Wramplingham Mill
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On the 7th inst., aged 65, Mr. William Gaze,
millwright, of St. Saviour's, in this city.


A frightful accident occurred at Wramplingham mill, about seven miles from Norwich, on Friday morning last. Mr. Sayer, the tenant, was about to leave, and the business was to be transferred to the landlord, Mr. Ringer, so that it was thought necessary that there should be an examination into the state of the machinery and a valuation of all the property. Mr. W. Gaze, millwright, of this city, and his son William, were engaged for this purpose, and visited the mill on Friday. They were inspecting the various parts in what is technically called the "cog pit;" and Mr. Gaze, that he might the more easily examine some particular point, seated himself on a beam between which and a temporary floor beneath (and within a few inches of each) there revolved, when that part of the works were in motion, a heavy iron wheel in a horizontal position, known as the connecting or intermediate wheel. As he sat, his legs were through the arms of the wheel, resting on the floor, which, as we have said, was but a few inches below. Just at this moment the works began to move, and the unfortunate man was drawn into the narrow space between the wheel and the beam on which he had been sitting. - a space certainly not more than three inches wide - and was crushed to death on the spot. The lower parts of his person were completely broken to atoms, and had he not been held up by his son he would have been so completely mangled as to leave no possibility of identification. The nature and cause of the accident will be better understood from a perusal of the following evidence taken at an inquest held at the King's Head, Wramplingham, on Wednesday last, before Edward Press, Esq: -

Mr. Wm. Gaze, millwright and engineer, deposed - On Wednesday the 5th inst., my father and myself were engaged about seven hours in examining certain articles of a moveable character in Wramplingham Mills, with a view to value the same as between the out-going tenant and the landlord; and in order doing this we had the occasion to go about the mill in various parts, but could thus gain only a partial knowledge of the construction of the machinery. We found, however, that part of the work was driven by steam power and part by water, and that some portion was driven by either one or the other as might be convenient. The steam engine was going nearly all that day, but we found no occasion to examine it then. We made an appointment to be there again on Friday, to examine the state of the machinery. We commenced our inspection at half-past nine o'clock, by untackling the stones to examine the spindles and boxes. These stones were connected with the steam engine and could not be driven by the water power. In doing this we had the occasion to require the engine to move the stones to such a position as would enable us to take them up. The engine moved the connecting wheel about one-third round, and was then stopped. On examining the second pair of stones, it was necessary to have the connecting wheel moved again; and the same with respect to the third pair; each time the motion was but very slight one, showing that the works were under perfect control; and the motion I have no doubt was communicated by hand. We then went from the stone floor through the cog-pit which is just below, to examine the various parts of the machinery, having no means of getting to the part we wanted to without actually going through the arms of the flywheel. My father took up a sitting position on the beam which supports the bridge-tree post, with his feet standing on a temporary floor and between the arms of the connecting wheel. - the second motion wheel from the engine. The wheel was in a horizontal position. I walked between his back and the flywheel, and got upon a floor which was somewhat lower than where he sat. I made the remark, "I cannot get through here now," and he replied "Oh, crawl through there" (between the bridge-trees, which I did. At that moment the machinery began to move slowly, and my father cried out "Oh, oh, oh!" He was placed so that his right leg was instantaneously entangled, and he was drawn in. He leaned himself against the "bray-post," and I got to him as quickly as possible. I seized hold of the flywheel arm and endeavoured to stop it, pulling him at the same time with my left hand. I shouted, "Stop the flywheel!" and it was stopped in a few seconds. The connecting wheel went round about a third of its diameter. We turned the wheel back by hand, and got my father out. He was still alive, but died in the course of about a minute or two from the injuries he had received. I had been told shortly before, when on the stone floor, that the mill would draw off itself as the steam got up; but it had to be moved by hand while we inspected the stones. My opinion, however, is that my father did not understand the machinery might start itself, though I did.

Noah Ottaway, one of the millers, who assisted in attending to the fire and driving the engine, was then called, and after being informed he was not obliged to say anything that would implicate himself, deposed as follows: - I was in charge of the engine till twelve o'clock on Thursday night, when I went home. I left the mill going still driven by the engine, and I returned at six o'clock on Friday morning. The mill was then going, driven by steam, but James Murrell had charge of the engine, having taken it from me at twelve, and he continued in charge till nine o'clock. I believe the Gazes came about eight, and I understood that they were going over the mill. All the machinery was stopped at nine, and the fire was taken out of the furnace. Some time afterwards - about an hour, I think - Mr. Gaze came and had the stones taken up for examination. To enable him to do this, I moved the flywheel of the engine twice by pushing it. I helped to turn the stones, and then went down into the boiler house. The deceased was there, and I asked him whether I might get the steam up to start, and he said I might. I then made a fire; but before I began to do
so, he left me. As soon as I had made the fire, I went up to the cog-pit, where he was sitting on one of the bridge trees, his son being engaged in the wheels. I said to young Mr. Gaze - "William, you are in a dangerous place, she is apt to draw off." or words to that effect. His father said - "You had better come out, William;" but he replied "I'll satisfy myself, now I am here." As soon as these words were uttered, the machinery began to move, and Mr. Gaze, the elder, became entangled in the intermediate wheel, and was so injured that he died. I did not know which it was that was hurt till the machinery stopped. As soon as she began to start, I jumped down and lifted the blow-valve, which was the means of letting the steam off and stopping the motion.

Mr. Gaze, jun., asked whether he might put a question or two to the witness, and permission having been granted, he said - At what time was my father in the boiler-house, as I am not aware of his having been there at all?
Witness - I cannot exactly say at what time, but it was after the examination of the fourth pair of stones.
Mr. Gaze - Where were you when he went into the cog-pit? Which way did he go out of the engine-house?
Witness - He went down the little ladder to the right at the bottom of the mill.
Mr. Gaze -- Did you see any more of him then?
Witness - No, not till I saw him on the bridge-tree.
Mr. Gaze - Well, that is satisfactory so far. You say that you told me I was in danger?
Witness - Yes, certainly.
Mr. Gaze - Well, I never heard you.
Witness - Why, don't you recollect your father telling you to come out?
Mr. Gaze - No! I never heard the words used.
Mr. Gaze, to assure himself that the witness had actually seen him and his father in the cog-pit, asked him to describe his (Mr. Gaze's jun.) position, and he did so quite satisfactorily. Mr. Gaze said, moreover, that he did not hear the blow valve, but Mr. Sayer corroborated the witness's evidence on that point, and also as to the fact that Mr. Gaze, sen., had given him leave to get the steam up again.

The CORONER expressed his satisfaction that witness had spoken the truth, and that therefore no blame attached to him, especially as Mr. Gaze, sen., had told him he might get the fire up, and he himself gave Mr. Gaze warning of the fact that the engine was apt to draw off. It was quite possible that Mr. Gaze might not think how quickly the steam could be got up when the water never had time to cool; and it was also quite possible, when told of his danger that young Mr. Gaze might be so intent on what he was about as not to observe what was said to him.

Mr. J. H. Slack, of Norwich, engineer, deposed - I have examined the construction of the engine, but have not seen her at work; and even if I had, I am not aware that it would have made any evidence I can give more satisfactory. It is about 50 years old. She has no starting-valve, as every engine ought to have, to shut off the communication of the engine and the boiler. The throttle-valve being used for that purpose. The throttle-valve also appears to me to be defective - so much so, that when steam is generated in the boiler, and the engine has been left any way past her centre, she would be liable to draw off or start. A very light pressure of steam would start her if the stones were lightened off, as I understand they were at this time. If the fire had been taken out, as give in evidence, after the engine had been worked all night, the water would cool down very slowly, - indeed, the heat from the brickwork of the furnace would be sufficient to generate steam for a considerable time; and if a fire was made, as stated by Ottaway, sufficient power would be given very quickly to enable the engine to draw off herself, if she had been left at all past her centre. In answer to questions by the Coroner, Mr. Slack further said, - Supposing an engineer to have known that the engine was defective and that a fire was being made, it should have occurred to him that he was placing himself in great danger in getting into such a position as that occupied by Mr. Gaze. The usual way is to stop the engine at its centre when going in amongst the machinery. The wheel being in this case balanced, she would have stopped anywhere, and therefore a person might go in amongst the wheels without thinking of any danger, if the fire was down; but still the engine might go on if she had stopped past her centre. At her centre she could not have gone except someone had moved the flywheel; and in all cases, therefore, where the machinery is to be examined, it would be most prudent to set the flywheel at the centre, or to block it. If the blow-valve had been open at the time, there would have been no motion with so little steam. In shutting the engine down from work, she would be more likely to stop of herself at a safe point than if she were moved by hand. Mr. Sayer had said, in reply to questions by the coroner, that at the time of the accident he was in the mill, and hearing a cry he instinctively laid hold of the large flywheel and pressed it with great force for some time against his breast, shouting at the same time for assistance. Twice, however, it broke away from him, and he ran and opened the stop-cock at the top of the cylinder, Ottaway having already opened the blow-valve.
The Coroner here remarked that he thought it unnecessary to take any further evidence, except the jury desired it, and he should certainly be very sorry to stop unless everybody concerned was perfectly satisfied. If the evidence of Ottaway was taken as truth, - and he did not see how it could be questioned - it was clear that the fire was got up again much sooner than it ought to have been, but it was done with Mr. Gaze's consent, and would in no way have mattered if Mr. Gaze had taken the necessary precaution. Unfortunately, however, both father and son - whether it was because the work was near being finished, or whether they did not consider the engine quite so defective as it really was - placed themselves in a position of which the person who made the fire could have no conception whatever; but having nevertheless found where they were, he warned them that the engine was apt to draw off. Mr. Gaze, jun., said that he was not conscious of having heard the warning, but still it might have been given, and Ottaway therefore was certainly not to blame. The steam engine itself was undoubtedly in a state which made it very dangerous not only to strangers, but to all about the mill, but certainly the principal blame, if there was any, attached to those whose business it was to go in amongst the machinery, and who did not see that everything was secure before they did so. No doubt, Mr. Gaze in future, before he ventured into such a position, would see that there was no possibility of the engine moving.

Mr. Gaze, - We were anxious to get over that part of the machinery in order to allow Mr. Sayer to go on with the work as soon as he could; and therefore we did not look at anything else; but certainly we could not expect that there was a starting valve.

The CORONER addressed the Jury, remarked that this was just one of these accidents which, after they had occurred, several means could be suggested for preventing them, but the question to be decided here was whether there had been any carelessness to such a degree as to make it criminal. He certainly did not think that it had. It was, no doubt, a most lamentable accident, but nothing more, for the probability was, that Mr. Gaze, after telling Ottaway that he might make up the fire again, did not think how quickly the steam would be got up again, nor had anyone thought about seeing, after the engine had been moved by hand, that she was left in such a state that she could not go again without assistance. Mr. Gaze and Mr. Slack both expressed an opinion that it was a pure accident, and that no blame attached to anyone; and the jury at once returned the following Verdict: -
"Accidentally killed by becoming entangled in the intermediate wheel of Wramplingham Mills."

Norfolk Chronicle - 10th March 1862

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