Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (16/Jan/1894) - The Fatal Accident at Butterley Reservoir

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


An inquest to enquire into the circumstances attending the death of Robert Baker, aged 45, excavator, of Crowtrees, Slaithwaite, who was killed on Friday morning by an explosion at the new reservoir works which are being constructed by the Huddersfield Corporation at Butterley, near Marsden, was held at the Old New Inn, Marsden, on Monday morning, by Mr. J.E. Hill, deputy coroner. Amongst those present were Mr. H. Barber, Town Clerk of Huddersfield, Mr. G.H. Crowther, and Mr. J.E. Hughes.

Mr. Barber stated that he was instructed by the Corporation to appear, and he was desired by the Waterworks Committee to express their great regret at the accident. He was instructed to see that every information was afforded the coroner and jury in order that they might arrive at the true cause of the death of the deceased.

Caroline Baker, widow of the deceased, identified the body. The deceased went to work on Friday at 6:45 a.m. in his usual health. She was left with a family of seven children.

Thomas Makin, excavator, deposed that he was employed at the Butterley waterworks. At 10:30 a.m. on Friday he was at the bottom of the trench working with the deceased at a place where blasting operations had been carried out the previous Monday. Eight shots were put in, and he counted them and believed they all went off. This part was not disturbed till Friday morning owing to the storm. The deceased was then working at the debris when an explosion took place and he was, witness believed, killed on the spot. Three other men were injured. Two of them were only slightly hurt and were able to go home, and the other man, John Lockwood, was removed to the Huddersfield Infirmary. The shots were fired by means of a cap and fuse, and he was certain that the eight shots went off. In answer to the jury witness said that he and others examined the holes into which the shots had been pat, and they all thought that the shots had exploded. He was of opinion that one of the two cartridges put into a hold did not go off, and that it exploded on Friday morning by being struck with a pick. The charges were about two feet apart.

Frank Crabtree, foreman at the works, stated that he put in all the charges for shots. The material used on the Monday in question was gelatine, which was exploded in a detonator attached to a fuse. Witness charged the shot holes at the bottom of the puddle trench, and fired them as well. The holes were six feet apart. Witness afterwards examined the place and all the shots appeared to have gone off. His opinion was that two of the cartridges, or perhaps one, had been left in one of the holes, and when the material used had become frozen it might be exploded by being struck with a pick. It was more dangerous in frosty weather than at any other time. He had heard of men carrying it in their pockets to thaw it, but this was a practice he should not recommend. Witness had been at this kind of work about 11 years. He had had the management of explosives for eight years, and this was the first accident he had had. When a charge did not go off it was not the practice to attempt to pull the cartridges out, but holes would be bored into the face of the rock in other parts.

William Reeve, excavator, Marsden, said he was at work in the trench on Friday morning about 8ft. from the deceased. They were removing the broken rock which had been fired on the previous Monday, and both witness and the deceased were using the pick when the explosion took place. Witness was striking at a piece of rock at the time, and he was knocked away several yards. He was of opinion that the deceased was struck on the head by a piece of rock. Witness might have been killed instead of the deceased, for the explosion seemed to be under his very nose, and the rock seemed to fly away from him towards the deceased.

Mr. Crowther, by means of a plan, explained the place at which the accident occurred.

Mrs. Broadbent, wife of Charles Broadbent, timekeeper, gave evidence as to laying out the body. There was a cut on the right side of the head about half an inch deep, and a fracture on the right leg, and the back was black from top to bottom.

The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and recommended the case of the widow and children to the attention of the Waterworks Committee.

Mr. Barber intimated that the matter would be brought before the committee at their next meeting.