Routledge at Harriston

The official death index for Apr-Jun 1897 Wigton lists James Routledge age 60, as does the very fine black granite gravestone in St Kentigern’s churchyard in Aspatria, which records the death of James Routledge of Harriston aged 60 on 12th June 1897.

On the Durham Mining Museum website, they list information from lots of other mines, in particular mining disasters or deaths. They have a record for a James Routledge aged 65, being killed by a fall of coal on 12th June 1897.

The incident is recorded as follows:
Brayton Domain Number 3, Cumberland
Routledge, James, 12 Jun 1897, aged 65, Hewer*, This accident occurred by a fall of coal and following band coming on to him. He had evidently just started to kirve when the coal, which was overhanging a little, came away from a "slip." There was plenty of timber in the place had he chosen to set a sprag [Inspection made & inquest attended]

The two occurrences of this very precise date seem far too much like a coincidence and so it must be presumed to be the same person.
[NB Most census returns during his life mean that an estimate of his age at death is anything from 61 to 63 years.]

Her father’s death could have been one reason why Sarah Elizabeth Routledge had to leave Aspatria to find work in Carlisle, while her widowed mother and two younger siblings Catherine and William stayed at home in Harriston.

J Pattinson, chemist of King Street, Aspatria, photographed daily life both above and below ground at the Brayton Domain Colliery. Some of these images were produced as a series of postcards. Quite a few show images of “hewers” and a couple of them even show reserve soldiers in mining attire versus uniforms.
[It is possible that this J Pattinson is a relative of Alan Pattinson who married James Forster’s cousin Sallie Taylor (his family was from Aspatria) ]

*In 1892 a hewer was described as follows:
The hewer is the actual coal-digger. Whether the seam is so thin that he can hardly creep into it on hands and knees, or whether it be thick enough for him to stand upright, he is the responsible workman who loosens the coal from the bed. The hewers are divided into "fore-shift" and "back-shift" men. The former usually work from four in the morning till ten, and the latter from ten till four. Each man works one week in the fore-shift and one week in the back-shift, alternately. Every man in the fore-shift marks "3" on his door. This is the sign for the "caller" to wake him at that hour. When roused by that important functionary he gets up and dresses in his pit clothes, which consist of a loose jacket, vest, and knee breeches, all made of thick white flannel; long stockings, strong shoes, and a close fitting, thick leather cap. He then takes a piece of bread and water, or a cup of coffee, but never a full meal. Many prefer to go to work fasting. With a tin bottle full of cold water or tea, a piece of bread, which is called his bait, his Davy lamp, and "baccy-box," he says good-bye to his wife and speeds off to work. Placing himself in the cage, he is lowered to the bottom of the shaft, where he lights his lamp and proceeds "in by," to a place appointed to meet the deputy. This official examines each man's lamp, and, if found safe, returns it locked to the owner. Each man then finding from the deputy that his place is right, proceeds onwards to his cavel, his picks in one hand, and his lamp in the other. He travels thus a distance varying from 100 to 600 yards. Sometimes the roof under which he has to pass is not more than three feet high. To progress in this space the feet are kept wide apart, the body is bent at right angles with the hips, the head is held well down, and the face is turned forward. Arrived at his place he undresses and begins by hewing out about fifteen inches of the lower part of the coal. He thus undermines it, and the process is called kirving. The same is done up the sides. This is called nicking. The coal thus hewn is called small coal, and that remaining between the kirve and the nicks is the jud or top, which is either displaced by driving in wedges, or is blasted down with gunpowder. It then becomes the roundy. The hewer fills his tubs, and continues thus alternately hewing and filling.

[a sprag is a wooden pit prop, a cavel is his working location]

photo of John Routledge at No.5 pit Harriston (probably James Routledge's son)