Coroners Inquest ~ The Death of James Goldstraw
Transcribed by his 3rd great grandaughter, Dee Horney Gabler, 1999
The Staffordshire Sentinel
Wednesday, September 27, 1882
THE HANLEY COLLIERY ACCIDENT
Mr. J. West Jones, borough coroner, swore in a jury, at the Town Hall, Hanley,
on Tuesday afternoon, to inquire into the cause of death of James Goldstraw,
a miner, 53 years of age, formerly residing in Mayo street, Stoke. On Monday
morning, the deceased was employed at the Spendcroft Gutter Pit of the Rowhurst
Colliery, Slippery-lane. With another man named Owen he was being brought
to the surface, when, from some cause as yet unexplained, the waggon in which
both were shot up above the mouth of the shaft. No doubt, dreadful of what
might follow, the deceased jumped from the waggon. Instead of clearing the
shaft, however, the poor fellow caught the side, and fell down the pit, a
distance of 180 yards.
Owen remained in the waggon longer, and saved his life in an extraordinary
manner. He seems to have been knocked out of the waggon at a higher altitude
than that at which Goldstraw jumped out, and by some means saved his life
by catching hold of a wire conducting rope about twenty yards down the pit,
being brought to the surface by a rope. Mr. Thomas Wynne, Government inspector,
was present throughout the inquiry, as was also Mr. J. Lucas, the manager
of the colliery. Chief Constable Windle watched the proceedings. The following
evidence was then called:
Henry Parker, assistant manager in the employ of Earl Granville, deposed
that ten o'clock on Monday morning he was sent for to Spendcroft Pit, an
accident having taken place there. He at once went to the pit, and found
a man named Owen in a cabin on the pit bank. Owen could hardly speak. On
the pit bank the men were making preparations to descend the pit after a
man who they said had fallen down. Witness, accompanied by two other men,
descended the pit. At the bottom it was found that one of the conductors
had been disarranged, and was standing on one side of the pit. Near to, the
man Goldstraw was found lying on his back. Portions of the waggon were lying
about, some on top of the deceased. Deceased was terribly mutilated about
the lower part of his body, his left arm having been cut off. His remains
were brought to the surface in a bag. The machinery at the surface was
- By Mr. Wynne: Witness had been to the works that morning and saw a man
named Pendleton at the engine. He was not a regular engineer, but had been
doing odd days' work at different pits. Witness did not look to see if there
were anything the matter with the engine that morning. Pendleton had been
engaged managing the engine for about three weeks.
- By a juryman: It was the accident on top of the pit which caused the
disarrangement of the conductor below.
George Owen, both of whose hands were bandaged, said he was a miner living
at Sneyd Green. On Monday morning, he was employed at the Spendcroft Pit,
working under the deceased. Close upon 10 o'clock they gave the signal to
be drawn up. They got on to the waggon together, and as they approached the
top the deceased remarked, "He is going too high for us now." Thereupon both
of them shouted out to the banksman to signal the engineman to stop. Witness
felt himself going to the pulley, and then he remembered no more until he
found himself clinging to the conducting wire rods. He caught hold of the
rods about twenty or thirty yards down the pit. [He] did not know what happened
to the deceased, but they were together on the waggon emerging from the mouth
of the pit.
- By Mr. Wynne: Saw the banksman pull the signal as he (witness) passed towards
- By the foreman (Mr. J. Babbington): They were going at a speed faster then
- By Mr. Wynne: As a rule the winding was slow.
- By the Coroner: It was usual to slacken the speed as they approached the
top, but on this occasion they had not slackened their speed, and witness
was of the opinion that that was the reason for the remarks of the deceased.
Witness was shaken very badly; his hands were cut and one wrist sprained.
Isaac Macdonald, banksman, employed at the Spendcroft Pit, deposed that on
the previous morning, at about 6 o'clock, he saw the last witness descend
the pit with the deceased. Remembered the waggon coming up about 10 o'clock.
Heard both Owen and the deceased shout out "knock." Witness accordingly at
once knocked to the engineman, who should have immediately stopped the engine.
The engine was not stopped, however. As far as he could judge, only a second
elapsed after he heard the call when the waggon appeared at the mouth.
- By Mr. Wynne: When the men called out, witness was near the signal; he
signaled before the men were at the top of the pit. The deceased jumped out
of the waggon when it was three or four feet above the level, and caught
the plates at the side of the shaft and fell down. Could not see how Owen
Henry Pointon, engineman, living at 33 Granville street, stated that he let
the deceased and Owen down the Spendcroft Pit on the previous morning, afterwards
leaving the engine in charge of Pendleton. At 10 o'clock he was again fetched
to the pit. When he left in the morning, the machinery was all right; on
returning, he found the indicator in the same condition it was when he left
- By Mr. Wynne: When he left in the morning, there was nothing to prevent
the engineman knowing when the waggon was at the top. Never had any difficulty
in stopping the engine at its proper place. Could not in any way account
for the accident.
At this stage, Thomas Pendleton, the man who was in charge of the engine
at the time of the disaster, was asked whether he desired to make any statement.
Having been cautioned, he said he went on duty at seven o'clock on Monday
morning, when Pointon left. He worked until snapping time, and after stopping
a short time the banksman knocked for him to go on again. He found the indicator
a little altered by the wet weather. While he was drawing the deceased and
Owen to the surface, the banksman did not knock: he never knocked until the
accident had taken place. He (Pendleton) was watching the indicator all the
Mr. Wynne said he had examined the machinery at Spendcroft Pit, and could
not find that there was any defect in the engine, brake, or indicator. The
(indicator) clearly showed where the engine ought to have been stopped, and
to have cleared it, it must have gone at least three more strokes more then
it should have done. It would take three strokes to reach the pully after
the mouth of the pit was reached, and the engine might have been stopped
at half a stroke. Whatever the weather might be, it could not alter the indicator
sufficiently to account for this accident. If it had been wet, the indicator
would be lower down, but not to such an extent as to cause danger.
- In answer to questions, Mr. Wynne said his district was particularly free
of accidents by overwinding. With reference to the hooks, which were patented
to prevent overwinding, he said there had been accidents where hooks had
not been kept in proper repair. So long, however, as these hooks were kept
in repair, they were a perfect safegard against overwinding.
Mr. J. Lucas deposed that no safety-hook, or anything of its kind, could
have prevented this man being killed. The whole of the gearing stopped at
the top of the pit, and, with the exception of the waggon, nothing fell down.
As regarded the safety-hooks, he has used them for many years, and he assured
the jury that, unless great attention was paid to them, they were liable
to get out of order. He would sooner have a good engineman and a good rope
than any safety-catch in existence.
- The Coroner: You think they demoralise the engineman?
- Mr. Lucas: Yes, I have bad instances of it.
James Schofield, engineer, stated that the rope broke close to the drum of
the engine. If the deceased had not jumped out of the waggon, he would have
been saved in all probability.
The Coroner having summed up, the jury retired, and after a short absence
brought in a verdict of "Manslaughter" against Pendleton, who was thereupon
taken into custody.
The Staffordshire Sentinel
Wednesday, October 4, 1882
THE HANLEY MANSLAUGHTER CASE
At the Hanley Borough Police Court, this morning, Messrs. G. P. Bradford
and H. Palmer being on the Bench, the case was resumed in which Samuel Pendleton,
engineman, was charged with causing the death of James Goldstraw, at the
Spendcroft Pit, belonging to Lord Granville, on the 25th ult. Mr. Sword again
appeared to prosecute; and Mr. Richardson (instructed by Mr. B. S. Abberley)
defended prisoner. - In the outset, Mr. Richardson complained of the action
of the police in refusing the sureties who undertook to be responsible under
the Coroner's warrant, and asked the magistrates if they were willing to
accept the sureties.
- The Chief Constable explained that he did not know the parties who were
willing to become sureties, and he had simply detained prisoner in order
to make inquiries, and now expressed himself satisfied. The examination of
witnesses was then proceeded with.
Isaac Macdonald, Trafalgar street, said he was a banksman employed at the
Spendcroft Pit. This was the first occasion he had ever held the position
of banksman, but he was familiar with his duties, which he explained at
- Cross-examined by Mr. Sword, he said that if a person wished to come up
the pit, he would signal the engineman and banksman to that effect. It was
his duty, when persons were being would up the pit, to hold the wire so as
to signal the engineman when it was necessary to stop the cage; but if he
neglected to signal, he thought the engineman ought to know when to stop,
- To Mr. Palmer: It was not customary for him to signal the engineman; he
ought to know when the cage was at the top. The engineman usually drew the
cage level with the top of the shaft, and the men stepped out without the
pit-mouth being closed. He closed the pit shaft when coal and dirt were being
brought to the surface, so as to take away the waggon, but not when men were
- To Mr. Sword: The doors were not for safety, but for the simple purpose
of running the waggon off. He had no instructions what to do in case the
men were being drawn up too rapidly. If he saw the possibility of an accident
he should signal the engineman, but he had no specific orders to do so. On
the occasion of the accident, he received a signal to the effect that someone
wished to ascend the shaft. He was standing near the pit mouth, and he knew
that men were being drawn up. The cage was drawn up as usual, but, when near
the top, the men, alarmed at the speed of the cage, shouted to him. As soon
as he heard them he knocked "one" to the engine-driver which signified that
the engine should be stopped. So far as he knew, the waggon was about four
or five yards below the mouth of the pit when he knocked.
The engine did not stop or slacken speed. When the cage got about two feet
higher than the mouth of the pit he saw Goldstraw jump out of the waggon
and drop on the door, which was not closed. This prevented him shutting the
door, as the cage was not high enough for him to close it before Goldstraw
jumped out. After Goldstraw jumped, if he had closed the door it would have
thrown him down. Owen was in the waggon when Goldstraw jumped out. It did
not seem more then a second after Goldstraw jumped out before the waggon
fell down. Goldstraw fell down first, and the waggon followed him. He did
not see the waggon fall as he was looking at Goldstraw, but he heard it fall.
No attempt was made to slacken speed at any time before the accident occurred.
After the accident, the engineman came out of the enginehouse, and witness
went to look at the broken rope. Witness asked prisoner what was the matter,
but he could not answer him. Pendleton never at any time made a statement
to him as to how the accident occurred.
- Cross examined by Mr. Richardson witness said that if Goldstraw had jumped
the right way he would not have fallen against the door. He saw him slide
off the door down the pit.
James Schofield said he was the head engineer at the Shelton Colliery. He
had charge of the whole of the machinery at this shaft, and on the morning
of the accident he saw that the machinery was working all right. Prisoner
was the engineman then on duty. Witness saw the indicator; it was in proper
working order. He went to the shaft again after the accident. He found three
teeth of the cog-wheel on the drum broken, and also a cotterpin. Only the
tub had fallen down the pit, as the rope was broken near the drum. In witness'
opinion, no attempt whatever had been made to stop the engine; the brake
had not been put on. Witness, on seeing Pendleton, asked him how he had done
it, and Pendleton answered that he did not know. The indicator showed that
the cage had been drawn too high. The engine must have run after the rope
- In answer to a question he said the engine could be stopped instantly in
more ways than one.
- By Mr. Richardson: The engine could not not be stopped so quickly in lowering
a heavy load as when rising one. If a carrier got askew, the more pressure
there was put upon it, the less it would give way. A person jumping out of
the waggon on the wrong side might throw it against the bridge-tree, and
break the ears off the tub, thus letting it fall down the shaft. The fact
of two men jumping out of the waggon would prevent the engine being stopped
so soon as if the men had remained in it; but even then the engine could
stop within a yard.
Mr. Richardson said he had no need to address the magistrates. He did not
desire his worships to dismiss the case, preferring that it should be dealt
with at the Assizes on the depositions now taken rather than those taken
by the Coroner.
The prisoner was then formally committed to take his trial at the next Assizes,
bail being allowed.
Thanks to Joan Bell of England for sending me 2 photocopies from the "Staffordshire Sentinel"
published in Staffordshire, England and dated September 27, 1882 & October 4, 1882
regarding the untimely death of my 3rd great grandfather, James Goldstraw, 53
of Hanley, who died at Spendcroft Pit, Rowhurst Colliery, Slippery Lane.
Transcribed 1999 by Dee Gabler of Anne Arundel Co. Maryland U.S.A.
[James Goldstraw Descendants]