Boiler explosion, Greenbank Pottery, 1863

Liverpool Mercury, Aug 15th 1863

Dreadful boiler explosion at St Helens

On Thursday night a dreadful boiler explosion occurred at the pottery of Messers DOULTON'S known as the Greenbank Pottery in St Helens, whereby a large amount of property was destroyed and considerable injury inflicted to human life.

The works, which are very extensive, are situated on the westerly side of the St Helens Canal, between the Patent Alkali Works and Pottery St, and consist of large blocks of buildings, the grinding room, press rooms, drying rooms etc, in the midst of which was the engine and boiler houses, the whole being in the centre of a yard enclosed by a high wall. There were three large boilers lying parallel, all imbedded in brick and stone work, one recently erected by Messers ROBINSON and COOK to work at a pressure of 40lbs, to the square inch, and it was this one that suddenly exploded on Thursday evening shortly after 8pm. Had it happened a few hours earlier the destruction to human life would have been very great, as upwards of 50 persons are employed on the premises, and 25 had only left the room immediately over the boiler-house a short time previous to the accident.

Fortunately there were few workmen about at the time, and the engineer, John HARRISON and Patrick LYON who was wheeling clay across the yard, were the only workpeople who appear to have received any injury. They were bruised in different parts of the body. When the explosion took place, the boiler was raised in the air completely demolishing the building in its vicinity, and it then separated, one part flying 40yds over a wall 4 or 5yds high, and burying itself in a cottage in Pottery St, occupied by a widow woman named Ellen PYE. The front wall of the house was knocked down, and most of the windows of the houses adjacent were broken by the shock. A girl named Ann PYE, aged about 15, was sitting knitting stockings at the door of her mother's house, when she was struck by the boiler and debris of the falling building. Both her legs were crushed and fractured, and she was also burned by the boiler, which was almost red hot. Her right leg was afterwards amputated and she now lies in a critical state. Mrs PYE who with another woman was engaged mangling in one part of the house was also injured, but not seriously, and the mangle destroyed. The roof of another house was also broken through by the falling bricks.

The other part of the boiler was thrown in the opposite direction, smashing a considerable pile of draining tiles and lodging itself against the yard wall of the alkali works. Great fear was held that some of the workmen were buried in the debris, but soon after the report they all made their appearance. The fire bell was rung and the firemen were soon in attendance with the engine, and played on the heated boiler.

A large crowd of persons assembled at the spot and remained searching the premises for several hours. How the accident happened is not stated, but from the heated state of the iron it would appear that the boiler was short of water.

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