75th anniversary: Coppice Colliery Ignition 1943.

28th June 2018 sees the seventy-fifth anniversary of an ignition of firedamp (methane) at Coppice Colliery, Heanor, Derbyshire, which eventually led to the death of four miners.  Coppice Colliery was owned by the Shipley Collieries Ltd, who also ran the nearby Woodside Colliery.  The image above shows Coppice Colliery in the early 1950’s.

The incident happen on 28th June 1943 at 10.00am on the day shift on 1’s coalface in the Low Main Seam.  An ignition of firedamp occurred during shot-firing operations at the ripping lip of 1’s left hand supply gate.  Flames spread both ways for a distance of around fifty yards. Six miners suffered burns and were taken to local cottage hospitals at Heanor and Ripley before being admitted to Nottingham General Hospital.  Four miners died as a result of their injuries, these being;

  • Archibald Bestwick (Aged 52) of Heanor – Died 2nd July 1943
  • John Holmes (Aged 31) of Heanor – Died 2nd July 1943
  • Wilfred Noon (Aged 25) of Heanor –  Died 2nd July 1943
  • James Draper (Aged 50) of Heanor – Died 8th July 1943.

In each case the cause of death was toxaemia following burns sustained in an explosion. Dr Hyde, Senior District Inspector of Mines, oversaw the investigation into the accident at the colliery.  An inquest was held at Nottingham on 13th July 1943 where the City Coroner, Mr W.S. Rothera, returned a verdict of ‘death from toxaemia following burns sustained whilst a work in the pit’.  Because the incident happened during wartime it attracted little attention outside the immediate local area.

An account of the incident by W. Martin, a junior surveyor at the time, can be found in A History of Mining in the Heanor Area, (Heanor and Dist. Local History Society), 1993, p65 – 67.

Coppice Colliery finished production on 31st August 1966, being the penultimate deep mine in the Heanor area.

Below: Copy of the Inquest Report from the Nottingham Journal – 14th July 1943, details of the Shipley Collieries Company from the 1935 Colliery Year Book and Coal Trades Directory and the Coppice Colliery Mining Memorial at Shipley Park Visitors Centre.