Explosion at the Birchills Iron Works, Green Lane

Walsall Free Press and South Staffordshire Advertiser, 16th October, 1875

About five o'clock yesterday afternoon a most alarming accident occurred at the works of Messrs. Jones & Co. of the Birchills Iron Works. It appears that the largest blast furnace had been tapped, and a portion of the metal run off into the pigs, when due to some cause or other not explained, the tuyère exploded, and scattered the molten iron in every direction. Such was the force of the explosion, that the whole of the windows in the office, which is about forty yards from the furnace, were completely demolished. Several of the men leapt into the canal to escape from the molten iron. Fortunately, the furnace was nearly empty when the explosion took place.

As it was, however, sixteen men were seriously - some, it is feared, fatally injured. As speedily as possible the poor sufferers were conveyed to the Cottage Hospital. Sister Dora, with that promptitude which characterizes all her actions, was fully equal to the occasion. The resources of the institution are limited; but, notwithstanding this, ample provision was speedily made for the sufferers. A ward was donated specially to their use, and in an incredibly short time their wounds were dressed, but the scene in the ward was one long to be remembered - the sight being of the most sickening description, whilst the groans of the sufferers were heartrending. The surgeons of the institution were promptly in attendance, and rendered efficient aid. The following is a list of the injured, some of whom were scalded and some burnt:-

George Jackson and Thomas Phillips, bricklayers, who were engaged in building a new furnace; burnt on arms and hands.

Thomas Flinn, Martin Cassidy, Alfred Denham, Thomas Armishaw, William Woodward, William Budworth, Morris Hughes, William Davies, John Ward, William Evans, Martin Velley, Joseph Wood, William Eyershaw - furnacemen.

One of the officials, who was in the office at the time, was also slightly burnt with cinder, while the papers on the desk were ignited. The damage done to the works is estimated at £200. As it was known that some of the men were in a critical condition, and not expected to live, the Rev. J. Bradley and the Rev. Daws of St. Matthew’s, were speedily in attendance and administered that spiritual consideration the poor sufferers so much needed.

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