Life within the workplace for ordinary folk during the 19th Century was not only harsh, low paid and unhealthy, it was also extremely dangerous with many severe injuries and fatalities occurring. Health and safety regulations as we know them today were virtually nonexistent and regarded by both government and employers as burdensome and bad for business. Only the most rudimentary laws to protect workers from harm existed in the workplace and even in those cases, employers would often ignore them.
The few Factory Inspectors who did attempt to enforce what sparse laws did apply could never thoroughly cover every single mill and workshop, while prosecutions for such offences when they occurred carried little deterrent. Workers lives were unfortunately regarded as expendable with injury and death at work accepted by society as a whole as inevitable and a simple fact of life. It was a tragic situation that continued for generations and which injured and took the lives of many, many people. Examples of just how shocking the injuries and fatalities that occurred in the mills and workshops of Preston were, are listed here.
Revolving Shaft Tears off Boys Arm
On Friday 21st January 1831 an inquest was held on the body of James Dakin, a boy about 10 years of age who was employed at the mill of Messrs Parish & Co Preston. The boy was a piecer and near to the place he worked was a revolving shaft which was not protected by guards. By some means he was caught by the shaft which tore off his arm and greatly injured him in the process. The unfortunate lad was carried to his home and medical aid summoned, but a few hours later death brought an end to his suffering. The Mayor who attended the inquest visited the mill to view the machinery and accident scene and spoke in strong terms to the owners about the lack of adequate guards which could have prevented the accident. The inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death (PC Jan’ 22nd 1831)
Young Woman Loses an Arm
A serious accident occurred at the mill of Messrs Hinksman, Furness & Co in Croft St Preston on Tuesday 17th December 1844, to a young woman who unfortunately lost an arm. The accident happened when the woman was attempting to sweep underneath a carding engine while it was in motion. Her arm was subsequently dragged into the machine and torn off. She was reported to be in a stable condition at the House of Recovery. (PC Dec’21st 1844)
Exploding Grindstone Injures Man
At the Machine Shop of Mr John Atherton in Hannover St, off North Rd, Preston on the morning of January 3rd 1845, a grinder named John Broadley was badly injured. At the time of the incident he was operating a large stone grinding components for power looms. In order to increase the speed of the grindstone he had previously substituted smaller size pulleys for others, however the speed had become too great. The resisting force of the metal being ground then caused the stone to “fly”, smashing it into three large pieces, one of which was thrown with great force against the machine shop wall dislodging several bricks.
Another piece hit John Broadley and thrust the poor man to the ceiling of the workshop against which he was dashed. He received serious head injuries with the scalp being badly lacerated. The exploding grindstone was 10 inch thick, five and a half feet in diameter and weighed over two tons in weight. Such was the devastating nature of John Broadley’s injuries that it was predicted there was little chance of recovery. (PC Jan 4th 1845)
14 Year old Girl Loses Hand
A young girl of 14 years of age who was employed at Messrs Catterall’s cotton mill suffered a shocking injury on the afternoon of March 4th 1845. While hurrying across the spinning room the girl, in attempting to avoid colliding with a boy who was coming the other way carrying a skip, put a hand outwards to steady herself. Unfortunately her hand came into contact with a number of revolving wheels at the end of a throstle frame and became so dreadfully mutilated as to require immediate amputation. The surgery was quickly performed by Dr Howitt and the girl was last heard to be progressing well. (PC March 8th 1845)
Man Fatally Pulled Into Revolving Shaft
During the first week of September 1860 an inquest was held at the police station by the Coroner Mr Myers concerning the death of John Carter 41, an oiler at the mill of Messrs Naylor and Gardner, Preston. Eliza Wilkinson a weaver told the court how on the day in question at about half past 9 in the morning, the deceased was standing on her loom oiling a cross shaft where a number of couplings were fixed. Suddenly she heard what appeared to be a cracking noise and upon turning round saw the deceased fast upon the shaft. His legs were pressed up against the beams and his body was attached round the shaft which was still revolving. His clothes were nearly all torn away from his body and his back was quite bare.
The witness screamed out and the bell was rung to shut down the machinery which brought the shaft to a halt after about a minute. John Carter was still alive after being released and was shortly afterwards taken home. Nobody was near the oiler at the time of the accident. There was a coupling close to where the deceased was standing with wheels in between, which would have required him to reach over with his arm to carry out the oiling process. He was often seen oiling the wheels while they were in motion. Robert Howarth the overlooker of the room told the court he did not witness the accident but rushed to the scene when he heard of what happened.
He found the deceased still attached to the shaft and began cutting away at his clothes to release him from the machinery. The poor man complained of pain in his chest, while his right arm was visibly broken, the bone protruding through the skin. The deceased was conveyed home and attended to by a doctor. Mr Howarth insisted he had warned the deceased not to oil whilst machinery was in motion. The place where the deceased met his accident was regarded as the most dangerous spot in the mill.
Mr Yates the manager deposed there was no time pressures imposed to complete the oiling tasks, though he was aware that oiling often took place while machinery was in motion. He did not consider it dangerous to continue oiling moving machinery, apart from the spot where the deceased was caught, while even at that particular spot they believed the danger was eliminated if a ladder was used. Mr Yates also reminded the court there was no legal ruling prohibiting the oiling of moving machinery. It was also made clear that if deceased had oiled at breakfast time, he would have been allowed the full half hour later. Thomas Carter said his brother died on the afternoon of the accident. Both arms were broken and his chest was badly injured. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC Sep’ 8th 1860)
Fatal Accident at Stevenson’s Foundry
Another inquest into a fatal accident at work in Preston was held in the first week of September 1860, when a man named William Kay met his death under rather unusual circumstances. Kay who was a boiler maker at the canal foundry of Mr J Stevenson was in the process of hammering a metal plate into shape, along with another man named Samuel Horrocks, which was to be fitted to a boiler. Whilst Horrocks was taking his turn striking the plate with a large hammer in an upward direction, he missed his aim and caught the deceased under his left eye with the hammer. William Kay reeled back and began bleeding from the blow and shortly afterwards was taken out to have the injury bathed in warm water. The bleeding soon stopped and as the shift came to an end the deceased returned home.
Horrocks explained to the inquest jury how the deceased had been stooping a little and holding the work piece in place with a small hammer while he had been striking away with the large 14lb hammer. He believed the incident had been a complete accident on his behalf. Charles O’ Neill, foreman at the foundry was next examined and although he did not witness the accident, was at the scene immediately afterwards. From his own experience and from what he learned at the scene, Mr O’Neill believed the deceased should have used a long bar instead of a small hammer to hold the plate in place as it was being struck. He informed the jury that such bars were readily available in the workshop and that accidents of this nature had occurred before when the strikers missed their aim. It was a dangerous kind of work if caution was not exercised said the foreman.
Margaret Kay the widow of the deceased said her husband complained of pain to the head after returning home from work and went to bed about 9.00pm. The following morning he felt worse and medical attention was sought but the deceased died the day after. Mr J Noble, Surgeon, who was in attendance said the deceased had received a severe wound across the root of the nose along with a bone fracture. The day after the accident inflammation of the brain set in. He could not say for sure if the leeches and lotion which he administered had been used in time but expressed it was doubtful. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC Sep’ 8th 1860)
Falling Sack of Grain Kills Man
In late October 1861 an inquest was held before Mr Myers the Coroner on the body of Daniel Barron a labourer 42, who worked at Mr Briggs corn merchants Arthur St Preston. John Hall, also a labourer in the employ of Mr Briggs informed the court how on the Saturday morning in question a cart was being unloaded alongside the warehouse. As the deceased was returning from his breakfast he passed under the hoist which was used to raise the sacks of grain from the cart. One of the sacks from a load being hoisted came free and fell off and as he looked down he saw the deceased fall upon his back. After rushing down to the scene he found Daniel Barron bleeding from the mouth. He could neither speak nor raise himself up and two other men carried him to his home nearby.
The witness testified how the deceased could have avoided walking underneath the hoist. The sack of grain fell from above the height of the second floor onto the head of the deceased and at that instant, the startled horse set off taking the wheel of the cart over the arm of the deceased, though it was not broken. George Hornby, a miller, said he was in the warehouse when the deceased was struck. Though he did not witness the accident he went straight to the place and found the deceased lying on his back. He afterwards visited Daniel Barron at his home who told him the loaded sack struck him on the back of the neck and knocked him down. He died at 6.00 am the following morning. Dr Stewart attended him. The verdict of the court was accidental death. (PC Oct’ 1861)
Young Women Suffers the Hair Being Torn From Head
During the month of January 1865 a serious accident befell a young woman named Esther Eccles of 3 Primrose Hill, while at work in the mill of Messrs W Calvert & Sons, Walton-le Dale. Eccles was engaged in cleaning some wheels connected with a carding frame when her hair became entangled in the moving machinery. Most of the hair was torn off at the roots and she suffered two serious lacerated wounds to the front and rear of the head. The machinery was stopped as soon as possible enabling Esther Eccles to be pulled free from the machinery. Dr Ashton was soon in attendance at the scene and the unfortunate woman was subsequently conveyed home to recover. (PC Jan 28th 1865)
Boy 10 Years old Killed at Work
Preston Coroner Mr Myers held an inquest at the Ship Inn, Fylde Rd on April 27th 1865 on the body of a boy named Joseph Brown of Bolton St aged 10 who met with his death the previous day. The deceased worked as a creeler in the spinning shed of Messrs Horrocks Miller & Co mill situated in Fylde Rd. It appeared the boy was engaged in sweeping under the spinning machines when his head was caught between the mules and a spring piece, resulting in devastating injuries. He was released from the machinery as soon as possible and carried to the warehouse, where he was seen by Dr Hall’s assistant but the poor lad died soon afterwards.
The spinning mules were in motion at the time the deceased was sweeping, although the inquest heard the mill rules stated this should not be done. The jury was also told that the boy had been warned on a number of occasions not to sweep near moving machinery. The boy had only been employed at his place of work for three weeks and was an assistant to both his father and another man. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC April 29th 1865)
13 Year old Boy Killed by Molten Metal
A lad named Richard Lynn aged 13 of Brixey St, Preston met with a serious accident at the North of England Carriage and Waggon Works, Strand Rd on May 2nd 1865, which ultimately led to his death several weeks later. The deceased while working, inadvertently put one of his feet into some molten metal sustaining such serious injuries that a portion of his leg had to be amputated. Unfortunately the remaining part of the leg became infected and this together with the general shock the lad received at the time, resulted in his death. The inquest returned a verdict to the effect that death was caused by the initial injury alluded to. (PC May 27th 1865)
Man Killed After Falling into Boiler of Hot Liqueur
An inquest was held at the police station before Mr Myers the Coroner on the body of a weaver named Robert Dewhurst 26 of 19 Victoria St. About 4.00pm on the afternoon of Monday November 13th 1865 the deceased who was not accustomed to the brewing process, was ladling a quantity of hot liqueur out of a brewing boiler in a brew house attached to the Prince Arthur Inn, Moor Lane Preston. Suddenly his foot slipped and he fell head first into the hot liquid. He immediately cried out and a man named Richard Sharples ran to his assistance. The unfortunate man was pulled out of the liquid soon after but was found to be severely scalded. Dr Hodgson was called but Mr Dewhurst died shortly after 8.00pm in the evening. Alice Wignall the sister of the deceased, with whom he lived, said when he was brought home he stated nobody was to blame but himself. The jury brought in a verdict of accidental death. (PC Nov’ 18th 1865)
Accident at Waggon Works Kills 14 Year old Boy
Another tragic accident of the most horrific nature happened at the North of England Carriage and Waggon Works on Strand Rd Preston in December 1865, which led to the death of a 14 year old boy named John Wilson. The inquest into the death, which was held at the police station before the Coroner Mr Myers, heard how the youth, while engaged with changing a strap, became entangled among some machinery. After becoming trapped by his head and arms he was whirled around the shafting in a most appalling manner. At length the straps upon the pulleys were cut loose and the boy released but he died almost immediately. The unfortunate boy had suffered a severe injury to the throat, while one of his thighs was also badly cut and damaged. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. (PC Dec 23rd 1865)
Spinner Trapped in Mule Carriage
In early February 1866 a frightening incident affecting a cotton spinner called George Nixon happened at the Bank Top mill near London Rd belonging to Mr W Paley. During the breakfast time half hour break, Nixon was cleaning the machinery under his charge when the main engine was unexpectedly set in motion and likewise the machinery. As Mr Nixon attempted to scramble out of the way one of his legs became entangled in a wheel. He at once cried out for help which brought several people to his assistance, however while attempting to stop the machinery which was only partially in motion, it set off at full speed.
A desperate Nixon yelled out instructions to cut a certain band connecting the wheel trapping his leg, but in the sheer panic the wrong band was cut, leaving the revolving wheel to inflict more damage on the poor man’s leg. After being exposed to this critical situation for a few more minutes George Nixon was finally released and taken to his home in George St. Sadly his suffering was not yet over, as among the general confusion medical assistance was not summoned for some considerable time.
The injuries sustained by the spinner, in what must have been a terrible ordeal, were such that the surgeon was forced to amputate a portion of the leg. Mr Nixon was a married man with seven children, of whom only two were working. He also had a dependent child who was disabled. The Preston Spinners and Self Actor Minders Association, of which George Nixon was himself a member agreed to raise a subscription on his behalf. (PC Feb 3rd 1866)
Boy Fatally Trapped in a Hoist
John Sharrock was a 13 year old boy employed as a clothlooker and errand boy at Messrs Hawkins and Sons cotton mill Preston. On Saturday June 30th 1866 he was ordered on an errand into the Dressing room and proceeded to the hoist to make his way there. When he had reached the first landing in the staircase he got stuck fast between the hoist and the flags and was so much injured that his death ensued in about two hours afterwards. At an inquest into the body two days later a verdict of accidental death was returned. (PC July 7th 1866)
Fatal Machinery Accident
An inquest was held before the Coroner Mr Myers on the evening of Monday September 3rd 1866 on the body of a youth named William Gorton of Brougham St Preston. The deceased was employed at the Greenbank St Mill of Mr Arkwright and on Saturday September 1st whilst engaged in cleaning a pair of mules, was trapped by the head in the machinery. He was so badly injured that he died after 20 minutes. He had been previously cautioned about cleaning the machinery in the manner he was doing at the time he became trapped. A verdict of accidental death was returned. (PC Sep’ 8th 1866)
Man Killed After Falling Through Trapdoor
On Thursday 29th November 1866 an inquest was held at the police station before Mr Myers, Coroner, on the body of Thomas Sanderson. Robert Salisbury, foreman to Mr Whitehead Ironmonger of Fishergate stated that the deceased was in Mr Whiteheads’ employ as a Turner. On the morning in question a little before 7.00am the deceased who was at work in the middle room at the Glover St works was called to assist another man at a lathe.
Whilst engaged about the lathe near to a trapdoor, he stepped back and fell backwards through the door opening. He fell a distance of about 12 feet onto the block pavement under the archway. He was at once taken to Dr Haldens but died immediately after reaching the doctors surgery. Mr Salisbury informed the inquest how the gaslight in the workroom was lit at the time and if the deceased had looked around him, he would have noticed the trapdoor was open. Corroborative evidence was given by Robert Simpson and Richard Barnes. The deceased was 27 years old. A verdict of accidental death was returned. (PC Dec 1st 1866)
17 Year old Boy Dies After Falling down Hoist Shaft
An inquest was held at Preston police station on Thursday 29th November 1866 before Mr Myles, Coroner, concerned with the death of Edward Upton aged 17 of 15 Ellen St, Preston. John Livesey a Piecer at Mr W. Dawson’s mill Aqueduct St, gave evidence. He said, “The deceased was also a Piecer in the same workroom. At the time of the accident he was hurt by falling down the place where the hoist was. He had pulled a rope as a signal for the hoist to come up and when he got it opposite to the room where he was, he tried to stop it. Thinking he had done so he got hold of a can containing some cops for the purpose of taking it into the warehouse. He then stepped forward thinking the hoist carriage was in place but the carriage had gone past the correct place and he fell to the ground floor, a distance of about 30 feet.”
The witness Livesey then went downstairs and found him at the bottom quite insensible, doubled up and with his hands behind him. The deceased was then taken home. He had worked at Mr Dawson’s for 6 to 7 weeks. The inquest then heard it was the Creelers duty to have taken down the cops and that of the deceased to see that they were taken down. There was a door and a latch between the room and the hoist and the key of the door was kept by the Spinning master. When the Creelers wanted the door opening they were supposed to go to the Spinning master but they could open it if they chose without going to him. They sometimes inserted a piece of cotton waste under the door to prevent it from being fastened, so they could then open it themselves.
The witness Livesey thought the deceased had placed some waste under the door and the deceased must have thought that the hoist had stopped. If the Spinning master had been present he would have stopped deceased from going into the hoist. Corroborative evidence was given by Thomas Clitheroe and others. Clitheroe said, “The boys had no right to open the door of the hoist and if they were caught doing so they were fined. They sometimes put pieces of waste under the door to prevent them from shutting.” A verdict of accidental death was recorded by the jury. (PC Dec’ 15th 1866)
12 Year old Boy Dies of Burns in Cotton Mill
In December 1867 a 12 year old boy John Guest, the son of William Guest a nailmaker, who was employed at Messrs Horrocks, Miller and Co, New PrestonMill, New Hall Lane was fatally injured by fire. The boy was engaged in taking some cotton from a bin when a quantity of burning cotton which had been ignited by friction in an adjoining “beater”, fell upon him and set fire to his clothes and to the bottom of the bin.
A bucket of water was thrown over him by the manager Hammond Allen, while an Overlooker named William Hesketh jumped into the bin and pulled him out. Several girls in the room pulled off his clothes and the boy was immediately taken home. Surgical assistance was obtained but the boy later died. At an inquest held on the body of the deceased at Preston police station the jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC Dec 21st 1867)
Boy Has Leg Torn off at Horrocks Mill
A boy employed at the Canal St cotton mill of Messrs Horrocks Miller and Co named Isaac Ewings aged 14 of Snow Hill Preston, suffered a terrible injury in June 1868. While carrying out his job as a Lap Piecer he attempted to push a strap off a pulley with his foot, when it became entangled with the strap and dragged his leg through the aperture leading into the room below through which the strap passed. A Grinder witnessed the accident and immediately seized the boy preventing him from being completely pulled through the gap leading into the room below. His right leg was then torn off at the knee. He was then removed to the warehouse to await medical assistance. (PC June 6th 1868)
Man Crushed to Death at the Carriage Works
On the morning of 16th December 1868 at 08.00 am, an accident which terminated fatally occurred to a workman named William Anderson, 45 years of age of 77 Fylde Rd at the North of England Carriage and Iron Works, West Strand Rd. The deceased was engaged hoisting a block of wood when it came into contact with a pile of timber close by resulting in a large baulk falling upon him. Dr Arminson was soon in attendance and every attention was paid to the victim. The injuries he received however were of such a serious nature that he died the following day. It was found that his right leg was broken and his left ankle dreadfully crushed. He was likewise injured internally very severely. (PC Dec 19th 1868)
Explosion of Molten Metal Causes Serious Injuries
On Saturday 28th March 1868 an explosion which might have been attended with very terrible results took place at the North of England Carriage and Iron Works, West Strand Rd, Preston. A number of workmen were employed in casting a large “Shear Leg”, when after they had poured about six tons of molten metal into the casting mould a serious explosion took place, caused it was said, by the splitting of a core.
One of the men engaged in the work who was standing on a crane, was by the force of the explosion, blown off and severely burned about the legs, face, arms and ankles. A man named Harry Bedworth of Oxford St was after the explosion found lying a considerable distance away in an insensible condition. He was burned about the face and arms and otherwise injured. A boy named James Wareing, son of Mr George Wareing a Foreman, received very severe injuries from the molten metal, his legs, face and arms being considerably burned. He was found in one corner of the shed and later conveyed home. Another worker Richard Parkinson of Bispham St also met with very serious injuries having been severely burned on different parts of the body.
Two other workmen named William Massey of Pedder St and John Mann of 9 Haydock St were also burned, with the former suffering badly about the face and neck. Directly after the accident Dr Arminson and his assistant were called in and attended to the injuries of the victims. Bedworth and Parkinson were both conveyed to their homes in cabs. The explosion caused by the splitting of a core, occurred when a current of air got between the cinder bed and the core, which resulted in the molten metal being forcibly thrown out, scattering it about the shed in all directions. Sand and other debris was also thrown all over the room. The accident would have been much more fearful had the molten metal penetrated beneath the cinder bed, which most certainly would have resulted in the deaths of those stood nearby
The injured men are progressing favourably but it will be a considerable time before Bedworth and Parkinson are fit enough to resume work. Some idea of the force of the explosion may be gained from the fact that a large quantity of metal was afterwards dug out at a depth of several feet below the bed of the casting. No blame is attached to anyone, the explosion being the result of pure accident. (PC April 4th 1868)
Boy aged 10 Killed at Horrocks Mill
An inquest was held at Preston police station on 2nd July 1868 into the death of Joseph Wareing aged 10 years. The deceased was employed as a Creeler at the mill of Messrs Horrocks and Jacson in Avenham St and met his death under the following circumstances.
At about 12.30 pm on Thursday July 2nd the boy was hurt by a brush being forced into his abdomen causing his bowel to protrude. Immediately after the accident the deceased went to another Creeler telling him he had been hurt before falling against some machinery. He was afterwards carried home where he explained how he ran towards a wheel head and as he was passing, the brush he was carrying became caught in the wheel and stuck in his side. There was no one near him at the time.
William Field, an Overlooker, stated the deceased told him a similar story, however he thought it unlikely the accident had happened that way as there was a 19 inch gap for the boy to pass. The Overlooker believed he had been putting the brush against the wheel rim causing it to knock back against his bowels. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. (PC July 4th 1868)
Man Seriously Injured in Mill Accident
On the evening of Friday July 23rd 1869 an accident occurred at Burscough mill near Ormskirk which almost proved fatal. A Joiner named Richard Ward of Brixey St Preston was engaged in working on a flour machine. While standing on the tiled floor he was in the act of leaning forward to lift up a tailboard when he slipped. His jacket was caught in a pair of swiftly revolving cogs and bevel wheels and his left arm was frightfully hurt. The force of the man’s arm coming into contact with the cogs acted like a break on them, the jerk stopping them instantly and throwing the strap off.
After the wound had been dressed he was conveyed back to Preston where medical assistance was called. Though the wound was severe the injured man is expected to make a full recovery. Had the machine cogs not jammed as they did his arm would have been cut off and he would have bled to death before aid could have been rendered. (PC July 24th 1869)
Serious Machine Accident to Boy
During the afternoon of Thursday December 9th 1869 a boy named James Higham was engaged in cleaning a Carding machine at the mill of Messrs Swainson and Birley, Salmon St, Preston. His arm suddenly became caught in the strap and he was dragged round the wheel. His head was severely cut and his arm badly gashed. He was conveyed to the Infirmary where his injuries were attended to and is now progressing well to recovery. (PC Dec’ 11th 1869)
Man Crushed to Death at Foundry
A number of workmen at Mr Clayton’s Soho Foundry, Greenbank St Preston, were engaged in hoisting a section of a fly wheel on the morning of December 7th 1869. The hoist chain snapped resulting in the fly wheel falling to the ground, crushing to death a man named Richard Park instantaneously. (PC Dec’11th 1869)
11 Year old Boy Loses Four Fingers
During March 1871 James Fletcher an 11 year old boy employed at Messrs Horrocks, Miller and Co, Stanley St Works, Preston was in the process of brushing down the Carding engines. His hand was caught by a revolving pulley resulting in the whole of the fingers of his right hand being cut off. (PC Mar’ 25th 1871)
12 Year old Boy Crushed to Death in Mill
A boy 12 years of age named Francis Clarke was crushed to death in the hoist within the mill of Messrs Simpsons, North Rd, Preston. An inquest was held on the body on July 24th 1871 on the same evening of the death with a verdict of accidental death returned. (PC July 29th 1871)
Boy Killed After Becoming Trapped in Machinery
During April 1872 the alarm was raised when smoke was noticed coming from an adjoining room within Messrs Swainson and Birley’s mill, London Rd Preston. A young employee went to investigate the source but upon entering the room he was faced with the most appalling sight one could imagine.
The body of a 14 year old Creeler named Horatio Bancroft was suspended on the main drive shaft, which was still in motion, with his legs constantly battering against the nearby wall. Death had fortunately ended the young man’s suffering. It was suspected the deceased was attempting to locate the main strap on the drum when the accident occurred. (PC April 6th 1872)
Man Dragged Into Moving Strap
A shocking accident occurred on Tuesday 16th January 1872 at the cotton mill of Messrs Woods and Hampsons Preston, which for some time caused great consternation among the workpeople. A warehouseman named William Smith, about 7.00 am, was in the act of putting a strap upon a drum in the warehouse, when he was caught by the arm and dragged up. While thus entangled he was whirled round the drum several times before the engine was brought to a halt. The workpeople were filled with horror thinking that he would be dashed to pieces. Smith’s arm was seriously lacerated and the bone protruded very much. Dr Hodgson who was fortunately passing the mill at the time was called in and ordered him to the infirmary, where the arm was amputated. (PC Jan’ 20th 1872)
Boy 10 Killed After Caught in Machinery
An inquest was held on Monday 19th August 1872 at the Hob Inn, Bamber Bridge before J. Walker Esq., Deputy Coroner to Sir H. De Hoghton on the body of a boy named Thomas Alstead, 10 years of age. The deceased was a Creeler under his father at Mr Dewhurst’s mill in Cuerden and while cleaning some machinery was caught among revolving shafts. He died within a few minutes. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC Aug’ 24th 1872)
14 Year old Boy Killed after Becoming Entangled in a Strap
Lawrence Finnigan aged 14 of Gradwell St off Marsh Lane suffered a terrible death during the month of November 1872, while employed at the mill of Messrs Robert Gardner and Co, Kay St, Marsh Lane Preston. While proceeding to install a roller band on a breaker carding engine, he attempted to knock off the driving strap from a fixed pulley to a loose one with his foot. His left leg then became entangled in the strap and was subsequently wrenched off at the knee. He also suffered a broken thigh. The boy was hastily taken to the infirmary but died soon afterwards. (PC Nov’ 16th 1872)
Woman Killed after Being Dragged round Upright Shaft
Alice Butler was a 50 year old woman and in October 1873 was employed as a Piecer at Messrs Rawstorne and Burrows mill, Stanley St, Preston. The spinner under whom she worked heard a noise and turned to witness the horror of Alice Butler’s body being dragged around the upright shaft. He instantly rung the bell and the engine was eventually stopped but not before the poor woman had been revolved round the shaft many times. The area around the shaft had originally been fenced off but for some reason this protection had been removed.
A mechanic was summoned who completed the task of removing the body from the shaft. Both her feet and legs had been torn off as had one of her hands and her bowels were laid open. Further investigation revealed Alice Butlers petticoat had been caught by the shaft and as it tightened she was thrown down and spun round the shaft, her body striking against two projecting pieces of ironwork. Alice Butler was a widow and leaves three children, the youngest being just 12 years old. (Oct’ 11th 1873)
Shocking Mill Accidents
On Tuesday 18th November 1873 two separate mill accidents occurred in Preston with both resulting in fatalities. In the first incident a man James Coulthard aged 40 who was employed at Mr Goodair’s factory in Brookfield St, North Rd was attempting a task under a Lapping machine while it was still in motion. Suddenly his waistcoat became caught by the back and wrapped around a shaft which ran underneath the machine. His clothes gradually tightened upon his neck and he was choked to death. His neck presented a shocking appearance, being nothing but black flesh besides being swollen and bruised. He leaves a wife (who is near confinement) and seven children to mourn his loss. An inquest was held before Mr Myers Esq. and a jury on the body of James Coulthard of 3 Sydney St East. The following evidence was given.
Mary Murray a minder at Mr Goodair’s mill said, “Deceased was Scutching master and was employed near me. On Tuesday after breakfast time the feed was stopped which he had to keep in order. I looked for him and saw his head in the feed. I asked him to come out but as he did not reply I ran and gave information. When I went back I saw him taken out by the Grinder. The machine was running all the time.”
Alexander Patterson a Carding master at Goodair’s mill said, “I was fetched to the deceased and found him underneath the Lapping machine. His head was underneath the machine, one part of it was going and the other part was stopped. His waistcoat was wrapped round the second driving shaft. It had pulled his body up to the top of the shaft and when I found him he was quite dead. His neck was black and swelled and his hand was also bruised. His clothes had caught upon the shaft named. Deceased had no business under the machine while it was running. The shafting does not require boxing off as it runs underneath the machine. The jury recorded a case of accidental death.
The second accident concerned the case of a man named Henry Blackburn, an Oiler and Greaser at Stott Bros’ Factory, Marsh Lane, Preston. On Tuesday 18th November during the afternoon Mr Blackburn was in the engine house near to a pair of wheels. It is supposed he went there for the purpose of cleaning though he had no right there whatsoever. It was then his foot slipped and he became entangled in the machinery. Upon hearing him scream the steam was shut off and the deceased at once removed but he was quite dead. His legs had been drawn in underneath the wheels and completely cut to pieces. The deceased was a married man with a family.
An inquest was held on the body of Henry Blackburn and the following evidence was heard, Abraham Bamford of Preston said “I am the engine tenter at Messrs Stott Bros Co, Marsh Lane. The deceased was also employed there as an Oiler and Greaser. On Tuesday afternoon, a little before 5.00 pm I heard the deceased scream. He was then in the engine house near to the engine governors.
I looked up and he appeared to be fast and I ran and stopped the engine. I then went back to the deceased; he was fast in the small wheels which turn the governors. His legs were drawn in underneath the wheels and were cut to pieces. I got him out but have no idea how deceased got caught in it. He had no business where he was. That part was never oiled by anyone except when the machinery was stopped and then it was no part of the deceased duty, for I always oiled it myself.
Henry Blackburn was 37 years old. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC Nov’ 22nd 1873)
Fatal Mill Accident to a 10 Year old Boy at Walton –le- Dale
A terrible accident resulting in instant death happened in to a 10 year old boy named Edward Terence Rourke of Silver St Preston. The boy had only been employed at Messrs Calvert and Co’s Walton-le-Dale factory for a fortnight and was learning to creel. The accident happened in the spinning room.
At 11.00 am on the morning of 28th November 1873 the deceased out of curiosity was looking up a protective cover on part of nearby machinery. As the spinning carriage which moves backwards and forwards came towards him his head was caught against the end of the cover, crushing it and removing the top of his scalp. The minder under whom the deceased worked spotted him just as the carriage reached him but was unable to stop the machine in time to save him.
The body was at once removed to the watch house and though the little unfortunate fellow sighed once or twice, nothing could be done to aid or relieve him and he died a few moments after the accident. (PC Nov’ 29th 1873)
Woman Crushed in Hoist Shaft
An inquest was held at the police station on Thursday 27th November 1873 upon the body of a woman named Bridget Shearns aged 44. From the evidence it appeared the deceased was a Sweeper at Messrs German and Petty’s cotton mill, Leighton St, Preston. On Wednesday morning the deceased was found at the bottom of the hoist upon her knees as if she had been attempting to get out.
The cage was at the top of the hoist when the deceased was first seen and she died shortly after being removed. On examination of the body a deep mark was found at the back of the neck but the skin was not cut. The shoulder was also discoloured and a small cut was visible on the chin. The deceased had no right in the hoist, the doors of which are generally locked, though about a dozen people had keys.
A verdict of accidental death was returned. Various hypotheses were broached by the jury as to how she met her death, for she could only have fallen a maximum distance of 22 inches from the ground floor to the bottom of the hoist. The cause of death was a matter of conjecture but many on the jury believed the cage had come down on her and thus inflicted the fatal injury. (PC Nov’ 29th 1873)
Fatality After Man Trapped in Hoist Pulleys
On Wednesday January 6th 1873 Patrick Burke, an employee of Messrs Calvert and Co’s cotton mill, Walton-le-Dale met with his death under the following circumstances. Deceased was attending to his work at the hoist and for that purpose went into the top room. Here he asked a man named Joseph Spencer for some bobbins, while at the same time grabbing hold of the hoist rope. This caused the hoist to ascend and deceased, by some misfortune or another, put out his other hand which became entangled with the ascending hoist. He was taken up to the pulleys and drawn between them and the wall.
Mr Spencer immediately ran down into a lower room and released the rope, which caused the hoist to continue its upward motion. This in turn brought the ropes down along with it. As soon as Burke came opposite Mr Spencer he was pulled into the room and as soon as assistance could be found he was taken into the watch house. His head was frightfully cut, his left ear being literally taken off. His cheek and nasal bones were broken and the blood flowed profusely from his wounds.
Medical assistance was summoned and the deceased was subsequently conveyed to the Infirmary where he died. At the inquest which was held at the Royal Infirmary a verdict of accidental death was returned. (PC Jan’ 9th 1873)
17 Year old Youth Dies at Preston Waggon Works
On Monday 22nd February 1875 an inquest was held before Mr Gilbertson at the Royal Infirmary on the body of William Allen aged 17, who was employed as a “Roller Down” at Preston Carriage and Iron Works, West Strand Rd. On the day of the accident William Allen was speaking to another man within the works. While talking he placed his foot over a machine revolving box located between the spindle and the roller, when the box caught his foot and he was drawn into the machine. The engine was stopped immediately and the unfortunate young man was released and taken to the Infirmary, where it was found he was very badly burned about the body. He died at 7.00pm the same evening. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death. (PC Feb’27th 1875)
Boy Scalded to Death at Work
An inquest was held by Mr Gilbertson, Coroner, at the North Western Hotel, Preston on Monday 10th January 1876 upon the body of Henry Lawrence Walmsley, a young lad who died from the effects of scalding. William Walmsley, father of the deceased who lived in Albyn St West, said the boy who was 14 years old was employed at Mr James Emery a Basket Maker of Back Lane. On the day in question he went to work at 1.00 pm in the afternoon. He was brought home in a cab at about 4.30 pm and the deceased said, “Oh father I have been scalded”
He asked him how and the boy replied that he fell into the boiler. Dr Hodgson was sent for and attended deceased until his death, which took place four days later from the effects of his injuries. Joseph Woodruff said he worked at Mr Emery’s. He and three others were washing canes in the boiler, when one of the men snatched the cane in fun which was in the deceased hands and which pulled him partly over the side. The boy let go of the cane and fell into the water feet first. They helped him out and he was taken away in a cab. A verdict of accidental death was returned. (PC Jan 15th 1876)
A Brewer Perishes After Falling in Boiling Liquid
James Cook aged 59 was employed as a Brewer at the brewhouse attached to the Moulders Arms, Edmund St, Preston. On Friday 7th April 1876, Cook was assisting another employee named William Kirby in the brewing process. As Kirby was transferring some liquor from the boiler and placing it in the cooler, he left Cook standing beside the Mash Tub, which was filled with boiling beer.
Suddenly Cook was heard to cry out, “Help me, get me out”. A horrified Mr Kirby turned to find his workmate had fallen into the boiling liquid within the Mash Tub. Kirby managed to help James Cook out but he was dreadfully scalded and despite receiving treatment at the Infirmary, died the following day. (PC April 15th 1876)
Fatal Fall Down a Hoist Shaft
An inquest was held by Mr Gilbertson, Coroner, at the York Hotel Church St,Preston, upon the body of Thomas May a Hoistman at Horrocks Miller and Co cotton mill, who was found dead at the bottom of a hoist shaft. John Seed the Spinning master said the deceased had been the Hoistman for about 4 years. On 26th April 1876 the deceased had reversed the ropes too far when he stopped on the 5th floor and on getting out, the hoist ascended again. Deceased must have walked up to the hoist again thinking it was there and accidentally fell down the shaft. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and recommended that some better means be adopted to stop the hoist at each separate floor level. (PC April 29th 1876)
Man Killed When Grindstone Explodes
While working at the grindstone in the cotton mill of Mr Adam Leigh, Old Lancaster Lane, Preston, during early May 1876, Francis Foster 38 of Harcourt St, was struck in the face as the stone suddenly exploded. The force of the blow knocked him to the ground and he died shortly afterwards. The explosion was so severe that pieces of the stone penetrated the ceiling and many windows in an adjoining room were broken. (PC May 6th 1876)
Young Woman has Arm Amputated
On June 2nd 1877 it was reported how Catherine Bateson, a young woman residing in Park Rd Preston and employed at Calvert’s mill, Walton-le-Dale, injured an arm so severely it had to be amputated. While working in the “Scutching”room Miss Bateson attempted to retrieve some “weft” from a machine which was in motion and in doing so trapped her arm in the machinery. (PC June 2nd 1877)
A serious accident occurred on the afternoon of Tuesday 14th May 1878 to William Wade, a Boilermaker aged 32 of Penwortham. He was working at Messrs Allsup’s foundry, Strand Rd, Preston when he was struck in the eye with a Sledgehammer wielded by a companion. He was conveyed to the Infirmary where it was found that the eye was very severely injured. (PC May 18th 1878)
Man Seriously Injured After Being Dragged Around a Shaft
On the afternoon of Tuesday 21st January 1879 an accident of a very serious nature befell a man named James Higginson of 280 North Rd, Preston. He was employed at the Shuttle works of Mr Green, Sizer St and at the time named was putting a strap around a pulley when the machinery caught his shirt sleeve. He was taken around the shaft several times resulting in a compound fracture of the thigh. Dr Derham was immediately in attendance and ordered his removal to the Infirmary. Despite his injury Mr Higginson was expected to make a full recovery. (PC Jan’ 25th 1879)
Boy Crushed to Death in Machinery
During November 1879 a Creeler at the Stanley St mill of Messrs HorrocksMiller and Co named Andrew Landrum aged 15 of Brunswick St Preston, was working alongside a mule Spinner named John Ainsworth. Ainsworth instructed the boy to “starch” one of the spinning machine wheels while he attended to something else.
A short time later there was a breakage of cotton ends and as Ainsworth returned he immediately stopped the machine, only to discover the boy’s body entangled in the machinery near to the carriage. After extracting him it was realised Andrew Landrum was dead. It was thought that the deceased while going around the machine inserting the bobbins dropped one and while attempting to retrieve it, his head was caught and crushed in the wheels. (PC Nov’ 15th 1879)
Shocking Death from Exploding Grindstone
George Taffe, a workman in the employment of Mr Tattersall, Machinists of Ladyman St, Preston was regularly tasked with carrying out the job of “dressing” the grindstone within the machine shop. 46 year old Taffe would examine the grinding wheel for flaws and imperfections every time he dressed the wheel which was usually 2 or 3 times per week. The stone was 5 foot in diameter when new and when in motion would reach a speed of up to 200 revolutions per minute.
Early in the morning of May 28th 1880 George Taffe commenced his routine task of “dressing” the grindstone, when suddenly a loud bang was heard in the workshop. A workman was heard shouting out, “That’s the grindstone gone”. As men rushed to the scene they found George Taffe laid on his back with his head against the wall and bleeding heavily from the mouth and forehead. A rope which had been attached to the grindstone was entangled around the dead man’s neck. His skull was fractured and his brain was protruding from his wounds.
The grindstone had exploded into four pieces almost all equal in size and the shaft attached to the stone was also damaged.It was reported the stone had been originally purchased from a quarry in Derbyshire and was of a type regularly used. At the Coroner’s inquest a recommendation was made to examine the remains of the stone more closely to establish if a flaw did cause the breakage and ultimate death of George Taffe. (PC May 29th 1880)
Shocking Eye Injuries
Mary Jane Salisbury 20, a weaver of Brougham St was employed at MrHumber’s mill, Bushell St, off Lancaster Rd, Preston. During July 1880 when at her place of work, a shuttle flew out of one of the looms and struck her in the eye. She was at once taken to the Infirmary but unfortunately the eye was so damaged it had to be removed.
Ellen Cummings of Bedford St, a weaver in the employ of Messrs Hawkins & Sons mill, Adelphi St, Preston, was following her employment in September 1880, when a shuttle flew from the loom and struck her in the right eye. The eye was struck so forcibly it was almost knocked out. (PC July 24th & Sep’ 4th 1880)
Boy has Hand Torn Off
On Tuesday 17th August 1880 a 14 year old boy named Richard Forshaw of Lodge St, Preston, who was a Bolt and Screw maker in the employ of Messrs Yates & Co of Bambers Yard, met with a very serious accident. He was following his employment when his right hand became entangled between the cog wheels and completely torn off. He was at once removed to the Infirmary where it was found necessary to amputate the whole of his right arm. This was accordingly done and it is hoped the boy will make a full recovery. (PC Aug’ 21st 1880)
Engine Tenter Entangled in Machinery.
A serious accident befell an engine tenter named James Ashton aged 31 of 21 Brookfield St, Preston. Ashton was employed at a Bolt and Screw works in Moor Lane and on the morning of 4th October 1880, while cleaning the engine as it was in motion, he became entangled in the machinery. The unfortunate man was very seriously injured, his collar bone being broken, shoulder and neck torn and face badly cut. He was conveyed to the Infirmary and now lies in a precarious condition. (PC Oct’ 9th 1880)
The Terror of Cotton Mill Fires
A constant source of great fear among both employers and workers was the threat of fire. Cotton mills were usually constructed in a multi storey fashion with wooden planked floors on each level. This flooring would soon become saturated with lubricating oil from the machinery, which once exposed to fire, would quickly turn into an inferno which spread very quickly throughout the entire building. Mill fires were not isolated incidents and often ended in tragedy.
One such incident occurred in September 1871 at the mill of Horrocks,Jacson and Co, near Bolton’s Court, Preston
After flames were spotted in the mixing room within the newer part of the mill, the alarm was sounded and the Fire Brigade soon began to tackle the blaze. Teams of firefighters directed water to the flames from both the Avenham St and Bolton’s Court directions, however the water pressure very quickly dropped. The pumping machine had become badly blocked due to the suction pipe being thrust into the mud at the bottom of the mill lodge. After a delay however the matter was resolved and the fire was contained in the mixing room and soon after the blaze was extinguished.
Later it was confirmed that just before the first flames appeared, a young lad aged 13 named James Inglesby, a Lap Piecer, came into the mixing room and jumped off some skips, whereupon a quantity of cotton waste that had apparently been smouldering burst into flames. The boy’s clothes immediately caught fire and he was heard to cry out, “Help, help”, before dashing out of the room in a ball of flame. An onlooker eventually smothered the flames with a woman’s skirt but the boy was extremely badly burned. He was removed to the Infirmary but died the following day having suffered great pain.
In another tragic twist, shortly before the fire had been extinguished there was a cry that a lad was drowning in the mill lodge. During the fire dozens of boys had gathered on the lodge wall when one of them, Job Nicholson aged 10, fell into the lodge which contained recycled hot water. A frantic effort was made to save the boy but with the water being so hot no one dared to physically jump in to help. He came to the surface a number of times but was too far off to be reached. The poor lad was drowned in a most terrible manner, his body later being recovered by a grappling iron. On inspection it was noticed the heat of the water had caused some of the flesh to come away from the deceased. (PC Sept’ 9th 1871)
Another disastrous cotton mill fire in Preston happened in August 1875 at the North Rd premises of Messrs Simpson and Phillips. Standing over six storeys high and two hundred feet in length, the mill had undergone significant changes since an earlier fire seriously damaged the premises several years previously.
On the morning in question sparks were seen coming from the main gearing wheels in the centre of number 5 room, which set alight a quantity of cotton waste. Almost at once the fire quickly spread about in all directions until the whole room was ablaze. With the cry of fire raised the mill operatives fled the building in terror but it soon became clear that at least one person, if not more were unaccounted for. All that was known for certain was that a 17 year old piecer named Wilfred Whiteside was missing.
After the fire alarm had been raised Whiteside was seen directly outside room 5 shouting at another young lad named Dickinson, “We can’t get this way it’s smothering”. Dickinson continued running along and Whiteside soon followed but then fell over a bucket. When next seen by witnesses he was spotted looking out of a window above a staircase on the sixth storey. In desperation Whiteside smashed the glass window with his head causing it to bleed profusely. After leaning out of the window for a moment or two, he either walked or fell back and that was the last time he was seen alive.
As thick clouds of smoke engulfed the spot were Whiteside had stood, by the time the Fire Brigade arrived the whole fifth floor was alight with the sixth floor soon to follow. Fire crews battled to prevent the flames spreading to the fourth floor and succeeded in gaining access to the staircase. As the fire showed signs of being contained by the skilled work of the firemen, the father of Wilfred Whiteside arrived at the scene along with other men, who in desperation tried to enter the mill. Despite their brave and frantic attempts they were beaten back by the smoke and flames.
Early in the afternoon with the fire almost extinguished, access to the staircase was finally achieved. The badly burned body of the unfortunate Wilfred Whiteside was discovered on the floor of the place he was last seen in. At the opposite end of the mill in room 5 and just below a window in which the Fire Brigade had directed jets of water, another body was found. It was that of Charles Dickenson an 11 year old boy and son of John Dickenson, a Turner who was also employed at the mill. He had died from suffocation. The damage to the premises was roughly estimated at about £30,000. (PC Aug’ 14th 1875)
In January 1881 a fire broke out at the cotton mill of Mr M. S. Maynard in Dale St, off Church St, Preston, which completely destroyed the establishment. Entirely used for cotton spinning, the mill was 16 windows long and nearly the same in width, containing over 24,000 spindles.
Shortly before 7.00 am on the morning of 15th January 1881, a fire broke out at a spinning mule in room 3 manned by a spinner named William Hall. Hall attempted to contain the fire after the alarm had been raised and other operatives rushed to help. However even though hose pipes and fire extinguishers were available, the blaze soon began to spread with alarming speed. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived the workforce had given up hope of controlling the fire and made a great rush for the exit with most escaping safely.
Unfortunately some workers on the upper floors found themselves in a desperate situation with fire appearing all around. Two spinners named Henry Smith and Frank Beckett along with a 15 year old creeler were forced to seek their escape by climbing on to the roof by way of a skylight door. From there they managed to access the roof of the adjacent building of Starkies Wire Works and made their way to safety uninjured.
The 15 year old creeler named William Ashworth had a particularly lucky escape. Unable to climb onto the roof himself and rapidly succumbing to suffocation from the dense smoke, his cries for help were heard by the spinner Henry Smith who eventually managed to lift him through the skylight door onto the roof. Without that assistance he would have surely perished. Despite the efforts of the firemen, the mill which was originally constructed some 50 or 60 years previous and whose floors were heavily saturated in oils, was engulfed by the flames.
So rapid did the fire progress throughout the building that within 45 minutes of the fire starting at the loom of William Hall, the roof had completely collapsed. The whole of the building was gutted and reduced to a complete wreck, with damage estimated at £24,000. (PC Jan’ 22nd1881)