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#277262 - 20th Dec 2008 10:09pm Coffers Dam Disaster ****
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
The Birkenhead Dock Disaster was a tragedy that happened when a temporary dam collapsed during construction of the Vittoria Dock in Birkenhead, Wirral Peninsula, England, on March 6, 1909. It left 14 workers (or "navvies") dead and three injured. The disaster led to a huge public outpouring of sympathy and grief in the local area. However, the Government refused to hold a public inquiry and the cause of the disaster was never definitively established. Very little evidence or documentation surrounding the event now exists.

the building of the dam

The 206,000 contract to build a dock on the Vittoria Wharf area of Birkenhead was awarded by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1905 to John Scott of Darlington. Scott was the son of Sir Walter Scott (1826-1910), one of the greatest regional civil engineering contractors of his era, and had recently built an extension to the docks in Middlesbrough. The Vittoria Dock - sited at the northern end of Vittoria Street - was to serve as an accessible, organised berthing facility for vessels, which were increasing in size. Work began in 1905 and was due to be finished by the end of 1909. However, by March 1909 it was nine months ahead of schedule. The whole project was merely a few hours from completion when the disaster occurred.

disaster strikes

Just after midnight on March 6 1909, during a blinding snowstorm, disaster struck. A gang of navvies were working in a 45ft deep pit which formed the entrance channel to the new dock. They were clearing away rubble and timber, which was hauled up to the dockside by a crane which straddled the excavation. The waters of the neighbouring East Float were held back from the entrance channel by a 200ft long temporary coffer dam, formed from pilings rammed with mud and cement, which had been built in 1907. There was only a small amount of work left to do and the whole four-year dock project would be finished by the following evening.

At around 12.20am - just after high tide - the dam collapsed without warning, sending millions of gallons of water and hundreds of tons of timber and mud crashing down on to the men working in the pit. Fourteen were killed, but one survived by being shot to the surface. Two men working on the crane were injured as it collapsed into the flooded pit, one losing a leg. The disaster widowed seven women and left 13 children fatherless. It took a month for divers to recover all the bodies, and the victims were buried in three mass graves in Flaybrick Hill Cemetery, Birkenhead, now known as Flaybrick Memorial Gardens.

At the ensuing inquest, John Scott's chief engineer claimed that the disaster was probably caused when the base of the coffer dam shifted after pilings from the old dock wall were removed, and this event could not have been foreseen. However, this explanation was never independently tested or verified. One man - John Jones, the operator of the piledriving machine used to build the dam - bravely spoke out at the inquest, claiming there had been shoddy workmanship and rotten building materials had been used on the project. But his evidence was disregarded and the jury, heavily influenced by the coroner's summing-up, returned a verdict was that no one was to blame. The Vittoria Dock opened for business four months after the disaster and is still in operation today.


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#277263 - 20th Dec 2008 10:27pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: Dava2479]
uptoncx Offline
Veteran

Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral
Postcard that was sold to raise funds following the disaster




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#277265 - 20th Dec 2008 10:36pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: uptoncx]
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
Nice 1 uptonx.Great find.

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#277284 - 21st Dec 2008 8:01am Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: uptoncx]
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7864
Loc: tranmere
Damburst, The Birkenhead Dock Disaster, 1909


Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
damburst.jpg


_________________________
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

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#277285 - 21st Dec 2008 8:13am Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: bert1]
jonno40 Offline
Forum Addict

Registered: 7th Jan 2008
Posts: 1234
Loc: wirral
Good stuff Bert.
flicked through this book a few months back but was unsure which dock it was. Cheers mate thumbsup
_________________________
It all makes perfect sense expressed in dollars and cents ,pound shillings and pence

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#277290 - 21st Dec 2008 10:52am Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: jonno40]
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
I don`t have this book,I`m going to try and me my hands on a copy.Thanks Bert.


Edited by dava2479 (21st Dec 2008 10:52am)

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#277295 - 21st Dec 2008 12:49pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: Dava2479]
Pinzgauer
Unregistered


The book comes up on Fleabay quite often. Was one under "Birkenhead" last week. Keep your eyes peeled !

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#277300 - 21st Dec 2008 2:19pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: ]
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
Will do,Thanks Pinzgauer.Failing that I`m sure I will be able to pick it up locally from somewhere.

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#277305 - 21st Dec 2008 3:01pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: Dava2479]
_Ste_ Offline


Wiki Master

Registered: 7th Aug 2005
Posts: 15987
Loc: New Brighton
Great post dava thumbsup

Quote:
At around 12.20am - just after high tide - the dam collapsed without warning, sending millions of gallons of water and hundreds of tons of timber and mud crashing down on to the men working in the pit.


That must of been so surreal omg



You can clearly see the east float tower in the right side of this postcard (great find)

Report and insight into east float tower here...

Clickme smile
_________________________


http://www.youtube.com/user/stetopop

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#277306 - 21st Dec 2008 3:06pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: _Ste_]
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
Thanks Ste,and thanks for the link.I hav`nt seen this thread befor.Superb pics mate.thumbsup


Edited by dava2479 (21st Dec 2008 3:07pm)

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#277449 - 22nd Dec 2008 4:10pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: Dava2479]
Jeeps Offline
Member

Registered: 13th Nov 2008
Posts: 82
Loc: Scotland
I got the book last month from Amazon. smile
_________________________
~~Jeeps~~

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#277552 - 22nd Dec 2008 7:42pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: Jeeps]
history Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 1st Dec 2008
Posts: 103
Loc: Birkenhead
Can someone contact me, cos I have pics of the headstones and dont know how to add them to this thread

Thanks




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#277563 - 22nd Dec 2008 8:02pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: history]
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
PM on it`s way.

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#277580 - 22nd Dec 2008 8:29pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: Dava2479]
history Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 1st Dec 2008
Posts: 103
Loc: Birkenhead
Hopefully, with alot of coaching from Dave,,,,,many thanks!!!

These photos taken in 2005. I think they are in section 15 or 16. I could easily take you to them tomorrow.
They had been lying flat for a few years when I saw them. Maybe covered over now?

regards



Attachments: Viewing Permissions May Apply. Click Me
Vitt-Dock_accident-1.JPG

Vitt-dock-accident-2.JPG



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#277596 - 22nd Dec 2008 9:19pm Re: Coffers Dam Disaster [Re: history]
Dava2479 Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 10th Feb 2008
Posts: 1924
Loc: Wirral
Well done mate. thumbsupGreat addition to the thread.Will take you up on that offer to show me them graves if you would`nt mind.


Edited by dava2479 (22nd Dec 2008 9:20pm)

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