Hebden Township Historical Data

Kinnaird Commission Report

In 1862 Parliament established a Royal Commission to investigate the health and well-being of miners. Lord Kinnaird (1807-1878), a Scottish peer and social reformer, was charged with heading the Commission. During the course of its work, the Commission questioned mining captains and agents, owners, the miners themselves, and doctors employed by the owners, about the mode of working the mines, the health of the miners, the wages of the miners, and the diet of the miners (inter alia). As a result of the Commission's findings, two bills were enacted in 1872 to improve safety and conditions in coal and metalliferous mines.

In 1863, the Hebden Moor Mining Company's agent, Thomas Job, was questioned, and the following is based on a transcript of a record of that interview, made by members of the Northern Mine Research Society. We are grateful for their generosity in making it available to us.

It provides an invaluable insight into the life of the miners, the peripatetic nature of many of the mine personnel, and into the operation of Hebden Mine itself.

The Transcript of Thomas Job's Interview

Thomas Job examined, GRASSINGTON, 5 March 1863.

Question no. Questioner Question, and response by Thomas Job
18,554 Chairman

Of what mines have you charge in this district?

— Only the Hebden Moor at present.

18,555 Chairman

Have you worked as a miner yourself?

— Yes, in Devonshire.

18,556 Chairman

In what mine?

— In Wheal Betsy, and also Wheal Friendship.

18,557 Chairman

Have you worked in other mines?

— Yes; I worked in Coniston mines in Lancashire, about six months 33 or 34 years ago.

18,558 Chairman

Have you visited other mines?

— Yes; both in Ireland and also in Derbyshire since I left there. I inspected them occasionally.

18,559 Chairman

Have you been in mines where the stemples were used?

— Yes, in Derbyshire.

18,560 Chairman

To what depth of shafts?

— I have seen stemples there 24 or 25 fathoms in depth.

18,561 Chairman

Which do you think are preferable, stemples or ladders?

— Ladders.

18,562 Chairman

You have no doubt of it?

— Not at all; they are more easy for climbing, and there is greater safety as well

18,563 Chairman

What number of men have you working underground in Hebden Moor?

— Nearly 50.

18,564 Chairman

Are you connected with the Old Man's workings there?

— It is quite a new field; there are no old workings to speak of. A level was formerly driven before we took on to it, but there were no old workings to interfere.

18,565 Chairman

What is the longest level which you have driven from the day?

— The longest level which goes from the day, which the former company and the present company have driven, is nearly 500 fathoms.

18,566 Chairman

Are there many shafts communicating with the surface in that distance?

— There are two levels from day; there is a level 20 fathoms above the lower one, and there are communications from the lower level to the upper level.

18,567 Chairman

Are there shafts to the upper level?

— No; we sank a shaft, but still it was of no benefit respecting the circulation of air, and it was of no advantage to us in drawing out the stuff.

18,568 Chairman

So that now the ventilation is between the two levels?

— Yes

18,569 Chairman

Do you find that quite sufficient?

— Yes

18,570 Chairman

In what strata are you working there?

— Sandstone or grit, and shale between the grit. There are two layers of grit, what we call the top grit and the bottom

18,571 Chairman

Do you find any difference in the ventilation According to the strata in which you are working?

— Yes, we do sometimes

18,572 Chairman

Which is the worst ?

— When we have any great thickness of plate it is not in altogether so good as it is in the grit, but there is no great thickness in general, not more than three to four fathoms between the grits

18,573 Chairman

Have you ever met with carbonic acid gas ?

— We have met with foul air occasionally; it depends upon the atmosphere

18,574 Chairman

Can you describe any occasion when you have found carbonic acid gas coming out from the rock?

— Yes; we have just discovered it where there have been openings, or what we call crevices in the rock, and it will escape there occasionally; but then it will depend upon the atmosphere outside whether it has any effect or not, as to whether it is any detriment to the men, it will depend upon the point from which the wind is

18,575 Chairman

How do you discover it?

— By the candles not burning quite so well

18,576 Chairman

Have you ever heard it?

— We just hear a kind of a singing tone for a day or so sometimes before we should feel the effects of it

18,577 Mr. Holland

Hissing out?

— Yes; just coming out, that has been in the grit

18,578 Mr. Holland

You hear it hissing out of the crevice, do you?

— Yes, occasionally

18,579 Chairman

Before you feel the effects of it?

— Yes

18,580 Chairman

Have the men to leave work on that occasion?

— They are obliged to sometimes. We never allow them to work in a place where the candles will not burn

18,581 Chairman

You judge by the candle whether the air is bad or not?

— Yes

18,582 Chairman

What do the men pay for candles at Hebden Moor?

— About 7d. a pound

18,583 Chairman

How much for powder?

— About £3 a hundredweight

18,584 Chairman

Have you ever known any men suffer from working in mines?

— No, not at Hebden Moor

18,585 Chairman

But have you in other mines?

— Yes; I believe that in some cases they have suffered

18,586 Chairman

From your own knowledge do you know of any men who have suffered?

— Yes, from the time that I was a boy; in consequence of their working hard and in wet places, and not having been careful enough of themselves they have shortened their age

18,587 Chairman

Have they been broken winded?

— Yes; it may have that effect sometimes. I have myself worked in places where it was very dusty, in Devonshire; it was the gray slate strata there, and in some places it was very dry, and there it was worst; but if there was water and it was a wet place it had a tendency to prevent the dust from flying

18,588 Mr. Holland

Are these mines as close to work in as the Devonshire mines?

— No; they are not so warm

18,589 Mr. Holland

Do the candles burn better?

— No; I do lot know that they burn better

18,590 Mr. Holland

The difference is chiefly as to the temperature?

— Yes; and they are not so deep. I have worked in 50 fathoms to 200 fathoms deep

18,591 Mr. Holland

Have you any mines here 50 fathoms deep?

— Yes, from the surface

18,592 Mr. Holland

Did you ever work in any 50 fathoms deep from the surface in Devonshire?

— Yes

18,598 Mr. Holland

Are the levels 50 fathoms from the surface here as hot as 50 fathoms from the surface in Devonshire?

— Yes, I think that they are

18,594 Mr. Holland

Is the air similar?

— Yes, just the same, I think, when the same thing is laid out for ventilation

18,595 Mr. Holland

Is the ventilation as good or as bad as it is in Devonshire?

— Just about the same

18,596 Mr. Holland

Do you think that the miners are as healthy or more healthy here than in Devonshire?

— They are are healthy. A greater heat proceeds from a copper vein and also in the grey slate than in lime, from what have proved from my own workings

18,597 Mr. Holland

Do you see much effect from the carbonic Acid which comes out when it is not enough to put out the candles?

— No; but there would be an effect produced if the men worked in it for any length of time

18,598 Mr. Holland

When is it not enough to affect the candles, do you think that it affects the men's health?

— I do not know that it does much

18,599 Mr. Holland

When there is not enough carbonic acid to affect the candles, does it affect the men in their breathing?

— No, not much in breathing; it affects the head a little

18,600 Mr. Holland

Does it make the head ache?

— Yes, if the men continue to work in it many hours; but when it is like that they do not work long

18,601 Mr. Holland

Does it ever gather so completely as to put out the candle if you put it at the bottom of the level?

— (No response in the transcript)

18,602 Mr. Holland

Is your mine very dusty?

— Not particularly

18,603 Mr. Holland

Do you think that the dust or the bad air affects the men most?

— Dust is very injurious, and bad air is also injurious; but I may say that they have not any bad air in Hebden Moor

18,604 Mr. Holland

But you have dust?

— Yes, in dry places

18,605 Mr. Holland

Does the dust make the men cough much?

— I think not

18,606 Mr. Holland

Does it hurt them?

— It lodges upon the inside

18,607 Mr. Holland

Do not they cough it up afterwards?

— We do not take any particular notice of that

18,608 Mr. Holland

What particular injury do you think that it does?

— It may affect the lungs a little

18,609 Mr. Holland

Have you noticed that it does affect the lungs?

— I judge from my own experience when I worked underground

18,610 Mr. Holland

What effect had it upon you?

— If I worked in it l felt a tightness, a difficulty in breathing, if it was a close dry place

18,611 Mr. Holland

How long did it last?

— A good emetic would clear it again

18,612 Mr. Holland

But if you did not have an emetic, how long would it be before it would clear?

— Not long

18,613 Mr. Holland

How long?

— It might take a day or two

18,614 Mr. Holland

And during all that time you would feel a tightness?

— Yes, a little tightness

18,615 Mr. Holland

That you think was from the dust?

— Yes

18,616 Mr. Holland

Have you observed the same thing from poor air, not dusty?

— No

18,617 Mr. Holland

What effect would that produce?

— You would feel a difficulty in breathing it when you were in it, but you would not feel it when you came out

18,618 Mr. Holland

Have you felt all the strength out of you after working in bad air for some time?

— I have felt deprived of a part of my strength; you would not feel so fresh

18,619 Mr. Leveson Gower

Do you know any lead mines in Derbyshire?

— Yes

18,620 Mr. Leveson Gower

Do you consider the men here to be more healthy than the men working in the lead mines in Derbyshire?

— No, I do not think that they are more healthy, because it was limestone in Derbyshire

18,621 Sir Philip Egerton

How many levels have you?

— We have two that go in and come out at the surface, but we have three inside

18,622 Sir Philip Egerton

In which are you working now?

— What we call the low bottom and the middle level

18,623 Sir Philip Egerton

Do you find any difference in the air in the middle level and the lower level; which is best?

— It depends upon the distance which is driven. At this time we have good air in both levels

18,624 Sir Philip Egerton

What distance are you working now from the air shaft?

— One level is in about 40 fathoms, and the other about 30

18,625 Sir Philip Egerton

Is the ventilation natural, or do you use artificial means of ventilation?

— It is natural

18,626 Sir Philip Egerton

And it is very good in both levels?

— It is pretty good

18,627 Sir Philip Egerton

Which is the best?

— At this time the middle level is best, although it is extended the farthest

18,628 Sir Philip Egerton

Has the air in the middle level been heretofore bad?

— No

18,629 Sir Philip Egerton


— Occasionally when the damp has come out. When the gentleman came here to test the air, we could not carry a candle in the level

18,630 Sir Philip Egerton

What do you mean by "damp"?

— The foul air coming out through the crevices

18,631 Sir Philip Egerton

That is your name for the foul air which you have described in your evidence?

— Yes

18,632 Mr Holland

Do you call it cold damp?

— No, we call it damp

18,633) Sir Philip Egerton

But you do not feel any ill effects from that now where you are working in the middle level?

— No

18,634 Mr Kendall

How long have you abandoned work on account of the damp?

— I think two days

18,635 Mr Kendall

Have you ever abandoned it before on the same account?

— Yes

18,636 Mr Kendall

How frequently?

— We have had to abandon it twice since January, for about two or three days each time

18,637 Mr Kendall

After two or three days is the air very good?

— Yes

18,638 Mr Kendall

After this oozing out ceases?

— Yes

18,639 Mr Kendall

Have you worked in Cornish mines?

— I have worked in Devonshire the adjoining county

18,640 Mr Kendall

Are you a Devonshire man?

— Yes

18,641 Mr Kendall

Are the wages higher here than in Devonshire?

— At this time the wages are much the same as they were when I left Devonshire

18,642 Mr Kendall

Are the miners more sober here than they are in Devonshire, or just the same?

— Just the same

18,643 Mr Kendall

Do they live better here than in Devonshire?

— I think not; their diet is different from what it is in Devonshire

18,644 Mr Kendall

Which do you think is the best diet, you having tried both?

— In Devonshire they use fried potatoes and bacon; but here they make use of porridge made of oatmeal; it is a very good food, but I do not make much use of it myself, I eat a little oatcake

18,645 Mr Kendall

What age are you now?

— 58

18,646 Mr Kendall

How old were you when you began working as a miner?

— 12 years

18,647 Mr Kendall

Do you find yourself strong now?

— Yes

18,648 Mr Kendall

You are as able to do your work as another agent?

— Yes

18,649 Mr Kendall

You can go up and down anywhere?

— I cannot go quite so well as I could ten years ago

18,650 Mr Kendall

Can you go any depth now?

— I cannot go any depth

18,651 Mr Kendall

How deep do you go down?

— Our mine is not very deep; we have the benefit of going in the levels

18,652 Mr Kendall

Still you are strong and healthy?

— Yes

18,653 Mr Holland

Should you like to climb 200 fathoms?

— No, I found that enough before I left Devonshire; 22 years ago

18,654 Sir Philip Egerton

Do you like ladders or stemples?

— Ladders