Edward Ormerod (2 May 1834 – 26 May 1894) was an English mining engineer and inventor who worked at Gibfield Colliery in Atherton, Lancashire where he devised and tested his safety device, the Ormerod safety link or detaching hook. He also devised a patented safety cage. He left the company in 1874, but his safety hooks are still manufactured today. He died in 1894, and a small memorial stone marks his grave.


Edward Ormerod was born on 2 May 1834 in Church, near Accrington, in Lancashire. His father George, was the chief engineer for John Fletcher & Others (subsequently Fletcher, Burrows and Company) who sank the Volunteer Pit at Howe Bridge in 1861. Ormerod took over after his father died in 1862. An overwind at the Volunteer Pit that sent the cage smashing through the headgear and the engine house roof may have inspired Ormerod’s future invention.[1]

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Memorial stone
Wikimedia Commons

In 1865 Ormerod was working at the company’s Gibfield Colliery. and while there devised and patented his “detaching hook”. It was tested in front of a large audience including John Fletcher, Ralph and James Fletcher and other colliery officials and members of the public. After the device was fitted, Ormerod descended 20 yards alone in the cage and was rewound at speed. The device worked and manufacture began the following year.[1]

Ormerod retired from the colliery company in 1874 and died on 26 May 1894.[1] He is buried in Atherton Cemetery. A small memorial stone in front of his grave depicts and pays tribute to his invention.


Metal link
Ormerod detaching link
Wikimedia Commons

The Ormerod safety link or detaching hook, known in mining circles as a “butterfly” was inserted into the winding rope in such a way that if the cage was accidentally overwound the link would be pulled into a bell through which the winding rope passed. This action would disconnect the cage from the winding rope and prevent it from falling back down the shaft. The device was patented in 1867 and is manufactured today. It is believed that the lives of many miners have been saved by its use and it has never failed in service.[2]

The design was awarded a Gold medal at the Manchester Mechanical & Industrial exhibition of 1875 and a silver medal at the Franco British Exhibition in 1908.

Ormerod also invented a patented safety cage that would clamp onto the guide ropes in the shaft if the winding rope broke. This was a more infrequent occurence than overwinding and made far fewer sales than the detaching hook.[3] Gibfield Colliery took delivery of the 10,000th hook in 1954.[1]