William Edward Green was a 15-year-old miner who was one of *nine people killed in the Pendleton Colliery Disaster of 4th February 1870.
The Salford Weekly Chronicle headline of Saturday 5th February 1870 read, "Sad Catastrophe at the Pendleton Collieries". Then it followed up with "At about 10 o'clock yesterday morning one of the pits of Messrs Andrew Knowles and Sons, Pendleton Pits, by some hitherto unexplained means took fire, the result of which, though most lamentable, is not so serious as at first was imagined. Rumours caused Whit Lane to be full of weeping women and anxious enquiries."
The first to descend the 550 feet shaft were the proprietor, Mr John Knowles and the Manager Mr Samuel Horrocks. The casualties were brought up to the surface. Some were "fearfully burned, the skin appearing to peel from them and their clothes and hair singed". The worst cases, three men and three boys, were taken to Salford Dispensary including William Edward Green, 12, Freehold Terrace, Hankinson Street, Pendleton, aged 15. They were all severely burned to the upper part of the body, face, neck, chest and arms and all died at the Dispensary of burns and shock. Six other men were taken to their homes and three of them died, including the father of one of the boys who died at the Dispensary. It was said that a shot had misfired and ignited coal dust.
The Coroner, Mr F Price, opened the Inquest on the first six to die (four at the Dispensary and two at home), on Monday 7th February at the Angel Inn, Bank Parade. In attendance were Mr Andrew Knowles Jnr, representing the proprietors; Mr Samuel Horrocks, Manager; and Mr Dickenson, HM Inspector of Collieries for East Lancashire. The evidence of Charles Radford was crucial. He worked as an Engine Tenter at the colliery and was the bother of John Radford and uncle of James Radford who both died in the explosion. He said that he didn't hear the explosion, but saw a great quantity of dust. He went to investigate and saw a "drill hole in the coal face where the stemming had been blown out". Also, whilst his brother was lying in bed at home, he told him that he had drilled a hole in the coal face in preparation for firing a shot. The drill bit had a piece missing which had left a "ledge" in the hole. After putting a cartridge in the hole, the stemming did not go up to the cartridge. He thought that this was the reason that the stemming was blown out of the hole.
Another witness said he thought that the explosion was not caused by fire damp (methane). James Green, father of William Edward Green said that his son had told him whilst lying in hospital, that he saw the flames coming towards him and endeavoured to get out of the way. He was very badly burned on the chest, legs and arms and was about 50 yards from the spot where the shot was fired.
Mr Andrew Veitch, House Surgeon at the Dispensary spoke of five (as another miner, John Williams, had died the previous morning) who had been brought to the Dispensary on 4th February. They were all suffering from burns to the trunk, arms and head and from shock. There was no appearance of any injury having resulted from the "rush of wind". He said the burns could be from the blaze of gunpowder or from the ignited particles of coal dust. The Inquest was then adjourned.
The Inquest was re-opened on Monday 14th February. The Coroner, Mr Price, announced two further deaths as a result of the explosion. The sixth miner taken to the Dispensary (Roger Hutchinson), died last Monday evening (7th February) and another (Joseph Ashton) had died at home on Friday morning (10th February), making nine fatalities in all.
William Halliday giving evidence said that he and George Higson found Joseph Ashton kneeling down, badly burned and put him into a wagon. A few yards further they found William Walford also badly burned. Then Chapman and Walton, then John Radford lying about 7 or 8 yards from the engine brow. They also found James Radford, John Williams, James Thorpe and Roger Hutchinson. Green and Wolstenholme had been taken out before they had done their search. They were all badly burned. He saw the spot of the shot firing and the stemming had been blown out. He smelt the powder smoke. All the injured men were within 50 yards of the shot.
The Coroner concluded that there had been no fire damp and that the burns had been caused by "powder flame". Verdict: Accidental Death.
William Edward Green who died at the Dispensary, was buried on 9th February 1870 in plot B18 of the C of E portion of Weaste Cemetery. Rev C.V. Williams officiated. The only other casualty buried at Weaste Cemetery was 14-year-old William Walford, who was buried on 8th February in a C of E common grave. Rev C.V.Williams officiating.
*The casualties taken to the Dispensary (and all died) were:
William Edward Green, 12 Freehold Terrace, Hankinson Street, aged 15.
William Walford, 16, Priory Street, aged 14.
James Radford, 8, Brochade Street, Whit Lane, aged 16.
Roger Hutchinson, Sovereign Street, aged 30, married.
Jonathan Chapman, William Street, Charlestown, aged 38, married.
John Williams, 8, Wellington Street, Whit Lane
The casualties taken to their homes were:
John Radford, 8, Brochade Street, Whit Lane, age 40, married.
(Died at 12.30 pm Saturday 5th February)
Joseph Ashton, Higginson Brow, single.
(Died Friday 11th February)
James Thorpe, single.
William Lister, single.
William Jones, married.
James Wolstenholme, married.