The following is a transcription of a news article that appeared in the Leeds Mercury on Wednesday 4th May 1864. I have added paragraphs and bullet points to the original text to make it more readable.
TERRIFIC EXPLOSION OF POWDER AND LOSS OF TWO LIVES NEAR PATELEY BRIDGE
On Friday, an explosion of 450lbs of powder occurred at the Craven Moor Mining Company’s works at Greenhow Hill, near Pateley Bridge, where two lives were lost. A considerable amount of damage was also done to property, the powder house being blown down and several other buildings injured. The Company have their powder magazine near to the engine-house, and on Friday forenoon a carrier from Gargrave to Pateley Bridge, named Frank Gill, brought the Company sixteen quarter barrels of powder, each barrel containing 25lbs. he placed them close to the magazine, but neglected to inform Mr Banon, the Company’s agent, who lives nearly half a mile from the place, of its arrival.
The Company have a man resident at the works named James Bowes. He is married and has a family, and two of his children were killed by the explosion. The eldest named John, about eight years of age, was blown over the engine-house and the head gear to a distance of 231 feet from the magazine. He fell on the “bink”, afterwards rebounding other 50 feet, and in the second flight a portion of his skull and brains were scattered in all directions. The youngest names James, aged about four, was blown in an opposite direction, to a distance of 228 feet. He was not so much bruised as his brother, having fallen on the grass. When found, both of them were naked, their clothes having been burnt off them, except a clog and stocking which were found upon the youngest child.
The inquest was held on the Monday at the Moor Cock Inn, Drygill, before Mr Varley, deputy-coroner for Skipton.
- The first witness called said that he had seen the youngest boy alive about three o’clock in the afternoon, near the powder magazine, and about two minutes before the explosion took place.
- Another witness proved that he had seen the two deceased go towards the magazine a few minutes before the explosion, but he was at some distance from the place.
- The next witness examined said that the carrier left at the house at Dibble’s Bridge, in the morning, four quarter barrels of powder, and he said that he had examined some of the other barrels in the cart, and found them in a very bad condition. He could see the powder through the joints of the barrels, and the carrier had put one barrel in a sack, which had lost at least 10 or 15lb.
- Other witnesses also spoke to having seen the barrels when near the powder-house, and their being in a bad condition. It appears there were also four barrels in the magazine, and what is more remarkable is the fact, that only two of them exploded, the other two being only blackened.
- The next witness said he was driving the gin, which is near half a mile from the powder-house, and between eleven and twelve o’clock the two deceased boys came to where he was working. The eldest boy stayed with him some time; he had three Lucifer matches in his possession, and wanted to make a fire of some dry grass. He struck the three matches, but could not get a light. They went home with their father about twelve o’clock.
It appears the carrier has been in the habit of leaving the powder without informing any person at the place, in spite of the warning the Company’s agent had given him. He was severely reprimanded by the Coroner for his negligent conduct in not informing Mr Banon of the arrival of the powder, and thus sacrificing two lives, and a considerable amount of property.
The jury, who also strongly condemned his conduct, returned a verdict of “Accidental death, but whether it had occurred through the children using Lucifer matches, or by having struck fire with their clogs whilst playing near the powder-house, there was no evidence to show”.
The children were John Bowes, born at Greenhow Hill in 1856 and Jimmy Bowes, born at Burnsall in 1851 – he could have been born at the mine as this was in the parish of Burnsall. They both died on the same day; Friday 29th April 1864.
Harald Bruff records that as the family were “Chapel folk”, that is Methodists, the Rev Henry Kershaw, Vicar at St Mary’s Church Greenhow Hill, wouldn’t let the coffins to be placed in the church overnight. The coffins had to be left in the porch and this caused a lot of trouble in the village.
Their father was James Bowes, born at Hardcastle in 1820 & died at Pateley Bridge in 1890; a working lead miner all his life. His parents were Richard Bowes (1783-1852) and Margaret (1783-1879)
Their mother was Elizabeth Bowes, nee Mackwell. She was born on 2nd Apr 1824 at Greenhow Hill and died at Pateley Bridge in 1901. They were married at Pateley Bridge on 26th May 1845.