Mine tragedy: two dead


Sunday 7 July 1844, Bath Pit, Moira. John Dennis (30) and William Dennis (25) were given the job of watchers, keeping an eye on the water pumping engine. The two brothers went down the pit at eight in the morning. At about half past three in the afternoon a rope was let down to bring them up using a whimsey and steam engine. The whimsey was a kind of winding gear. The shaft was about 230 yards deep. When they reached about a quarter of the way up the engine slipped out of gear and they fell to the bottom of the shaft. Both were killed immediately, having suffered fatal head injuries.

moira furnace (640x377)
Little remains of old Moira, but the Furnace has survived.  Its working life was short and it became residential.  Picture by MaltaGC and reproduced under a Creative Commons license.

The engineman, John Brooks, realised what had happened, stopped the engine and attempted to apply the brake, but there was too little time. [At the acceleration due to gravity a drop of 60 yards would take less than 3 seconds.]

Brooks said that he had engaged the gear correctly, held in place by a wooden plug, but when the managing engineer, J T Woodhouse, examined it he found the plug was at the wrong end of the catch bar. Brooks said that Richard Parker had put it there when they examined the engine. It was considered that Brooks had been mistaken and had not engaged the gear properly. Woodhouse said he was a trustworthy man and bore no ill-will towards the deceased.

A verdict of accidental death was returned.

The victims

The dead men were brothers John and William Dennis, sons of Francis Dennis, a tailor of Measham, and Hannah, formerly Barnes.

John was baptised at Measham on 2 May 1813. In 1840 he married, and in 1841 lived with wife Elizabeth at Moira. The burial record says he was of Donisthorpe. He was buried on 9 July at Donisthorpe St John.

William was baptised at Measham on 9 April 1819. In 1841 he lived with his parents on Cross Street, Measham, and was unmarried. He was buried on 10 July at Measham.

It appears William’s and John’s ages are given incorrectly in the Leicestershire Mercury, but correctly in the Leicester Chronicle.

The entry of death for William gives his age as 25 years. William died on 7 July 1844, cause: “Injuries of the Head from falling down a Colliery Shaft”. Indicates birth about 1819, but could be any time after 7 July 1818.

The entry of death for John is identical except for name and age 30, indicating birth about 1814, but could be any time after 7 July 1813.

Relationships can be seen in Black Death, above.


Leicestershire Mercury, July 13. 1844
Leicester Chronicle., Saturday 13 July 1844
General Register Office, entries of death
Family Search
Census 1841
CMHRC does not record this event
Andrew’s Kindred
Donisthorpe Burials 1838-1848

2 thoughts on “Mine tragedy: two dead

  1. Very interesting. You mention that Bath Pit opened in 1813. Doh you know wHen it close and when did the propert it stood on, later known as Bath a Yard, become the head quarters of the Moira Colliery Company Limited?


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