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Key Stage 2: Accident Investigators

This investigation gives an insight into living and working conditions in the 19th century. It can be treated as a purely historical enquiry, or as a cross curricular study, linking history with science and technology.

By focusing on a specific, real disaster that occurred in the Black Country in the 19th century students can gain a deeper level of understanding of the social conditions and values of the time and the significance of social reform. This is enhanced through the study of primary sources and first person accounts, to create a relevant and meaningful learning experience.



  • To interpret historical events using a range of sources, including historic buildings, landscapes, artefacts, photographs and primary source material.
  • To build historical empathy.
  • To develop historical enquiry skills by asking and answering historically valid questions. This will include questioning various perspectives of history, thinking critically and analytically, challenging assumptions, selecting and organising historically valid information and drawing conclusions relevant to the focus of the enquiry.
  • To find out about living and working conditions in the 19th century, exploring wider issues of social values and responsibility.
  • To make appropriate use of dates, terms and historical vocabulary to describe the passing of time.
  • To develop oral and dialogic communication skills.


Rounds Green New Colliery Disaster 1846

The Rounds Green New colliery was located on the slopes of the Rowley Hill, in Newbury Lane, Oldbury. It was accessed via a “skip” that was raised and lowered in a shaft by a winding engine, and used the traditional pillar and stall method of mining. 

The colliery was owned by George Parker but operated for him by a charter-master or “butty”. The Butty system was common in the Black Country and other mining districts in the early part of the nineteenth century.

On the morning of Tuesday 17th November 1846 there was an explosion at the colliery killing 19 men and boys and seriously injuring another 5. Four separate inquests were held, all considering the same evidence. As all the men nearest the explosion were killed, it was difficult to identify the exact cause of the explosion and the procedures implemented. However, Thomas Haines, the mine surveyor (and responsible for the air ventilation system) was interviewed, and several of the survivors including John Holland, the son of the “butty”. Several independent mine surveyors were also asked to visit the mine and inspect the air ventilation system.

All four juries reached different verdicts.However, the accident was reported nationally, and was instrumental in instigating the first “Act for the Inspection of Coal Mines in Great Britain” in 1850 and the subsequent introduction of mine safety regulations.

Students re-look at the evidence to see if they can reach a verdict on the cause of the accident; who, if anyone, was to blame; and how it could have been avoided. The downloadable investigation pack provides extracts from the original inquests and witness statements, as well as additional information about working conditions at the time and the life of key characters involved in the explosion. The visit to the Museum adds context to the investigation. The Museum’s replica mine experience is set at a similar date to Rounds Green and recreates the working conditions and methods experienced by the miners. Students can also visit homes of other miners from the Black Country, and a typical Black Country industrial village, to discover how the miners lived, gaining more insight into the impact that such a disaster would have had on the families involved.


Associated Resources


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Did you know?

interesting fact image

The first street gas lights appeared in Pall Mall, London in 1807. Today, the museum has 12 working street gas lights.

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