2pm Saturday 19th May 2018 – ‘An Accident Waiting to Happen? – The Whittall Street Explosion of 1859’
A talk & small exhibition for the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage (FoBAH) at the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, Level 4, Library of Birmingham.
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 Pursall & Phillips Manufactory on Whittall Street itself which resulted in the death of 20 young people – all but one of them female.
From the starting point of an intricate Victorian Memorial card to the victims, most of whom were interred at St Mary Whittall Street, Liz Palmer has used material in Archives, Heritage and Collections together with contemporary newspaper coverage to uncover the events surrounding the catastrophe, the lives of many of the individuals involved and to examine whether this really was ‘an accident waiting to happen’.
This free talk will take place on 19th May 2018, 2pm – 3pm in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, Floor 4, Library of Birmingham.
Spaces are limited to 20 people. To make a reservation, please contact FOBAH by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.