Mining Disaster - Gawthorpe
New Lodge Colliery, Gawthorpe - owned between 1855-1889 by George and John Haigh and was most probably Lodge Hill (above). In 1874, the manager of the colliery, William Haigh and two under-managers, John and Isaac Oates were prosecuted at Dewsbury Petty Sessions for offences brought by the government inspector of mines, Mr. Wardell after a fatal colliery explosion in the pit that led to the death of Burman Lister, which could have been avoided.
"FATAL COLLIERY EXPLOSION" - On Saturday evening, a hurrier, named Burman Lister, of Ossett Street Side, near Dewsbury, died from the effects of an explosion of firedamp at the Gawthorpe Colliery on the previous afternoon. Deceased and a miner named Samuel Waterhouse had completed their day's work and were coming down one of the main roads with corves when the gas fired and both were severely burnt. Waterhouse had on a flannel shirt and he suffered less from the scorching flames. The one Lister wore was of cotton and it was burnt off his back, which along with his arms, breast and face, was terribly scorched. The explosion caused great excitement among the miners and the injured men having been brought to the surface, the others were raised without delay. Lister died, as above stated, on Saturday evening. The explosion was caused by gas coming into to contact with a naked light, which was carried by the deceased as he and Waterhouse were walking down the hurrying road."
"GROSS CARELESSNESS AT A WEST RIDING COLLIERY" - Yesterday an adjourned inquest was held at Ossett Street Side, near Dewsbury, on the body of Burman Lister, coal miner, of that village who was killed by an explosion of gas at Messrs. Haigh's colliery, Gawthorpe on the 4th inst. Mr. Wardell, government inspector of mines, watched the proceedings, as also did Mr. Pickard, secretary of the West Riding Miners' Association. Evidence was given that on the 4th inst., about half-past one, the deceased and another youth named Waterhouse came along the main air-road with lighted candles, they having ceased work for the day. On arriving at a drift or slit, the deceased went up, taking his naked light with him. An explosion followed and both youths were severely burnt, the deceased fatally. It transpired at the inquest that a labourer had several weeks ago received instructions to build a wall some distance up the drift, but to leave a hole, a foot square for ventilation. This he did, but about ten days before the accident he filled up the hole with dry bricks, not knowing, he told the jury, that he was doing anything wrong. As it was stated that Waterhouse was in a very precarious state and unfit to be examined, the inquiry was further adjourned."
"THE LATE FATAL COLLIERY EXPLOSION AT GAWTHORPE" - Yesterday, the adjourned inquest was held on the body of Burman Lister, hurrier, who died on September 5th from injuries he received the previous day at Gawthorpe Colliery, through an explosion of fire-damp. From the evidence, it appeared that the deceased and a young man named Waterhouse were coming down the hurrying road and when opposite a disused working they both stopped and Waterhouse began to dress himself, having previously stuck a lighted candle in some clay on the corve. Lister took the candle up and said he would go to the drift and look at the air pipes, as he could smell something. His companion told him to keep the candle down. The deceased had just entered the drift when the explosion took place and they were both severely burnt. The jury recorded a verdict of "Accidental Death."
"COLLIERY PROSECUTIONS AT DEWSBURY" - At the Dewsbury Petty Sessions, yesterday, William Haigh, of West Ardsley, the certified manager of the Gawthorpe Colliery was charged with neglecting to inspect the mine. John and Isaac Oates, underviewers, were summoned for - the one for neglecting to enter in a book kept for the purpose, the state of the mine and the other with neglecting to fence off a drift in which there was an accumulation of inflammable gas and with neglecting to exhibit a danger signal there. Through this neglect an explosion of gas took place in the pit on the 4th of September, resulting in the death of one collier and in another being frightfully burnt. Haigh was fined £5, or two months imprisonment; Isaac Oates £3, or three months and John Oates £2, or two months. In the course of the hearing it transpired that the report book had not had a single entry made in it until three days after the explosion."
Burman Lister was just 16 years of age when he died. Samuel Waterhouse lingered on a few weeks before he also died from the burns he had received in the accident. The five pound fine that William Haigh, the colliery manager received is the equivalent of about £360 today on the basis of RPI inflation. Less than four months later, another miner would lose his life at Gawthorpe Colliery as a result of a terrifying fire in January 1875:
"A COLLIERY ON FIRE" - Fire was discovered to have broken out on Friday (8th January 1875) in the colliery at Gawthorpe, near Dewsbury, belonging to Messrs. J. and G. Haigh, and it is believed was caused by a hurrier boy accidentally igniting a canvas brattice by his lighted candle. Seventy men and boys were in the mine at the time and great alarm was occasioned, as the flames spread to a quantity of wood and then set fire to the face of the coal. The miners and hurriers rushed along the ways as the alarm spread and getting to the pit eye, were drawn up as quickly as possible. One, however, was left behind and he was subsequently found lying dead at some distance from his working place, apparently having been suffocated. His name was Richard Oldroyd, aged 39, and he leaves a widow and children. One of the miners that had got to know that a fire was raging, called to Oldroyd as he ran past his working place, but the deceased was rather deaf, and it is supposed he did not hear the warning cry of his fellow worker, and was not made aware of the danger until he felt the suffocating gas. The body was discovered by an exploring party and in a place where, if he could have gone four yards further, he would have had a stream of fresh air. The progress of the flames was arrested in the course of the day by stoppings being built and there is reason to believe that the fire has been extinguished."
Gawthorpe is a small village on the northern outskirts of Ossett with historic ties to Dewsbury and the settlement of Kirkhamgate (via the Gawthorpe Lane footpath) in Wakefield. For many years, Gawthorpe was considered a separate hamlet, but in 1866, it was joined with Ossett and South Ossett to become Ossett-cum-Gawthorpe.
Gawthorpe used to be self-contained with a large selection of shops offering every conceivable type of goods and service. There were greengrocers, confectioners, butchers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, bakers, barbers and ale sellers who all plied their trade at the end of the 19th century. In 1891, Benjamin Day, aged 73 and his 20 year-old grandson Halliday Day had a greengrocer's shop on High Street, near Tately Lane, but were also herb beer brewers, producing non-alcoholic drinks for those customers who were perhaps members of the Temperance Movement.
The villagers didn't have much in the way of transport, so local shops competed on price and quality alone. There was still a good selection of shops in the village during the 1960s and 1970s with a busy Co-op store, a post office and general store. Today there are none. It is as if the heart has been taken out of the village, largely caused by the modern trend to shop in out-of-town supermarkets. Much of the community spirit in the village has disappeared with the closure of the all local shops.
The construction of the Ossett bypass, which snakes obscenely through the very southern edge of the village has destroyed some of the ancient charm of Gawthorpe. Fine old buildings such as Royds Villas and The Mount were demolished to make way for the asphalt and speed cameras.
A growth of population in Gawthorpe led to the creation in 1901 of a third parish in Ossett (although it was technically designated a consolidated chapelry) bearing the name Gawthorpe with Chickenley Heath, combining portions taken from the older parishes of Ossett, Earlsheaton and Hanging Heaton. The church of Gawthorpe St Mary the Virgin was built in 1899 to serve the new parish.
St. Mary's Church, Gawthorpe closed in 2001 because of a declining congregation caused by road building and recent housing developments. The Gawthorpe parishioners were transferred to Holy Trinity Church, Ossett whilst Chickenley parishioners were transferred to a new church in Dewsbury. In 2007 planning permission was granted to convert the old church into a modern apartment block.
The Zion Congregational Church, Gawthorpe was opened in 1857 and closed in 1972 due to the general decline of religious interest during the 20th century. The building is now used as the Gawthorpe Darby and Joan Centre. The Gawthorpe Darby and Joan Club was formed in January 1950 by the late Mrs. F.G. Rhodes to provide extra amenities for the old folk of the village.
The Salvation Army is now the only Christian church with its building in Gawthorpe. It was formerly a Wesleyan Chapel in the 19th century. The Salvation Army building serves as a community centre for the local community and provides dinners for senior citizens and facilities for parent and toddler groups.
The Bethesda Methodist Chapel and Schoolhouse was opened in 1873 and came under the Dewsbury Circuit and the chapel is not mentioned in any Ossett Methodist records. The Sunday School served children in the village of Gawthorpe during the 19th century. Often, the only rudimentary education that the poorer children received was at Sunday Schools such as this, where, if they were lucky, they learned to read and write. The schoolhouse was demolished in the 1965 to make way for a modern bungalow, which now occupies the site.
Gawthorpe is one of the few places where a permanent Maypole may still be seen. Indeed the Maypole and its cul-de-sac setting are two characteristics by which Gawthorpe is remembered by visitors. The only other village nearby that still has a Maypole celebration is Barwick-in-Elmet, to the north-east of Leeds.
The continued presence of a Maypole in Gawthorpe has not been easy since its existence has been endangered from time-to-time. The fact that a Maypole is still standing is due largely to local pride, determination and tenacity of purpose. When, precisely, a permanent Maypole was first erected in Gawthorpe is not easy to say. There was certainly one standing in the present site in 1840. In 1850, a Gawthorpe resident by the name of Mr. A. Pollard, suggested and bought, the first recorded permanent Maypole for the village. Previously, each year, a birch tree from local woods had been cut down and used as a Maypole.
The new Maypole, complete with weathercock on top was duly erected. At this time the 'Streetsiders' i.e. people living in the vicinity of the Waggon and Horses public house helped in the organising of the May Celebrations and they were represented on the Maypole Committee. A problem dealt with by the Committee led to a dispute between the Gawthorpe and Streetside elements in the Committee. The 'Streetsiders' were in a minority and were outvoted. This made them resort to other methods and so, one night, a party of 'Streetsiders' sawed down the Maypole and carried it away, placing it in the yard behind the Wagon and Horses. That Maypole never came back to Gawthorpe.
Shortly after taking the Maypole, and it is believed, with the motive of adding insult to injury, the 'Streetsiders' made another nocturnal expedition with the object of digging out and taking away the stump of the pole that they had previously sawed down. However, they were met with sterner opposition this time and a pitched battle ensued in which, it is said, one man was killed, one crippled for life and several others had scars as mementoes. It was only terminated when the wives and other women folk intervened.
Again, in 1880, the 'Streetsiders' made another attempt to saw down the Maypole. This was again attempted during the night. However, when the pole was partially sawn through, the intruders were disturbed and had to run. Though they did not get the Maypole this time, the 'Streetsiders' saw nevertheless proved effective, because the pole was so weakened that it was blown down in a gale, which occurred a few nights later.
The next Maypole was erected without delay, this time with iron plates covering the bottom portion of the pole to protect the Maypole from further damage from the Streetsiders' saw. At a later date, the iron plates were removed and a fence with spiked iron railings was erected around the foot of the post to serve the same purpose as the iron plates and not merely to keep off children.
Started 50 years ago and held on Easter Monday, each year men and women race the streets of Gawthorpe carrying huge sacks of Coal. There is a women’s race which takes place first, followed by two men’s races, with the best time being taken across the two races.
The event starts from Owl Lane, outside the Royal Oak where both men and women race with a sack of coal, approx one mile, 1108. 25 yards to be precise, to secure the best time. To qualify for completion of the race, the sack must be dropped on the Village Green where the traditional Maypole is situated in the heart of the Gawthorpe.
The current male WORLD RECORD is 4mins. 6secs held by one DAVID JONES of Meltham.
The current female RECORD HOLDER for the women’s race is Catherine Foley with a time of 4 mins 25 secs.