Reluctance to mine the lower lying northern land of Whickham Parish was due to water on higher ground there was natural drainage or underground water courses could be constructed to draw mine water towards the lower lying valleys. These man-made drainage tunnels were known as watergates driven under the coal seams near to the surface keeping then dry, the water flow relying on the force of gravity.
Methods of draining water:
Bailing with buckets – limited to rate of flow.
Adits – Link mine to deepest local valley.
Pumping – to surface water courses.
Physical barriers – to minimise water ingress to shaft and workings.
Mine water quality:
April 1620 – 200 acres of farmland spoiled with mine water.
Mine water contained iron.
Deep mine water was also rich in barium.
Shallow water rich in sulphate.
Black damp: also known as choke damp.
Fire damp: lighted carburetted hydrogen, inflammable.
Stink damp: sulphuretted hydrogen, extremely poisonous but rare. Easily detected.
Carbon monoxide: colourless, odourless, and tasteless, but highly toxic. Caged canaries were used in mining as a simple way of detecting carbon monoxide.
Caused by igniting of fire damp. Becomes explosive when air contains 6% of the gas. Maximum explosive point at 10%. This type of gas explosion is fairly common but only extends over a small section of the mine with few victims. However most mines that give off large amounts of fire damp are also deep, dry and dusty. The explosion ignites the dust and can then pass through the mine. The greatest danger of fire damp is therefore the ease with which it causes a dust explosion. If fire damp explodes alone the gases produced are carbon dioxide, steam and nitrogen. This combination does not support respiration and the combination is called after damp. Coal dust will ignite if no fire damp is present. The after damp then contains large quantities of carbon monoxide.
Spontaneous combustion. Finely divided coals under pressure in the waste with limited air develop heat and will catch fire.
ACCIDENTS AT WATERGATE COLLIERY (1924-1948)
23rd January 1926 Robert Wheatley, age 51 Killed by a fall of stone
26th April 1926 Thomas Dickinson, age 44 Struck by a runaway tub and killed
14th June 1926 William Watson, age 34 Accident caused by hook falling down the shaft
22nd June4 1927 William French, age 15, a rope lad Death caused by a crush
27th October 1927 Henry Little, age 26 Killed by a fall of stone
16th October 1931 J Teasdale Killed by a fall of stone
21st October 1931 Alexander Thompson, age 31
28th November 1931 C Thompson, age 20 Crushed by tubs
13th July 1935 Joseph Ross Killed by falling stone
8th December 1938 H Knox, age 16 Run over by tubs
11th April, 1941 T N Kelly, age 39 Killed by fall of stone
13th November, 1945 W Ledger, age 45 Killed by fall of stone
3th July, 1947 William Anthony Hopper, age 47 Killed by explosion while attempting a rescue
Henry Morgan, age 47 Killed by gas explosion
9th January, 1948 J W Watson, age 27 Killed by runaway tubs