The industrial revolution in 19th century England was to a large extent
dependent on the mining industry.
Where there was a ready supply of coal, heavy industry was
able to develop; towns and cities grew, and thousands upon thousands of
labourers and their families migrated to these centres of innovation.
British industry not only brought about the modernisation of Britain,
but played a crucial part in the growth of the British Empire, and all
of this was fuelled by coal.
Also vital to the industrial enterprise was steel, and its raw material iron.
This was extracted from ironstone, which like coal had to be mined from underground.
Yorkshire had a good supply of both, and miners often moved from one type of mine to
At that time there was always work for miners, who for the sake of a
steady income were prepared to face the cramped and airless conditions
and the many dangers posed by working underground. And it wasn't just
grown men: in my own family children as young as 7 or 8 worked in the
mines - or, to use the Yorkshire term that they would have used, down
the pit. It was an accident involving a child which claimed the life of
my 3x great grandfather, John Bartle.
Like his father before him and many others of his family, John Bartle had
been a miner for many years, and January 1867 saw him working at the
Harehills Lane Pits in Leeds as a "hanger-on", a job he had performed for
15 years. This involved working at the bottom of the pit shaft, attaching containers of coal or, as in this case, ironstone to the rope which would haul them to the surface.
On Friday 11 January a boy working down the pit was taken ill, and John got
into the lift cage with him, intending to take him back to the surface. However,
when the cage reached the top of the shaft, only the boy was there.
Because of his illness he was unable to say immediately what had happened,
and the cage was sent back to the bottom.
Soon, however, the men below realised that the hanger-on
was missing and began to look for him. Eventually they raised the cage
a little, and found John lying underneath it, close to death.
An inquest was held a few days later, and it was determined that while
taking the boy to the surface, John must have fallen out of the cage
when it was 4 or 5 yards up the shaft, suffering concussion of the
brain. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
If you're related to John or can tell me any more about him, please get in touch.
(Sources: Yorkshire Post 15 Jan 1867; Leeds Mercury 16 & 19 Jan 1867)
John BARTLE's Details
and Ancestor Chart
Page last updated 4 November 2017