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Warrenby Disaster

The Saddest Day

Transcript of newspaper article

From: North Eastern Daily Gazette: Saturday 15th June 1895.








Consternation prevails in Cleveland today. A boiler explosion, almost unprecedented in the annals of English industry, -- certainly in iron manufacture – occurred last night at the Warrenby Ironworks, killing four men outright and injuring many, some fatally. Nearly all the workmen live in Warrenby, a village near Coatham, and the white blinds at the windows and fanlights show where the inmates have been suddenly cast into mourning. One cannot fail to be reminded of the scenes in colliery villages in Durham after an explosion, when neighbours show their sympathy for the victims by drawing down the blinds, and the place seems touched by a universal woe. That is the case in Warrenby today. The villagers were preparing to go to rest last night at sunset with scarce a thought of what the morrow should bring, but today finds them thankful for providential escape or rescue, or sorrowing for those who were most dear. Even the children cannot play. They seem fully on the alert, and, only partly comprehending the awfulness of the event which has passed without affecting their future, perhaps converse upon the latest item in what is the general topic amongst men and women, gathered in groups as if by instinct, as cattle do till a thunderstorm passes.

The works were erected in 1872, when the whole of the boilers, with one exception, were put down. No. 15 was added a month ago. They belong to Walker, Maynard, and Co., of Middlesbrough, and employ over 200 men, most of whom live in Warrenby; indeed the village has assumed its present large dimensions as the works have developed. About supper-time last night, when the furnaces were just being tapped, and many of the furnacemen had gone to the cabins to partake of their first meal on the night-shift, an explosion occurred. It was fortunate in a sense that the accident occurred at this time, for during the day a much larger staff of men is employed, and the consequences must have been much more terrible, serious though they be. Whether the explosion took place in one boiler or more at the same time is not known, and the probable origins of it will only be a guess, even in the hands of experts. It may be that one of the boilers in which the steam is generated by gas and not coal, may have run short of water through some cause or other, and exploding, started the ripping process which usually occurs when one of a set of boilers bursts. This, however, is mere conjecture. A slight explosion occurred, followed by the upheaval of a large quantity of brickwork and masonry, together with the bulk of the boilers, the ends of which were scattered in all directions, some being as far as five hundred yards from where they were originally situated.

Five of the boilers lie in a heap over 200 feet from the chimney stack, which has escaped with scarcely a crack or fracture in a most miraculous manner, though from the top stones to the first course it has been bathed in scalding water, steam, and smoke. Beyond these, and clear of the slag-bank, two of these sixty-feet, cylindrical boilers, made with latitudinal plates, have been thrown clear into a field containing cattle. One end of each of these has been blown out. The other end is bashed, battered, and torn by flying plates of other boilers, which, though weighing several tons, have been twisted and crushed like pieces of ribbon. Some of the ends were shot through between the furnaces which lie in a line running north and south, and two portions weighing between two and three tons fell just short of the weigh-house, where several men were eating their supper when the accident occurred. Other portions have been sent four or five hundred yards in a northerly direction. Some of the boilers are cut as clean as a sharp hatchet would pierce a tin can. On No. 14’s a clean thrust about 2 feet long has been made.

A wall seven or eight bricks thick, lying length-wise into which the boilers were built, has been shattered and demolished. These bricks were hurled on to the gantry through the pumping-house, forcing out the northern wall, and covering the pumps with debris, through the blast engine-houses, which littered with glass woodwork, stones, and dust, past the chimney stack on either side, into the engine-shed, the windows of which were blown out. The blast-furnace engines, which are four in number, are non-the worse, except for dust, &c. An entirely different state of affairs prevails in the pumping house, where the engineer must have had a miraculous escape. The two hot-water pumps used for feeding the boilers with hot water are damaged, and the four cold-water pumps are littered with bricks. The pug mill between the engine-house and the reservoir has been blown clean away. Behind this again stands a “tanky” engine actually in motion at the time. The valve is still open, but locomotion was prevented by the volley of bricks which rained over in this direction. The engine is a complete fixture, and even the dome itself is battered in, the gauge glass broken, the lookout lights blown out, and brass fittings, such as lubricators and taps, wrenched clean off. The engine itself is wheel deep in debris, and the fireman had a miraculous escape. The plating on the back of the cab seems to have been pierced with some boiler fitting for it is as cleanly holed as a small shell could have done it. The leftside under the cab is closed for the purpose of holding coke and coal, and he sprang over this, leapt on to the wagon-way and ran for his very life. He was fearfully scalded, but the poor fellow went bravely on, ultimately falling from sheer exhaustion. Even the stacks of pig iron afforded no protection. The wagon-way running between the two stacks of metal was wellnigh impassable owing to the quantity of bricks and woodwork that had been showered over.

Had the metal not been tapped before the explosion the consequences would have been much more serious to the firm when the works have to be restarted. The bulk of the metal had been got rid of, but had it been allowed to remain it would have cooled, and totally destroyed the furnaces. The effect of the explosion on the two first blastfurnaces is noteworthy. The tuyures have been blown completely out, and indeed one man was blown on to the hot metal bed and shockingly and fatally burnt. The cabin used by the front-side men was literally smashed to pieces, the wooden roof being battered in and the south window blown out. One man sitting on the outside had evidently been preparing to light his pipe, and strange to say the matchbox, with the case removed, a sutty pipe, and its tin cap all remain in their place on the seat. The pipe itself, however, seems to have been put down hurriedly and the shank and bowl are detached. Inside there are evidences of the men having been in the act of taking their meal. Supper cans are standing on the table, and a tin tea can standing on the benches has been crushed in at the top with a brick. The lid itself is nowhere to be seen.

Some of the newlycast pigs of metal have been wrenched off from the beds and hurled a considerable distance. In one of the beds , which this morning were still hot, was a man’s boot and pair of trousers firmly fixed, and forming a gruesome sight. A workman with his dog near these two furnaces observed the animal viciously seize something and commence to ravenously devour it. He was just in time to prevent it, and compelled it to disgorge what proved to be a piece of human flesh. Drinkwater, a waggonman, heard the report when he had climbed on to a wagon near the boilers. It was a tremor of the air like a great boom or hum, and he dropped behind the wagon, which a moment afterwards was literally showered with bricks. The coke in the trucks is blasted in the broken bricks. He was appalled a few moments after the explosion to find what an upheaval there had been, and what destruction had been wrought. Nothing perhaps will give a better idea than the fact that a huge six-ton movable crane which was on the rails in close proximity to the boilers, was bodily thrown high into the air, falling about thirty yards off, a wrecked heap of atoms. The bogey lies a little further away with its wheels in the air. As may be gathered from this account, which is a mere narration of fact, and incomplete at that, the loss must be enormous. All attempts at estimate must be within the mark until expert engineers and valuers have an opportunity to confer and make an estimate based upon their observation and their experience.

Those who saw the explosion, though very few did see it, say that their attention was attracted by a dull thud, and a huge globular cloud of steam was seen to rise in the direction from whence it came. At once there was great excitement in the village, and a rush to the works. Doctors were sent for, and they had work and enough to do. It was thought by the workmen that nearly all the men at No. 1 and 2 furnaces would be killed. They were astonished to find so few killed, and that so many had escaped a sudden death. Many, of course, had sustained worse injuries than was first supposed. Men were lying in all directions, and one was crying out, “Lord have mercy upon me.” His face and neck were covered with blood. Barker, the boiler man, had to be dug out of a mass of bricks. He was quite hidden away, and many watched his rescue. One portion of a boiler was blown on the top of the gantry. The water and steam had been carried a great height, and showered down upon the men, scalding them severely. Amongst those who were present was the Roman Catholic priest, (Father McMahon), and Mr. Walker one of the firm, from Saltburn. The whole of the doctors belonging to Redcar were engaged in the work of dressing the injured, and superintending their removal. Several of the bodies are lying at the Warrenby Hotel, and one of them is practically unrecognisable. Part of the hand was blown away, the skin scalded and torn off the body, and the features of the face destroyed by burns and scalds. The workmen who had escaped were very active in rendering assistance to their less fortunate comrades. The cries of the injured are said to have been heartrending.

H. Barker, boilerman, Coney-street, Warrenby.
Robt. Wray, helper,
Decoy-street, Warrenby.
Edward Dooley, keeper, Coatham.
Peter McCarthy, charger,
Widgeon street, Warrenby.
Peter Moore, minefiller, Plover-street, Warrenby
John Gale, minefiller, Warrenby.
Geo. Wallace, keeper, 67, James-terrace, Warrenby.
James Halligan, minefiller, 50, James-terrace, Warrenby.
Edward Ayton, locomotive man.
Six of the unfortunate men were married, Barker laving two children, Wray four, McCarthy four, Moors two, and Gale two, a total of six widows and thirteen children being left unprovided for by the shocking occurrence. Barker, Wray, Dooley and McCarthy sustained such frightful injuries as to cause their deaths before they were discovered by their horror stricken mates. Moore, Halligan, Gale and Wallace have died since, the last named just after eight o’clock this morning. He had not been long married.

Among the many who sustained more or less serious injuries are a locomotive man named Murphy and another named Edward Ayton, who succumbed today. They both suffered from scalds. This morning two of the injured were conveyed from Redcar by train to the Cottage Hospital, North Ormesby. Their names are John Kelly, who has a compound fracture of the left leg, and Michael Carnegie, who has an arm several ribs broken.

One of our representatives had an interview with nurse Annandale this morning. As soon s the facts of the explosion and the extent of the devastation became known, the medical men of the district came to attend the injured. So numerous were the people who came to visit the scene that it was almost impossible to attend the dying. Nurse Annandale says she had never seen such terrible burns. She had sat up all night with two of the injured, and occasionally assisted others. Prior to her leaving Redcar this morning a man was found covered with slag and other debris. His features were recognisable, and portions of the flesh were burned from the bones “Before night falls,” she said, “ some of the injured will have passed away.”

She could not speak too highly of the valuable assistance that had been rendered to the injured by their fellow workmen. When Carnegie became aware that he was going to the Cottage Hospital, he smiled and made the remark that he would soon recover. He had been an inmate of the Hospital about fourteen years ago.
Messrs Walker, Maynard, and Co., whose relations with their employees are cordial and creditable, can scarcely find words adequate to express their sympathy with the relatives of the victims of the dreadful accident, and their sorrow for the sufferers. They feel the position keenly, and sympathise deeply with the workmen thrown idle through no fault on either side. Those who are now at home or in the hospital undergoing physical suffering will feel their pain somewhat lessened by the heartfelt sympathy of the members of the firm by which they were employed.

The locomotive man, Edward Ayton, succumbed to his injuries about noon
Several of the injured were brought to the Cottage Hospital as the day advanced.

Warrenby Disaster 14 June 1895

North Eastern Daily Gazette

14 June 1895 Report of Accident

17 June 1895 Northern Notes
(3 paras)

The Warrenby Disaster
Public Relief Fund Opened
The Injured At The Cottage Hospital
Letter from Mr. H. Fell Pease, M.P.

The Inquest (Adjourned)

18 June 1895 The Warrenby Disaster
Funerals Of The Victims
Condition Of The Injured
The Relief Fund (Letter from Hon Sec)
Latest Details

19 June 1895 The Redcar Explosion
Another Death
A Parallel Disaster
27 Boilers Burst

Cricket Match In Aid Of The Fund
Suggested Promenade Concert
Vote Of Sympathy
Donation of £50 From Colonel Ropner (Part of letter)

22 June 1895 The Warrenby Disaster
Adjourned Inquest
The Explosion Caused By Overheating
Verdict Of The Jury

24 June 1895 The Warrenby Disaster

25 June 1895 The Warrenby Explosion

03 July 1895 The Warrenby Relief Fund

13 July 1895 The Warrenby Explosion
(Notice of Date of Board of Trade enquiry)

17 July 1895 The Warrenby Ironworks Disaster
Board Of Trade Enquiry

18 July 1895 The Redcar Ironworks Disaster
Board Of Trade Enquiry
Sensational Evidence

19 July 1895 The Redcar Disaster
Board Of Trade Enquiry

22 July 1895 The Redcar Disaster
Allwood The Engineer Censured
The Firm To Pay £200 Costs
The Insurance Company Blamed
Long Cylindrical Boilers Condemned

23 July 1895 Continuation of 22 July 1895
Same Headings

Researched by Jim White



Of the unfortunate men who lost their lives in the
Boiler Explosions


NEAR Redcar-by-the-Sea in the village of Warrenby,
Sorrow and dismay is spread around,
For grief, alas, has come to many happy homes,
And weeping wives and children they are found,
That fatal Friday night, when all things looked so bright,
To their labour went these honest sons of toil,
They had no thought of fear, ne’er dreampt that death was near,
And left their wives and children with a smile.


But now, alas, the’re gone, and loving ones they mourn
Their dear ones who in death sleep peacefully.
But they’re only gone before to a bright and happy shore,
The victims of this sad calamity.

The furnaces that night as usual seemed all right,
And the men had tapped a cast and all sat down
They were chatting cheerily, no danger did they see,
Till they heard that dreadful rumbling sound.
Then came an awful crash, and thought they made a rush
For safety, for some it was in vain
Beneath the debris they rushed and helpless lay
And would ne’er their wives and children see again.

When at last the air was clear, oh, what a night was there,
Poor fellows, they lay helpless neath the stones,
Heartrending ‘twas to see this sad calamity.
And listen to the injured’s awful groans
And plucky Dooly, who done all that he can do
With his broken arm, deserves some praise, say we
For of such a man so bold, in letters of bright gold,
Should be written down his bravery.

God help their dear ones left, of all they are bereft,
Their only breadwinner, alas, has gone.
God help them in their grief and send them to relief,
For little children will be left alone.
But Yorkshire folk, we know a little will bestow
To soothe the widows and the orphans pain,
For in a land above where all is peace and love.
They will be united once again


from A Pictorial history by Phil Philo

Memorium card

In Memory of loved ones

The card was contributed by Colin Barker

The Iron works

UNTIL the 1870’s. Redcar and Coathanm had remained outside the the area of industrial growth along the banks of the Tees. In 1873 an iron works was established about a mile from Coatham. There were six blast furnaces; the two blast furnaces of Coatham Ironworks, north of the railway line were erected by Messrs. Downey and Company: the four furnaces of the Redcar Works, south of the railway were completed the following year for Messrs. Walker, Maynard and Company. The opening of the ironworks was reported without great enthusiasm in the local newspapers. It was probably considered that the reputations of Redcar and Coatham as resorts would not be enhanced by publishing extensive details of the new industry and its proximity to the townships, in a district of previously unspoiled countryside. The press reports were short and insignificant.

On Tusday, No. I furnace at Coatham Ironworks was tapped for the first time, having been put in blast the previous morning. No. 2 furnace will be blown today.”

Redcar and Saltburn News, 12th June, 1873.

It is difficult to ascertain the number employed at the ironworks

In Memory of the men who lost their lives in the explosion

St. Andrew’s Mission Church — Warrenby

The Mission Church was built at Warrenby in 1883 during the ministry of the Rev. CA. Daniels.
The church contained some beautiful stained glass
windows by Sir Edward Burns-Jones.
Up to 1930 the church was enclosed on the outside by T & O boards and when these were taken off, under the east window a large cross painted in red was exposed and underneath the words — ‘In memory of the men who lost their lives in the
At the local works of Walker Maynard a battery of standing boilers exploded killing a number of men and injuring many more. The boards were taken off the church in order to build a red brick wall right round up to the eves and to also build an organ chamber in memory of the late Rev. CD. Ranson, Curate at Coatham, and for many years, Curate-in-charge of Warrenby. Memorial stones were laid to commemerate the restoration of St. Andrew’s Church and also the disaster which occurred at the Works on June 14th, 1895. These two stones were laid by the Archdeacon of Cleveland, the Venerable IS. Lindsay. The official opening of the organ chamber and Priest’s vestry took place on July 28th, 1931 when the address was given by the Bishop of Whitby.

from A book written by Alfred Baldwin

A Beautiful Summer Evening

A BEAUTIFUL summer evening was shattered and left a community devastated when 12 boilers in nearby ironworks exploded.
Warrenby, now one of Cleveland’s disappearing villages, never quite recovered from that tragedy on the evening on June 14, 1895.
The area become Beruit-like within seconds when 12 boilers - all made locally - exploded, killing four men instantly, with eight men dying shortly afterwards from injuries sustained.
Hard-working men who were their family’s only breadwinner were victims in the explosion which inspired people to write poems and photographers to capture pictures of the wreckage.
Two such photographs
- taken by a Coatham photographer named John G Hoggard have been preserved over the years by the the family of one victim. Peter McCarthy was of Irish origin and had come to the North-east to find work to support his wife Bridget and their family. When he died, Peter left his widow and their four children Peter. John, Barbara and James living at 83 Todd Point Road.
Barbara later became Mrs McNulty and her daughter lonora is 91, yet still cherishes the photographs and a poem telling of the rescue operation mounted soon after the 9.l6 pm explosion.
One verse tells of the reactoin of children:
Little groups of children in the village stood next day, Their tiny limbs were motionless they were too afraid to play, They knew that some sad calamity had bought sorrow to their home, So Oiev stood still on the caiiseivay they had no desire to roam. Honora, now Mrs Jeffcock andliving at Billingham kindly loans one of the photographs via her daughter Mrs Moyra Bentley. of Fryupdale, near Danby.
The impact of the Warrenhy Explosion on the life of another family is still recalled by Harry Wray, a grandson of victim Robert Wray, who clearly was in the wrong place at then wrong time. the father of three. living at Widgeon Street, Warrenbv, had been encouraged by his young wife to work another mans shift as a stagger - to help the famiy finances.
He didn’t work there; it was the first time he had been there. but this sort of thing happened’. says Larry, of MiddlesbroUgh. His family had moved from Leyburn in North Yorkshire and Robert worked for a short while as groomsman to Hugh Bell, says Harry Wray.
His father Thomas William Wray was later enrolled at Sir William Turner’s hoarding school for poor children’ at Kirkleatham.
“It was a tough life for them, but he had a good education”, says Larry, recalling that his father served his time as a joiner, later working for Robinsons timber yard on the Stevenson Street/South Bank Road corner, before joining Hudsons of Fiddler Street and Cargo Fleet Works. “He never said much about the explosion but it was a hard life”, says Harry a former Middlesbrough councillor and trades unionist. His interest in the explosion was sparked when he read the official report into the causes and recommendations, noting that insurers had repeatedly warned of dangers at the works. The boilers at the Warrenhy works, owned by Walker, Maynard and Co. had been made locally by Cochranes, Head Wrightson, Teesdale Iron Works and Hopkins Gilkes and Co.
Ironically, the insurance company which had repeatedly given the firm warnings of the dangerous condition of the boilers was later blamed for the explosion although its warnings went unheeded
An Excerpt from an article shown in Remember When