The Dolcoath mine disaster of 1893

On September 20th 1893 a party of timbermen were working more than 900 yards (or 800 metres) below the surface in one of the deepest parts of Dolcoath Mine strengthening a stull at the 412 fathom level. A stull was a framework of large timbers set up above and/or across a stope, a worked -out area. This was done either to support the rock, in this case granite, or to hold waste rocks or ‘deads’. This particular stull was found in a massive stope, resulting in a cavity reported as being 35 to 40 yards by 10 yards and extending in height for up to 20 yards. Above this were tons of waste rock in the worked out tin lode, one of the richest in Cornwall.

The stull at the 412 level

The Barrier Miner, a newspaper at Broken Hill, New South Wales, carried the story.

About one o’ clock a mass of rock many tons in weight fell away at one of the deepest levels of the mine, known as the 412 New East, so that the men buried alive there are only just short of half a mile from the surface. It is stated that the piece of rock in question looked only suspiciously stable and that it was deemed it advisable to replace it. [In fact, what was being renewed or strengthened were the stull timbers as one was bent and concerns had been raised. New timbers, about 24 feet long and 18 inches square, were being added to the existing stull.] Steps were taken to secure this end … A pare of men, nine in number, went down to see to the matter, and while they were performing the duty allotted to them the ground gave way, the rock fell and they were buried, being shut off from  all communciation with their fellows, as it afterwards transpired, by many fathoms of debris. Their names are Thomas Pollard, Charles White, Richard James, J.H. Jennings, W.J. Osborne, Fred Harvey, J. Davies, J. Adams.

It took rescuers almost three weeks before they could retrieve the last of the bodies.

One thought on “The Dolcoath mine disaster of 1893

  1. What a horribly grim story. Very sad, particularly as it is possible some survived for some time.

    And I see children in the photograph supplied. Some of my forebears were killed in one of the UK’s biggest mine disasters in Lancashire in the C19 and among the dead were numbered many children.


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