Accident at Shakespeare Colliery

(Details from Folkestone Herald, 13.3.1897)

The first accident in Kent that led to the loss of life took place on 6.3.1897 at 10.55 pm.  A group of 14 men hit  the top bed of the Lower Greensand with no indication of water ingress.  A few minutes later water shot up the shaft.  Six of those working climbed up the iron rings supporting the timber lining.  The water rose 80 feet up the shaft and it took one month before workers could pump out the shaft and recover the bodies of those killed*.  These were:

Samuel Wilmot (38), Cresswell, Derbyshire.  Married.  Left widow and 2 children.

Robert Reed (54), Kindsbury, Rochester.  Single.

George Wigman (36), Woking, Surrey.  Married.  Left widow and 2 children.

Richard Brockwell (22), Craven Arms, Shropshire.  Single.

Charles Bishop (28), Dover.  Married.  Left widow and 2 children.  (His brother was one of the survivors)

George Terry (22), Dover.  Single.

John Jarvis Barrs (22), Daybrook, Nottinghamshire.  Single.

The eighth man is not named. All then men were engaged as sinkers. 

The water was thought to be from land springs as no salt water was found in the shaft.

Information kindly supplied by Briony Sutcliffe

The additional below information was kindly provided by Mark Frost

The inquest later revealed that the cause was No.1 pit.  This had been abandoned and left to fill with water (in excess of 1000 ft). No 2 pit was dug fairly close by and when it got to a certain depth the intervening wall between 1 and 2 gave way due to the pressure of the water in No.1, releasing the water to flood No. 2.  This forced Burr's companies to use concrete 'tubbing' on all pit shafts to prevent their collapse.  These huge rings can be seen in stacks on many of the photos of Shakespeare Colliery.  Incidentally because it took 16 years to raise coal from Shakespeare, a lot of people claimed Burr had 'salted' the mine when he produced 1000 tons in 1912.  This first and only commercial load was sold to Leney's brewery in Dover who then briefly advertised their beer as 'brewed with Kent Coal'.

Footnote: the burial register for SS Peter & Paul, Charlton, records the following for 15th April 1897:

Robert Read, Dover, 54
Samuel Wilmot, Dover, 38
George Wigman, Maxton, 36
Richard Brockwell, Dover, 22

These were drowned in the shaft of the Colliery by the sea shore in the Parish of Hougham, on March 6th.