Boys Terrible Death – Ground to Pieces in Brickworks.

February 1923

Mexborough and Swinton Times, February 24.

Boys Terrible Death

Ground to Pieces in a Brickworks.

Hideous Accident at Conisborough.

Jury’s Comment: “A Serious Lack of Supervision.”

A Conisborough boy, met with a terrible death at the Ashfield Brickworks of The Yorkshire Amalgamated Product, Ltd on Friday.

John Crabtree (15) of 29 Highfield road, Conisborough, was engaged in feeding clay into the grinding mill when, from some cause, which has not been ascertained, he fell into the pan of the male, and was ground to pieces. The story of the terrible accident was related on Monday, Mr Frank Allen, the Doncaster District Coroner, held an inquest on the remains of the unfortunate lad.

Mr J Maxfield was Foreman of the jury, Mr G.S.Ward, of Doncaster, represented the Yorkshire Amalgamated Products Ltd, and Mr C.C.Plumbe, H.M.Inspector of Factories, Sheffield, was also present.

Dr W.J.McClure, of Conisborough, said he was called to the Brickyards on Friday to identify certain substances which have been found in the centre boss of the grinding mill. He found portions of human remains in the mill, the pan of which was empty.

William Crabtree, a miner, father of the boy, said the lad had worked there about a year. Witness last saw him alive when he went to bed on the Thursday night. He was in good health, and was a hearty lad. His eyesight and hearing were good. Witness identified a knife which he gave the boy about three weeks ago, and also some toe and heel plates of boots which the boy wore.

The Foreman´s Story.

George Whetton, of 22. Maltby Street, Denaby, said he was charge man of the machine and the belts, and was Foreman of the men and boys working there. On Friday Crabtree was feeding the pan of the clay mill, a job which showed held for four or five months. His work was to feed the clay (which came down a chute) into the pan with a shovel. If the clay was dry it might take half an hour to go through the mill, but if it was wet it might take an hour. Deceased had no necessity to interfere with the clay once it was in the pan.

Answering the Coroner, witness said he had never known a man to stamp the clay down in the pan with this fault. A man in charge of the mill might put his bar in to loosen the clay when it still threw been wet, but a boy would not use a bar. The deceased did not use the bar. Witness had never heard of men using their feet to stamp down the clay when it was stuck. The place was not greasy where the boy stood. Witness saw the boy alive 7.50 on Friday morning. He had only been at work 20 minutes then. At 10 o’clock, witness went round again. Diseased was not there, and the pan was running. Witness went down below, stopped the pan, eased the wet clay of the grates, went round the pan and saw all was clear, and set the plan in motion again, putting a few dry breaks into his the wet clay. Witness went to make enquiries, but nobody had seen Crabtree. He went to the new plan, and then to the office to find the manager, but he was not in. Then he went back and asked a man named Ellis if he had sent the boy anywhere.

A Horrible Discovery.

Continuing, witness said he asked the chief engineer if he had sent the lad anywhere, and he replied that he had not. Witness became suspicious, and they had the pan stopped. They went down into the pan and commenced searching. They found some small portions of flesh amongst the clay, and he went straight to the office and reported the matter. He told the manager that he thought Crabtree had gone through the pan, and he gave instructions to stop the machine. While he was away, a man named Lewis, was assisting the search, shifted the small stuff in the pan and found a toe clip off a boot. Witness had worked at the brickworks four years, and he used to go around to visit the boys at work at intervals, though he had no set times to do so. A man named Ellis had to go to the pan three times a day to grease it.

Searching Inquiries

The Coroner said that what he was most concerned about was as to what supervision there was over the boy.

The Coroner: With regard to the guards, do you think a single rail 3’6″ high is a sufficient guard?

I think so myself.

The Coroner: Is there any reason why they should not be another guardrail, say, a foot above the ground?

Well, how could you feed the pan?

The Coroner: I think you could.

It would be awkward.

The Coroner: is there any reason why they should not be another guardrail?

How will they feed the pan?

The Coroner: I am asking you.

Yes, but it would be awkward.

The Coroner: You think this single guardrail is sufficient?

In my four year´s experience it has been sufficient.

The Coroner: Yes, but no one has been killed in this way before. While you’re been there. Supposing the staging was wet, a man might slip into the pan while he was walking past?

He might slip, but he could grip the handrail.

The Coroner: And if he did not?

Well he would go into the pan. It is not up to me, though; I am not the manager.

The Coroner: I notice that the lever for shifting the belt on to the loose pulley is on another staging altogether. You have to go upstairs to it, is that desirable?

They could bring it lower.

The Coroner: Would that not be better?

I should think so if I was working the pan.

In reply to further questions, witness stated that the belt was a 6 inch belt, and the width of both the fast and loose pulley’s was 6 inches.

The Coroner: Do you think the loose pulley is wide enough?

I think so.

The Coroner: do you think it is safe to slip the bell on to the loose pulley only 6 inches wide? If it is not running quite true it will turn the mill, won’t it? Do you think that it is safe?

I should think so.

The Coroner: If the bell rang close to the other pulley would it not be sufficient to turn the mill?

No, it would not.

By a juror: do you think the place is sufficiently lighted?

When the pan is working there is light through the door and window, and there is a lamp on each side of the pan.

The Coroner: Do you think the steps down to the pan or say? I slipped down them when I went down just now.

I think so

The Coroner: If the steps are safe I should not have slipped down them.

There is another way.

George Ellis, 30, Athelstane road, Conisborough, a fitter, said he did not see the boy before he was killed. He was called by the previous witness and examined the pan. He found some human remains, and as soon as he found them he called another workmen named Lewis.

PC Hibbott, of Conisborough, said he was called to the Brickyard at midday on Friday. He saw the pan cleaned out, and among the clay the toe plates and knife produced were found.

The Managers View

Joseph Sherlock, of the bungalows, Doncaster, manager of the Brickyard, said the accident was reported to him about 10.50 a.m. He set one or two people to search for him, and a message was sent home. He was not at home. However. The pan was searched.

Question by the coroner, witness said he thought the provision of an extra bar would be a danger instead of a safety precaution, on account of the “caking” of the clay. A bar could not be used, and he did not think he would be any safe. It would be dangerous.

The Coroner: How do you think the boy got into the pan?

I don’t know.

The Coroner: Well givers a choice of the possibilities.

There was no shovel of Bart, near the pan, and he could not have been using the bar.

The Coroner: Do you think it is possible that he used his feet?

I’ve not seen it at Conisborough, but I’ve seen it all other mills.

The Coroner: You don’t think he slipped into the mill?

No, but he might have been throwing some of the dry bricks in and gone dizzy and fallen in.

The Coroner: But he was a healthy boy?

The Coroner: He might have caught his head on the bar.

The Coroner: supposing he had slipped, and there had been an extra rail around the mill, don’t you think it would have tended to keep him from falling into the mill?

Yes, I should say it would.

The Coroner: How was the mill lighted?

By an ordinary paraffin flare.

The Coroner: how many of these have you got in the place?

Only one.

The Coroner: have you got electric light? Yes

Have you to electric lamps? No

Why not?

Because it was only a spare mill we used now and again. We have not sufficient power to fit all the place with electric light.

The Coroner: That is no reason at all. When you do use the mail, it has to be lighted, and do you think one paraffin flare is sufficient light?

Oh yes, plenty.

The Coroner: How long will it burn?

About 10 hours

The Coroner: Do you say you have not sufficient powers to put electric light in?

It has never been thought of.

The Coroner: Well, we are trying to make you think a bit. What was the lighting in the mail about 11 o’clock on Friday?

There was a paraffin flare

The Coroner: How many of the mills are fed by a shovel from a staging?

Only one, except on a wet day, when the clay is wet and sticky.

The Coroner: is there any reason why you should not out some “skirting” all-round except at the point where you feed the mill?

Well, I could not say.

“A Lot of Risks.”

The Coroner: don’t you see that there is a very grave risk to people there? Anybody might slip sideways into the pan?

There is the guard to protect them.

The Coroner: No, it does not. It is 3’6″ high. Is there any reason why you should not have an extra guards?

I have never known it, but I will put one on.

The Coroner: I think we are all satisfied that there are a a lot of risks at this particular mill.

Witness said that if the boy falling down the steps and into the pan. He would not have been seen by the man working at the top.

The Coroner: do you think it is possible that a man should have slipped into the male and being ground to pieces without the man up above him knowing anything about it? Yes

After this experience is it possible to discontinue the use of this mill and use a self-feeding mill?

We don’t use it except on wet days.

The Coroner: Yes, and on that wet day a boy gets killed

it had been running 45 years

The Coroner: Yes, and it is time it got the old age pension

I have never known an accident like that before, and I been manager of brickworks for 30 years.

Mr Ward: have you at any time seen a mail with a double bar?


Frank Burton, of 58 Doncaster road, Conisborough, said that after the boy was killed he looked down into the mill. He saw a flare lamp, but the flame was “not too big.” He seen the place lighted like that when it was working and he thought it was sufficient.

Coroner’s Comment: “Risks Run Daily.”

The coroner said he tended his sincere sympathy with the family of the boy in that terrible accident. The mill, which the boy was working was the only hand fed one in the Brickyard, and it seemed to him that the possibilities of accidents there were almost unlimited. There was a guard around the mill, and it was said that he complied with the Act. Obviously it did and the Factor Inspector would have been there to see it.

But no Act of Parliament could replace intelligence, and it must necessarily be general in its terms, because the conditions were varied with each particular works. The persons in charge of works were expected to use commonsense in preventing accidents. It was not for them to say another Garrow should be fixed. There might be pros and cons in that matter, and all they could say was that it should engage the serious attention of the management.

He did not think there was a reasonable amount of safety for anyone visiting that mill when it was running stop because the mill was an old one and not often use, it had not been thought necessary to extend electric light to it.

With regard to the possibilities as to how the boy met his death. It was possible that he was struck and knocked down by clay coming down the chute. It was possible for him to be killed without the man working above becoming suspicious that there was anything wrong. There have been no supervision of that boy whatever, as far as he could see. They could not dictate as to whether it was a boys job or a man’s job, but the evidence proved conclusively that it was not a boys job at all.

With regard to the position of the lever to change the belt, if it had to be placed out of the way of boys who could not be trusted was not that the strongest argument for placing the mill in the charge of someone who could be trusted? If it was possible for the machine to start through the belt slipping onto the fast pulley surely that indicated that the mill was out of date and ought to be scrapped. No man ought to be allowed to go into a pan under those conditions.

If the management did not know that that happened and that sometimes the band started unawares they should be informed and should take steps to see that the danger was removed. It seemed to him that the responsibility of the manager was a very grave one and that risks were being run daily.

The Jury’s Rider.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death,” and added a rider that “they were of opinion that there was a very serious lack of supervision, and that the mill was not sufficiently fenced off and the place was insufficiently lighted.”