Silvertown Explosion 1917

Date start:
19 Jan 1917

Silvertown Explosion 1917 - IROn 19 January 1917 the biggest explosion ever in the metropolis destroyed a large part of Silvertown in East London.

Silvertown was an industrial area fronting the River Thames directly to the south of the Royal Victoria Dock, and east of Bow Creek. It developed in the 1850s and was named after Samuel Winkworth Silver, who established a factory there. Silver's business prospered and became know as the India-Rubber, Gutta-Percha, and Telegraph Works Company Limited. The factory made some of the first Bell's patent telephones in the 1880s.

Silvertown was beyond the part of London governed by the Metropolitan Building Act (1843), which controlled the setting up of noxious industries. As a result, many factories were established in Silvertown. Dangerous and unpleasant products were handled and made, such as caustic soda, sulphuric acid, manure, creosote and petroleum. Between the docks, railway lines and industrial premises, workers lived in rows of small densely packed terrace houses.

During the First World War in 1915, a Silvertown chemical plant owned by Brunner, Mond & Co was adapted for the production of trinitrotoluene (T.N.T.), a highly explosive substance. This was ordered by government since explosives were in great demand on the Western Front. The company resisted this development as the surrounding area was densely populated. Even handling T.N.T. was hazardous: many munitions workers found that it turned their skin yellow, caused nausea and chest pains.

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