Monday, October 31, 2016

Benjamin Boam 1864-1887 and the Tragedy of the Mill Close Mine

I hope to be lucky enough in mid 2017 to visit the village of Winster where many many of my fathers ancestors once lived. The Boam family have a long history in Winster and many of them were Lead Miners.
In starting some pre-trip research I discovered the story of Benjamin Boam who died in an explosion at the nearby Mill Close Lead Mine .
I hope to photograph his headstone myself in the Winster Churchyard but in the mean time I found the wonderful work of Michael Greatorex who has photographed many if not all the gravestones there including that of Benjamin which you can see here
https://www.flickr.com/photos/winsterderbyshire/3439508390/in/album-72157617740830814/

Benjamin was born  in 1864 in Winster. I have yet to find his baptism record but he was the second son and 5th child of Thomas Boam  and Mary Wilson. Thomas was also a Lead Miner, as was his father also named Thomas.
Benjamins 2 younger siblings, Lucy and Harriet both had died in childhood, so Benjamin was the youngest child of Thomas and Mary at the time of his death.

I created a simple layout for this sad story which is directly taken from a newspaper account of the day.

Benjamin Boam was the 2nd son, and 5th child of Thomas Boam and his wife Mary Wilson. He was the younger brother of my GG Grandmother Mary Jane Boam.  Benjamin was a Lead miner, like is father, and his grandfather and many many of the men in the village of Winster, Derbyshire  where he was born. He was employed at the Mill Close Mine, in nearby Darley, where a shaft had been sunk in 1860 and was one of numerous men who worked below ground in shifts around the clock.
On November 3 1887 the mine would take the lives of 5 of the men of Winster including that of Benjamin Boam

HIGH PEAK NEWS SATURDAY 5TH  NOVEMBER 1887
Shocking Accident at Mill Close Lead Mine  Five Men Killed

From  what  can  be  ascertained  it  appears  that  a  shift  was  commenced  at  midnight  on  Wednesday.  There  would  be  twenty-one  or  twenty-two  men  on  duty.  Before  they  began  work  the  mine  had  been  officially  examined  by  the  deputy,  William  Webster.  He  found  a  quantity  of  gas  in  the  heading,  and  duly  reported  the  occurrence  to  the  company  who  took  the  particular  route in which the explosion happened. The men were in charge of Job Stone, and the company was known as Stones's. They were warned of the presence of gas on going down. It seems they were  engaged  on  the  top  level,  or  84  yards  from  the  surface.  The  distance  they  had  to  travel  underground  was  between  500  and  600  yards  before  reaching  the  face  of  the  rock.  Upon  a  portion  of  the  road  they  would  be  able  to  use naked  lights,  but  were  compelled  to  have  safety  lamps  whilst  at  their  work.  There  were  for  getters  and  two  waggoners  working  in  the  stall  or  heading,  and,  unfortunately,  all  the  six  were  within  measurable  distance  of  the  force  of  the  explosion. Had it happened a few minutes earlier or later the waggoners would have been away from the spot conveying the ore to the exit from the mine. There was nothing perceptible of the approaching  danger  when  the  men  began  their usual  occupation.  Several  shots  of  dynamite charges had been fired. This powerful explosive is regularly used at the mine to blow down the rock, with which the ore is mixed. The heading is about six yards high, and a charge of dynamite
is inserted into a hole which is drilled for it. The charge is fired with "touch", and the men retire out  of  danger,  as  they  consider.  They  would  move  away  to  a  distance  of  about  40  yards.  The  shot went off in the usual manner, and was immediately followed by a terrific explosion of gas. The force of the concussion was felt all over the mine, the head trees, forks, and scores of tons of rock being removed. The fall of bind killed the men, debris covering them.
The shock was not felt on the surface, and it was not until one of the men, Marsden, who is injured, made his way
in the dark to the bottom of the shaft, that the disaster was known. He was the only one spared to  tell  of  the  sad  accident  which  befell  his comrades.  The  men  engaged  in  the  heading  were  Robert  Marsden,  Birchover;  Job  Stone,  Elton; George  Stone,  Elton;  George  Allen,  Winster;  Benjamin  Boam,  Winster;  and  George  Needham,  Wensley.  Boam  and  Needham  were  the  waggoners.  They,  as  we  have  previously  said,  were  unfortunately  along  with  the  other  group  when  the  gas  was  ignited.  The  lights  were  all  blown  out  with  the  force  of  the  explosion,  but  Marsden, though injured, made his way in the darkness to the bottom of the shaft. He signalled
to be drawn out, and then the intelligence became known. He displayed conspicuous bravery by going down the shaft again along with a stoker named George Boam. These two men were thefirst to venture down the mine. They were stated to have felt the effects of the after-damp, but not  to  any  serious  extent.  The  explosion  took  place  a  few  minutes  before  three  o'clock.  It  was some  time  before  any  of  the  bodies  were  discovered.  Lights  were  procured  and  a  search  party  was quickly formed, under the leadership of John Heathcote. He arrived on the premises about five  o'clock,  and,  being  one  of  the  deputies,  organised  the  relief  party.  Messengers  were 
despatched  as  quickly  as  possible  to  Mr.  Joseph  Greatorex,  of  Winster,  the  agent,  who  was  speedily  at  the  mine.  A  verbal  message  was  also  sent  to  Mr.  A.M.  Alsop,  of  Wirksworth,  the  manager.  When  Mr.  Greatorex  arrived  he  took charge  of  the  search  party,  and  went  down, finding  the  deputy  there.  It  was  discovered  that  the  men  were  almost  entirely  buried  in  the debris.  The  bodies  were  fearfully  crushed.  After  the  bind  had  been  removed  the  remains  were  brought  out.  The  first  person  to  be  conveyed  up  the  shaft  was  Job  Stone,  who  could  be  seen  under  the  refuse,  but  was  quite  dead.  In  the  meantime  Dr.  Stubbs,  of  Darley  Bridge,  and  Dr. Cantrell,  of  Winster,  were  summoned,  but  their  services  were  of  no  avail  except  in  the  case  of Marsden,  who  was  bruised  about  the  head.  He  was  taken  to  the  Warren  Carr  Farm,  and,  after  attention,  conveyed  home.  The  men  were  sent  up  as  speedily  as  possible,  and  taken  to  the office.  There  they  were  stripped  and  laid  on  stretchers.  The  bodies  presented  a  shocking  spectacle, being fearfully crushed. It took until seven o'clock to recover all the deceased miners.

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