Explosion at Holme Mill, Stainland:

On 23rd May 1895, there was a boiler explosion at Holme Mill, Stainland – aka Beeston Mill, Holywell Green – which was owned by John Shaw & Sons.

caused great damage, injuring several people – including Mr Shaw, the owner – and killing 5 women:

The accident occurred at 1:30 pm as the women were outside enjoying their lunch break.

Engineer Reuben Goodwin was attempting to connect the steam engine with a turbine in the cloth-mill. The explosion forced out the walls and windows of the building. The women were killed by falling debris. Men came from the nearby tenter fields to help the rescue.

At the trial, Mr Shaw was charged with causing the deaths of the women, and it was reported that they had had the boiler for 13 years, and had not taken appropriate precautions to ensure its safe working.

An engineer gave evidence that 4/5ths of the original thickness of the plates had been worn away, and in some places the plates were only 1/16th of an inch thick. George Waterhouse, a boiler maker, said he was engaged in repairs in 1892 and warned Shaw that the boiler was unfit.

The jury found Shaw Guilty and he was charged with manslaughter, as the evidence showed that he had been told by others that the boiler was badly corroded and unsafe.

On passing sentence, the Judge said that Shaw had suffered enough with having to pay legal costs and the cost of the damage. He was acquitted at Leeds Assizes [2nd August 1895].

A Board of Inquiry finding at the end of August 1895 issued him with a small fine

Newspaper Accounts

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph [Friday 24th May 1895] reported

BOILER BLOWN UP AND FIVE WOMEN KILLED. A terrible boiler explosion, deplorable in its fatality, occurred at Stainland some four miles from Halifax. The scene was Beeston's Mill situated on the Blackburn stream and close to the old roman station of Cambodunum.

The occupier, Mr John Shaw, is a woollen manufacturer in a small way and the machinery was usually driven by a water wheel. Yesterday, being short of water, he had connected with the boiler a small engine. Mr Shaw was assisting the foreman and had gone to the door to warn people that it was time to commence work, when the boiler burst with a tremendous explosion, some fragments being hurled 400 yards distant.

Five women crossing the yard were killed instantly. The women had lingered chatting for a few extra moments just outside the factory entrance. Mr Shaw was actually walking up to the door to tell the women that the time was up, when the crash came. Three of the women died immediately and the other two very soon afterwards. How Mr Shaw escaped is a miracle. He was shielded by a fallen beam.

The dead were:

  • Mrs Sarah Wood [46] of Forrest Hill, Stainland
  • Sarah Wood aged 35 was the wife of Elkanah Wood of Forest Hill, Stainland
  • Merenna Goodwin age 22, wife of the fireman Moses Goodwin. She was said to live above the mill and had one child.

  • Bessie Bintcliffe aged 18, single was the sister of Merenna Goodwin and lived at Dean End.

  • Eliza Ann Booth aged 19, single, was the daughter of Jeremiah Booth, a farmer of Barkisland and sister of Martha Booth who married Reuben Goodwin in 1891.

  • Mary Connolly aged 19, single of Potters Villa who had only started work there the day before;
Mrs Emma Ackroyd, wife of the manager Mr Rawnsley Ackroyd, was sitting on the grass near the unfortunate women, with a baby on her lap at the time and both were hurt by falling debris.

Mr Shaw was slightly injured.

The Coroner summed up at considerable length, and then the jury considered the case in private. After an hour and a quarter's deliberation they returned a verdict of Manslaughter against the owner of the mill and boiler, Mr John Shaw. The Coroner admitted him to bail, pending police proceedings, in his own recognisances of £200 and two sureties of £100 each


The Batley Reporter & Guardian [Saturday 29th June 1895] reported

Verdict: We, the jurors, find and say that Merenna Goodwin, Bessie Bintcliffe, Eliza Ann Booth, Sarah Wood and Mary Connolly, came to their deaths on the 23rd May last from injuries received by the explosion of a steam boiler at the Beeston Mill, Stainland, and from which injuries they then and there died.

We further say that the said boiler at the time of the explosion was the property of and was used by John Shaw, woollen manufacturer, the owner of the said mill.

We further say that the cause of the explosion was attributable to the worn-out condition of the boiler, due to the culpable negligence of the said John Shaw, against whom we return a verdict of manslaughter.

Mr Shaw was then taken into custody on the coroner's warrant, but on application of Mr Smith was admitted to bail, himself on £200 and two sureties of £100 each.

Inspector Guest then apprehended Shaw at the instance of the police authorities, and he was conveyed to the West Riding Police Station at Halifax


© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 13:13 / 19th January 2022 / 8587

Page Ref: KK_4

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