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Cage Overwind Fatality – Friday 29th May 1863

John Hutchinson fell 130 yards down the shaft to his death

At about 5.30pm two miners, John Hutchinson and William Clements, finished their shift and were in the cage at the bottom of the winding shaft.  They signalled to ascend but nothing happened because the engine man, William Walker, had gone to get a bucket from the pumping engine 60-70 yards (55-64 metres) away.

The overman, Robert Lakin, was in the engine house at the time.  He had experience of operating the winding engine to raise coal tubs and decided to bring the men up to the surface.  He did not stop the engine in time and the cage hit the headstock and broke.  John Hutchinson fell 130 yards (119 metres) to his death, while William Clements clung on to the remnants of the cage and headstock for 20 minutes until he was rescued.

Inquest Extracts

The Leicester Journal on Friday 5th June gave a detailed account of the incident, including the following extracts:

  • Blacksmith – James Waring – went out of his workshop after hearing a crash “I saw the position they were in, and shouted for them to hold fast, the first thing the guard or fencing came into contact with was the bottom cross beam, which caused the guard to break and the cage to swing round.  The end of the guard that did not catch the beam caught against the underpart of the cage.  At the same moment the cross bars of the cage the men were holding by broke, and both men were thrown out.  Clements was first thrown out, and caught the slide of the conductor, and deceased was thrown clean over the side down the shaft.  He tried to catch the side but missed it.  Clements was dashed against the diagonal bar across the pit, by which he held, and sat on the cross piece of the frame or head gear.”
  • Deputy of the day shift – Thomas Bird – Proved to finding the body at the bottom of the shaft.  Two boys told him a man had fell down the shaft.  Made haste there and found it was deceased.  He was quite dead.  The depth of the shaft is about 130 yards.
  • Engine man – William Walker – “No one had any right to meddle with the engine unless the manager gave permission.  I had seen Lakin work the engine several times, he had drawn coals up during dinner time.  I knew he could manage the engine before I came there.  I never knew him draw men up.  The engine was in good working order at the time.”
  • Manager of the Coleorton Colliery – George Lewis – “I produce a copy of the rules of the Coleorton Colliery, every man is supplied with a copy.  Special Rule, clause 53 states, “The engineer shall not permit anyone but himself to interfere with the engine, or machinery without the permission of the manager.”  By the Chairman: Have you ever given Lakin permission?  No”
  • Overman – Robert Lakin – “When I commenced turning them up, and had got better than half way up, I saw Walker, the engine man coming.  When I saw him running my mind seemed fixed on him.  I let the engine go, and the cage appeared in sight.  I took the steam off, and clapped the break on, and stopped her instantly, but the crank coming over the swing it took the cage up higher.”

John Hutchinson (Died)

Very little is known about John Hutchinson.  John’s marriage certificate partly explains why this is the case:

  • John’s father is not included on the marriage certificate
  • John Hutchinson married Selina Varnham at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Whitwick, which would account for him not appearing in Church of England baptism and burial registers.

 

John’s birth certificate has not been traced.  His sister Eliza’s birth certificate in 1848 does not include a father, although sister Fanny’s 1844 certificate names her father as Francis Hutchinson a collier.

The Leicester Journal describes him as “J Hutchinson, who is a young man, had not been married more than 15 months, and buried his only child a few weeks ago.  He did not bear the best of characters, but has lately changed for the better.”  Other newspapers give his age as 22 years old.

The death certificate confirms that John died of a fractured skull.

Birth certificate Eliza Hutchinson, 1848 in Thringstone, father's name not included
Birth certificate Fanny Hutchinson 1848, father shown as Francis Hutchinson
Death certificate of John Hutchinson killed falling down the shaft - certificate obtained from General Register Office
Marriage certificate of John Hutchinson and Selina Varnham at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Whitwick 21st April 1862

William Clements (Survived)

The newspaper reports do not give any information that would identify which of the two William Clements (father and son) was involved in the incident:

  • William Clements 1812-1871 – William was born in Radford Nottinghamshire.   William was a coal miner living in Whitwick in 1841, he was mining in Staffordshire in 1851 then back in Leicestershire in 1861.  William was buried at St Leodegarius church, Basford, Nottingham on the 2nd April 1871.
  • William Clements 1841-1915 – William was born in Whitwick and had moved to Staffordshire with his coal mining father by 1851.  By 1861 William had adopted his father’s occupation as a coal miner.  In 1881 he was a coal miner living in Clay Lane, Derbyshire.  By 1891 he was living in Market Street, Swadlincote and was still in Market Street in 1911 where he is recorded as a 69 year old coal hewer.

After the incident William walked home.  The family was probably living in Limby Hall Lane at the time as that is the address on the burial register for Harry Clements in October 1863.

The Leicester Journal report of the inquest describes William Clement as “This witnesses was scarcely able to walk and trembled in every limb, showing visibly the effect of the late accent on him”.

The inquest took place at the Fox Inn, Thringstone, on Monday 1st June, three days after the incident.  Considering the newspaper description of William’s condition, one wonders how he managed to get there.

Coroner’s Court

Coroner – John Gregory

John Gregory was born in Leicester around 1803.  He became a prominent solicitor in the town and was also a coroner.  In 1851 he was living in New Walk, in 1861 and 1871 he was in Regent Street.  He died on the 14th August 1873 leaving an estate worth up to £2,000.

Coroner’s Jury Foreman – William Kidger (senior)

William Kidger was born in Griffydam on the 2nd May 1802.  He lived in Peggs Green and at the 1861 census was a grocer and farmer of 245 acres employing 8 labourers and 3 boys.  His sons contributed to the family business: William 32 farm bailiff, Edward 22 shopman, Price 20 butcher, Ann 15 assistant.   He died in 1890.  The jury may have selected William as foreman because he was the wealthiest / farmed the largest acreage.

Coroner’s Jury

The jury had a strong representation from Thringstone (including Peggs Green) as the inquest took place at the Fox Inn, Thringstone.  Jurors were men on the electoral register, which had a property qualification, hence the predominance of farmers and middle class tradesmen, coupled with the absence of agricultural labourers and coal miners.  The other members of the jury were:

  • James Bott – Swannington resident James was described as an agricultural labourer in 1841, a proprietor of la.d in 1851, a gardener in 1861 and a farmer at his 1864 death, when he left an estate under £100.
  • Edward Gough – Edward was a Thringstone born butcher probably living in Peggs Green in 1861 and 1871 who in 1881 was given the more specific address of Loughborough Road.
  • Thomas Gough Junior – At the 1861 census Thomas was a 33 year old Thringstone born hawker living in Thringstone.  His father, Thomas, a carrier lived a couple of doors away.
  • William Hallam – In 1861 Swannington born William was a cordwainer (shoe maker) living in Thringstone.
  • J Henson – With so many Henson family members it was not possible to identify him.
  • George Jaques or Jaquiss – Thringstone born George Jaques was a 29 year old Thringstone green grocer in 1861.  He was described as a general dealer at his 1872 death leaving an estate under £100.
  • William Kidger – The son of the jury chairman, modern day standards of transparency and governance did not apply in Victorian England.
  • James Kirby – In 1851 James was a miller at Thringstone Water Mill where his father John was a farmer.  By 1861 James was a Thringstone farmer.  He was a miller and farmer in 1871 and a couple of years later leased what is now Hough Mill from the Griffin family.
  • John Knight – There were two Thringstone farmers of this name on the 1861 census, one at Peggs Green and the other at Stordon Grange.
  • Charles Mann – At the 1861 census Charles was a Belton born wheelwright living in Thringstone.  He died in 1900 leaving an estate of £270.
  • John K Mills – At the 1861 census John was a 40 year old Thringstone farmer.  He was prosperous enough to have retired to Cademan Street, Whitwick by the 1871 census.