The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser:
Friday July 17, 1846
TERRIBLE DISASTER AT EAST WHEAL ROSE AND NORTH WHEAL ROSE MINES - THIRTY NINE LIVES LOST
"On Thursday, the 9th instant, a most disastrous occurrence took place at East Wheal Rose and North Wheal Rose lead mines, in the parish of Newlyn, which resulted in a lamentable loss of human life, and the destruction of much property. The following account, derived from personal inquiries on the spot may be regarded by our readers as affording correct information respecting the sad calamity.
To those who are unacquainted with the locality, it may be desirable to state that East Wheal Rose mine is situated in a capacious vale, or kind of basin, at the bottom of several hills, which arise around it somewhat in the form of an amphitheatre. These hills are principally killas, and the mine-workings run from north to south, in what is provincially termed flucan, and in some places through the blue cray slate formation. Towards the northern part of the sett the valley narrows into a ravine, through which a stream, after running by the working, is continued to the river Gannel, and hence to the sea at Crantock. The distance from the sea is five or six miles, and the fall of water supposed to be about fifty feet. North Wheal Rose is immediately adjoining the sett of East Wheal Rose.
Between twelve and one o'clock on the day we have named, immense masses of black clouds overhung all the hills surrounding East Wheel Rose, and extended as far as the eye could reach in the horizon. A terrible thunder storm commenced; the lightning was very vivid; the rolling of the thunder was at times awfully loud; and about one o'clock the rain poured down in such a lashing torrent as eyewitnesses state they never before saw in England. Persons who had been in South America state that they have known such torrents in those regions, but they never before saw such masses of water falling from the clouds in Europe. The consequence was that in an incredibly short space of time streams of water poured down the hills surrounding East Wheal Rose, with impetuous force, and uniting at the bottom, formed almost a perfect "sea of water," which rushed on from south to north in the direction of the narrow ravine we have mentioned, and directly over the area of the sett.
Captain Middleton, the Manager of East Wheal Rose, says that about the time of the storm he was in the saw house, giving directions to have some timber cut for the mine. While he was there it began to rain, and in less than five minutes the water was descending over the hills in torrents. In a few minutes he sent a man for fifty surface men to watch the leat, to get them prepared, and see that all was right. He then sent a man to the counting house for his underground clothes; he changed his clothes, and by the time he came out, the water was going down through the mine in a perfect sea, being one immense sheet of water. He had then three hundred men endeavouring to save the timbers, barrows, and other materials, as well as engaged in raising the shafts for the purpose of keeping the water from descending. By that time also their machines were fully employed in drawing men to the surface from Stephens's, Carbis's, Gower's, Davey's and Oxnam's shafts, which last has entirely run together. The water carried large pieces of timber and other material out of the sett as far as Metha bridge. On the west of the mine a strong stone bridge had been built by the adventurers about two years since, one-half of which was carried away by the rushing flood of water.
We have been informed by several who witnessed it, that the water came down upon the sett in such broad and deep waves that all efforts to keep it from some of the shafts were at length unavailing. The water, as it rushed towards the ravine, also deepened; and at this part at Oxnam's shaft it is said to have first entered the mine although at Magor's shaft, and at other places it also descended. The consequence was that the descent of water occasioned a rush of air throughout the mine, which blew out the candles, and left the poor miners in total darkness. Being much alarmed, those who were in favourable levels immediately proceeded to grass, where they assisted the men who were already engaged on the surface in attempting to divert the water, or to dam it out from descending the shafts and footways.
Others of the miners, however, who were working in deeper levels, or who in ascending the shafts met with the water pouring down upon them, escaped with the greatest difficulty. As the kibbles descended in Gower's shaft the drowning men caught hold of them, and were drawn up in clusters, as many as could hold on. The men also frequently caught hold of the chains, and were drawn up; one man, it is stated, coming up with merely a finger or two hitched in the chain. At one time six men were drawn up holding on by the kibble and when it again descended to the fifty fathom level, a man named Harris and two boys jumped in, but the water was coming down forcibly, that when they were raised about six fathoms above the fifty, the two boys were washed out.
Several men hanging by the kibbles are said to have been so exhausted that they loosened their hold, and fell down the shafts. In Mitchell's whim shaft some of the miners are stated to have climbed the open shaft by holding on to the casing, the water rising close to their heels as they ascended. Others saved themselves by climbing fathoms against the force of the water, which was streaming down upon them; and a number came up the manhole of the Michell's shaft, from which the water was diverted. Between the fifty and forty fathom level one man said he a had climbed fifteen fathoms by the pumps and rods in Michell's engine shaft, upon hearing which the captain stopped the engine, fearing he should kill other men who might be climbing up and the engine was not again put to work until it was ascertained that no more were coming up the rods. Some of those who have escaped assert that many more might have been saved, even from the lower levels, had they exerted themselves; but the sudden consciousness of danger, when the water first poured down and their lights were put out, seemed completely to paralyse their efforts. We saw one man who escaped from the eighty fathom level with only a few bruises. It being fortunately relief time, there were not so many underground as are usually at work, nor can the number who were below be correctly ascertained. It is supposed there were about two hundred, and of these the greater number escaped with their lives, though many of them were severely injured by the stones and stuff falling upon them.
The wounded were attended to by Mr Vigurs, of Newlyn, the surgeon of the mine. The distressing fact was, however, made known on the Thursday evening that forty-two poor fellows were missing, being still in the workings of the mine. Of these, four were found alive in some part of the fifty fathom level on the Friday morning, their names being William Ellery, Thomas Phillips, Stephen Harvey and Edward Holman. Three of them were not much bruised when picked up, but the fourth, at the time of our enquiry, was confined to his bed.
Thirty-eight individuals were still missing on the Friday morning, many of them, we were sorry to learn, married men with families. The following are their names:
Simon Merrifield, unmarried, from St Enoder
John Bennetts, married, Perranzabuloe
Richard Tippet, old man, Newlyn
Silas Ellery, unmarried, Newlyn
Samuel May, a boy from Perranzabuloe
James Clift, unmarried, Newlyn
Samuel Wherry, married Newlyn
Richard Mitchell, from Idless
George Trebilcock, unmarried, Perrenporth
William Cevern, unmarried, from Newlyn
William Williams, unmarried, Uny - Lelant
Francis Waters, a married man residing at Newlyn ( it was supposed on Thursday evening that this man's partner was with him, which occasioned the report that forty three instead of forty two were in the levels)
Thomas Bishop, unmarried, St. Allen
Henry Rowe, married, Newlyn
William Lampshire, unmarried, St. Allen
Josiah Lanyon, married, St. Allen
Francis Lampshire, married, St. Allen
Isaac Bartle, married, St. Agnes
Matthew Wilkins, unmarried, St. Agnes
John Stephens, married man with nine children, St. Allen
John Bailey, Chacewater
Luke Phillips, unmarried, Pcrranzabuloe
Francis Stephens, unmarried, Perranporth
James Coade, unmarried, Perranzabuloe
Peter White, unmarried, Breage
William Hosking, young man, St. Allen
James Clarke, married, Mitchell
John Cotton Rowe, married, St. Allen
William Eastlake, married Newlyn
William Jeffery, married, St. Allen
William Pearce and Francis Pearce, his son, Newlyn (this man is said to have been in a fair way of getting to the surface but missing his son he went back for him and perished)
Reuben Lanyon, unmarried, St. Allen
Henry Pengelly, young man, Redruth highway
John Tonkin, a married man, it is said, from Backwater, his family living at Newlyn
James Pollard, unmarried, Perranzabuloe
Martin Bice and Thomas Bice, brothers from Kenwyn
The bodies of two of these unfortunate miners were taken up from Gower's shaft in the machine kibble on Friday afternoon. They were immediately conveyed to the material house to await the coroner's inquest which was afterwards held. The bodies had the appearance of having been drowned. There was a great deal of earth about them, and one was said to be lightly bruised. They were the bodies of Samuel Wherry, a man about thirty years of age, with a wife and one child, and of James Coade, a young man, eighteen or nineteen years of age. Very slight hopes appear to be entertained by the officials of the mine and others that any of the thirty-six unfortunate individuals who are still in the levels will ever be brought to the surface alive. The Michell's engine-shaft is one hundred fathoms deep, and the water poured down in such quantities as to fill this and the other shafts of the mine to above the fifty fathom level.
At the hundred fathom, there was only one pair of twelve men working; but at the ninety there were several workings and between and the fifty there are several levels. The mine must therefore contain a great body of water, the levels being generally supposed to be full below the fifty. A few persons, however, imagine that the air in some of the levels may keep the water from penetrating to the back, and they cling to the vain hope that in these levels some men may yet be found alive when the water is pumped out of the shafts. To accomplish this, the engines (which are very large) are working incessantly at much above their usual speed, and, in fact, as fast as is consistent with working safely. No estimate can, however, be formed of the time it will require to pump the water from the mine. The fifty fathom level, which is a mile long, and in which the water was said to have penetrated to the back of the plot, we understood was cleared on the day following the accident. But it is scarcely expected that all the bodies will be found even on clearing the mine, some of the levels having probably run together, the ground being naturally so porous that when water gets into it, it swells like a sponge. The calamity altogether is one of the most fearful and awful in character that has ever occurred in the annals of mining adventure in the county. In all probability, according to our present means of judging, thirty-eight persons in East Wheal Rose and one in North Wheal Rose have been suddenly swept into eternity by this dire accident.
No blame, however, appears to attach to the adventurer or managers of these mines. Every precaution seems to have been taken that human foresight could have suggested, to prevent the occurrence of accident from flood. The adventurers of East Wheal Rose had widened the bed of the stream which we have before mentioned as flowing through their sett, to three or four times the size of its natural channel. The leats that are constructed have hitherto been found fully sufficient to carry off the water in the most rainy winter seasons. But such an overwhelming flood as poured down the hill on Thursday the 9th instant, was altogether beyond the range of probability, and could never have been anticipated by man".
Mine Captain John MIDDLETON married into my EADE family. His children are my cousins. If you have a connection, please contact me via the link below.
Francis LAMPSHIRE's daughter married a member of my family. If you have a connection, please contact me via the link below.