Cwmbach Mine Explosion, 10 May 1852





It is our painful duty this day to record another of those most disastrous accidents, as it respects the destruction of human life, which have so frequently occurred in South Wales, especially in the neighbourhood ofAberdare.

It appeared that, on Monday morning last, about a quarter past nine o’clock, the awful occurrence took place in the Aberdare Valley. The scene of the dreadful accident is the Middle Dyffryn pit, belonging to Thos. Powell, Esq., of the Gaes. The men, on the morning in question, went to their work as usual; and they worked up to within a few minutes after nine, when, from some cause as yet unexplained, an explosion took place, which destroyed a large portion of the workings underground. The news spread through the vicinity like wildfire, and drew anxious thousands in the course of the day to visit the place.

The confusion and distress were indescribable, and the scene altogether harrowing; there were wives seeking lost husbands, mothers inquiring for missing sons, and children crying and bewailing the loss of fathers.

To the credit of the people be it said, every one was prepared to risk all, even life itself, to save the poor fellows that were down in the pit, and their exertions to this end were unremitting; and, as will be seen, altogether unattended with success. By about two o’clock p.m. they had succeeded in getting out 25 men alive, but two of these have since died, and many of the remaining 28 are much injured. And oh! What an awful sight, at intervals during the day, to see one after another brought up from the pit and claimed by their bereaved relatives. We believe the number of bodies recovered is about 67.

There were also three horses killed, and three saved alive, and one missing, supposed to be under the fall. The men who worked this horse (the hauliers) are also missing.

This is the 5th accident that has occurred within three-quarters of a mile of this place during the last seven years, in which no less than 167 men and boys have met with their deaths, exclusive of minor accidents.

The number now killed, however, exceeds anything of the kind ever experienced in South Wales before; and, as mining operations in this district are now carried forward on a gigantic scale, it is to be hoped that some measures will be adopted to prevent a similar sacrifice of human life in future.

The coroner’s inquest was held on view of the bodies on Tuesday, and was adjourned to next week, to enable the necessary notice to be given to the Secretary of State. Since then the Government Inspector has arrived, and has been over the works. Mr Struve, of Swansea, has also been there.

It is understood that the Duffryn colliery was well ventilated, the proprietor having spared no pains or expense in the attempt to guard against accident, and all the hands were regularly supplied with Davy lanterns, the constant use of which was strictly enjoyed upon them. How the explosion was caused it is therefore difficult to guess at, unless it be that some one of the colliers, many of whom are notorious for their recklessness, opened his lantern for the purpose of getting a fuller light to work by, or else struck a lucifer match for the purpose of lighting his pipe. A letter says, so reckless are many of the young hands that many boys, when they see a small string of fire-damp streaming along, will set fire to it merely for the purpose of seeing it go off.” The sensation which has been created in the immediate neighbourhood of the Duffryn works is described as being of the most exciting and painful character.

Among those early on the spot were George Overton, Esq., coroner of the district; the Rev. Mr. Griffith, vicar of the parish, who laboured incessantly and energetically in attendance on the wounded throughout the day; Mr. Dawes, surgeon to the works, and the superintendents and sergeants of police from Merthyr and Newbridge, as well as Aberdare. The proprietors, agents, and men from all the numerous iron and coal works in the valley, evinced every readiness to give assistance, while the immediate agents of the work went down into the pit and shared the dangers of the men engaged in the work of saving the living and recovering the bodies of the dead.

Four of the bodies of the unfortunate men who met their death at this colliery on Monday last were brought to Neath by the Vale of Neath Railway train, at three o’clock Wednesday afternoon. They were met at the station by a numerous assemblage of people, who accompanied the remains to their last resting place. Two of the men belonged to Neath, and were interred in the yard belonging to Zoar, a Welsh Independent Chapel; and the other two, who are father and son, were taken to Pontrhydyfen, to be buried amongst their friends and relations at that place. Hymns were sung in front of the procession, and the funeral cortege was one of the most melancholy ever witnessed.

The Cambrian, 14 May 1852.

Among the sixty-seven lives lost were nineteen members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

1. Ebenezer Morris, age 32, the president of the Cwmbach Branch. He had been sent there with his family to serve a mission.

2. David Morris, age 10, son of Ebenezer Morris

3. John Morris, age 11, son of Ebenezer Morris

4. David Jenkins, age 36. His widow, Anna Evans Jenkins, and his five children later came to America and settled in Samaria.

5. Thomas Evans, age 41

6. Thomas Phillips, age 30

7. Thomas Pritchard, age 36

8. Edward Davis, age 34

9. David David, age 14, son of Edward Davis

10.  Daniel Mathews, age 18

11.  Thomas Rees, age 29 (possibly age 23 or 13)

12.  Jenkin Rosser, age 22

13.  Rees Hopkins, age 50

14.  John Hopkins, age 15, son of Rees Hopkins

15.  Charles Marks, age 11

16.  Lewis Jones, age 42

17.  William Jones, age 16, son of Lewis Jones

18.  John Jones, age 14, son of Lewis Jones

19.  William Samuel, age 16



Evans, Anna

Rees, Mary Margaret

Jenkins, David

Morris, Ebenezer

Hopkins, William Thomas

Hopkins, Reese

Thomas, Sarah


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