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The copper mines of Devon were not safe places to be so it is not surprising to read the reports of many accident in old newspapers. The accident reported here featured in the North Devon Journal in 1861 and it is not easy reading. In the reports of the story Eliza Pearce is said to have been 15 but the only person of that name to be found in the local census would have been 25. John was not a local boy but as he shares his surname with the Mine Agent, Thomas Bennetts, and it could be a good guess that he was also a Camborne lad. I think too we can all agree that Eliza and John were not visiting the boiler house just to tend the steam engine when this unfortunate incident occurred but what a terrible price they paid for their moment together.


"An accident, resulting in the loss of 2 lives occurred at Molland Mine on Friday last. The immediate cause of the calamity was the bursting of the boiler of a steam engine and the particulars will be gathered from the depositions take and the inquest held on the bodies on Monday last by Richard Bremridge Esq., County Coroner.  The names of the deceased were John Bennetts, aged 16 and Eliza Pearce aged 15. A respectable jury having been sworn in, of whom Mr John Quartly was foreman, and the following evidence was addressed:


Thomas Bennetts (Mine Agent) deposed:

I knew both the, deceased Eliza Pearce and John Bennetts. They were employed in Molland Mine: Eliza Pearce in washing the copper ore and John Bennetts underground. Neither of the deceased was ever employed in, nor was it part of their duty to attend to the working of the steam engine. I saw the deceased on Friday morning, alive at half past eight. About nine o'clock, I was sitting in the office, engaged on some paper work, when I heard an explosion and I saw the water and steam rushing out of the boiling house doorway.


I immediately went over there. I saw. I saw John Dunn coming out of the window of the engine house. He said: "The little girl" (meaning the deceased) is in the boiler house" and requested me to go in and see her. I did so. I then discovered Eliza Pearce. Her body was partially covered with debris and rubbish. I then, as quickly as possible got her out; she was then living. With assistance I removed her to the office of the mine and despatched a message for Mr Gardner, Surgeon, of South Molton, who is the medical officer of the mine and he immediately attended.


Deceased Eliza Pearce was dead before Mr Gardner arrived. John Dunn is the engineer of the Mine and is the party who has the management and working of the steam engine; the engine is supposed to be of 20 horse power. It was purchased of Matthew Loam of Liskeard in Cornwall in 1857. The boiler was new in 1857 and has not been under any substantial repair since. I am not aware that the boiler has ever required any repair. The plates of the boiler were of 3/8th of an inch in thickness.




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