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Flooding Fatalities – 8th October 1863

On the 8th October 1863 the coal mine flooded trapping six miners underground, three were rescued.   The three miners who died were Harry Clements, Jeremiah Rose and Thomas Bird, more details of their lives are further down the page.  The flooding was caused when mining activity got too close to the tens of thousands of gallons of water trapped in the eighteenth century Limby Hall mine.  Miners tried to plug a small spurt of water, but the water pressure was too great and a powerful torrent of water burst through and very quickly flooded the Califat mine.

The memorial plaques were unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton, on the 30th March 2003.

The incident was commemorated 150 years later on the 8th October 2013, at the memorial plaques at the Alabama shaft engine house complex.

Memorial plaques for the 3 miners who died in the 1863 flooding
LIHS diggers 8th October 2013 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 8th October 1863 flooding

Newspaper Accounts of the event and Inquest

Newspaper accounts refer to an accident at Coleorton instead of Swannington for three reasons:

  • The official name of the mine was the Coleorton No 2 Colliery, Califat being a local name (Coleorton No 1 Colliery was known as California).
  • The California colliery was in Coleorton, the Califat colliery was in Swannington, although they were only 700 yards (metres) apart, there was a finger of Thringstone land in between them.
  • Many people used to refer to the Loughborough Road area as Coleorton, indeed the current postal address of Loughborough Road is Coleorton even though it is in Swannington.


Newspaper reports describe the flooding, dramatic rescue of three miners, sad death of three other miners plus 16 horses.  There are however  different approaches to reporting that are reflected in the articles, transcripts of two are provided:

The Leicester Guardian’s readership were Leicester people, so the correspondent describes the location of the Califat colliery in relation to Coalville and Swannington stations.  There is also a description of the pit roadways (sloping down from Limby Hall to Calcutta) and the underground connections with the California and Calcutta collieries.  The correspondent vividly describes the anguish of the families, friends and community.  Read the Leicester Guardian report 10th October 1863

The readership of the Ashby News were in Ashby de la Zouch and its neighbourhood and knew where Coleorton and Swannington were.   The majority of the account was written on the Thursday (the day of the flooding) and includes a dramatic description of miners desperately groping their way in the dark, banging heads on projecting coal as the water pursued them.   This is supplemented by additions on the Friday, thus capturing the difficulties in continuing the search.   Read the Ashby News report 17th October 1863


The inquest into the deaths was adjourned to allow for the flooding to subside and the air to clear, so that the Inspector of Mines and Coleorton Colliery officials could inspect the mine and the hollows.  Read the Loughborough Monitor report 19th November 1863

Califat Mining Disaster - miners being overwhelmed by the huge influx of water into the mine - painting by Angela Clarke of Swannington Art Classes

Harry Clements died age 16

Harry Clements was a 16 year old coal miner living in Limby Hall, Swannington.  It is not known which part of this lane he lived in.  The William Clements who survived the overwind incident a few months earlier was either Harry’s father or older brother.  Harry was buried near the west door of St George’s Church.

Henry (Harry) Clements was the fourth of William Clements and Letitia  Lakin’s five children.  He was born at Darlaston, Staffordshire (now part of Walsall).  Harry’s brothers were also coal miners:

  • James was a 15 year old Staffordshire coal miner in 1851 and was still mining in Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire in 1891 at the age of 55.  He died in 1893.
  • William was a 20 year old Peggs Green coal miner in 1861 and was still mining in Swadlincote, Derbyshire in 1911 at the age of 69.  He died in 1917.
  • John was a 12 year old Peggs Green coal miner in 1861.


An infant, Sarah Ann Clements of Limby Hall was buried at St George’s Church on the 18th October, just 7 days after Harry.  Their relationship is uncertain.

Jeremiah Rose died after walking through the night from Belton

Jeremiah Rose was a 40 year old carpenter who worked at the Califat coal mine.  There would be plenty of jobs there working on pit props, repairing coal tubs etc.   On Thursday 8th October 1863 he would have got out of bed at perhaps 4am, dressed, had breakfast and left the house a little before 5am.  It would have probably taken him about an hour to walk to work in the dark via either Grace Dieu or Osgathorpe.  Over the winter months he would have kept to the roads, whereas in summer he might have walked across the fields.

On arriving at the mine he would have collected his tally from the timekeeper, John Carter Oliver, who lived in one of the Califat cottages.   William Pickering, the overman, would have told Jeremiah about the water entering the mine at the No 8 stall.  Jeremiah would have collected his tools and headed down the mine to try to plug the leak.

Newspaper reports state that Jeremiah left a wife and six children.  His first son Jesse died as an infant in 1847 and only Jeremiah’s second wife and five children have be traced:

  • Ann Rose (nee Cope) 27 – Jeremiah’s second wife who overnight became a widow with six children.  Ann became a seamstress and moved to Peggs Green, in 1871 she had another daughter, Isabella.  Ann died in Peggs Green in 1901.
  • James Rose 15 – Son of Jeremiah’s first wife Sarah Cox.  By 1871 James had moved to the Darlaston / Walsall area where he lived until his death in 1907.  James married during the summer of 1871 and had 10 children.
  • Edward Rose 13 – Son of Jeremiah’s first wife Sarah Cox.  Edward was 25 when he died in the Swaithe Main colliery disaster at Barnsley in 1875 when 143 miners died as a result of an explosion.
  • Robert Rose 10 – Son of Jeremiah’s first wife Sarah Cox.   Alongside his brother James, Robert was also a boarder in the Darlaston / Walsall area in 1871, he returned to Leicestershire by 1881, them moved to the coal mines of Yorkshire.
  • George Henry Rose 2 – Son of Jeremiah’s second wife Ann.   George Henry moved to Peggs Green and became a coal miner.  He married Mary Ann Roberts and had three children.  He died in aged 34 leaving a wife and three children.
  • Ann Rose 1 – Daughter of Jeremiah’s second wife Ann.  Ann worked in a quarry factory before her marriage to coal miner David Smith.  They had three children in Coalville moving to Yorkshire.

Thus a few years after Jeremiah’s death the family had split.  The three sons of his first marriage had moved to Staffordshire and Yorkshire, while his widow brought up their two children.

Doomed at Califat - Carpenter Jeremiah Rose (supported by Harry Clements) working to plug the flow of water into the mine - painting by Denis Baker

Thomas Bird (or was he Thomas Richards?) died

The newspaper accounts refer to the death of Thomas Bird age 50 who left a wife and nine children.  His nephew Thomas Bird 20 was one of the three miners rescued.  However it has not been possible to identify him and his family.

One suggestion is that Thomas Bird was the illegitimate son of Mary Bird who later married a Thomas Richards.

There is a story that Mary Richards (widow of Thomas) and her nine children lived in the Wool Rooms (part of Worthington, but because of its position assumed by many people to be in Coleorton).

The burial records of Breedon, Coleorton, Osgathorpe, Swannington, Thringstone and Whitwick have been reviewed, none of them record a burial of either a Thomas Bird or Thomas Richards in October 1863.  The death certificate records information provided by the coroner, so not a relative’s name to help with research.

Research continues.