Dyffryn Tanat and Region Development Trust
Chairman Kenton Owen QGM
Company Reg. No. 6905623
Coopers Rock Quarry
Coopers Rock was another of the failed business ventures of Thomas and John Savin, trading as Savin & Company Ltd. When they took the lease in 1861, the quarry occupying an area of 17 acres was described as "of limestone long since opened and partly worked with kilns and tramway". Royalties were agreed with the Earl of Powys's agent Thomas Newill, at 3d per ton for stone and 4d per ton for lime. After the collapse of Savin's business the lease was re-sold to Sir Edmund Buckley and David Lloyd.
Above Coopers Rock stood the gun powder house. Mr.Billy Owen was known as the powder monkey.Mr.Owen lived at Nantmawr
On the afternoon of 30th May 1872, gunpowder was being unloaded from a railway wagon at Coopers Rock. The storage magazine was sited at the side of a steep incline about 250 yards in length, leading up to the quarry. The incline was a double track and worked on the principle of a descending loaded wagon pulling up an empty one controlled by a winding drum or gin wheel operated by a 'gin man'.
At the head of the incline was a stop block intended to prevent wagons from running back down after uncoupling while at the bottom there was a catch point in each track, worked by a lever at the top of the incline, intended to throw a wagon off the rail. The men transferring the kegs of gunpowder to the magazine were to carry the kegs on their backs to the magazine and store them inside.However, against instructions, they were using the returning wagons travelling up the incline to carry the kegs as far as the magazine.
The real cause of the disaster that followed was confusion between the 'gin man' and a second man in charge of the horse which hauled the wagons to and from the quarry face. Each thought the other had set the stop block. When the 'gin man' uncoupled the rope from the ascending wagon, it started to roll backwards down the incline. The 'gin man' pulled the lever to operate the catch points which caused the runaway wagon to be flung off the incline straight into the powder kegs left outside the magazine. Immediately there was an explosion followed by a second one.
The death toll amounted to six boys and men aged between 13 and 72. At the inquest the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. So severe was the explosion that roofs on houses half a mile away on the main road were damaged by falling rocks.
Newspaper cutting from Oswestry Advertizer about the explosion at Coopers Rock. This article describes the memories of a local lady from Maesbury who was passing along the main A495 road in her horse and trap when the explosion occurred half a mile away and describes seeing "a large piece of rock" land in the roadway which was in fact one of the bodies of the workmen.
Source Oswestry Advertizer dated January 1936.
1875 map showing the two gunpowder houses halfway up the long incline
Source Wilf Jones.
Recent photo(February 2016) of the upper gunpowder house shown on the 1875 map.
Source Dale Williams.
Recent photo (February2016) of the 2nd gunpowder house (The lower one on the map of the gradient). It is built of stone, circular, with the wooden door covered in metal still intact, and with a stone blast wall in front of the door.
Source Dale Williams.
Sketch of quarries in the Porthywaen area
Coopers Rock trading as Savin & Company by 1862 had ceased trading
Source Shropshire Archive.