Whittall Street Explosion of 1859

In-Memoriam Card for those killed in an explosion at Messrs. PurI stumbled across this Memorial Card in the ephemera collection at the Library of Birmingham one day and I could not help but be moved by it and wanting to know more about the explosion at the Percussion Cap Manufactory.   I’ve since used the image and some basic details of the tragic explosion  which took the lives of eighteen young women and one young man, for a couple of years in a talk on ‘Death in the Archives’. But accepting an invitation to do a talk at the Gunmakers’ Arms in Birmingham’s historic gun quarter has given me the opportunity (or should I say excuse) to delve deeper into the events of that fateful day.

Like all good Victorian melodramas the story has heroes and villains but sadly for the  numerous damsels in distress most of them don’t get rescued. If you want to find out more about the trade, the roles of the young women, the sole male victim and the aftermath come along to the Gunmaker’s Arms on Tuesday 22nd November at 7pm. Free admission – and some good beer on tap!




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