The Men of Diglake

Around 238 men and boys were at work in the pit that morning. Of these, over 100 were working in the West 8 Foot seam, 14 or so in the West 8 Foot Boundary workings, around 50 in the East 7 Foot seam (Elsby's area) and just 25 in the new East Ten Foot seam, which was being extended. The fireman, William Sproston, fired a shot in the new Ten Foot at around 11.30. His son, Bill Sproston, who had just started down the dip on an errand for his father, described a sound 'like thunder' and seconds later he was washed away by a torrent of water.

In the West 8 Foot Seam, at the lowest level of the pit, 12 men were killed - presumably drowned. In the new East 10 Foot Seam, 25 men were lost, and in the East Seven Foot Seam, all 40 men were lost. In the latter two cases, it is possible that these men were cut off by the rising water and died as the air became bad.

The Diglake Colliery memorial at Bignall End lists 78 names. With this as a starting point, I have collected information from three other sources: The Database of Mining Deaths, North Staffordshire Coalfield and FreeBMD. Using this information, I have tried to identify the men in both the 1881 and 1891 census returns. (NB the pages covering Wood Lane are missing from the 1891 census). In some cases, confirmation of their identity is provided by details listed in the Diglake Disaster Fund Account Book.

In some cases the age listed by these sources is different to the age listed on the memorial itself. Most of the men were not employed directly by the mine, hence the mine managers had little information about their ages. All of the deaths were registered in the Newcastle L disctrict in the June quarter of 1895, after the inquest which took place in February 1895. Click on each of the names below to find out more about each man.

78 or 77? The memorial at Bignall End has 78 names. However, the account book of the Diglake Colliery Disaster Relief Fund and the Official Report to HM Inspector of Mines list only 77. On the memorial, E Lightfoot is listed twice - he had been seen in two different areas of the pit that morning. The memorial also lists an H Rhodes twice, in the last column. The Diglake Disaster Relief Fund Account Book shows only one H Rhodes and lists an Alfred Rhodes who died aged 17. George Walter Thompson is listed on the memorial as G Rhodes.

The victims' families received money from the Diglake Disaster Relief Fund. In an era before the Welfare State, this was often all that stood between a bereaved family and the workhouse, once the main breadwinner was gone. To help understand how much the families received, I have listed below what the sums from 1895 would represent today.
£10 in 1895 is roughly the equivalent of £745 today.
£20 in 1895 is roughly the equivalent of £1500 today.

As you can see from the chart above, by far the largest number of victims were born locally in Audley, Staffordshire.

Name & Age on memorial
Name & Age from FreeBMD
Name from Database of Mining Deaths
Name/Age from North Staffs Coalfield
T Alkins 47 Thomas Alkins 49 Thomas Atkins Snr T Alkins 47
H Bailey 38 Henry Bailey 42 Henry Bailey H Bailey 36
J Bailey 21 John Bailey 22 John Bailey J Bailey 21
J Beckett 22 John Thomas Beckett 22 John Bechett J Beckett 22
G Beech 32 George Beech 27 George Beech G Beech 32
E Billington 56 Elijah Billington 57 Elijah Billington E Billington 56
J Blurton 15 John Burton 16 John Blurton J Blurton 15
T Bowers 32 Thomas Sargeant Bowers 28 Thomas Bowers T Bowers 32
J Brough 38 John Brough 30 John Brough J Brough 38
W Butler 22 William Butler 20 William Butler W Buttler 22
G Carter 40 George Carter 40 George Carter G Carter 40
T Cartwright 45 Thomas Cartwright 48 Thomas Cartwright T Cartwright 45
T Childers 27 Thomas Chidler 27 Thomas Childers T Childers 27
H Clough 19 Henry Clough 19 Henry Clough H Clough 19
J Cooper 20 Joseph Cooper 18 Joseph Cooper J Cooper 20
S Cork 38 Samuel Cork 37 Samuel Cork S Cork 38
S Crosby 18 Samuel Crosby 18 Samuel Crosby S Crosby 18
G Dodd 24 George Dodd 23 George Dodd G Dodd 24
J Elsbey 48 John Elsby 47 John Elsby J Elsbey 48
G Fox 13 George Henry Fox 13 George Henry Fox G Fox 13
J Frost 18 John William Frost 20 John Frost J Frost 16
J Guise 45 John Guise 38 John Guise J Guise 45
E Higgins 42 Edward Higgins 48 Edward Higgins E Higgins 42
A Hodgkinson 14 Alfred Hodgkinson 15 Alf Hodgkinson A Hodgkinson 14
H Holland 30 Henry Holland 26 Henry Holland H Holland 30
A Hopwood 18 Alfred Hopwood 18 Alf Hopwood A Hopwood 18
H Hopwood 15 Abram Hopwood 15 Abram Hopwood H Hopwood 15
W Hughes 25 William Hughes 30 William Hughes W Hughes 25
A Jackson 15 no listing found Arthur Jackson A Jackson 15
A Johnson 21 Aaron Johnson 21   A Johnson 21
F Johnson 35 Fred Johnson 33 Fred Johnson F Johnson 35
J Johnson 14 Joseph Johnson 14 Joseph Johnson J Johnson 14
S Johnson 40 Samuel Johnson 42 Samuel Johnson S Johnson 40
W Johnson 22 Richard William Johnson 20 Richard William Johnson W Johnson 22
B Knight 16 Benjamin Albert Knight 16 Benjamin Knight B Knight 16
W Latham 18 William Latham 18 William Latham W Latham 18
H Lee 15 Harry Lee 14 Henry Lee H Lee 15
H Leech 20 Harry Leech 18 Henry Leach H Leech 20
E Lightfoot 15 no listing found   E Lightfoot 15
E Lightfoot 17 Ernest Daniel Lightfoot 16 Ernest Lightfoot E Lightfoot 17
F Lowe 28 Fred Lowe 28 Fred Lowe F Lowe 28
H Maddock 45 Henry Maddock 47 Henry Maddock H Maddock 45
J Maddock 15 James Henry Maddock 15 James Henry Maddock J Maddock 15
G Mayer 18 George Mayer 17 George Mayer G Mayer 18
R Mayer 14 Ralph Mayer 15 Ralph Mayer R Mayer 14
S Mayer 18 Samuel Mayer 16 Samuel Mayer S Mayor 18
B Mitchell 40 Benjamin Sunderland Mitchell 39 Ben Mitchell B Mitchell 40
J Mitchell 33 James Mitchell 37 James Mitchell J Mitchel 33
W Mottram 33 William Mottram 30 William Mottram W Mottram 33
G Murray 14 George Morrey 14 George Murray G Murray 14
J Platt 18 James Platt 17   J Platt 18
J Platt 20 John Edmund Platt 19 John Platt J Platt 20
G Pover 14 George Pover 13 George Pover G Pover 14
J Pover 17 James Pover 15 James Pover J Pover 17
W Pugh 15 William Pugh 16 William Pugh W Pugh 15
H Rhodes 17 Alfred G Rhodes 17 Alfred Rhodes Alfred G Rhodes 17
H Rhodes 15 Henry Rhodes 15 Henry Rhodes H Rhodes 15
H Riley 21 Henry Riley 20 Henry Riley H Riley 21
J Riley 46 John Riley 46 John Riley J Riley 46
W Roberts 42 William Roberts 35 William Roberts W Roberts 42
D Rowley 25 Dan Rowley 25 Daniel Rowley D Rowley 25
D Spode 62 David Spord 61 David Spode D Spode 62
G Spode 23 George Walter Spord 26 George Spode G Spode 23
T Sproson 64 Thomas Sproson 45 Thomas Sproston E Sproson 25
E Sproson 25 Enoch Sproson 23 Enoch Sproston F Sproson 14
F Sproson 14 Frank Thomas Sproson 14 F Thomas Sproston T Sproson 64
W Sproson 47 William Sproson 43 William Sproston W Sproson 47
F Taylor 30 Frederick Henry Taylor 27 Fred Taylor F Taylor 30
J Taylor 40 John Taylor 38 John Taylor J Taylor 40
P Taylor 40 Peter Taylor 36 Peter Taylor P Taylor 40
R Taylor 18 Richard Taylor 19 Richard Taylor R Taylor 18
R Taylor 38 Ralph Taylor 36 Ralph Taylor R Taylor 38
G Rhodes (Thompson) 17 George Walter Thompson (Rhodes) George Thompson (Rhodes) G Thompson 17 (Rhodes)
T Taylor 15 Thomas Taylor 14 Thomas Taylor T Taylor 15
T Tittle 19 Thomas Titley 15 Thomas Tittle T Tittle 19
C Vernon 30 Charles Vernon 28 Charles Vernon C Vernon 30
H Webb 35 Edwin Henry Webb 39 Henry Webb H Web 35
G Wynne 30 George Frederick Wynne 29 George Wynne G Wynne 30

"In late August of 1932 in a new mine that formed part of the Jamage colliery, the skeleton of a mineworker was found. At the inquest that followed the Pathologist gave the opinion that the man was between 27 and 32 years of age and had probably drowned in the Diglake inrush. Between January and March of 1933 a further two skeletons were found. At the reconvened inquest the coroner was reluctant to give a name to any of the remains, as he thought it could result in a terrible mistake. In the above photograph a group of men can be seen with a coffin used to remove the remains of one of men who perished in the Diglake disaster." - text courtesy of North Staffs Coalfield.

"Meanwhile mining operations at Diglake had been transferred to a new pit at Rookery, several hundred yards to the northeast and it was from this pit in 1932, 37 years later that a heading was driven in the general direction of the abandoned mine. After drawing off considerable quantities of water, the vicinity of the 1895 disaster was reached on August the 12th, 1932. Further exploration was then postponed because of accumulations of firedamp. It was not until September 3rd that it was considered safe to proceed. The same morning the searchers came across the skeleton of a man. It was lying on its left side with the right arm extended above the skull. There was a clog on the right foot, and, inside the clog piece of stocking. Apart from a few remnants of a leather belt and four trouser buttons, there were no other remains except the bones, and no means of identification. H.M.I. of Mines said no action was to be taken until the approach roads had been re timbered and made good. Then the skeleton was brought to the surface in March 1933.

Dr. Riley of Audley gave medical evidence, to the effect that the skeleton was a well-built male of about 28yrs, and 5 feet 8 inches in height. Subsequently, two more skeletons were recovered. Caleb Johnson, while engaged in cleaning up No.2. Road of the Ten feet seam at 10.30 a.m., came across a powder can and, further on, a skeleton. Dr.Riley said it was impossible to identify but appeared to be a man of about 40yrs. On March the 6th, another one was found and brought up next day. It was decided to abandon any plans to explore further and the road way was sealed up, leaving the remains of the other 72 to rest for eternity in the place where they died." - text courtesy of John Lumsdon, North Staffs Coalfield.

The three men recovered in 1932/33 are buried beneath the above memorial in the churchyard of Audley Methodist Chapel.