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The Lamp that Changed the Mining Industry

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The first apparatus for producing light was Spedding’s ‘Steel Mill’, patented in 1760. It consisted of a spur wheel and steel disc placed in a small steel frame, at the end of which the operator held a piece of flint. The continuous succession of sparks emitted by the rotation of the disc against the flint gave warning of danger by indicating the presence of firedamp. The faith in the ‘Mill’ was immediately shattered by a serious explosion at the Wallsend Colliery in 1785.

The first person to demonstrate that a steady light could be employed in coal mines without the danger of external explosion, was Dr. William Reid Clanny, of Sunderland. On May 20th, 1813, he announced his discovery at a meeting at the Royal Society of Arts in London, when he presented the Society with the first miner’s ‘Safety Lamp’.

The first colliery in which a safety lamp was used was the Herrington Mill Pit, now the property of the Earl of Durham. The date was October 16th, 1815. It was Dr. Clanny’s modification of his first safety lamp.

The first Davy Lamp was tried at Hebburn Colliery, January lst, 1816. Strictly speaking, the ‘Davy’ is not a lamp but a scientific instrument for detecting the presence of firedamp. All lamps of the present day embrace the principles of the Clanny and the Davy.

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