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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Gas Explosion. Hope Tavern, Netherton.


Now everyone who comes from Netherton, nows where Cinder Bank is. A familier sight to all, for a great many years, has been " The Hope Tavern ", proudly displaying the famous midland beer, " Banks ". Did you know, that almost as soon as it was built, it had a reputation as a " Citadel of Satan ". The whole area of Cinder bank itself, a rather grimy little hell hole, ( not my words, I should hastily add ) attracted strong condemnation, from the local Chapel ranters. The " Hope ", and several other places like it, dispensed the demon drink, for anything up to 16 hours a day. Not disimilier to today I suppose, but conditions then, were far from what we can perceive. Back in 1898, a new place of worship was built nearby, " The Peoples Mission Hall " , in Swan Street.  Social conditions were slowly changing, more emphasis was being placed on family life and health, and of course, the Temperance movement were on the march. Many disagreements, between the two establishments, was inevitable, and on more than one occassion, devine intervention was called upon by the preachers. Even they would not have expected it to come so soon, and strike with such devestating effect.


On the morning of the 24th August, 1899, the landlord, " Tap " Harrison, a nickname that would turn out to be fairly accurate, reported to the Dudley Gas Company, that he could smell gas. Not only him it seemed as a few of his 'early' customers, also said the same. Taking his time, the company employee, ( known as a " sniffer ") finally showed up, and, maybe he was in a hurry, said in his opinion, if there was a leak, it was only a small one, and not dangerous.  Either the " sniffer " didn't have a very good nose instrument , or he was suffering from a heavy head cold. Taking that as a sign that all was well, the landlord carried on. During the evening, in the taproom, three of the " Hopes " regulars were having a game of cards, and about 11pm, there was a mighty explosion. The whole of the front of the Pub collasped into the road, and from out of the dust and rubble walked the landlord, his family, and several customers. Help was soon at hand, but it wasn't until midnight, that they realised anyone was missing. Frantic efforts began, and a man, 52 year old John Davenport, was pulled from the wreakage. Too late, he died within minutes. It took several more hours before the body of his 18 year old son, James Davenport, was also pulled out. He was dead as well. The other card player, William Ball, who was 44, was found on the opposite side of the road, where he had been blown by the blast, still alive, and holding his cards. ( No, there will be no jokes about a dead mans hand, the Ace of spades)  Sadly, he died in Dudleys Guest Hospital, on 31 August. They are all buried in Saint Andrews Church, and as everyone knows, the Pub was rebuilt. Now I'm fairly sure, that down at the Mission Hall, they would have offered up a prayer, for the souls of the dear departed. Or do I hear a faint, ghostly echo, of three cheers.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Gas Explosion, Netherton Colliery.


As a weak Sun began to rise, on the  15th September, 1911, over the smokey and grime ridden buildings of Netherton, near Dudley, a young miner, Benjamin Wedge, 25, kissed his wife Rachel goodbye, and set off for work. His three young children, Ben, 6, Daisy, 3, and Thomas, 1, were all still tucked up in bed at the tiny house, 8, Spittle's Fold, Netherton. A short distance away, at 15, Harrison's Fold, his slightly older workmate, George Ball, 32, enacted the same scene with his wife, Sarah Ann, his three children, Gertrude, 8, Annie, 5, and George, 2, also all still asleep. Harry White, 48, another workmate, had a slightly longer journey, from Kates Hill, to their place of employment, The Netherton No. 7 Pit, owned by George H Dunn. A decade previously, the pit had employed 73 men underground, and 11 on the surface, but it was now, in 1911, nearing the end of it's economic life. Around 11am, Ball, a pikeman, bought down a section of the coal face as instructed, and Wedge and White began loading the tubs. The Pit was not noted for much Gas, but on this occasion, coupled with a large amount of dust in the air, there was a violent explosion. It was felt all round the district, and soon a crowd had gathered as the word spread of some injuries. Indeed there were, for all three men had been killed in an instant, as the deadly mixture of gas and dust had been ignited by the naked flame of a candle. Three more lives added to a very long list of mining casualties, three more Widows and six orphaned children added to an even longer list of the poverty stricken. An accidental death verdict was inevitable, and so it proved to be. Perhaps those left behind  were your relatives, it would be nice to learn that they all survived the trauma, and had long and fruitful lives.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 4, 2012 at 11:39 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Gunpowder Explosion, Coseley. 1855.


Henry Whitehouse was a name familar to many in Coseley in the 1850s, he owned and worked several mines in the area. One of these was the Priorfields Colliery, and he trusted the operation of extracting the Coal to one David Millard, a Butty Miner, who lived in the middle one of three Cottages, called the Coppice. These were owned by Mr Cotterill, another local name, associated with being in the Corn dealers business. I may have mentioned elsewhere, that the employment, underground, of young children, was illegal, even if they were your family. The 14th December, 1855, was a cold one, as David Millard set off for work at 5.00am, a short time after his two brothers in law, his two young sons, Joseph, 12, and Samuel, 9 and Thomas Lear, a 12 year old. Two hours later, after calculating that they needed some Gunpowder to proceed, Millard sent Thomas Lear back to his home for the explosive's, which he kept in his celler. A short time later, he also sent his son Samuel, to fetch some Corn for the horses from Mr Cotterill. The two lads paths crossed at some point and after they had spoken, Samuel went off to get the corn. Mr Coterill however wasn't available, so a bit annoyed, and a bit cold, he set off for his home, where he knew his mother would be preparing breakfast. About 7.30am, there was a mighty explosion at the Coppice, and all three of the Cottages were almost razed to ground. The first cottage was tenented by widow Elizabeth Jackson, and her 22 year daughter of the same name. In the middle was David Millard, his wife Jane, 32, Hannah,7 David, 3, Absolom, 7 months, and a nursemaid, Francis Allen, aged 10. In the last cottage was John Caddick, a bricklayer, his wife, and his mother-in-law, Henrietta Stevens. ( also known as Hannah ) Those nearby did what they could, sending for medical help, and a message to the nearby pit which bought David Millard to the scene. He must have been sorely shocked at the sight that met his eyes, but even more shocked when he spotted his wifes Legs, crushed against the wall of what once would have been the Kitchen. The rest of her body was found some distance away. He heard a cry as he surveyed the tangled wreakage of his now former home, and with help, extracted young David from the rubble. Hannan was found badly mutilated and dead, as was Absolom, and in rubble filled celler, Samuel. The nursemaid was very badly injured, as was Hannah Stevens, Elizabeth Jackson, the daughter, aged 22. In January, 1856, just a few days later, all three were to die from their injuries. Seven deaths then in total, but the big question, was how had the Gunpowder exploded.


David Millard, in a statement, told the Police that he only kept a small quantity of Gunpowder in his celler, which of course flew in the face of the distructive power needed, to flatten three cottages. He could not account for why young Samuel, when his body was examined, had  gunpowder in both of his pockets, and further denied he had sent the lad to collect any. The evidence suggests otherwise. As his wife, who he claimed always weighed out the powder, was now dead, and couldn't contradict what he said. That she was preparing breakfast at the moment the explosion occured is irrefutable, so she must have allowed Samuel, to descend into the celler, with a candle, to collect the powder for her husband. Whatever the truth, seven lives were lost in an incident that should never have happened.


source: Sheffield Daily Telegraph. ( British Newspaper Archives )

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 10, 2013 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Gunpowder Explosion, West Bromwich. 1889.


An even more avoidable event occured some year later, this time the scene was number 19 ? Wood Lane, Greets Green, West Bromwich. Now I am not going to suggest, that Simon Parker, at 27, was a complete and utter idiot, you can decide that for yourselves. He and his father, so he said, worked at the Townsend Marlhole, at the bottom of Wood Lane, the owner being a Mr Hamblett, a local Brickyard owner. On the morning of the 15th December, 1889, they had completed the drilling of several holes, ready for blasting, and Simon had gone home for his breakfast. He took with him, as he had possibly done in the past, a quantity of Gunpowder, wihich was a bit on the damp side. Now according to his statement, there were 3lbs of it, in a tin container, and the lid was firmly on. He claimed, that he set it on the table, by the fire, in an effort to dry it out, still with the lid on. As most folks know, the moisture trapped in such a fashion, will evaporate, but not with a lid on, as it would still be trapped inside the can. So I presume he removed the lid, and either a stray spark or the heat, caused the mixture to explode. Unlike in the previous case, the explosion didn't destroy the property, it blew out all the windows, and blasted the door some distance, as it was found in a field, on the other side of Wood Lane. The inhabitants of the whole terrace, shaken by the blast, were soon outside, and witnessed Simons wife, burnt around her eyes and arms, dash through the smoke and drifting debris. " They are all killed ", she screamed, and she wasn't far wrong. Searching through the rubble of what had been a house, they found four and a half year old Thomas Parker, mangled, mutilated and stone dead. Simon Parker himself, was carried from the smoking remains of the building, bady burnt, and with some severe damage to his right leg. ( it was later amputated ) The young Simon, aged 6, was also very badly burnt, as was the baby, un-named in this report. The blast had been heard over a large area, and soon a big crowd began to gather. Police Sergeant Bakewell, fearing that what remained would collapse, had the house quickly boarded up, which also preservered the crime scene. Very astute was Sergeant Bakewell. Inquests have a habit of throwing up a few questions, which is why the police combed through the wreakage, looking for the remains of the Can in which the powder had been stored. They found nothing, which led to the suspicion that the powder had been stored either in a bag, or a cardboard box. For those with an interest, both young Simon and the Baby died shortly afterwards, and despite him having lost his leg, he found himself a very unpopular man in West Bromwich. There being no evidence of just how the powder exploded, Simon Parker was never charged with anything. Being stupid it seems, isn't a crime.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

On the 7th October, 1847, the manager of the Gas Works in Walsall, received a message that there was a smell of gas in the parish Church, Saint Matthews. When he arrived, it was evident that the report was correct, and it seemed to be coming from beneath the ancient floorboards. Work began at once, for it would have been a terrible sin to have sent the congregation to meet their maker, before their alloted time was actually up. He did not though find a leak, for although the pipes were rusty, they did, when tested, prove to be sound. Puzzled, the Gas Manager had the meter removed, making sure all the connections were sound before taking the item back to the works for checking. On Sunday the 10th, the morning and evening Service went ahead as arranged, although several concerned souls did mention the nasty smell. A bit fed up with this, the Church beadle, James Lunn, waiting until all the congregation had left just before 8 pm, decided to see what he could find. Taking a lighted candle, he began an exploration of the area where the smell of gas was strongest. As the reader will have worked out by now, this was a stupid thing to do, and enevitably, there was a violent explosion. The beautiful stained glass windows were blown out into the street, the pews, where people had minutes before been sitting were splintered into little pieces. The whole church, including the corpse of James Lunn, was covered in the many bits of shattered plasterwork that rained down from the damaged ceiling. The damage amounted to a sum just over £1,000, which for 1847, was a vast sum of money. Five minutes earlier, and the death toll would have been very much higher. The inquest, which had no option but to bring in an accidental death verdict, enabled the Coroner to express the wish that in future, " only scientific persons " should be employed to manage gas in Churches and Chapels. Not a mention of why the supply wasn't turned off by the manager of the gas works, who should have known the danger, even when he couldn't find the leak. I wonder if the congregation, had a good whip round for the poor beadle, James Lunn, wafted off to the lord on a cloud, a cloud of gas that is.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 6, 2013 at 3:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now Colliers did a whole range of different jobs down a Pit. one of which was causing explosions. Not the sort that normally killed folk, but doing what was known in the trade as " shot firing ". This entailed, drilling a hole in the coal face, stuffing it with a quantity of gunpowder, ramming in a makeshift fuse, lighting it, and running like hell for cover. Despite what I have just written, it was a highly skilled job, for many miners trusted their lives to a competant shot firer. Thomas Williams was just such a man, highly dependable, well liked, and good at his work. He wasn't so good when it came to a bit of care with the tools of his trade. These men always made their own fuses, this was done, by the simple means of filling thin lengths of straw with finely ground gunpowder. Williams made his at home, keeping a can of gunpowder hanging from a wooden beam in his house. His children were quite used to him making them at the kitchen table. On the morning of 2nd Febrauary, 1859, he went to work as usual, leaving his three children, and a neighbours child, alone in the house. Children, as we all know, need things to keep them occupied, and not having much on this day, they decided to have a bit of fun. Taking down the can, the older two, Sarah, his daughter, and Ann, the neighbours daughter, filled a few and as setting one on fire produced a shower of sparks, lit a second. There was a mighty explosion, which blew out all the windows of the small cottage, and set 12 year old Sarah on fire. Alerted by the big bang, the neighbours managed to extract the children from the wreakage, and douse the burning clothes of Sarah. She was though, very badly burned, but managed to tell the local Policeman, that it was she who had taken down the can of gunpowder. She died, in agony, on the 4th February. Although the Coroner, and the Jury, condemned Thomas Williams for his careless handling and storage of the explosive, they were unable to bring in any other verdict than " Accidently Death ".  I suspect I know where some Jury members, would have liked to stuff his home made fuses.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 26, 2014 at 2:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Oldbury Chemical Explosion. 1869.


Along the banks of the Birmingham Navigation Canal, as it winds it's way through Oldbury, were several Refiners of Metals, a large maker of Glass, and at least two Distillers of Tar. The Town had long been a centre for these industries, and by and large, there had been very few accidents. Roughly on the site where the firm of the Midland Tar Distilleries would eventualy be, stood the site, in 1869, of Ludwig Demuths Tar Works. The Company had started up in 1866, had an excellent safety record, and carried on the business with all the due care and attention you could wish for. ( unlike others who floated every regulation in the book )  On the morning of 10th March, 1869, at 8.30 am, George Shapcoat, the works manager, watched as the fire under one still was set, and then charged it with between 1,500, and 1,600 gallons of Tar. A similar scene followed at two other stills, and he then left the days work to a very experienced man, Joseph Forrester. To help him look after the three stills, and to keep the fuel supply going, he had three men. He reported to Shapcoat at 9.15 am, that the process of distillation had begun. ( The Tar was boiling and the fumes were going into the Condensers) All that was required from now on, and for the next 8 hours, was for him to maintain the fires at the correct levels. Down at the Canal, a short distance away, Samuel Pickerill, and James Ellement were unloading, and wheeling to the stills, barrows of slack from two moored narrow boats. Simeon Rollason assisting with the operation, each man taking a turn with the shovelling of over 40 tons of coal. At 1.15pm, Henry Forrester, working about 30 yards from the three stills, heard a very loud bang, and was then hit by a flying brick. When he looked up, from his position on the ground, he saw a huge volume of flames and smoke rising from the site of the stills, and Rollason, on fire from head to foot. From out of the wreaked office came Ludwig Demuth, and assisted by George Shapcoat, who had been nearer, but was sheltered by the now ruins of the Laboratory, they tried to tear off Rollasons burning clothes. He was very badly burned. One man escaped the flames by jumping into the canal and swimming to the other side, pulled out by the men from the Copper works. Within a few minutes, it seemed, the whole town was lining the Canal banks and the roadway, as the sound of the Blast had carried around the district. The Distilleries own steam powered fire pump, set in the centre of the site, was out of action, and couldn't be reached anyway, the huge blaze was too fierce. Most of the surrounding works had their own Fire Brigades, who arrived within minutes, to tackle a fire that threatend to engulph the Copper Works, Mr Richardsons Works, and Chances Glass works. Luckily, the wind began to blow in the opposite direction. The fire, now fed by the hundreds of stacked and full barrels of Naptha, Benzine, Tar, and other distilled liquids, continued to burn for many hours, and covered the area in a thick blanket of heavy smoke. Even when it was at last under control, finding the the three missing men, in the badly damaged site, was a dangerous and hazardous task.


There were many willing hands. eager to help. some, inadvertantly moving many empty Barrels instead off the full ones. Several of the fireman were burnt, two from the Oldbury Wagon and Carriage Works, and many more affected by the smoke and fumes. Throughout  the incident, both the Owner, the Manager, and the remaining workforce, worked like trojans to prevent another explosion, thankfully, they were successful. It takes a temperature of around 1,500 degrees to totally consume a body, and the chances of anyone at the heart of this fire surviving were nil. When it was cool enough, a pathetic little pile of ash and bones were found by a wall near one of the stills. At this stage, the searchers were only looking for one missing man, so when Samuel Pickerill's father, carefully. and with tears of anguish in his eyes, gathered up what was thought to be the remains of his son, no questions were asked. When another pile of human remains were discovered, and a pair of clogs nearby, this partialy destroyed body was positively identified as Samuel Pickerill, the other remains were those of James Ellement, and one can only imagine, the extra horror that Pickerills father endured, when they came to take away what he thought was his son. Simeon Rollason, very badly burned. had already been taken home, for there was no chance, that a man so badly injured, was ever going to survive such appalling injuries. Attended by a surgeon, and with his family around him, he died later that day. There wasn't much left to bury, of Halesowen born Joseph Forrester, and all his family, back home in Halesowen Street, Oldbury, could do, was weep, for the father of four young children.


Distillation of any liquids, is a dangerous business, but as the Inquest learned, this Company, unlike many, had taken no short cuts with it's safety measures. On site, was a new, and powerful stationary Steam pumping engine, all the boilers were inspected every week,(  made by Danks of Oldbury )  made from high quality iron, well designed, and mostly,  less than 3 years old. The one that exploded, the smallest one on site, was barely three months old, almost an inch thick at the base, and half an inch thick at the sides and to the top. It was 7 feet in diameter, and had a capacity of 2,100 gallons. It was fitted with a 2 inch pipe, which was connected to a worm Condenser, and another pipe, which led the resulting distilled liquid away from the furnace fire. It had been passed as safe just two daya before, and a week before that, had passed the inspection of the Insurance Companies engineers.  So what went wrong?


Ludwig Demuth, reluctant to blame his man in charge of the stills, Joseph Forrester, had no option but to put forward the likely cause of the blast. During the process of distilling Naptha, if the fire under the boiler went low, this would allow crystals to form, blocking both the feed pipe to the condenser, and the condenser itself. This would, when the fire was increased, raise the pressure in the Boiler, causing an eventual explosion. Others in the trade, agreed with this, as the only way this accident could have happened. Evidence gathered, suggested that this was indeed  what occured, ( given that distillation had begun at 9.15am ) after Forrester had piled on more slack ( coal ) to get the fire up to it's standard temperature. Experienced as he was, Joseph Forrester, on this occassion, had been not been paying proper attention, and caused the loss of three other lives, as well as his own. The Coroner's Jury returned a verdict of Accidently Death, following in the owners footsteps, of being reluctant to put the blame on a dead man.


James Ellement, aged 22, Samuel Pickerill, aged 22, Simeon Rollason, aged 26, and Joseph Forrester, aged 37, and the father of at least 4 Children.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 4, 2017 at 5:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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