1) This is a miners’ term for two quite different gases; that is carbonic acid gas, sometimes called ‘choke-damp’ and carburetted hydrogen or marsh gas, also known as ‘fire-damp’.

In both cases evidence for the word is quite late and the first examples quoted in the OED are 1626 and 1665. Sadly, there are several burial registers in Yorkshire which provide earlier evidence: 1594 Thomas Illingworth of Cottingley who died in a Colepyt at Norre with a dampe, Bingley

1597 Richard Mankenoole sonn smored [smothered] with the dampe and buryed, Leeds. The Elland register also has examples, including 1625 Richard Hartley, carbonarius suffocatus fumo vulgo Dampe . These deaths were probably caused by choke-damp and there is further evidence of the danger that it posed in a poignant account of an accident at Norwood Green, near Halifax. It was written by the minister, the Rev. Oliver Heywood. 1673 Thomas Oates having sunk a cole-pit near his hous … let down one George Harrison to get out some water … being got to the bottom his breath was almost gone with the damp, he called to be pulled up again, they drew, but as he was ascending he let hold of the rope goe and dropt down to the bottom. James Oates … was let down to lift him up in the bottom, fell under him and there they both lay in the bottom, they cryed out hideously at the top, many people flockt togather, and there was a fearfull outcry and uproar, they could not tell that they were alive, but that Harrison made a moaning noyse. Tho Oates cryed out will no one go to fetch my child out of the pit? At last James Mitchell was willing to be let down, but coming near the middle his breath beginning to be stopt, cryed out to be pulled up, who coming up lay overpowered at the top, panting for breath a good while, at last they persuaded one William Whitiker to goe down, he did so, and stirred in the water … perceived they were alive, the rope was let down, G Harrison was drawn up, alive, onely his head wounded with the fall, then they drew up James Oates who went by himself into the house was laid upon the bed, both of them … likely to live, blessed be god. The damp sometimes delayed work 1713 Before the new pitt was sunke the workmen were frequently forced to leave the work by reason of the damp, Shibden and in 1718 a payment of 1s 6d was recorded in the accounts for Ale when they stopt damp, Farnley. The Leeds newspapers later recorded many mine accidents, for example in 1779 nineteen colliers having descended into one of the pits near Rothwell-Haigh, they had not been long at work before symptoms of the fire-damp were discovered, which soon after went off with a great explosion, whereby three men were killed on the spot and four so much burnt, that two are since dead, and the two others not likely to recover.

spellings choke-damp
dates 1594 1673 1713 1718 1779

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