b. 03/03/1844 Wednesbury, Staffordshire. d. 10/10/1910 Derby.
DATE OF AM ACTION: 01/05/1882 Baddesley Collier, Warwickshire.
Arthur Henry Stokes was born on March 3rd, 1844, at Wednesbury, Staffordshire, and was educated at Little Hay School, Shenstone, near Lichfield. His schooldays were devoid of special interest. His predilection for mathematics and engineering work was little encouraged or noticed by his parents, and when it became a question as to his future employment in life, it was seriously discussed whether he should be a doctor or a chemist. While arrangements were being made for his future, an accidental meeting between his father and an old schoolfellow, who was a mining engineer, decided the question, and young Stokes was sent for “a month on trial” to see how he would like mining. At the end of the month, he was bound apprentice to a firm of mining engineers, and served his articles from April, 1858, to August, 1863, a period of 5 years and 4 months, principally amongst the mines of Brownhills and Cannock Chase. He had relations who were colliery owners in the “Thick-coal” district of West Bromwich, and before he completed his articles he was allowed to do the surveying, and take part in the management of the Thick-coal collieries belonging to his relations.
Directly upon being freed from his articles of apprenticeship, he left Staffordshire, and obtained an appointment at Newbold Collieries and Iron-works, near Chesterfield, where he remained until February, 1868, when he entered the service of the West Staveley Coal Company, and also the Unstone Coal Company.
Mr. Stokes was Chairman of the Unstone School Board for 3 years, and during his term of office the schools were built but his removal to Sheffield prevented him from seeking re-election at the end of his term of office.
It was while at Unstone that he was appointed Manager of Monkwood Colliery, but upon the sale of the colliery he was sent to explore and report upon a large coal-field in Sweden, and to visit the coal-mines of the Province of Scania. He returned from Sweden in December, 1872, and was then transferred from Unstone to the Nunnery Colliery, Sheffield, where he remained until January, 1874, when he was appointed H.M. Inspector of Mines, and instructed to act as Assistant Inspector in the Midland District. He obtained this appointment in open competition, the post of Inspector having been advertised as open to all England, and no nomination was required, a mode of appointment which has only once since been followed. It was while at Nunnery Colliery that he was twice sent abroad to the Faroe Islands to report upon the coal-fields there.
Mr. Stokes was one of the first members of the Midland Counties Institution of Engineers (originally the Chesterfield and Derbyshire Institute of Mining Engineers), to which Society he contributed many important and interesting papers. He was also a Fellow of the Geological Society, to whose Journal he contributed only one paper.
Mr. Stokes exercised the duties of Assistant Inspector of Mines until the death of his chief, when he was promoted to be Inspector in charge of the Midland District on February 26th, 1887, which post he held until May 16th, 1909. He was an accomplished musician, and was three times appointed organist, his last post being in Derby, where from the day of his appointment to the day of his resignation, a period of over 13 years, be never missed playing for a single Sunday morning or evening service during the whole term of his office, a record of which he was proud in later life.
On July 24th, 1879, Mr. Stokes was called to an accident at the Black Engine Mine, Eyam, where a lead-miner was entombed. He took charge of the work of rescue, and for 4 nights and days he never left the mine, the danger from foul air and crushing weight being so serious that little hope was held out of rescuing the man. The entombed man was fed by Mr. Stokes through a small hole for some hours before he was rescued, and at about noon of the fourth day the man was got out alive and sent to the surface.
On May 2nd, 1882, a fire occurred in the underground workings at the Baddesley Colliery, Warwickshire, and Mr. Stokes was summoned by telegram in the night to render help. He arrived at the colliery to find that only an hour or two before there had been an explosion and many men burnt. It was subsequently found that out of a rescue-party of about thirty-two persons, twenty-three were killed, or died shortly after. Mr. Stokes with five others descended the mine and succeeded in rescuing the owner, and two others, who were so badly burnt that they died shortly afterwards.
For his services at the Black Engine Mine he received the silver medal of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and a parchment certificate, and for his work of rescue in connexion with the Baddesley Colliery explosion, Her Majesty the late Queen Victoria bestowed upon him the Albert Medal of the first class, the highest reward for such services that a civilian can obtain. At the time when the Albert Medal was presented to Mr. Stokes, it was stated that no living person held the same two highest awards for saving life, namely, the Albert Medal of the First Class and the Silver Medal of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
The value of his life and labour must not be gauged by his published papers and his public life only. The private personal help and encouragement which he gave to young men will never be known. His experience and advice were always at the service of the young student, or the young manager, and he was many times heard to say, that in case of difficulty young men could always rely upon his help and advice, but that older ones must look after themselves if they got into trouble.
He was a great advocate for technical education, and for some time was the Examiner in Mining to the County Council of Warwick and Nottingham. He was also for a time one of the Assistant Examiners in Mining for the South Kensington Examinations.
Mr. Stokes took great interest in the Institution, and was often heard in the discussion of papers. His keen critical faculty, combined with his extensive knowledge of mining, enabled him frequently to drive home a telling point at an Institute meeting when papers were under discussion.
Mr. Stokes died suddenly at Derby on October 10th, 1910, and was buried at the Old Cemetery, Uttoxeter Road, Derby.
THE Queen has been graciously pleased to confer “The Albert Medal” on the following persons, for conspicuous gallantry displayed on the occasion of the Fire and Explosion at the Baddesley Colliery in May last:— ” The Albert Medal of the First Class.” Mr. Reuben Smallman, Mining Engineer. Mr. Arthur Henry Stokes, Inspector of Mines. Charles Day, Collier. Charles Chetwynd, Collier. « The Albert Medal of the Second Class.” Mr. Samuel Spruce, Mining Engineer. Mr. Frederick Samuel Marsh, Certified Colliery Manager. Mr. Thomas Harry Mottram, Certified CollieryManager. William Morris, Collier. William Pickering, Collier. Joseph Chetwynd, Collier.
BURIAL LOCATION: UTTOXETER ROAD CEMETERY, DERBY.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.