Sir Francis Brain was a pioneer in the application of electricity in coal mining, a ‘world first’.
The Brains’ owned and operated the Trafalgar Gale and pit throughout most of its productive life (1842 – 1925). In 1881 Sir Francis became the manager of Trafalgar Colliery and then in 1882 was the first in the world to use electricity for motive power underground when he installed electrically driven pumps.
In addition to the obvious benefits of electric light over candles and gas, electricity could be supplied to all parts of the colliery via small flexible cables instead. The advance in safety and productivity was huge. The Brain’s electrical equipment for detonating explosives will also have reduced accidents and fatalities.
In 1879 the Brains supplied electric lighting for the night time construction of the Severn railway crossing. In 1913 Sir Francis was knighted for his achievements.
Ian Standing, H M Verderer, Forest of Dean says:
“Although electricity is now in everyday use worldwide, the Brain family lived at a time when electricity must have seemed to most to be the stuff of magic. Yet on a remote ridge near the hamlet of Brierley in the isolated Forest of Dean, Sir Francis Brain was first person in the world to use electricity for motive power in coal mining. When managing the family-owned Trafalgar Colliery in 1882, he generated electricity to power the mine pumps. In addition there was the benefit of electric lighting in the mine. Instead of candles and gas, electricity could be supplied to all parts of the colliery via small flexible cables. The advance in safety and productivity was huge. The Brains also developed and refined the use of electricity for detonating explosives reliably. This reduced accidents and fatalities to shot firers. Earlier, in 1879, the Brains supplied electric lighting for the night time construction of the Severn railway crossing. In 1913 Sir Francis was knighted for his achievements. The Brain family homes were Trafalgar House and the larger Euroclydon House above Puddlebrook.”
Image credit: from Cyril Hart's ‘The Industrial History of Dean’, published 1971 by David & Charles.
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