An Accident Waiting to Happen? The Whittall Street Explosion of 1859

My dad’s family the Braceys lived in back to backs on Little Shadwell Street in the shadow of Saint Chad’s Cathedral in #Birmingham’s Gun Quarter and me dad Leslie Bracey worked at a gunsmiths carrying the shotguns to the #BirminghamProofHouse near Curzon Street Station, the oldest Railway Terminus in the world built in 1838 as the terminus of the London to Birmingham Railway.

The Iron Room

Memorial Card to the victims of the Whittal Street Explosion, 1859 [Ephemera Collection LE/Cards/1]

Come and hear Liz Palmer share the account of the explosion at the Percussion Cap Manufactory, which tragically which took the lives of eighteen young women and one young man.

Birmingham has long been associated with the gun trade, with the gun quarter being focused on the area on the Weaman Estate around Whittall Street. Innovations in the industry in the early mid-19th Century saw the establishment of several percussion cap manufactories as percussion cap weapons replaced flintlocks. The manufactories employed mainly girls and young women whose nimble fingers were suited to the many processes involved in the production of these tiny items.  But the work was extremely dangerous involving several explosive substances including fulminating mercury. Explosions involving loss of life were not uncommon; one of the worst of these was in 1859 at the…

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