Fatal accidents at Bowburn Colliery

Coal mining was a dangerous occupation. At one time, about 1,300 men and boys died in UK pits every year and thousands more were seriously injured or crippled by industrial diseases. The Durham Mining Museum lists the names of over 20,000 men and boys killed in colliery accidents in the Durham coalfield alone.

(See www.dmm.org.uk to find more on this excellent site.)

Bowburn Colliery began to be sunk in 1906; drew its first coal in 1908, and ceased production in 1967: it lasted little more than half a century. Yet in that time 52 men and boys who were killed or fatally injured in accidents there. All were in single accidents; there were no “disasters” (defined as an accident in which five or more died) at Bowburn.

A memorial to these men, in Bowburn Community Centre (the former Miners’ Welfare), was dedicated on 16th December 2006. It was made from part of the skeets from the coal shaft of Bowburn Colliery and is dedicated to the honour and memory of all those who died in the quest for coal.

The 52 men and boys killed at Bowburn pit are listed below.

Their names are also read out on a short video that can be watched on YouTube.

See Bowburn Colliery - roll of honour

(More details can be found elsewhere on this site, in “A history of Bowburn Colliery”.)

1912 Joseph Ferguson (17), Rope boy, of 34, Steavenson Street, Bowburn

1922 William Kemp Wheatley (30), Stoneman, of 6, Steavenson Street, Bowburn – Fall of stone

1923 Benjamin Hepple (57), Stoneman, of 19, Durham Road, Bowburn – Blow on head

1923 Edward Cranson (15), Pony driver, of Church Street, Coxhoe

1925 Thomas Robinson (27), Hewer, of 12, Burn Street, Bowburn [Accident 18/0919/25?]

1930 John Allison (29), Hewer, of Steavenson Street, Bowburn – Fall of stone

1932 William Cowings (58), Onsetter, of 10, Burn Street, Bowburn – Crushed by tubs

1933 Stephen Allison (18), Rope lad, of 7, Bow Street, Bowburn

1933 Robert Moore (14), Belt lad, of 8, Carnaby’s Buildings, Tursdale – Crushed by belt

1934 Scott Barlow (26), Cutter man, of Quarrington Hill – Electrocuted

1934 George Connaughton (36), Cutterman, of Thinford Road, Coxhoe

1935 James Lawson (46), Stoneman, of Spennymoor – Fall of stone

1935 John Pennock (19), Hand putter, of 14, Heugh Hall Street – Fall of stone

1935 Joseph Platts (51), Coal cutter, of Hawthorn Crescent, Quarrington Hill

– Fall of stone

1936 Christopher Smallwood (51), Stoneman, of Broom Lane Terrace, Ushaw Moor

– Fall of stone

1938 Joseph Hutchinson (43), Stoneman, of West Cornforth

1938 Michael Richard Marr jnr. (21), Suction plant worker, of Dinsdale House, Tursdale

– Fall of stone

1939 Thomas William Kendle (31), Deputy, of 27, Park House Gardens, Sherburn

1939 Nicholas Swainston (20), Datal worker, of 15, Newburn Avenue, Bowburn

– Crushed by tubs

1940 William Thompson (55), Stoneman, of 14, High Blocks, Metal Bridge – Fall of stone

1942 Robert William Stapleton (43), Filler, of “Roslyn House”, Shincliffe – Fall of stone

1942 William Scott (19), Haulage hand (datal worker), of 87, The Grove, Coxhoe

– Crushed

1943 Joseph Blythe (57), Shifter, of 66, High Street South, Langley Moor – Caught by set

1944 Wm. Dennis Gibson (18), Hoist hand, of 60, Moorlands, Gilesgate – Explosion

1944 Richard Hewison (45), Stoneman, of Old Row, Tursdale – Fall of stone

1944 Joseph Watson (39), Hewer, of 46, Railway Terrace, Willington – Fractured skull

1945 Naisbett Wilson (37), Stoneman, of 14, Bishop’s Close Street, Spennymoor

– Fractured skull

1945 Alexander Weir (26), of West Cornforth

1946 John Adair Halliday (20), Apprentice joiner, of 13, Burn Street, Bowburn

1946 Andrew Hunter Smith (53), of 25, Durham Road, Bowburn

1946 James W. Knight (61), Filler, of 22, Norton Avenue, Bowburn – Runaway tram

1947 George Todd Hogg (59), Stoneman, of 25, Bogma Avenue, Coxhoe – Fall of stone

1947 William Joseph Bateson (29), Driller, of 70, Long Row, Coxhoe – Electrocuted

1948 John Thomas Rose (39), Cutterman, of 31, Worsworth Avenue East, Houghton-le-Spring – Fall of stone (accident in 1936)

1948 Sidney Blackburn (22), Bank hand, of 56, Steavenson Street, Bowburn

– Fell down shaft

1948 Fred W. Crossley (41), Stoneman, of 58, Park Avenue – Fall of stone

1948 James Beattie Bell (46), Filler, of 5, Durham Road, Bowburn – Hernia (open)

1948 Thomas Stoker (55), Stoneman, of 15, New Road Terrace, West Cornforth

1951 Edwin Bryan (53), of 10, High Blocks, Metal Bridge

1952 William Morgan (49), Deputy, of 17, Mavin Street, Elvet

1952 Henry Morton (25), Filler, of 88, Jubilee Crescent, Sherburn Hill

1953 Joseph Bunce (44), of Cornforth Lane, Coxhoe

1956 Ralph Meggison Carter (49), of 33, Kepier Crescent, Gilesgate Moor

1956 Hugh Bryden (18), Pony putter, formerly of Laurel Avenue, Gilesgate

1957 Surtees Simpson (57), Deputy, of 123, Park Avenue

1958 John William Hutchinson (41), of 61, Ramsay Street, Tursdale

1962 James Lawrence Ellerby (50), Puller, of 51, Prince Charles Avenue, Bowburn

1962 William Peverall (48), of 70, Wakenshaw Road, Gilesgate (Accident in 1943)

1963 George (Micky) Milburn (42), Bargain man, of 1, Margaret Court, Bowburn

1964 Thomas Corner (50), Deputy, of 12, Steavenson Street, Bowburn

1966 Tommy Charlton Calder (50), Stoneman, of 45, High Street, Carrville

1966 Adam Harker Cowley (60), of 19, George Street, Sherburn

This Mining Memorial also carries the names of four Bowburn miners who went to other pits, after Bowburn closed, and there met their deaths. These were:

1967 John Evans (17), of 61, Steavenson Street, Bowburn (East Hetton Colliery)

1970 Keith Broom (31) (Metal Bridge Drift)

1982 Bill Stokoe (53), of 18, Burn Street, Bowburn (East Hetton Colliery)

1990 Thomas Taylor (42), of 19, Burn Street, Bowburn (Westoe Colliery)

A second memorial was ceremonially ‘opened’ by Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP, near the entrance to Prince Charles Avenue, Bowburn, on 19th December 2007.

This took the form of a refurbished 10cwt coal tub, which was donated by Jim Milburn in memory of his father, ‘Mick’ Milburn, who was killed at Bowburn Colliery in 1963, and to all who worked at Bowburn Colliery.

A roll of honour can be listened to on YouTube.

Bowburn Banner Group always lays a wreath at one of the two mining memorials on “Big Meeting Day” – the day of the annual Durham Miners’ Gala.

In 2020, when there was no Gala because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the group laid a wreath without first having the usual parade of banners and brass band around the village. See: Banner Group lays wreath.