A FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE MOLLAND MINES
Extracted from the North Devon Journal
19 September 1889
"On Friday last an inquest was held at the Poltimore Arms in North Molton before J.F. Bromham Esq., County Coroner, on the body of John Knill, a labourer aged 65 who had succumbed to injuries sustained while working at Molland Mines. Mr Pinching, Inspector of Mines for Devonshire, was present at the inquest.
The first witness called was PC Samuel Heale, who was stationed at North Molton, who deposed that on Wednesday evening in consequence of a message which he received, he went to the residence of the deceased in Old Ridge Lane. The deceased was in bed and Dr Spicer was in attendance. Knill was conscious but died about 30 minutes after PC Heale's arrival.
John Brayley, manager of the Molland Mines, stated that the deceased had been employed as a labourer at the mines for 11 or 12 months. For the first few months he had worked on the surface and he then went underground "tramming". For the past 4 or 5 months he had been employed on the work above ground on which he had been engaged originally - the task in which the accident had occurred. His duties were to attend to the calcined ore and break it up after it had been burnt. The ore was burnt in this way: a layer of wood was placed at the bottom then a layer of coal' four or five inches thick' came next and, as the ore came up the shaft, it was trapped upon the two layers in quantities of 400 or 500 tons, a quantity of small coal being mixed with the ore. The wood was then ignited and the whole mass burnt. The height of the mass before ignition was some 12 feet - after the burning process it was reduced to something like 9 feet. The particular duty of the man in charge would be to prepare the calcined ore after it had cooled, for carting to the station.
John Brayley went on to say he was not at the mine when the accident occurred. He had seen the deceased at the mine at a quarter to two, when he left for South Molton. He had not been long in the town when he heard an accident had occurred to the deceased and that Dr Spicer had been sent for. Thinking that Dr Spicer might be away from home, he proceeded to the mines with another medical man. He found however, that the deceased had been removed to his residence.
He had then visited North Molton and learned from Dr Spicer that the man was dead. In answer to Inspector Pinching, the witness said that at the time of the accident, the deceased has one assistant. When he left the mine, he considered that the heap was safe. There was nothing overhanging and the two sides were bevelled back to almost a thin edge at the top. He was not aware of any particular danger attaching to this work and knew of no accident in the carrying out of this process having occurred before.
* Tramming meant minding a box-shaped wagon which travelled underground on rails carrying loads from the working surfaces to the main shaft.
** John Knill was engaged in the calcination or roasting process when concentrated ore is heated in the presence of air. The process of roasting is performed to remove moisture, CO2, impurities of sulphur, arsenic etc. Ferrous oxide is also oxidized to ferric oxide.