1933 Explosion – Official Report

From
Mitcham News & Mercury
28th April 1933

OFFICIAL REPORT OF THE EXPLOSION
Council and the Housing of the Homeless

A SPECIAL report on the recent explosion at Messrs. W. J. Bush
and Co.’s lavender factory on March 30 was submitted at a meeting of the
Mitcham Council on Tuesday by Chief Officer A. G. Wells, of the Mitcham
Fire Brigade. The report reads:—

7.5 a.m.— Called by Phipp’s Bridge fire alarm (18).

7.61/2 a.m.— No. 1 appliance left with Second Officer Tilley, P.1 Walls, P.2
Shepherd, P.3 Burge, P.4 Pugh, A.1 Mackey, Chief Officer in charge.
Attendant Hedger, station duty.

7.11 a.m.— No. 2 appliance left with Station Officer Riley, P.5 Thompson,
R.1 Sheppard. Distance from station, 0.66 miles.

7.9 a.m.— Arrived and found extensive damage by explosion to W. J.
Bush and Co.’s premises, and property in Belgrave-road and streets
adjoining. An area of approximately 260 feet by 220 feet, consisting of
buildings of one and two floors used as distilling rooms, boiler rooms, offices and
store rooms, involved in fire.

7.20 a.m.— Called Wimbledon Fire Brigade as precautionary measure.

7.28 a.m.— Motor pump from Wimbledon, with second officer and five
men, arrived. Pascalls’ auxiliary section in attendance.

8.1 a.m.— Stop call from Batsworth-road fire alarm.

8.30 a.m.— Notified London Salvage Corps.

9 a.m.— London Salvage Corps in attendance.

9.26 a.m.—Appliances with Chief Officer and men returned. Extinguished
by firemen with two motor pumps, two hydrants, three lines of hose, 18 two-
gallon foam extinguishers, one ten-gallon foam extinguisher.

Cause.

Ignition of explosive vapour generated by the escape of a large quantity
of methylated spirit from 1,000-gallon still.

Workman Injured by Explosion.

Mr. Edward Dawson, 51 Fountain-road ;
Mr. James Wade, 48 Robinson-road ;
Mr. John Orfeur, 44 Woodstock-way ;
Mr. Frank Caplin, 8 Stanley-road, Morden.

Damage

W. J. Bush and Co., Ltd., Batsworth-road, lavender and essence
distillers. – A range of buildings of one and two floors
covering an area approximately 260 feet by 220 feet,
consisting of distilling rooms, store rooms, and offices,
laboratory and contents, severely damaged by explosion
and fire. Insured.

Messrs. T. and W. Farmiloe, Batsworth-road, varnish and paint
manufacturers. — A range of buildings of one and two floors, covering an area of 140 feet by 706 feet, used as a manufactory, offices and store rooms, damaged by
explosion, contents slightly by breakage.

Messrs. E. and F. Richardson, Batsworth-road, varnish and paint
manufacturers. — A range of buildings of one and two floors, covering an area
130 feet by 100 feet, used as manufactory, offices and store rooms, damaged by
explosion, contents slightly by breakage. Buildings and contents Insured.

Cock Chimney Works,. Donald Macpherson and Co., varnish and paint
manufacturers. — A range of buildings covering an area 250 feet by 200 feet,
used as mixing rooms, offices and stores, and contents damaged by ex-
plosion and breakage. Building and contents insured.

Belgrave-road.—No. 2, Mr. W. G. Spokes, grocer.
Shop and six rooms, together with contents, severely damaged by explosion.
Contents insured.

No. 4, Mr. G. W. Blake.
Five rooms, roof and contents severely damaged by
explosion. Contents not insured.

No. 6, Mr. S. Herrington.
Five rooms, roof and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents not insured.

No. 8, Mr. C. W. Francis.
Five rooms, roof and contents severely dam-
aged by explosion. Contents not insured.

No. 10, Mr. A. H. Walls.
Five rooms, roof and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents not insured.
Mrs. Mary Ann Walls injured.

No. 12, Mr. R. W. Sealy.
Five rooms, roof and contents severely damaged by explosion.
Contents not insured.
Mrs. R. Sealy, Peggy Sealy and Maud Sealy injured.

No. 14, Mr. J. Taylor.
Five rooms, roof and contents severely damaged by explosion.
Contents not insured.

No. 16, Mr. C. Gorey.
Five rooms and contents damaged by explosion.
Contents not insured.
Myrtle Conner injured.

No. 18, Mr. Geo. Weller.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged by explosion.
Contents not insured.
Fred Weller injured.

No. 20, Mr. Harry Sparrowhawk.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged by explosion.
Contents not insured
Chrissie Sparrowhawk received injuries.

No. 22, Mr. G. Smith.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged by
explosion. Contents not insured.

No. 24, Mr. Robert Jardine.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. contents not insured.
Alex Jardine received injuries.

No. 26, Mr. T. F. Addaway.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents not insured.
Mrs Isobel Addaway received injuries.
James Addaway, aged 12, fatally injured.

No. 28, Mr. Chas. Whiting.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents not insured.
Mr. Chas. Whiting, Mrs. C. Whiting, Elizabeth Whiting
and Eileen Whiting received injuries.

No. 30, Mr. James Goodsell.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents not insured.
Mrs. Goodsell received injuries.

No. 32, Mr. Ernest Cook.
Five rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents not insured.

Nos. 34 and 36, Mrs. J. Forster,
grocer and provision dealer and draper.
Shop and ten rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents insured.

No. 38, Mr. L. Stopher, Mr. G. Clarkson.
Eight rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion. Contents insured.
Mrs. Forster received injuries.

Landlords, W.J. Bush and Co., Ltd., Nos. 2 to 38.
Buildings insured.

No. 1, Mr. F.H. Summerfield, baker and confectioner.
Six rooms and contents severely damaged
by explosion and breakage. Insurance not known.

No. 3, Bath Tavern, Mrs. R. Searle, licensed victualler.
Bars and contents severely damaged
by explosion and breakage. Building insured. Contents unknown.
Landlords, Page and Overton, Shirley Brewery, Croydon.

No. 5, Mrs. L.E. Tonge, confectioner.
Shop and five rooms and contents damaged
by explosion. Contents insured.

No. 7, Mr. R. Richardson.
Shop (unoccupied), five rooms and contents damaged
by explosion and breakage. Contents not insured.

No. 9, Mrs. J. Forster, grocer and provision dealer.
Shop and five rooms and severely damaged
by explosion.

No. 11, Mr. W.A. Stopher, butcher.
Shop and six rooms and contents, together
with a back building of one floor, 40 feet by 15 feet,
used as a garage and store, damaged by explosion
and breakage. Buildings and contents insured.

No. 13, Mr. J. Hilliard, greengrocer and fruiterer.
Shop and six rooms, together with building of
one floor used as a stable and store, damaged by
explosion and breakage. Contents insured.

Landlord, No.s 5 – 11, Mr. W.A. Stopher, 11 Belgrave-road.

Queen’s-road.

Private dwellings of five rooms, Nos. 1 to 31 and 2 to 36,
roofs, ceilings, windows, and contents damaged by explosion
and breakage. Nos. 33 to 49, 38 to 56, ceilings,
windows and contents slightly damaged by breakage.

Ann Cooper, 27 Queen’s-road, and Annie Collins, 31 Queen’s-road,
received injuries.

Bath-road.

Private dwellings of five rooms, Nos. 1 to 45, roofs, ceilings,
windows and contents, damaged by explosion and breakage.

The Corporation of Wimbledon Fire Brigade, under Second Officer Bird,
rendered valuable service with fire appliance and ambulance. Fortunately,
no further quantity of inflammable liquid was released by the explosion to
any great extent’ which would have constituted a much greater danger and
difficulty; however, the need of equipment, either foam or inert gas, for
dealing with that contingency, was demonstrated.

Several small fires among the debris of the cottages in Belgrave-road were
dealt with, and escapes of gas from fractured gas supply pipes.

The thanks of the Council were conveyed to the Wimbledon Brigade for
their valuable services at the explosion.

HOUSING OF THE HOMELESS.

The Council decided to make a compulsory order for the acquisition of an
area of land in Love-lane; the Clerk was instructed to communicate with Mr.
R. J. Meller, M.P., in connection with the proposals put forward by the
committee for dealing with the Belgrave-road area under the Housing Act,
1930; the architects were instructed to proceed with the preparation of a
scheme for the lay-out and the erection of houses of the area proposed to be
acquired by the compulsory order; and the Clerk was authorised to submit full
particulars of the proposals to the Ministry at the earliest possible date.

The Collector reported that he had arranged for the housing of three of
the families from the Belgrave-road area, and that as soon as circumstances
permitted other families could be housed, but difficulties arose from
insufficient furniture and linen and injury to some of the members of the families,
and also the possibility that families might lose compensation should they
make arrangements to move at once. The collector also stated that he was
receiving a large number of applications from tenants and sub-tenants in
both Queen’s-road and Bath-road who occupied houses which had not been
condemned as unfit for habitation, and he asked for the instructions of the
committee in connection with those cases.

It was decided that the responsibility for the housing of persons whose
houses were entirely uninhabitable should be accepted by the Housing
Committee, but that no responsibility should be accepted in cases of houses
still habitable.


From the Daily Mirror Thursday 6th April 1933

MITCHAM EXPLOSION DISCLOSURE

Hidden Flaw in a Bolt That Allowed Fumes to Escape

DISCOVERY AT INQUEST

That a flaw in a bolt caused the Mitcham explosion in which one boy was killed and many houses wrecked was the theory put forward at the inquest yesterday.

The inquest was on Thomas Adaway, aged twelve, of Belgrave-road, Mitcham. who was killed in his home.

George Knowles, of Fountain-road, Mitcham, a process engineer, employed by Messrs. W. J. Bush and Company, said that he was in charge of a still for distilling methylated spirits.

The still was in the open yard. He visited it twice and it was all right, He left the still and walked down the yard.

” Then,” Knowles went on, ” I saw a fog coming along the ground from the still. I went back with a mate to turn the steam off. Fumes were coming’ from the back of the still.

” I tried to turn off the steam valve, but could not get at it because of the fumes. My mate also tried, but he failed.

SUDDEN FLASH

” My mate ran away and turned the electricity off, and I turned the gas off.

” We tried to get a hose pipe to cool the pot off, but we had no time before the explosion occurred. I saw a flash back towards the still, but it was too quick for me to see where it came from.”

Frank Christopher Catlin, maintenance engineer of Messrs Bush and Company, said that at 6.50 a.m. he passed the still and saw that it was working normally.

About a quarter of an hour later Knowles came running up to him and said “Look what is the matter with the pot?”

“I turned round and ran towards it to shut off the steam,” said Catlin. “The fumes were so strong that I could not get to the pot.”

Catlin said that tests made afterwards showed that there had been no stoppage in tubes connected with the still. He saw a plate at the back of the still in the copper where there had been a connection which had been removed. It was an iron plate about 7in. in diameter.

It was fastened by bolts, one of which they recovered from the bottom of the still pot.

FLAW IN BOLT

Mr McNair (Inspector of Factories): The breaking of the plate would mean a leak from the still? – Yes. The plate would not fit lightly.

Catlin explained the bolt, and then said quietly, “I see that there is a flaw in it. It would be impossible to see it because that part of the bolt is inside the pot.”

Frederick Horace Priest, works manager, was asked if it was possible that the fumes spread to the backs of the houses in Belgrave Road? – “Quite possible,” he answered.

You put the whole explosion to the unfortunate breakage of the bolt? – Yes.

The coroner said that it was possible that vapour escaped into the backs of the houses and became ignited. There was no evidence to suggest negligence on the part of anyone. A verdict of Accidental death was returned.

See also 1933 Rocky

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