Sudden death at Melbourne House lodge

Grantham Journal
Saturday 9 September 1871

SHOCKING OCCURRENCE NEAR WAKEFIELD

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.

Sad death at Broom Hall

Leicester Guardian
Wednesday 6 November 1872

A FARMER’S WIFE POISONING HERSELF WHEN DRUNK

On Wednesday an inquest was held before T Taylor Esq, at Snow Hill, near Wakefield, on the body of Sophia Thompson, wife of Mr George Thompson, farmer, Broom Hall, Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, who had died from the effects of a large dose of arsenic taken by her in a gloss of brandy, whilst under the influence of drink. The deceased, who was forty-seven years of age, was addicted to drinking, and although she had generally drank at home, she had often returned from Wakefield the worse for liquor. She began drinking on Wednesday night week, and continued to do so for the next three days. Last Saturday morning the servant girl heard someone downstairs, about four o’clock, and, on going into the cellar, she found her mistress, who had been in the habit of getting up at nights and sometimes sleeping in the kitchen, talking to herself. The girl returned to bed, and some time afterwards she heard the deceased, who was tipsy, talking to herself in her room. The deceased went downstairs and stood before the kitchen fire a few minutes, and then returned upstairs. Mr Thompson had bought a pound of arsenic on the 18th instant to use in dressing wheat, and the deceased seems to have got some of it and drank it along with some brandy, for between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday morning the servant found her seated on a box upstairs with a glass of brandy before her. It was subsequently discovered, and she admitted that she had taken a large dose of arsenic in the brandy. Mr W Statter, of Wakefield, and his son were called in during the evening, and administered the usual antidotes for arsenic, but with little hope of success, and the woman died on Monday. – The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased had poisoned herself when drunk.

Manslaughter charge for lighting candle in local coal pit

Yorkshire Gazette
Tuesday 30 August 1836

FATAL EXPLOSION OF FIRE DAMP AT A COLLIERY NEAR WAKEFIELD

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

DISTRESSING AND FATAL ACCIDENT

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.

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

DEATH FROM LOCKJAW

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

FATAL COAL-PIT ACCIDENT

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.

Mining accident deaths: roof falls

Four mid to late-19th century reports on Wrenthorpe miners killed by roof falls at local pits.

Leeds Mercury
Saturday 5 April 1856

FATAL ACCIDENT IN A COAL PIT

On Thursday evening last, an inquest was held before T Taylor, Esq, coroner, at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens, touching the death of John Bedford, who had died on the morning of the above day from the injuries he had received on the previous Monday, whilst working in the pit of Messrs R Hudson and Co, at Newton Lane End. From the evidence of Joseph Clegg, a miner, who was working near to deceased at the time of the accident, it appeared that he and deceased were in what is termed straight work, and on hearing something fall, he called out, but, receiving no reply, took his light and looked through a slit, and saw deceased under a stone weighing about half a ton. He assisted in getting deceased out of the pit, and saw him conveyed home to Potovens in a cart. He was 27 years of age, and was attended by Mr H Horsfall, surgeon, up to the time of his death. Verdict, “Accidentally crushed”.

Barnsley Chronicle
Saturday 21 December 1861

KILLED BY A FALL COAL

On Thursday, at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens, T Taylor, Esq, held an inquest on the body of George Whiteley, a collier, who had been killed in the St John’s Colliery, which is the property of the executors of the late Mr Benjamin Burnley. According the evidence of James Whiteley, of Wrenthorpe, who was hurrier to the deceased, it appeared that the deceased worked at the St John’s Colliery. The seam is the Stanley Main bed, which consists of two veins, the lower being a yard thick, and intervening between it and the upper vein, which is about two feet thick, there is layer of loose stone and dirt. On Monday the deceased was at his work, and had “holed” under the lower bed about two feet. The bank where was working is about ten yards long, and he had bared about four yards in the middle. He had previously “felled’’ one end, and as he was cutting the other end the coal suddenly fell, and the corner hit him on the left side, and knocked him off his stool. He was just at the time getting the last curve load for that day, previous to ceasing work. After his injury he could not rise, and had to be taken home, where died on Wednesday from the injuries had sustained. In addition to the above facts, it was stated by a collier, named John Haigh, residing at Eastmoor, that if the deceased had been standing in place of sitting when the fall occurred, he would not have been injured. The verdict returned was to the effect that the death of the deceased had resulted from his being accidentally injured.

Sheffield Independent
Saturday 31 March 1888

FATAL COLLIERY ACCIDENT AT LOFTHOUSE

On Thursday, fall of roof took place at the Lofthouse Colliery, near Wakefield. A mass of about five tons of material fell upon a young man named Albert Tattersdale, between 19 and years of age, living at Potovens, burying him under the debris. When extricated, he was found to be quite dead, being crashed in a fearful manner.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph
Wednesday 3 May 1899

INQUEST

Yesterday, Major Taylor, JP, held an inquest at the Clayton Hospital, Wakefield, on the body of Harry Scott Clay, miner, 25 yean age of Wild’s Buildings, Potovens. The deceased was employed at the Silkstone seam the Lofthouse Colliery, when a large piece of stone suddenly fell from the roof, caught Clay on the head, and caused a compound fracture of the skull. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.

Scars on the industrial landscape

Some vestiges of Wrenthorpe’s industrial past were left abandoned for many years. These included old mine workings and the woollen mill at the bottom of Silcoates Lane. Each were the sites of suicides. The first, in the mill dam, a couple of year after the factory closed.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Saturday 1 October 1904

COUNTY NEWS

Emma Parkin, aged 71, wife of Joseph Parkin, gardener, Potovens, near Wakefield, was found drowned in Silcoates Dam on Thursday. It is supposed to be a case of suicide.

Thirty years later, a disused mine shaft on the site of Coleridge Crescent, was the site of a gruesome discovery. Swaine was a former landlord at The Wheel.

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette
Monday 29 July 1935

DEAD IN SHAFT

A verdict of suicide while temporarily of unsound mind was returned an inquest held at Outwood on Tom Swaine (59), Robin Hood Farm, Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. He was found dead in a disused pit shaft [Bragg Lane Pit] at Wrenthorpe after having been missing for 12 days. He had been suffering from debility and depression.

Wrenthorpe Colliery 2: air-vent explosion kills two

Two very different reports of an early pit accident at the colliery, in 1844, starting with the Evening Mail’s account.

London Evening Mail
Monday 21 October 1844

ANOTHER FATAL COLLIERY EXPLOSION

On Wednesday night last an explosion took place in the colliery of Messrs Micklethwaite and Co, near Wakefield, at which time three men were at work in the pit. Two of the men were killed by the explosion; and when their bodies were brought to the bank they presented a horrible picture, the flesh on their arms and faces being literally burnt to a cinder. The names of the two men who were suddenly called out of time into eternity are James Brown, a married man, of Westgate Common, and George Powell, unmarried, of Potovens, near Wakefield. Not only were two lives lost, but the coals in the pit were ignited, and remained burning at the time this account was sent off. On Thursday an inquest was held on the bodies, at the Vine Tree Inn, Newton, before Mr T Lee, coroner, when a long and patient investigation was gone into. The facts of the case may be gleaned from the following evidence adduced:

Francis Jagger sworn and said – l am both a miner and sinker; I know the deceased James Brown and George Powell; I am now sinking a pit for Messrs Micklethwaite; I was near the place where the accident occurred about 9 o’clock last night; a lad in the pit came and rang at the rod to let us know; I thought I had heard the explosion about half an hour before; there were but three persons in the pit; as soon as we heard the ringing, we went to the pit and pulled the lad up; he told us what had happened; one of the partners (Mr Carter), and his son, and myself, all went down the pit. We found the deceased men about 150 yards from the pit’s eye; they were both dead and stretched out straight. They appeared to have been suffocated. They were burnt upon their arms and face. They were employed in repairing the air-gate. I have worked in the pit, and consider the ventilation good at present without repairing. They had three lamps in use, two of which we found, but the third, belonging to Powell, is missing; we think he had taken the top off the lamp, which caused the explosion. The coal at the present time is still on fire in the pit. It is necessary that great caution should be exercised in working the air-gate, it is more dangerous than other parts of the pit. Mr Carter manages the workings at the bottom of the pit, and every attention is paid to the ventilation.

Brown was 29 years old, and Powell 19; they both lay on their faces quite dead when found. George Bedford deposed, that when he came out of the pit, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the ventilation was good. He had been working in the same air-gate. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidentally killed in a coal pit”.

How can the Northern Star and Advertiser’s commentary be so different? Not least, one of the two papers can’t even get the correct names of the two dead men.

Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser
Saturday 19 October 1844

COLLIERY EXPLOSION, NEAR WAKEFIELD – TWO LIVES LOST

On Wednesday night, about nine o’clock, the village of Newton was thrown into a great state of excitement, an alarm being given that the pit belonging to Messrs Micklethwaite and Co had fired, and that four men were at work at the time. Mr Carter, and his son William, the bottom steward, were speedily in attendance, and descended the shaft in the hope of rendering assistance to the poor sufferers. Providentially, however, the cupola man and a boy, who were at work near to the other two men, had made their way to the pit’s eye, and were with the greatest dispatch landed on the surface. The man had not sustained the least injury, but the boy was much burnt about the knees, having also received a severe cut in the forehead. After Carter and his son had remained some length of time, two other men also descended, and at five minutes to ten o’clock one of the men returned, but without any tidings of the unfortunate sufferers. He, however, again descended, taking with him the necessary articles required to enable them to continue the search, which lasted until a quarter past eleven o’clock, when the two Carters ascended the shaft in a complete state of exhaustion, bringing the melancholy tidings that the two men were found, and both dead. The other two men were also brought to the top equally exhausted, when after administering some restorative, they began to recruit their strength, and prepare for a second descent to bring out the sufferers. A little after one o’clock, the bodies were brought up, and a truly horrible picture was presented to view, the flesh on their arms and faces being literally burnt to a cinder, the skin hanging about them like so many rags; they were immediately laid upon stretchers, and conveyed to the adjoining Inn. No particulars have as yet transpired as to how the explosion originated, but it is to be feared that the inflammable air must have ignited at the lamp of one of the sufferers, the same not having yet been found. The other two lamps are in a perfect state. The names of the sufferers are John Whiteley, a lad, residing at Bragg Lane, and severely burnt; James Brown, Westgate Common, a married man, aged about thirty, dead and George Wild, of Potovens, aged seventeen, also dead. Brown has left a wife and one child to mourn his untimely end. At the inquest held on Thursday, a verdict of “Accidentally killed in a coal pit” was returned.

Inquests into two very different deaths

As strange as this now sounds, during the 19th and early 20th century inquests into sudden deaths were usually carried out in pubs. In Potovens in the 1800s, this was almost always at the Royal Oak. The following report relates to an inquest at the Malt Shovel – a suicide and a death demonstrating the dangers of working in the textile industry.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 6 June 1881

FATAL OCCURRENCES NEAR WAKEFIELD

On Saturday Captain Taylor, of Wakefield, held an inquiry at Mr Wild’s, the Malt Shovel Inn, Potovens, near Wakefield, on the bodies of two persons who had come to their death under sad and extraordinary circumstances.

One of the parties was a widow 57 years of age, named Mary Ann Garside. Sometime ago the deceased lived with Mr John Hawley, colliery agent, The Haugh [later called Sunny Hill House], Silcoates, who married her daughter about two and a half years ago. The mother and daughter did not appear to agree very well, and in January last the deceased left her son-in-law’s residence, and had lately been living in lodgings in Park Street, Wakefield. On Thursday night she went and sat under a pear tree near Mr Hawley’s house, and it is supposed that she then took a quantity of laudanum, and laid down air to die, having frequently told a commercial traveller who lived near her daughter that she would commit suicide, and afterwards wrote a letter to that effect. Next morning she was found under the pear tree in a stupefied and is dying state, and was carried by her son-in-law and another gentleman into Mr Hawley’s stable, where she died shortly afterwards, apparently from the effects of poison.

The other sufferer was a man named James Hudson, a labourer at Messrs Colbeck’s Mills, at Alverthorpe. On Friday night a fire took place in a dust hole at the mills and whilst it was being extinguished Hudson was found quite dead and much burnt. It is supposed that the man upset his lamp among some woollen waste and set it on fire, and that the dense smoke suffocated him, and then he was roasted by the flames. The poor fellow leaves a wife and seven little children.

Tragic death of John Wroe II

Yorkshire Evening Post
Tuesday 19 January 1932

POLICE SEEK CYCLIST WHO WAS WITNESS

The police are anxious to trace a cyclist aged about 25 who was riding a bicycle along Bradford Road, Carr Gate, East Ardsley, towards Bradford, at 5.30p.m. on Monday, and was the only witness of an accident which resulted in the death of John Wroe, farmer, of Carr Gate.

Wroe was knocked down by a motor-van owned by Newboulds, Ltd, of Bradford, and was terribly injured about the legs and body. He was taken to Clayton Hospital, Wakefield, and died soon after admission.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Wednesday 20 January 1932

KNOCKED DOWN BY VAN
Great-Grandson of “Prophet” Wroe

The death of a great-grandson of “Prophet” Wroe, founder of the Christian Israelite Movement, was inquired into at Wakefield to-day by the West Riding Coroner, Mr C J Haworth.

The dead man was John Wroe (52), of Melbourne House, Carr Gate, near Wakefield. On Monday evening he was knocked down by a motor-van, and sustained injuries from which he died shortly afterwards.

Muriel Cooke-Yarborough, dancing instructress, of Vernon Road, Leeds, said she was driving her car from Wakefield when the van passed her. The van pulled out to pass a cyclist and soon afterwards it slowed down. Witness saw a body in the road, and the van driver later said her: “I pulled out to avoid a cyclist, and never saw him”, meaning the dead man.