Monday 8 November 2010

Aldersgate Underground Bomb

That's right, Aldersgate - now Barbican Station. Before the 2005 bombs, there were several bombs on Underground trains and stations in the 19th century. Here's one example (the culprit an 'anarchist or madman', never caught) ...



Just before a "Circle" train travelling from Farringdon-street to Aldersgate-street had come to a standstill at the latter station at one nnnute past seven on Monday evening, a disastrous explosion occurred in a frst-class carriage in the middle of the train. Both the station officials and the passengers were for a moment seized with panic, as the doors and other portions of the wrecked carriage were hurled across the station. Several passengers were hurt, and those who saw no other means of escape leaped an to the rails and dashed across the lines to the furthest part of the platform. The terror was extreme for the brief period that it lasted, and a worse disaster was avenged by other trains not entering the station. The gas on the Metropolitan side of the station had been put out by the explosion, and, standing in the semi-darkness, the wrecked carriage, still attached in its original position to the train, looked a remarkable object. The roof and sides of the carriage had completely disappeared; but the body of the carriage was secure, though badly damaged. The aperture made in the centre of the compartment was V-shaped, the upper part being the widest. The flooring in the centre presented a huge hole, blackened and jagged at the edges. It was nearly round, and was about three yards in circumference. The ease of one of the ceiling lamps of one of the wrecked compartments was all that was left by the explosion, the force of which had hurled it upwards, but, still adhering to the gas-pipe which runs along the roof of the coaches, it had fallen over the off side of the next compartment. where it remained suspended at a level with the window strap. The glass in the train was wrecked, while the adjoining metals were strewn with woodwork and debris. The whole of the Metropolitan traffic had to he suspended, and this caused temporary delay on the other suburban lines.

    At first it was supposed that the gas chamber at the bottom of the coach had burst, but this theory has been disproved by experts.
    On the arrival of the injured persons at the hospital it was seen that there was at least one very serious case—that of a man named Pitts, aged 35, of 31, Wickham-road, Coleraine-park, Tottenham, who died shortly after in the institution. The following is a list of those who were injured :—William Hall, aged 22, of 3, Cambridge-street, Hyde-park ; Paul Geogi, 35, of 27, Shepherd's-bush-road; Sarah Ship, aged 50, C Block, Polygon-buildings, Clarendon- square, St. Pancras; William Daniel, 33, of 30, Abdale-road, Shepherd's-bush; Arthur Spawforth, 33, of 94, Fordwych-road, Brondesbnry; Theophilus Trustrum, 35, of 17, Albert-road, Forest-lane, Stratford; Mr. Nelson, of 12, Portland-terrace, St. John's-wood; Arthur Washtell, 14, of 29, Stanmore-street, Caledonian-road; Simon Israel, 22, of 22, Latimer-street, Stepney. The injured persons were received by the house-surgeon, and the first seven mentioned were admitted as in-patients. Police-constable 801 (City police force) John Sutton, who was at the station at the time of the explosion, in the ordinary course of his duties as a plain-clothes officer, also sustained injuries, his right leg and left thumb being cut. He was taken at first to St. Bartholomew's, where his injuries were dressed; and he was afterwards removed to the City Police hospital in Bishopsgate-street.
    A Press representative secured an interview with the station-master at Aldersgate-street station, who said:- "I was standing just here (by the bookstall on the central platform). Just as the train drew up I was sensible of a terrific explosion. My first impression was that something had come through the glass roof, for it . was the splintering of glass which I first understood. Then all was confusion. Passengers came out from the carriages screaming, and demanding to know what had happened." The reporter was asked to lookup above the station, and he there saw large fragments of woodwork, portions of the wrecked carriage, entangled amongst the iron girders of the glass roof full 50 feet overhead.
    The box of a ticket examiner had one pane of glass completely removed, while another was shattered. The examiner deseribes the sensation of the explosion thus: "It seemed as if I was lifted upwards several times and dropped violently on the ground.. I don't want, another sensation like it."
    Pitts, the victim of the explosion, was foreman with an Alderagate-street firm, and leaves a wife and three children. He appears to have been in an adjoining carriage when the explosion occurred. When taken up, only partly conscious, one of his legs was shattered, and his only question to the officials was, "Where am I? How did I get here?"
Colonel Majendie and Captain Thomson paid a visit to Aldersgate station on Tuesday, accompanied by representatives of the City police and the Criminal Investigation department, and officials of the Metropolitan Railway company, for the purpose of making an examination of the permanent way, platforms, and the roof of the station, which had been damaged. Subsequently the inspecting officers proceeded to Moorgate-street station to examine the carriages and debris of the wrecked train, which had been removed to a siding. The inspection lasted for over two hours, and the decision come to was opposed to the notion that gas was the destructive agency. So far as it was possible to learn nothing has been found which would confirm the theory that a bomb had been placed in the carriage before the train arrived at Aldersgate. It was officially stated that the explosion had spent the maximum of its force in a downward direction, than spreading longitudinally  and upwards. After the examination Inspector Melville and other officers of the Criminal Investigation department proceeded to make inquiries into the mysterious occurrence, as there is reasonable ground for supposing that an explosive had been placed in the carriage.
    Sir F. Abel, on behalf of the Metropolitan Railway company, examined the wrecked coach on Tuesday afternoon, and endorsed the theory of the company that an explosion was caused by a detonator of some kind, and was not attributable to gas.
    An inquest was opened on Friday, at St. Bartholomew's hospital, before Mr. Arthur Longhorn, upon the body of Henry Pitts. The coroner said that as regarded the procedure that day he was obliged by a clause in the Explosives Act to hold no inquiry unless there. was present an inspector or some other person to represent the Secretary of State, in order to watch the proceedings. Colonel Majendie had written to say that he was engaged that day at a committee of the House of Commons on the subject of petroleum, and therefore could not be present, and it had been arranged that he should have time to complete his inquiry into the circumstances of the explosion before the jury were called together again.—The jury then proceeded to view the body, and upon their return Mr. Mason said he appeared on behalf of the Metropolitan Railway company, and the directors desired through him to express their deep sympathy with those who were injured by the explosion, as well as with the widow and the relatives of the dead man. If there was anyone injured or any persons suffering because of the injury sustained by any one belonging to them, whose case had not been brought to the knowledge of the directors, be was instructed to state that the directors desired to be communicated with without delay, in order to render such assistance as was necessary under the circumstances, — James Pitts, of 114, Beaconsfield-road, Tottenham, carpenter, said the body shown to the jury was that of his brother, Harry Pitts. He was 35 years of age. He last saw him alive on Monday evening at 6.30. He was then in good health.--This *as all the evidence taken; and the inquiry was then adjourned until May 24.
    A fund is being. raised by the firm and its employ√©s, and also by some friends, on behalf of the widow and children of the late Mr. Harry Pitts, ''Subscriptions will be received by Mr. W. J. Hall, the manager to Mr. F. H. Ayres, 111, Aldersgate-street, B.C.
Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, May 2, 1897

1 comment:

  1. Very sad to read that terrorism took place even in the Victorian age.
    F.H Ayres were a marvellous manufacturer of many timber items especially, Chess Sets, Croquet sets, Billiard tables and of course their splendid rocking horses, the earlier and more superior extra carved models are amongst the best made in the World.
    The victim's brother was a carpenter, and I wonder if he too worked at F.H Ayres?
    The shock of the atrocity, the poor young man being mortally wounded, perhaps if it had happened today mr Pitt would have survived..
    But in that era, blood loss and shock could not as well treated as they are now.
    The men and women who worked at F.H Ayres were masters and mistresses of their crafts.
    When the firm was sold to Slazenger, the standard of rocking horses fell, they were still strongly made, but lacked the fine carving and lovely proportions of the true F.H Ayres 'glory days' models.