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HomecommentMark's History: The hero of the Lower Wortley gasholder tragedy

Mark’s History: The hero of the Lower Wortley gasholder tragedy

Compiled by Mark Stevenson

Having been contacted and made aware of the following information I took myself off to Beckett Street Cemetery where one of the heroes of the tale is buried.

If you have ever run into ‘daft’ health and safety rules when you have finished reading the following you might not think them ‘daft’ after all.

The following words are from and the photos are mine.

Date Edward Medal Action: 12/08/1913 Lower Wortley, Leeds, Yorkshire.

Christopher was born in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1870, the son of Emma Bywater, and he had at least four siblings. He grew up living in Duke William Street in the city.

By 1901 he was boarding with the Riley family in Hunslet and was working as a Coal Miner. Christopher died on the 10th of April 1929 in Leeds and was laid to rest in Beckett Street Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was living at 5 Camel Street and was listed as a labourer.

Edward Medal Citation

On the 12th of August last repairs were being carried out at Lower Wortley on a large gasholder, 105 feet high by 117 feet in diameter.

At the bottom of the holder was water 30-feet deep and on this was placed a raft for the workmen to stand upon.

The holder was entered at the top by means of an air-lock; nine feet below was a small unrailed platform, about six feet by five feet, from which was suspended a rope ladder, 70 feet long, descending to the raft on the water below.

Christopher Bywater is the third name down. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The holder had been emptied of gas and two men were at work on the raft testing the rivets of the holder. Feeling the effects of gas given off by the water when disturbed, they decided to climb out and the Foreman outside, thinking that something was wrong, entered the holder and descended to the raft.

Bywater, who was stationed at the airlock, followed to the platform taking with him a rope, and by means of this one man of the three was brought up from the raft below.

Briggs and Vinters then made their way into the holder and onto the platform. Bywater had lowered the rope again to the raft but, though the Foreman had attached it to the second workman, the three men on the platform were unable to pull him up.

At length, all three began to feel the effects of the gas and had to climb out of the holder. Briggs became unconscious and Vinters descended to the ground for help but, being unsuccessful, he climbed back and returned inside to the platform with Bywater.

Unable to do anything, they were again forced to come out, Bywater beginning to lose consciousness.

Further assistance then arriving, steps were taken to lower the holder and to revive the men suffering from gas, Vinters helping in the task.

When the holder had fallen nearly to the ground level a number of men entered and succeeded in bringing out the two men remaining within but, attempts to resuscitate them were unavailing.

Briggs, Bywater and Vinters deserve much credit for their plucky actions.

Exposed to the effects of gas and running risks of falling from the unprotected platform in which case no assistance could have reached them they did their utmost to save the three men at the bottom of the holder and whilst unsuccessful in two cases, they affected the rescue of the third.


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