named Haines, at the bottom of Silcoates Hill, was struck by the electric fluid and partly demolished, the bricks falling, some down the chimney and others upon the roof, and from thence sliding on to the floor, with a loud report. It was evident that the lightning had passed into the home, as not a vestige of soot could be found in the chimney, whilst the house floor was covered as with a “black carpet,” and the pictures had been ruthlessly torn from the walls and most of them smashed. Fortunately, Mrs. Haines had just gone across the road into a relative’s house with a few loaves of bread, and thus escaped what might have been a most serious injury.

As the 1891 census had only taken place six weeks earlier, it’s possible to find more details on Haines, including where he lived. His address is given in the Alverthorpe-with-Thornes census returns as at ‘Potovens Bridge’, so he must have lived in Pearson’s Buildings at the junction of Jerry Clay Lane and Wrenthorpe Lane (then called Potovens Road). James Haines was 49, married, and his recorded occupation ‘foreman/platelayer railway’. He was born in Macclesfield. His wife, Mary Anne (42) was born in Wrenthorpe. Their 19-year-old daughter was born in Ossett and worked as a ‘mill hand woollen weaver’, probably at the nearby Silcoates Mill.

Sudden death at Melbourne House lodge

Grantham Journal
Saturday 9 September 1871


On Saturday night, shortly before eight o’clock, Mr John Buckley, who occupies the farm buildings connected with Melbourne House, better known as “Prophet Wroe’s Temple”, situate at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, sent his son with a newspaper to one of the lodges in the Temple grounds, the sole occupant of which was an old Scotchwoman, named Jane Foreman Campbell. The young man returned, saying he could not make the old woman (who always kept the door locked) hear. Mr Buckley then went to the lodge, and on effecting an entrance perceived a strong smell of burning. On making an examination of the premises he found the old woman lying on the floor near her armchair. Her clothes were all destroyed, her body charred and adhering to the floor, and the seat of her chair was burnt out. It is supposed that whilst mending her stockings on the Thursday evening (which was the last time she was seen alive) her clothes caught fire, and she was burnt to death. She was seventy-nine years of age, was the widow of Mr Cotes Campbell, assistant-keeper at the Register House, Edinburgh, and mother of Mr W Campbell, C.E., Newcastle-on-Tyne, to whom she frequently wrote up to about a fortnight ago. An inquest has been held before Mr T Taylor, and a verdict of “Accidentally burnt” returned.

Manslaughter charge for lighting candle in local coal pit

Yorkshire Gazette
Tuesday 30 August 1836


On Saturday last an explosion of inflammable air took place in Bull Pit, at Kirkhamgate, about two miles to the west of Wakefield, which occasioned a serious loss of life and other damage. Although the accident was serious enough, in point of fact, the accounts, as they reached Wakefield were much exaggerated, and excited intense interest. It was recently reported that ten men had been killed, and twice as many scorched, many of whom were not expected to recover. On inquiry, it was found that, at the moment the explosion took place, there were about twenty men and boys in the pit, three of whom were killed, and the remainder, with the exception of two, more or less scorched. Up to Monday night no other death had occurred, but several of the unfortunate creatures were reported to be in a very precarious state.

John Pickford, aged 17, William Brooke, aged 10, and William Broadhead, aged 9, were the persons who lost their lives. Amongst the other sufferers the following were seriously hurt – David Broadhead, Thomas Brooke, George Lumb, Charles Hartley, David Hartley, Thomas Becher, Benjamin Scott, James Bedford, George Broadhead, and Edward Throit.

The Bull Pit belongs to Messrs Smithson and Co. On Sunday, Thomas Lee, jun. Esq, empanelled a jury, in order to inquire into the cause of the death of John Pickford. The jury came, to the conclusion that the poor fellow lost his life in consequence of the incautious use of a candle at one of the “banks” by a pitman. On Monday evening at six o’clock, a second inquest was held the house of Mr Percival Brooke, innkeeper, of Kirkhamgate, before Mr Lee and a very respectable and attentive jury, on view of the bodies of the two boys, when additional evidence was adduced, and the inquiry was adjourned till Thursday, at Potovens, when after a protracted and minute investigation and the examination of Mr Walsh[?] surgeon, and particularly Benjamin Scott, a lad who was working at the same time in the same place with Benjamin [sic] Bedford, the man who took the candle which caused the explosion and after hearing Bedford’s voluntary statement, the Jury returned a verdict of “Manslaughter against James Bedford”. Two of the sufferers are expected not to recover.

James Bedford was found not guilty at the York Spring Assizes in March of the following year.

Road death outside Bay Horse

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 6 April 1844


On Monday last, a very distressing occurrence took place at Snow Hill, by which a son of Benjamin Dixon, Esq, of Wakefield, solicitor, lost his life. It appears that in the afternoon of that day, he had been walking towards Potovens, in company with some other children; and as they were returning, a cart was descending the hill from the bar just at the time the young people had reached the junction of the Bradford Road with Potovens Lane [now Wrenthorpe Road]. As they were playing, they unfortunately did not notice the approach of the cart, and Mr Dixon’s son ran backwards against the horse, which knocked him down on his face, and the wheel passed over his loins in slanting direction upwards; and though no bones were broken the injuries done to the spine were so great that death ensued before medical aid could reach him. An inquest was held on the same day, which was adjourned to Tuesday, before Thomas Lee, Esq, coroner, at the Bay Horse at Snow Hill, when the above facts were given in evidence, and a verdict of Accidental Death was returned. The driver, who was also the owner of the cart, was stated to be a very respectable and steady man, and showed deep concern at the lamentable occurrence. The coroner cautioned him to be more careful in future to be near the head of his horse when driving, remarking, at the same time, that nothing was more common than to see drivers loitering at an unwarrantable distance from their teams.

Carter falls beneath moving cart

Leeds Mercury
Thursday 17 March 1887


Yesterday noon a shocking accident, which terminated fatally in the evening, took place on the Wakefield and Bradford road, near the large building at Carr Gate known as “Prophet Wroe’s Mansion”, about a couple of miles from Wakefield. About the time named William Jones, a carter living in Elm Street, Halifax, and in the employ of Mr Brears of Halifax, was in charge of a light lorry or waggon. He was jumping off the waggon, when one of his feet slipped, and he fell under the waggon, and the wheels passed over him. He was removed to the Clayton Hospital at Wakefield, where it was found that he was in a very critical state, having sustained a compound fracture of the skull, a fracture of the ribs on the left side, and a fracture of the left leg. The sufferer, who was a single man, and apparently between thirty-five and forty years of age, was admitted into the hospital at 1.15pm and died from shock to the system.

Mining accident deaths: lockjaw

Accidents down the pit resulting in deaths from lockjaw (tetanus) were not uncommon. Here are two from the mid-19th century, relating to miners from Potovens.

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 19 August 1848


On Monday last, Mr Lee, coroner, held inquest at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens, near Wakefield, on the body of Benjamin Scott. Deceased was a coal miner employed at Messrs Burnley’s pits in Wakefield, and the 14th ult. he was filling his corf when a quantity of coal fell upon him from the roof, and broke his leg. He was attended by Mr Statter, but lock-jaw took place on the following Wednesday, and he died on the ensuing Sunday. Verdict, “Accidentally killed”.

Leeds Times
Saturday 26 January 1856


An accident befel a boy named Henry Nottingham, on Thursday, the 3rd inst. He was a hurrier in the Haigh Moor Pit, Stanley. On the day in question, when getting off the “rolley”, which he was driving along the road to the pit shaft, a portion of the wheel caught his clothes and threw him under the “rolley”, breaking his thigh, and otherwise injuring him. He has since died of lock-jaw. An inquest was held on the body on Tuesday, at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens, before T Taylor, Esq, when a verdict in accordance with the facts stated was returned.

Another sad infant death

Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 21 December 1801


Lately an unfortunate accident happened to a child at a place called Pot-Ovens, near Wakefield; its mother brewing a small quantity of malt liquor, had placed it on the house floor, in a small vessel, boiling hot, the child playing unobserved near the same, accidentally fell in, and was scalded in such a shocking manner as to occasion its death. It is hoped this dreadful catastrophe will caution those who have the care of children, from suffering them to play so near the brink of danger.

Was this the final accident at Wrenthorpe Colliery?

Arguably the strangest accident in Wrenthorpe Colliery’s 90-year history occurred just three months before its closure. But this time no miner was directly affected.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Wednesday 21 March 1928


There were miraculous escapes from yesterday when the flywheel of the engine driving the ventilation plant the Wrenthorpe Colliery, Wakefield, burst. The engine-house was wrecked and piece of machinery was hurled through the roof and crashed into the room of cottage in which a woman was sleeping. The woman, Mrs Colley, escaped injury, but her cat was killed. Mr Colley was in the pit at the time.

The flywheel was 13ft in diameter and weighed about 10 tons. A large piece of metal from the broken flywheel crashed through the rear wall of Mrs Colley’s cottage, carrying away the whole of the staircase and part of the ceiling. Mrs Colley was trapped the bedroom and had to be rescued through the bedroom window. She was able leave hospital after attention.

Edwardian motorbike accident

Shields Daily Gazette
Friday 9 September 1904


Lionel Ainsworth and John Rawdon, members of the Morley Motor Cycle Club, on Wednesday night ran into a horse and trap at Potovens, near Wakefield. The occupants of the trap, Messrs James Wroe, farmer, Carr Gate, and Fred Leather, coal agent, Newton, were thrown out, though only slightly injured, but the motorists did not escape so easily. Ainsworth was thrown off, and the machine fell on the top of him, his head and face being much bruised, and some of his ribs broken. He remains at the hospital in a serious condition.

Steam engine road accident

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 2 May 1893


Two children, each seven years of age, have died at the Clayton Hospital at Wakefield, from accidental injuries. Elsie Dickinson, of Russell Street, Thames Lane, was fatally burned by her clothing catching fire. The other sufferer was boy named Rowland Moorby, son of a miner at Potovens. On Friday last Messrs Reynolds & Haslegrave’s traction engine, with two large flour waggons, was passing through the village, when he was knocked down by it and run over.

Six-year-old Moorby was buried at Alverthorpe churchyard on the day this newspaper was published.