skip to main content
Learning at Black Country Living Museum

Key Stage 2: Rounds Green New Colliery Disaster Investigation Pack

These are the downloadable links for all the resources  associated  with the accident enquiry.  Please begin by downloading the  teachers' notes.  Then, when you are ready, download the relevant PDF documents below by clicking on the highlighted links. 

The following glossary of mining terms may also be of use:

Glossary


OVERVIEW OF CONDITIONS OF WORK

Timeline of key reports and Parliamentary Acts

This outlines the most significant investigations and reforms that affected mines and collieries during the 19th century.

 

CHILDREN'S EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION 1842

This Royal Commission investigated the working conditions in mines, with a particular focus on women and children. These extracts are taken from the report by James Mitchell, the inspector for South Staffordshire.

Extract 1: "Of the accidents in coal and iron mines"

A list of the different types of accidents encountered in the mining district of South Staffordshire, including "explosions of carburetted hydrogen gas" - such as occurred in Rounds Green New Colliery.

Extract 2: Statement, John Penn, Constable

John describes his experiences as a Constable responding to mine accidents. He provides details on how the mining community reacted  to accidents and the treatment of the injured.

Extract 3: "The proprietors, the tenants and the butties or contractors"

This explains the “Butty System” used in most South Staffordshire Collieries and implemented at Rounds Green New Colliery.

Extract 4: “Description of a visit to a coal pit near Dudley - under the care of the trustees of the late Lord Dudley, at Broad Park, near Holly Hall, about half a mile from Dudley.”

This provides a vivid description of a mine similar to Rounds Green New Colliery. The extract includes reference to descending the shaft using a “skip”; the use of rails and horse-drawn carts; the different gases that could be encountered; and the system for “damming” up old workings.  

Extract 5: Account of John Greaves

John Greaves was employed in a colliery in Dudley from the age of 7 years. He gives a description of the type of work and the wages earned. He also refers to the use of apprentices and the enforcement of the Tommy Shop – or “Truck System” 

Extract 6: Account of William Troughton

William Troughton started work in a colliery at the age of 15. His account describes the conditions in the mine, including the presence of vermin, the occurrence of accidents and how the colliery reacted to deaths at work. He also includes interesting domestic details such as washing and eating.  

 

FIRST REPORT OF THE MIDLAND MINING COMMISSION 1843

This investigated covered the counties of Worcester, Warwick, Stafford and Salop. It had a particular focus on the physical and moral conditions of the workforce - including wages, accidents, mine management and the opportunities for school and religious instruction.

Geological Description of South Staffordshire

Illustration: Mining Subsidence

Illustration: Above Ground

Illustration: Working Below Ground

 


 NEWSPAPER REPORTS: GENERAL OVERVIEW OF ACCIDENT

A selection of excerpts from newspapers showing how widely the accident was reported.

The London Standard, 19 November 1846

Berrow's Worcester Journal, 19 November 1846 and The Daily News, London, 20 November 1846

Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, 26 November 1846 


THE INQUEST: LIST OF CASUALTIES AND WITNESS STATEMENTS

List of Casualties

Burial Record 1846: Christ Church, Oldbury

This is a transcript of the burial record for a mass grave at Christ Church. Out of the 15 burials listed, 11 were from the Rounds Green explosion. Another 2 were infants under 2 years of age. (Infants were often buried with other adults, rather than in their own graves, to save costs for poorer families.)

Worksheet 1: Analysing the casualty list

 

Witness Statement: John Holland

John Holland was a key witness – not only did he survive the explosion, but he was the Butty’s son. 

Worksheet 2: Prompts to help gather information from John Holland's evidence

 

Witness Statements: John Shakespeare and Herbert Hampton

Both these witnesses were miners at Rounds Green. John Shakespeare was working the morning of the explosion and was one of the few survivors. Herbert Hampton was the father of two of the children killed in the explosion - William Hampton age 16 and John Hampton age 10. Herbert  wasn’t working on the morning of the disaster but his account still provides some significant information.

Worksheet 3: Prompts to help analyse the evidence from John Shakespear and Herbert Hampton

 

Witness Statements: Edward Foley,  William Clift and John Northam 

These three witnesses provide evidence on the air ventilation system and the frequent accumulations of gas in the mine.

Worksheet 4: Prompts to help analyse the evidence 

 

Witness Statement: Thomas Haines

Thomas Haines had been the Mine Surveyor for the pit for the last 6 years. He was responsible for ensuring that the air ventilation system was effective. Not surprisingly therefore, he reports that the mine was effectively ventilated and did not have a particular problem with sulphur or any other gas.

Worksheet 5

 

Witness Statement: James Stansfield

James Stansfield was a Butty at a nearby colliery. His evidence shows that on the same morning his pit was also troubled by sulphur. As a result, all the men left the pit and stopped work.

Worksheet 6

 

Expert Witness Statements

As part of the inquest, independent mine surveyors were asked to visit Rounds Green New Colliery to inspect the air ventilation system. They all found the system deficient.

Worksheet 7 


RESULTS OF INQUESTS

Excerpt from Aris's Birmingham Gazette - Monday 30 November 1846

This gives the verdicts of all four inquests:

  • The inquest at Dudley found Thomas Haines, the mine surveyor guilty of man-slaughter.
  • The inquest at Oldbury gave a verdict of accidental death but censored the mine surveyor.
  • The inquest at Rowley Regis gave a verdict of accidental death but found the Butty partly to blame.
  • The inquest at West Bromwich gave a verdict of accidental death with no blame.

Coroner’s Comments, 27th November 1846  

Extracts from a letter to Sir George Grey from George Hinchcliffe, the Coroner for West Bromwich, who carried out inquests into some of the deaths at the Colliery, advising the use of independent mine inspectors.

Excerpts from Report from Geological Survey Office, 19 January 1847

This was performed by Warington W. Smyth in response to a request from the Home Secretary, Sir George Grey. He was asked to investigate serious accidents at two mines - Rounds Green New Colliery, Oldbury and Burgh Colliery, Coppull, near Chorlton, Lancashire. His report on Rounds Green highlights serious deficiencies in the air ventilation system

Extract from the Worcestershire Spring Assizes, March 1847 on the trial of Thomas Haines

This reveals that Thomas Haines was eventually acquitted.

1850 Act for Inspection of Coal Mines in Great Britain

This provided for the appointment of additional expert mining engineers as Inspectors. Plans of mines were also to be kept and produced on demand by an Inspector and notice of every mining fatality was to be sent immediately to the Secretary of State. 


MAPS

OS Map: Published in 1887. Scale: 6 inch

This shows Oldbury and Rounds Hill New Collier. The map was surveyed in 1881-3.

Plan of Rounds Green New Colliery

This was taken from a plan supplied by the mine surveyor at the inquest


CENSUS DOCUMENTS

A census is a count of how many people are living in the country at a set time. It is the most complete source of information about the population that we have. The first census was held by the British Government In 1801 and since then a census has been held every ten years – the only exception being in 1941, during the Second World War.

By comparing the 1841 census to subsequent census returns, we can find out more about the families involved in the Rounds Green New Colliery accident. Two families have been chosen as case studies.

What is a Census?

This can be used as a PowerPoint presentation or an information sheet. It provides a short history of census returns , why they are taken, and how they can be used for research.  

Family 1: The Holland Family

This family has been chosen for further research as Job Holland was the mine Butty, and his son, John, was a survivor of the accident, and one of the key witnesses at the inquests.

1841 Census

This shows Job Holland (the Butty) living with his family in Oldbury Lane, West Bromwich. 

1851 Census

Five years after the mine explosion, the family are still living in Oldbury Lane, West Bromwich. Job's wife is now a widow, but his son John, who was one of the key witnesses at the inquest, is still working as a miner.

Worksheet

To help students retrieve information from the two census reports.

 

Family 2: The Windmill Family

This family has been chosen for research as they were identified as one of the larger families left fatherless after the accident.

1841 Census

The Windmill family are living in Meeting Street in Oldbury. They are a large family with 12 members in total, all relying on the wages of just two workers - John Windmill, coal miner, and Robert Windmill (presumably John's son) aged 15 and also working as a col miner.

1861 Census

We have not been able to trace the 1851 census, so this gives us a snap shot of the family 15 years after the accident. They are now living at 49 Queen Street in Oldbury. Mary Windmill is listed as a widow - following the death of her husband John in the colliery explosion. She is the head of the family and is a Publican at the Rising Sun. This is one of the few occupations a woman could have followed that would have provided a living wage and home. Five other members of the family are also working.

Worksheet

To help students retrieve information from the two census reports.


ADDITIONAL WORKSHEETS

Students could use the results of their investigation to hold their own inquest. This could include taking on the role of the Coroner, the jury and key witnesses. The following worksheets can be used to help collate information discovered about four key characters who had responsibility for the management and safety of the mine.. 

Profile template: Job Holland, the Butty

Profile template: Joseph Smith, the Doggy

Profile template: Thomas Haines, the Mine Surveyor

Profile template: George Parker, the Mine Owner


USEFUL LINKS

Letters and the Lamp: a KS2 resource exploring  Humphry Davy, George Stephenson, and the invention of the miners’ safety lamp (1815-17).

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Museum is indebted to the work of the following individuals and organizations who have assisted with the compilation of this learning resource:

George Price

The British Newspaper Archive 

The History Societies of Oldbury, Langley and Warley


 

 

 

 

 

Did you know?

interesting fact image

Birmingham based Mamod's Traction Engine model TE1a won ‘Boys toy of the year’ award in 1972.

Your Feedback
Your Feedback
BCLM Newsletter
Join Newsletter