The Baddesley Pit disaster prompted some to write poems about it. These appeared in local publications at the time. Here are five of those poems, which I have transcribed from original publications. Copies of these poems were sold at a penny a time to raise money for the Relief Fund.
Hark! Stratford mine is all on fire,
And men, and horses, too, are down
The deep deep depths. Who dare face death?
Who dare stretch out his own strong arm,
To rescue those down in the pit,
As brands are pluck'd from out the fire?
Why who is this, foremost of all?
'Tis Dugdale, squire and master too,
And who are these?
There's Smallman, with his burly form,
Come in the midnight hours to make
The grandest effort of his life!
There's Pogmore, Parker, and their sons
Ah! down they go, down, down, still down.
Beyond our ken, but not beyond
Our hearts, our hopes, our fears, our prayers
God speed their work and -
Oh what means that terrific roar,
Which thrills each form upon the banks
With horror, which they cannot hide,
And leaving on each mind impressed
Feelings which life cannot efface:
Is it - ah' there, the signals given,
Oh engineer, round with the drum,
And let us quickly know the worst
One, two, three, a few minutes
And yet, O what an age it seemed.
But hush, the cage is near the top,
Thank God, here's living human forms,
And yet how quick the joy is hushed,
As tidings from the sufferers' lips
Reveal to all the mournful news
That Dugdale has been left behind,
With other hearts, brave as his own,
While, through the narrow heads and roads,
The fire roll'd with increasing force,
As if e'en hell had burst its bonds!
Appalling and heartrending scene,
And yet amid'st that awful scene,
Brave hearts braved all, and yet again
Men look'd at death, and struggled hard
To be the first to rescue those
Still left down in that burning tomb.
Stokes, Marsh, Mottram, and Chetwynd,
Albrighton, Evans, others too
Whose names are now unknown to me;
Which was the greatest of them all,
Where all were moved with one desire.
That each deserves to have his name
Inscribed upon our every heart,
In lines of deepest gratitude.
We will not look for battlefields,
To show us where our heroes live,
Or in their duty gladly die.
This day, Stratfords mine speaks loud,
And from its depths of surging flame,
Tell out, in simple story how
Those men faced death. These men risked all,
To snatch a brother from the tomb,
Where to abide meant awful death.
Back to top.
Baxterley Churchyard, Sunday Morning, May 7th 1882
What strange solemnity of soul
One feels, when treading where death reigns
In all his great supremacy!
But how these solemn thoughts become
Intensified by sorrow’s tears
When Death, as if with passion moved
Strikes right and left without remorse,
As he hath done in Stratford mine.
Alas1 Alas! for them. Poor Clay
Smith, Collins, Till and Evans’s
When death with hardened, ruthless hand,
So suddenly did smite them.
But still they have not died in vain,
For each sod here doth testify,
How each strove for another’s weal,
And how each died a martyr’s death;
There is no need for rain to fall,
To make the grass grow on these graves
A thousand sympathetic hearts,
Give vent to nature in distress,
And, blending here, the fallen tears
Of old and young, of strong and weak,
Are mingling with the widow’s tears,
Until each sod, staked through, reveals
How other hearts have felt with them,
This dreadful blow, this cruel blow,
That thus has fallen on them.
Nor battlefield, nor martyr’s stake,
Nor men of any age and clime,
Have ever shewn more sterling worth,
Than beat within these rugged hearts,
Now cold and stiff, beneath these sods,
And yet if trial had ne’er come,
Who would have given these rugged men,
In life and manner rugged too,
Credit for half that intense love,
Which moved them so to do and die.
Adieu, adieu, to this sad scene,
No tears can bring them back to life,
No sighs can alter what has been,
No prayers can now for these avail,
But for those left behind we pray,
May God grant to them in their need
A husband’s hand, a father’s care,
And may He, in His mighty grace,
Move many, many thousand hearts,
To such practical sympathy,
That their great sorrow may become
Divest of half its cruel pangs,
Lest sorrow be o’erwhelmed by want,
And these poor creatures find a foe,
More cruel than the hand of death.
And in the future coming years
Hoar hairs shall stand upon the spot,
And teach the rising, thoughtless youth,
How these and others, too, with them,
So nobly strove, and nobly died.
And they shall learn the lesson well,
And these shall not have died in vain.
Back to top.
THE SEARCH FOR THE NINE
When springtime comes in Warwickshire, when evenings briefer grow:
And in the fields the grasses tall, wave gently to and fro:
When the stately groves of Merevale, are rich in tints of green,
And zephyrs gently kiss the young May flowers that grow between,
When all around, the joyous birds their praises to Heaven sing,
As each succeeding year shall roll, and thus the seasons bring,
So shall the tale be told again, in Hall or humble cot,
Of those who formed themselves in league, no matter rank or lot,
`Gainst fire and damp and blast, to war, nine fellow men to save,
And lived to win a lasting fame, or found an honoured grave!
'Twas the month of May, Eighteen Eighty two,
When, far and wide, through the country flew,
Tiding of portent dire,-
A message that seemed like a knell to fall,
In the humble home, and the lordly hall,-
"Baxterley Pit's on fire!"
"The Baxterley pit near Merevale Hall,
"Is raging with fire, and hung with a pall
"Of dreadful, thick damp choke.
"And there, far away in the workings, lie
"Eight men and a boy! Oh, God! Must they die,
"Without ever a stroke?"
Then there was scarce an Atherstone man,
Who heard the news, but who raced and who ran
To the Baxterley mine.
And, as they throng o'er the smoking black bank,
There's many a cry from the hindermost rank,-
"Let me help save the nine!"
And the 2nd of May, as its dawning broke,
Found them still battling the fire and the smoke,
Baffled and scarred, and burned.
But, though half dead with gas inhaled,-
Till the limbs give way, or the stout heart failed,
Not a man of them turned.
For, oh! It was passing sad to hear
Those sounds from the workings, dark and drear
Like clang of muffled bell.
What the nine suffered, what agony felt,
Encompassed about by the fiery belt,
What tongue, what pen, can tell?
'Twas three by the chime when brave Smallman came,
To venture his life in the fire and flame,
To guide, direct and cheer.
"Forward! Press forward! Again, and again!"
Till the heart felt sick, and the reeling brain
Grew faint, but not with fear.
Struggling, undaunted! Now fighting for breath,
The heroes wrought, in the shadow of death,
Wrestling with nature's might,-
Battling to get at the comrades who lay,
In the furthermost workings, far away,
Wrapt in eternal night.
While ever anon, from the distant deep,
The deadly gases would onward creep,
To enshroud them all!
And the mists of death around them hung,
And the damp, thick fog, to the black walls clung,
Like a funeral pall.
Did they think of "home" as they pressed along,
Did they think of "life" with its mirth and song,
Of mother, or child, or wife?
Well, this I know, that they banished all fear,
And, soon as one fell, a fresh volunteer,
Was ready to join in the strife.
But men are but men - and respite was given,
When two weary hours they'd struggled and striven,
And all haggard and worn,
Up the dark shaft, to the dim light of day,
That came with the dawn of the 2nd of May,
The heroes were borne.
Short time did they rest, they thought of the nine,
Lost in the depths of the treacherous mine;
And when, deep in the gloom,
Once more they toil'd, there was one joined the band
Who, heedless of self, his wealth, or his land,
Had come forth to his doom!
He had left behind all that one holds most dear,
And his lion heart had no thought of fear,
As he stood by their side!
"Never mind what you do, but oh! Save my men,
'Twill be time to think of the property then!"
Such were the words he cried.
Another explosion! A dead, dull roar-
The fiery blast irresistless bore,
The stifling gases rushed,
Down on the helpers - now helpless and prone,
Mangled and scorched: and many a moan
The King of Terrors hushed.
They rescued the rescuers - burnt and charred,
With features blackened, distorted, and scarred
Out of all human guise,
And Smallman, unrecognised writhing lay,
But Stokes, bending over him, heard him say,
"Dugdale unaided lies!"
Brave Stokes then is calling for volunteers,
And each one responds, who the summons hears,
Though summons it be to die!
And into that death-haunted mine they go,
With flickering lamps, searching to and fro,
Till they hear a feeble cry.
Shattered and dying, all bloodless and pale,
There lay the master of sweet Merevale,
His spirit almost flown!
"He loved his people,"- fearless in the strife
That day he joined- to win them back to life,
He failed, but gave his own.
So ends the story, writ in flame and fire;
So shall it live, as son shall learn from sire,
How well our heroes wrought;
And though they never reached the hapless nine
Yet, in that dark and death encompassed mine,
How bright a lesson taught!
For some there are earthly honours - but how many heroes lie,
In the quiet of "God's acre," till His angel from on high,
Comes to break Death's icy fetters - that the seed in darkness sown,
In the courts of heaven, for evermore, may blossom round His throne.
Day by day we saw the cortege, leave some humble cottage door,
And we knew that some strong spirit winged its way to the waveless shore.
While he who so had loved them, that himself he gladly gave,
Was travelling slowly onward, to the flower-decked hero's grave!
They have reached a calm, still haven, far beyond all earthly things,
And their deeds shall be rewarded by the mighty King of kings!
Back to top.
FIRE AT THE STRATFORD MINE, BAXTERLEY
6th May 1885
One bright sunny morning a cry arose-
In a little Village near Baxterley, “Rose,”
Where weary travellers call and rest their weary limbs,
It’s a pretty wayside Inn just at the corner by the Mill.
Mother I have heard a cannon roar, it sounds just at the door,
The children are crying “Come and see, The Mine is on fire”
I do believe Where men and boys are working unconscious of
The crowds are hurrying along to see what can be done,
The Squire from the Hall, and Podmore with his only son,
They risked their lives to save their fellowmen down in
the Stratford Mine.
The frantic Mother cries “What can you do to save my boys”
They left me in health and bloom and now their bodies are
Poor Roland Hill was one of them, he died with the explor-
They are raising the sick and the dying out of the raging Mine
May heaven bless the fair gentle ladies
They are cooling the lips of the poor dying men,
That worked in the mine to get their daily bread.
They left their homes that morning with kisses and goodbyes
They hoped at noon to see their own dear little boys
No thought of danger crossed their minds
As over the Common they went on that memorable morn.
They little thought the danger that before them lay
As they went down the mine upon the sixth of May
They left the glorious sunshine that charms the earth with
They left the lark a singing her sweet angelic notes
And never more to meet again their own dear little folk.
No help for them still underground,
Is still the cry from all around,
Such a heart-rending sight was never known upon Baxterley
Common where the heather grows
A panic reigned in every breast
As they viewed the Mine in such distress
Pardon the hand that these few lines have penned.
They are not composed by a lady, but a poor unpolished
Jan 12 1886 J E SALT (Mrs J E Thompson)
Back to top.
THE BAXTERLEY DISASTER
HEROES OF THE MINE
At Baxterley, in Warwickshire
A dreadful fire occurred we hear,
At Stratford Pit that stands alone,
Near to the town of Atherstone,
Nine persons went into the mine,
To earn their bread they were inclined,
They work’d away by candlelight,
Nor thought of danger all that night,
When work was done, and night was o’er,
And they wished to ascend once more,
The fire was raging all around,
They were imprisoned underground,
The cries of fire! Spread far and wide,
And the thick smoke was seen beside,
The people hastened to the place
With sorrow stamped upon their face.
Soon as this dire, this doleful tale
Was told to those at Merevale,
Men quickly hastened to the spot,
Anxious to know the miners lot.
Straitway the Squire of Merevale,
Descends the shaft so runs the tale,
And Mr Pogmore and his son,
Went down to see what could be done.
And Parker, Smallman and Smallwood,
All tried to do the best they could.
And quickly they went down the hill
Along with them was Rowland Till,
Three men nam’d Evans, one named Clay,
Two nam’d Collins, and four named Day,
And William Parker, the Manager’s son,
Hunt, Sanders, Bates and Albrighton;
George Ball, and his two sons were there,
Cook, Ball, and Boonham took their share
With Archer, Atkins and Dingley,
Descend the shaft the fire to see.
The object of these men was this,
To bring men from that deep abyss,
Who were below, and were entomb’d
Oh! What a dreadful, horrid doom!
While there, heartrending to relate,
The gas did accumulate,
The fire did then this gas ignite
And, Oh, how dreadful was the sight!
This put those brave men to the rout,
They could not bring their comrades out,
The smoke, and fire, the mist, and heat
Compell’d those good men to retreat,
But, Hark! The signals’ one, two, three
It speaks as plain can be,
Men to ascend, round with the drum!
The signal one, and off they come,
When they were landed on the ground
The Squire was left behind ‘twas found,
With Rowland Till so runs the tale,
Brave, noble Squire of Merevale,
Two Chetwynds, Morris and Pickering
They ventured down, their praise we’ll sing
The sounding of a bell they hear,
A voice- “ Come on, come on, I’m here”
They quickly hasten to the sound,
And there, the worthy Squire they found,
They bring him out, he’s deathly pale,
Oh generous Squire of Merevale;
Again the incline they descend,
To save one more they do intend;
Those fearful flames! They sigh and mourn
They go lower down, they hear a groan,
Charles Chetwynd then he did contrive
To bring this brave man out alive,
But, ah! His pulse will soon be still,
Alas! Alas! Poor Rowland Till!
The Marchioness of Hastings, too,
She came to see what she could do
To help the mourners in their grief,
And try to give them some relief,
And ladies from the country round
In Baxterley might soon be found,
Dispensing comfort to the poor,
And viewing grief from door to door.
And those poor men, now in the mine
Will never more earth’s blessing find;
But let us hope they and the boy
May ever rest in Heaven’s joy;
May they who nobly lost their lives,
Trying to bring men to their wives,
Dwell happy in Eternity
With those they ne’er on earth shall see.
A movement is on foot, ‘tis said
To buy the orphans daily bread,
May rich men give their gold and then,
May God bless all, Amen! Amen!
Back to the top.