The two worst accidents at Water Haigh colliery were in 1910, when six men died during the sinking of No 1 pit, and in 1933 when three men were killed after shot firing went wrong causing an explosion of gas. For detailed accounts of those click on the links in this section. In the Miners section, under the names of Waclaw Chrystyn and Harry Ellis, there are details of the 1956 accident in which Harry was killed and Waclaw, a Polish born miner, received an award for his bravery in the rescue attempt. This page contains accounts and newspaper reports of other accidents at the pit in which there was only one fatality.
Joseph Forrest Whitehead was only 17 years old when he died at the Leeds General Infirmary after one of the earliest accidents at Water Haigh. It happened during the night shift on Wednesday 17 July 1912 when he was crushed between the cage and the top landing of No. 1 shaft.
According to evidence given at an inquest, held at Leeds two days later, nobody had seen him on the landing and it was only after he had fallen that the alarm was raised and the cage was lowered. An unnamed banksman said he had “no business” being on the landing.
The pit’s manager, Dennis Walter Hargreaves, said Joseph had been taken on as a lamp carrier. He had only been in the job a few months at the newly opened colliery.
Previously he’d been a labourer in one of Oulton’s stone quarries. Two of his five brothers were also working underground at Water Haigh – Wilfred, 18, was a pony driver and William, 14, was a labourer on the rope system which hauled tubs of coal to the pit bottom. He later became an active member of the miners’ union.
At the time of the accident they were all living with their parents, Fred and Minnie, in a cottage at 1 Quarry Hill close to the Old Masons Arms. An elder brother, Clifford, 19, a quarry labourer was also there, along with two younger brothers, Stanley and Harry. Another brother, Ernest, had died when he was 10 years old in 1910.
Their father worked as a labourer repairing local roads for the Hunslet Rural District Council. He came from a long line of quarry workers and had been born in Oulton in 1869. His father, William Whitehead, had been a mason but in 1873 had become the local sanitary inspector and was still working for the council when Joseph was killed. Minnie was also born in the village in 1873. Her father was Joseph Forrest, a stationary engineman.
Joseph was buried in the same plot as his brother in Oulton churchyard on the Sunday following his death. Their mother and father are also buried there. Fred was 76 when he passed away in 1945 and Minnie was 82 when she joined them in 1954.
INSUFFICIENT TIMBER USED. Yorkshire Evening Post, Tuesday 9 March 1915.
An inquest was held at Oulton, yesterday afternoon, by Mr. P. P. Maitland and a jury on the body of John William Lister (42), a miner living at 10, Compton Avenue, Dewsbury Road, Leeds, who was killed by a fall of roof whilst working in the Beeston scam of the Water Haigh Colliery, Oulton, on Friday night.
Willie Tranmore, Jack Lane, Hunslet, said that Lister, after getting to his working place, tested the roof with a pick. Some time afterwards, without warning. Lister was buried beneath a huge stone and a quantity of rubbish. Witness, who was “filling” at the time, was also struck by some of the debris, but he escaped unhurt, and was able to obtain assistance. Lister was quite dead when extricated. Evidence was also given showing that between the last prop and the coal fall there was a distance of over five feet. A witness stated that the accident might have been averted if Lister had used more timber. The Coroner said that Lister seemed to a careful and experienced miner, but he had been guilty of an error of judgment in not having put up sufficient support to the roof. He advised too jury to return a verdict accordingly. The jury concurred.
MINER KILLED AT WOODLESFORD. Yorkshire Evening Post, Monday 7 February 1916.
A miner named Lister Normington (52), married, of Prince Street. New Wortley, employed labourer Messrs. Henry Briggs, Water Haigh Collieries, Woodlesford, was killed instantly this morning through being knocked down by waggons attached to the locomotive in the colliery yard.
Collinson Crowther was 47 years old when he died at Leeds General Infirmary on Monday 17 March 1919 following an accident at Water Haigh. A couple of weeks earlier, as a deputy, he had been responsible for firing an explosive shot to bring down rock as part of the process known as “ripping” to advance a coal face.
At the inquest, held before the Leeds City Coroner, one of his sons said his father had told him that as he was firing the shot he had taken cover as normal but a piece of stone had bounced off a wooden pack holding up the roof and hit him on one of his thighs causing a severe bruise.
When his condition deteriorated he was admitted to the Infirmary on Friday 14 March but died the following Monday from a tetanus infection. A mining inspector told the inquest he was satisfied that “everything had been in order” with the work underground. The coroner recorded a verdict of “accidental death.”
Collinson Crowther was born in 1871, the youngest child of colliery labourer Joe Crowther from Woodlesford and Sarah Collinson from Rothwell. At the time of the 1881 census Collinson was with his mother at his grandma and grandad Collinson’s house at Spibey Row on Rothwell Haigh. His father was staying with his eldest son on Leeds Road in Lofthouse Gate.
Collinson’s grandad, William, who came from Horbury, was working as an engine cleaner in 1881, probably at Stourton engine shed, but for most of his life he’d been a miner at the Rothwell pits.
Collinson started pit work when he was 12 or 13 years old. He married miner’s daughter Lilian Bulmer in 1890 and lived with her parents at Cross Street in Rothwell where their first son, Albert, was born. By 1901 Collinson had graduated to being a banskman on the pit top.
Ten years later his family had grown to 8 children and they were living at what was described as the “tiled house” on Rothwell Haigh. At some point in the next few years Collinson became a deputy at the recently opened Water Haigh colliery and he moved with his family to 57 Aberford Road in Woodlesford, one of the larger houses opposite Eshald House reserved for colliery officials.
BODY AND CYCLE IN RIVER. Yorkshire Evening Post, 19 August 1919.
Clifford Benson (17), of Church Street, Woodlesford, left home yesterday morning to go to the Water Haigh Colliery to pick coal. He was seen riding his cycle along the towing path, and was then missed until his body and cycle were recovered from the River Aire.
The supposition is that while riding his machine alongside ethe river, he slipped and fell into the water.
John Gillard was killed underground at Water Haigh on Tuesday 25 October 1921. He was 25 years old and had been working on a coal cutting machine with a man called H. Fennell.
John, known as Jack, was in front of the machine whilst Fennell was operating the controls. Without warning there was a heavy fall of rock from the roof. It just missed Fennell but Jack Gillard was buried. Rescuers quickly dug him out but by the time they reached him he had died.
A verdict of “accidental death” was recorded at the inquest held by C.J. Haworth at the Mechanics’ Institute in Rothwell on 27 October. At the time of his death Gillard was living at Pump Fold in Rothwell. He was born in Altofts and had started his working life on the screens above ground at one of the local pits. His father, James Henry Gillard, was a miner from Monmouth in South Wales. In 1901 he was a deputy at a pit near Altofts but by 1911 had become a pig and poultry dealer living on Lock Lane.
SPORT AND COMPENSATION ACT. JUDGE’S DECISION ON NOVEL POINT. Nottingham Evening Post, Thursday 6 March 1924.
That compensation was not payable to a man whose injuries precluded his taking part in sport was held Judge McCarthy at Pontefract County Court yesterday. “I am not here to award for that; what I have to decide is whether the man can earn now what he earned prior to the accident,” be told plaintiff’s solicitor. It was established that the applicant, George McKean, of 60 Elland Road, Leeds, who claimed compensation for a fracture of the right leg received at Water Haigh Colliery, Woodlesford, had for eight months before the claim earned very good wages. Mr. Frankland. for Mesrrs. Henry Briggs, Son, and Co., Ltd.. said it looked as if someone bad put the man “up to” making a claim. Dr. Solly, the medical assessor, having examined McKean, the judge found there was still a slight defect, and awarded applicant 2s. 6d. week.
Frank Jones, who lived on Quarry Hill, was still working at the age of 72 when he was crushed by a piece of stone weighing a ton which fell from the roof of the seam he was working in on Thursday 18 July 1946. He was taken to Leeds General Infirmary but couldn’t be saved. At the inquest a deputy, John Edwin Madeley, said he’d examined the place where Frank was working shortly before the accident and found nothing to suspect that the roof was unsound. Frank had previously been employed at Allerton Main colliery at Swillington and had been at Water Haigh for 30 years. In total he’d been in the pits for 62 years and was within 2 months of retirement.
George Storey, a horse feeder at Water Haigh, was riding his bike on his way home to Engine Street at Bowers Row when he was killed in an accident on Thursday 5 February 1953. It happened on Astley Lane where he was trapped underneath a bus after colliding with it.