Oldham Historical Research Group

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Saturday 15th August 1896



1896 'MILL ACCIDENT AT OLDHAM. At 10 minutes to 12 on Wednesday morning great alarm was caused in the neighbourhood of Mumps by a loud report like a clap of thunder. It appears that at the time stated the engines of Mumps New Mill collapsed, wrecking the engine-house and throwing part of the flywheel into Gas-street, close to the Royal Oak Hotel. That something was wrong was first noticed in the mill by the shafting revolving at an alarming rate, and later the straps flew off the pulleys. This was followed by two tremendous smashes. The workpeople were greatly alarmed, and many suffer from the shock. The engines lie in the bottom of the wrecked engine-house. Some portions of the flywheel were hurled through the back of the engine house towards the railway. At the time the engineer was in the old mill, whilst the under engineer was inside one of the rooms of the new mill. How the engines managed to "run away" is not known, but they were last Whitsuntide altered to the high pressure system, when three new boilers were put in.

The accident is perhaps one of the most alarming of its kind which has taken place in Oldham for many years. As to how it really occurred is not known. It is only quite recently that extensive improvements have been made in the boiler house. New boilers and new pipes connected therewith had been put in, and these had been working a higher pressure than was the case when the old boilers were doing duty. Whilst the engines were working in the usual way one or other of the principal parts became disarranged. This must have been the case, for the engine started off at great speed, and in minute or two a loud crash was heard—even as far away as Mumps Bridge—and the workpeople in mill were thrown into a state of excitement. The operatives were running in all directions. They feared that the mill was falling, for it shook the building to its foundations. Previous to this the operatives got warning that something was wrong owing to the rapid rate at which their different machines began to run. They were afraid to stop them, for they knew that the engines had run away, and by throwing off the weight would only mean that they would go at higher rate. In a few minutes hundreds of people flocked to the scene of the disaster, and when the dust, dirt, smoke, and steam which filled the street had cleared away the results of the accident were seen from the top end of Gas-street. The front portion the engine house wall had been completely demolished, and thus a full view of the inside presented itself. The roof had collapsed, and the of the structural mechanism had not only come to grief but was strewn about in all directions like bits of matchwood. There was not whole part left -in the place. The cylinder ends were blown out, the cylinder broken to pieces, and the volume of steam which issued made the surroundings appear if the boilers had burst. Many surmised that this was the case at first, but on seeing that segments of the massive driving wheel, many tons in weight, had been thrown 40 yards distance it was the general opinion that the collapse of this had brought its train the destruction of the whole of the surrounding connections and property. Two segments were lying on the ground in Gas-street, one almost immediately opposite the back premises of the Royal Oak Hotel and the other at the junction of Roscoe-street and Gas-street. The cylinders were at the Roscoe-street end of the engine house, farthest away from the boilers, whilst the flywheel revolved towards them, hence the depositing of the portions of the latter in that part of Gas-street near Union-street. The segments must have been hurled one through the roof and the other through the end of the engine house near Roscoe-street, where there were folding doors. Happily no one was hurt. Had the accident, however, happened a little later, when children were on their way from school and going to the various hives of industry with dinners, there might have been a serious loss of life.

On examination of the ruins resulting from the accident to the steam engine at Mumps New Mill, Mr. Buckley, of the firm of Messrs.Buckley and Taylor, engine builders, and the makers of the engine which collapsed, has made a statement to the effect, that the structural part of the engine (including cylinders, beds, rods, slides, and, in fact, everything except the driving wheel) intact. A most marvellous thing in connection with the big smash has been brought to light, and engineers and mechanics will scarcely believe that such thing could happen in the case of accident of such dimensions. Mr. Buckley says the pinion wheel was untouched and not damaged in the least. According to Mr. Buckley's version of his survey of the engine wreck, the accident, alter all, is not as serious as would be imagined by a glance from the top of Gas-street the destruction of the engine house.

Sources from 'Grace's Guide - British Industrial History' :
* 1891 Cotton Mills in Oldham
* Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Saturday 15th August 1896

Contributed by Aelred Taylor

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