Inquests in a Pub

In the modern public house an inquest would not take place. This has now been placed in the Coroners Court but only in the later of the 20th century did this become normal.

Whitehaven is famous for its coal mines, with the names of Haig, Wellington and William being known world wide not only for the coal they produced but for the disasters that happen.

These early newspaper articles show how little was revealed to the public even though the inquest into the death was held in a public house.

Article from the Whitehaven Herald, 29th November 1831
On Wednesday last, a Coroner’s Inquest was held at the Ginns, on the body of William Reeling, a boy about nine years of age, who was crushed to death in Saltom Pit, by the fall of part of a pillar. Verdict — Accidental Death.

Article from the Whitehaven Herald, 3rd May 1851
On Wednesday last, and inquest was held at the “Fox Hound,” in the Ginns, before Wm. Lumb, Esq., coroner, on the body of John Boyle, miner, aged 40 years, who was so severely crushed and injured, at work in Wellington Pit, on Thursday week, that he died on Tuesday night last, after having had one of his legs amputated. Awaiting the arrival of the government viewer, the inquest was adjourned till this (Saturday) evening.

At the turn of the 20th Century the information provided increased with more detail provided.

Article from the Whitehaven News, 12th July 1900

Sudden Death At Whitehaven

Edward Gill, aged 34 years, a married man, of 54, Middle-row, Newhouses, Whitehaven, died very suddenly on Tuesday afternoon. At five o’clock p.m., on Monday the deceased went to work, at Wellington Pit, Whitehaven. He was then in good health, and returned home about two o’clock the following morning, and had a good breakfast. He had a wash, and then laid down on the bed. After he had laid some time, in bed, he got up and complained to his wife of a urinary stoppage. His wife got some brandy and give him a glass, which made him vomit, but did not give diuretic relief. He then added: “I hurt myself in the pit, when I was filling the last tub.” About 1.30 p.m., his wife sent for Dr. Harris. He was not at home, but she was told he would come as soon as he returned. The Doctor was sent for a second time, but decease died at 5.10 p.m., on Tuesday.

Mr. Gordon Falcon opened an inquest on deceased on Wednesday afternoon, at the Dog Inn, Preston Street, Whitehaven. Mr. John Waugh was chosen foreman of the jury. Sarah Gill, wife of the deceased, identified the body, and stated that she lived at 64, Middle-row, Newhouses, Whitehaven. Deceased was 34 years old last September, and worked at Wellington Pit. When deceased came into the house he complained of being bad, and tried to lie down. Deceased said that something had fallen on him. He said that a tub had come over upon him, and hurt him. The Coroner instructed P.C. 72 to see the doctor and ascertain if a post mortem examination was necessary. The inquest was adjourned to Monday next at the Police Station.

Article from the Whitehaven News, 10th October 1901

Fatality At Wellington Pit – Run Over By A Set

A sad fatality occurred at the Wellington Pit on Tuesday midnight, the victim being Henry Shepherd, 62 years of age, who resided at 68, Newtown, Whitehaven. Deceased was an engine fitter in the employ of the Whitehaven Colliery Company. He left his home at 10.30 p.m. on Tuesday, and descended the pit about eleven o’clock in company with James Wright and Frederick Henry, who were assisting him to lay some water pipes along the engine plane to the stables to convey water for the horses. After arriving at their work deceased left the other men in order to examine the last layer of pipes. Wright and Henry shouted to him to look out for an empty set that was coming, and deceased answered “Alright.” He was also warned to look out for the set by Robert Macdonald, a deputy, who met the deceased shortly before midnight. Finding part of the empty sett off the road, Wright and Henry made a search, and the latter found the deceased lying dead. He had evidently been caught by the sett. His right leg was broken, and he had injuries about the face.

Deceased was an old employee of the Whitehaven Colliery Company and of the Earl of Lonsdale prior to the Whitehaven Colliery Company taking over the lease of the Collieries. Mr. Shepherd was connected with the Granary Yard, where he was employed for many years, and was highly respected by his fellow workmen as a skilled mechanic, and a most straightforward at upright man in all the relations of life. For many years deceased has been intimately connected with the management of the Solway Lodge of Oddfellows, and has held the responsible position of treasurer to that lodge, and nowhere will his loss be more keenly felt than by his co-workers in the management of this, one of the largest lodges in the Manchester Unity. Deceased leaves a widow and grown up family.

Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon Mr. Gordon Falcon (coroner for West Cumberland) and a jury, of which Mr. J. Waugh was chosen foreman, opened an inquest on the body of deceased, at the Dusty Miller Inn, Whitehaven.

Evidence of identification was given by Henry Shepherd, of Kells, a son of the deceased.

The inquiry was adjourned until Monday next, in order to allow of the attendance of H.M.I. of Mines.

Article from the Whitehaven News 6th August 1925

Tubs Collide – Whitehaven Pit Fatality – Shouts As Method Of Signalling

An inquest was conducted at the Whitehaven Y.M.C.A. Rooms on Friday last by the deputy coroner, Mr. R. W. Marley, into the death of Albert Woodgate, 2, Furnace Road, Distington, a hewer employed at Wellington Pit, who was killed by a tub in Wellington Pit on Thursday. Mr. R Steel represented the Whitehaven Colliery Company, Mr. H. C. Hanlon the relatives of the deceased, and Mr. Louden, H.M. Inspector of Mines was present.

It was not just the alcoholic houses that held inquest as this article from 1918

Article from the Whitehaven News, 3rd January 1918
Engineman’s Sudden Death At William Pit

The inquest formally opened on Thursday at the Coffee House, Tangier Street, on the body of Thomas Quayle, Engineman, George Street, Whitehaven, when the brother of the deceased identified the body, was resumed on Friday at the Magistrates Court House.

It was not always the case that they were used when something deadly had happened as this article shows.
Article from the Whitehaven News 2nd January 1890

Whitehaven Colliery Company – Annual Supper

On Saturday evening last the employees of the Whitehaven Colliery had a supper at the Albion Hotel, to which the management were invited. Mr. James Ramsay occupied the chair, and Mr. Aitkin the vice-chair, in place of Mr. Morton, who was kept away through indisposition. The chairman was supported right and left by Mr. Douglas Ramsay, Mr. Miller, Mr. McPhee (under manager), Dr. Harris, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Golightly. — After the usual loyal toasts were proposed and responded to, the “Army, Navy, and Volunteers” was given by the Vice Chairman, and was very well responded to by Lieutenant Harris. “The Town and Trade of Whitehaven” was coupled with the name of Mr. William Kelly, who showed himself equal to the occasion, and who responded very heartily and to the point. The principal or the real toast of the evening was that of “the management and future success of the Whitehaven Colliery Company,” which met with a most hearty and enthusiastic reception, as it was coupled with the name of the chairman (the Company’s agent and head viewer). — Mr. Ramsay replied in a long and carefully worded speech, in which he went into very minute detail with regard to the future prospects of the Whitehaven Colliery, and expressed the opinion that in the course of time the above colliery would not only be a success, but one part of it — Croft Pit — would in itself be a fine commercial enterprise. — At different points of the chairman’s reply he was met by very hearty cheers, thus showing the confidence that he and his colleagues had from the large and representative company assembled. — Several other songs and toasts were gone through, and wound up with “Auld Lang Syne.” The company assembled were greatly indebted to the following gentlemen for their kindness in singing :— Mr. Sutherland, Mr. Denwood, Mr. J. Golightly, Mr. Reay, Mr. Chambers, Mr. Little, and Mr. Galloway, whose performance would have been a credit to any first-class concert. Mr. Jagger acted as pianist.


While it was not just the mine owners and manages that used the public houses as this article shows.

Article from the Whitehaven News, 22nd December 1910
Whitehaven Colliery Disaster – Colliers’ Public Meeting – Petition To The Home Office

A public meeting promoted by the Whitehaven Miners’ Union was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Whitehaven, on Sunday afternoon. The hall was quite full.

Councillor Hanlon, C.C., the men’s agent presided; and there were also on the platform Mr. T. Graham, Mr. J. T. Mathers, Mr. T. Ferryman, Mr. Wm. Telford, and Mr. Isaac Curran.

While this way of working both for inquests and often for celebrating or organising into groups has moved into homes it is strange to think that the pubs that have survived may have held one of these events.


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