1988      MATATEC  HATCHCOVERS  Ltd

Seaton Deleval, Northumberland, England

Matatec Hatchcovers engaged me during 1988 to manage the design, detail, fabrication and supervision of sub-contractors on a ferry modification project, to install a tween deck vehicle hatch/ramp. 

The ramp was capable of transferring articulated lorries and cars up to the exterior vehicle deck, which when raised with the last two lorries formed a flush watertight Upper deck.

With initially a Structural Engineer followed by two detail designers I prepared the concept, design & fabrication drawings and supervised the structural fabrication and mechanical sub contractors to Bureau Veritas acceptance requirements through out the project.

This included the ramp building and manufacture of a hydraulic jigger winch with a 2m stroke x 400 mm bore installed in the ramp, which through a sheave arrangement raised the ramp with hydraulically activated locking pins which held the ramp into the deck structure.

Vehicle Ramp Being Moved

To reselect from our LIST OF CLIENTS

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LOCAL INTERESTS:      Seaton Deleval

Located in the coal mining area of Northumberland and very near the location of the pit at New Hartley which was the scene of the North East of England's worst pit disaster.

THE HARTLEY PIT DISASTER

Located half-a-mile from the Village Hall, and close to the railway station of New Hartley, is the old shaft of the Hartley New Pit, made memorable by the terrible catastrophe which occurred there on Thursday, January 16th, 1862.

At the pit-head was the engine-house, containing the engine for pumping the water out of the pit supported on a massive beam over the mouth of the pit shaft.

Suddenly, and without a moment’s warning, this ponderous mass of iron snapped in half thundered down the shaft, crushing the strong wooden wall which divided the pit into two shafts and filling the shaft with debri as far down as the yard seam.

A cage containing eight men was ascending the shaft at the time the beam broke. It was at once smashed, and torn as it had been manufactured of the weakest tin instead of the strongest wrought iron.

Six of the occupants were instantly killed, and two miraculously escaped. This shaft was the only entry to the mine and being blocked by the mass of iron and woodwork, the supply of fresh air was cut off from the men imprisoned in the workings, without a hope of escape.

By the Friday afternoon it is probable that all of the entombed rniners had succumbed to the deadly effects of the noxious gases. In the meantime efforts were made by devoted friends and relatives to force a passage into the workings.

Day after day, and night after night, they toiled heroically, frequently overcome by the deadly gases. The whole country was roused by the terrible tidings, and manifested the utmost interest in the fate of the imprisoned men.

On the Sunday after the accident an immense crowd gathered on the scene, and by the afternoon a huge crowd was milling round the pit head arriving by trap, railroad, and on foot.

Steadily Mr. Coulson and his brave assistants and volunteers proceeded with the clearing of the shaft, and on Wednesday morning three of the sinkers, headed by Emmerson, Mr. Coulson’s chief assistant, were able to advance into the furnace drift, but were unable to proceed far on account of the gas.

In the afternoon one of the shift-men, William Adams, managed to penetrate into the yard seam tbrough the furnace drift. He was fearfully excited when he came back to the surface and tore his hair like a maniac while relating his dreadful news in spasmodic jerks.

The bodies of the men and boys were found lying in rows, all quiet and placid, as if sleeping off a heavy day’s work. Boys were lying with their hands on the shoulders of their fathers, and one poor fellow had his arms clasped round the neck of his brother. The sleep like approach to their death has been pathetically described by Mr. Joseph Skipsey the poet of the Coal-fields, in his ballad on "The Hartley Calamity"

On the body of Armour, the back-overman, was found a small memorandum book, containing the brief but significant last entry:

"Friday afternoon, at half-past two, Edward Armstrong, Thomas Gledstone, John Hardy, Thomas Bell, and others took extremely ill.  We had a prayer meeting at a quarter to two, when Tibbs, Henry Sharp, J. Campbell, Henry Gibson, and William Paltrier . Tibbs exhorted us again, and Sharp also."

On a shot-box belonging to a hewer named James Bewick the following pathetic words were scratched, evidently with the point of a nail: " Friday afternoon. My dear Sarah,—I leave you " No doubt the writer died immediately afterwards.

The bodies were interned in Earsdon churchyard on Sunday, the 26th January, in ground set apart for the purpose, in the presence of a vast concourse of spectators. The sad procession was necessarily a long one, and many of the bodies were in the ground before the last had left the desolated village, which was four miles away.

The terrible calamity called on the sympathy of all classes of society for the widows and children of the Hartley men, and a noble fund for their relief was speedily subscribed.

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