Explosion in Spalding kills man in 1915

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The drama of the war years turned to home a hundred years ago when an explosion in Spalding killed a man.

In addition to the death, three people were injured and a large building badly wrecked during the explosion at produce merchant Fred Armstrong’s Westlode Street works.

Ernest Snow, a married man who lived in Stoke-on-Trent, was killed, while Richard Healey, of Little London, Spalding, was injured, along with James Thickpenny, of Cowbit, and Frank Anslow, also from Stoke, who was badly scalded. Mr Thickpenny was employed by Mr Armstrong as a horseman on his Cowbit farm.

The building was used for steaming chaff and making cattle feed cakes and there were reported to be 15 men and boys working at the time the boiler exploded.

At the time of the disaster one boiler in the shed was in use and was full of steam, the pressure said to be 75lb, while the other was being repaired.

The report said: “Everything was proceeding normally, when a sudden cracking and creaking gave warning of something wrong. These noises were instantly followed by a terrific explosion and immediately all was confusion and wreckage.

“Exactly what occurred was stated afterwards not to be quite clear. Whether the boiler filled with steam fell and then exploded or burst for some reason before it fell is not known, but whatever the cause the result was most disastrous.”

Clouds of chaff, bricks, woodwork, steel shaftings and pulleys, leather belting, galvanised sheeting, large wooden girders “flew in every direction”.

Mr Snow had been “pinned down by the empty boiler” which he had been repairing.

It was said he was killed instantly. His body, “a ghastly sight”, was taken to Johnson Hospital mortuary.