'The Disputed Shot', pitmen playing quoits, c 1836.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil on canvas painting by Henry Perlee Parker. The miners, who have coal-blackened faces, appear to have just finished a shift and are relaxing with their families. The pit head is sketched in the background, and the men have Davy lamps, invented in 1815 by the British chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829). The Davy lamp was the first miners' safety lamp. It was surrounded by gauze, intended to cool the temperature of the flame, thereby enabling gaseous seams to be mined without the risk of explosion. However, despite many modifications and improvements to its design, it did not succeed in reducing the number of accidents or fatalities.