Charles Napier Preen AM

b. 1844 Horsley, Gloucestershire.  d. ? 1903 Newport, Wales. 

DATE OF AM ACTION: 11/09/1878 Abercarn Colliery, Monmouthshire, Wales.

Charles Napier was born in 1844 in Horsley, Gloucestershire, the eldest of at least four children born to William and Hester Preen. Charles married Maria Williams in c. 1870 and they went on to have four children and Charles’ occupation was listed as a stonemason. By the time of the 1881 Census, he was living in South Wales and was working down the mines. His wife died shortly afterwards, and Charles would re-marry in 1893 to Hannah Priscilla Archer, at St Stephens, Cheltenham. Hannah was a widow herself and Charles gained three step-children after their marriage. He and Hannah would have a son of their own. Charles died in 1903 aged 59.


On the llth September, 1878, an explosion of firedamp occurred in the Abercarn Colliery, in the county of Monmouth, whereby 260 persons perished, and on which occasion the greatest possible gallantry was exhibited in saving about 90 lives. The force of the explosion was terrific, doing great damage to the roadways and to the bottom of the shaft, and setting the coal and timber on fire in several places. Into this state of confusion and apparent danger to life these men, without hesitation, descended, and, although they discovered that fires were raging in the mine, and that consequently the chances of another explosion were considerable, they remained at their gallant and humane work of rescue, not re-ascending the shaft until they had satisfied themselves that no one was left alive below. Henry Davies, after being down the Abercarn Pit all the afternoon, with those recommended for the Second Class Medal, volunteered 10 descend the Cwmcarn Pit (a shaft two miles distant), with a view of conveying to the explorers, who had attempted to enter the workings from that side, an order from those in charge of the operations to come out, as, a consequence of the fires underground continuing to burn fiercely, and large quantifies of gas were pouring out of the workings, a secoml explosion was deemed to be inevitable, which, had it occurred, would assuredly have killed every man below ground. . Henry Davies, after being deserted by two men who refused to  accompany him further, and when he must have felt that there was little or no chance of his coming alive out of the pit, pursued his course alone for five or six hundred yards, and heroically accomplished the object of his mission. John Harris went down the pit with those recommended for the Second Class Medal. Having descended to a depth of about 295 yards, the progress of the cage was stayed by the damaged state of the shaft. John Harris got off the cage, and sliding down a guide-rope, reached the bottom, where, although he knew well that any moment might be his last, he remained for many hours, until all who were alive (some of whom were badly burnt and otherwise injured) reached the cage by his assistance, and were taken to the surface in safety.