Denaby Main Mine Visit – Part 3 – Spontaneous Combustion, Pit Ponies, Mice & Output

March 1891

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 27 March 1891

A Visit To The Denaby Main Mine.                                                                         

Part 3 –Fire – Spontaneous Combustion, Pit Ponies, Mice & Output

Mine on Fire

I had heard many a time about the Denaby mine being on fire,” and I casually remarked to Mr. Witty that I saw no fire and felt no heat. He said there was a very erroneous impression abroad on the matter and I thoroughly agreed with him. He took me into an opening from the main passage and said the fire is behind here.” The place was certainly slightly warm, but the constantly replenished air prevented the existence of much heat. The wall was tightly bricked up and. putting a hand upon the bricks. I found them to be rather hot. The fire, you see,” said he, ”is kept well in.” ” But,” he added, we found recently that it had crept under where you are standing.” Very dangerous!” I suggested. Well,” he said, “it would have been if it had not been attended to.” But seeing such vigilance is constantly shown in the work of scrutiny, there very little risk and the treacherous fire was friar hated from eating its way any further. A deep excavation was at once made, every possible trace of danger being removed. He then took me in an opposite direction and, coming suddenly round the bend, I could not help exclaiming, “By Jove; it’s hot! “Yes,” said he “this is where the fire was also, and look there,” he went on, as we got a little further. There was a man in a cavernous looking aperture, wearily digging with his spade. “Go on,” said my guide, and I did as directed. The heat was almost unbearable and the perspiration stood in beads on the man’s brow and face, though he was nearly stripped. This appeared to have been a part of the mind where the fire had beep bricked up and where it was decided to make an opening so as to remove the fire by degrees. This had been accomplished satisfactorily when I got there, but yet the glow from the stonework which remained was so intense that it could not “die out ” very speedily. The fire in question, as is probably generally understood, was caused by

Spontaneous Combustion

There is no reason, however, why, by skilful management, it should not some day be effectually stopped. Proceeding further, we entered the stables where the pit ponies rest and sleep and feed. Meat of these useful animals were being engaged pulling corves, and we had passed several on the way. They are in first-class condition and thoroughly well accustomed to the mine, where they appear to be quite at home.” As a role, the ponies are kindly treated, and punishment is in store for any mischievous youth who injures the dumb creatures. But it is rarely that such a case has to come before the magistrates, the drivers being sufficiently humane not to torture the animals under their care. I was shown a new kind of collar for these

Pit Ponies

Instead of being of the customary character, it is composed of zinc, which is infinitely cooler, locks and unlocks with cane, and is greatly preferable to the “hair” ones, which accumulate such a quantity of dirt. The means adopted in the mine for changing the course of the air current are simple yet very effective duplicate doors are used. Through these we passed.

A Rush of Water

When one of the doors had been opened, I was surprised to hear a rush of water in great volumes, as I imagined. But when we had passed the second door the noise ceased. I smiled to myself then, for I at once divined the sound was occasioned by the great pressure of air, some of which was issuing through the crevices. I had noticed that Mr. Witty had to put the weight of his body against the farther door before opening it, and he suggested that I should afterwards pull it open. Innocently enough. I tried to push it with my hand; but the pressure had not the slightest effect—it might have been locked, barred, and bolted, so tight did it seem. Even when I imitated the official and forced with the whole weight of my body, the door only opened with great difficulty. because of the tremendous pressure of the air upon every square inch. We presently came to another stable in a cosy corner. No ponies were m it —but there was

A Swarm of Mice

I did not see them at first, but asked what the peculiar sound was caused by. It was as though shale or coal was falling in small pieces everywhere in the vicinity. Oh, that is occasioned by the mice,” said he. There are hundreds of them; “He pointed a number of them out to me as they were hurrying away on the black surface or trying to hide in the niches on the walls. The sudden arrival of our lamps had startled the merry folk, while robbing the ponies of a good deal of their food, and there was an instantaneous stampede by the army of thieves. Those I saw were fine and plump and in excellent condition. Shortly afterwards my attention was directed to a rumbling noise, like of a

Train in a Tunnel

It turned out to be several corves, full of coal, which were approaching up the incline from what is known as the Montagu district. About half a mile from where we stood, the miners and fillers were busily engaged. The former were either picking at the coal or putting up ” props” to prevent the roof of their working place from falling upon them, and the latter were quickly flinging into corves the lumps of coal which were soon to be sent to the top of the colliery, to be despatched to some of homes. The workmen with their begrimmed faces were unrecognisable in the dim light emitted from their lamps, which were safely suspended at a proper distance from the point their picks. They were vigorously employed, and this was only a sample of what as, going on throughout the workings of the extensive mine, I was not surprised to hear that

The Output of Coal

last Christmas had been greater than at any previous period in the history at the colliery. One hears a good deal about the poor miners, away from the sunlight sod breathing bad air,” but I must honestly confess that my pop visit gave me an impression that there was a hit “too couch sentiment talked and that the picture was not quite so bad as it was painted. Anyhow the men I met with seemed quite jovial and here and there I caught the sound of singing. I must admit, however, that my views might alter if compelled to be in the pit regularly. S best o far as the “eight hours’ question” is concerned, there can be no doubt that every Englishman would like it to be enforced in every trade and profession if practicable. I don’t believe in a man having the best part of his mortal life monopolised by labour. Time should be due time for leisure, recreation and study, as well as for work, and if the miners’ leaders can show how this is to be brought about they will win golden opinions.