Explosion at C. Worsnop & Sons [1890]

On 11th September 1890, there was a serious explosion at the electro-plating works of C. Worsnop & Sons in Cheapside, Halifax.

Three workers were killed and others injured. The fatalities were:

The Home Office looked into the possibility that the cause could have been a bomb. The property was said to be owned by brewers Richard Ramsden & Sons.

The Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser [Friday 12th September 1890] reported the event


Yesterday morning an explosion occurred at premises occupied by Messrs C. & H Worsnop in Cheapside, Halifax, by which a young woman named Hartley, of Crossley Terrace, Halifax and John Edgar Worsnop son of the proprietor lost their lives and a labourer named Michael McCabe was seriously injured and not expected to recover.

The explosion occurred in a building situate in an enclosed yard between shops fronting into Cheapside. It was three storeys high and used for electro-plating. The cause of the explosion is not known but is supposed to have resulted in an escape of gas in the bottom room where there was a gas engine.

The interior of the building was completely wrecked, the walls being left in a perilous state. Scores of windows in the surrounding yard were blown out and several people employed in the workrooms and warehouses were slightly injured and greatly alarmed. The Foresters' Arms, Inn, directly opposite at a distance of only a few feet was wrecked, the windows being blown in and the floors covered in debris.

The explosion was heard all over the town and a great crowd was assembled. There were six persons employed in the building at the time of the explosion. Two youths in the top room escaped, one by the skylight on to the roof, another by clinging to the window frame, and were rescued by ladders. The other two in the bottom room also got out unhurt, although knocked down by falling stones and timber.

Miss Hartley and Worsnop were working in the middle room and both lost their lives. A fire broke out after the explosion and not until an hour afterward the body of Miss Hartley, burned to a skeleton, was recovered by firemen. Worsnop's body was buried in debris and not found until one o'clock. He appears to have been suffocated and was horribly mangled by falling material.

McCabe is a labourer who was working in the yard where excavation was going on. He was knocked down and his skull fractured by stones falling on him. He is still unconscious at the infirmary and not expected to rally. Young Worsnop, who is only 18, was much respected in Halifax. He was in charge of the premises at the time.

The damage was considerable, the amount is not ascertained


The inquest was also reported


An inquest was opened today at the mortuary, Halifax, on the three persons killed by an explosion on the 11th inst, at Worsnop's, Electro-plating works: – John Edgar Worsnop age 18, brother of the proprietor, Sarah Elizabeth Berry (age 17), who worked in the place, and Michael McCabe, a labourer.

The Coroner said that Home Office Officials had written saying that they did not intend to send an Inspector as there was no apparent reason for supposing it was other than a gas explosion


There were no explosives on the premises, and the explosion was said to have been caused by a gas leak. A gas pipe or joint may have been damaged by

the recent fall of an adjacent building

This & associated entries use material contributed by Jeffrey Knowles & Roy Stockdill

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 16:28 / 8th April 2024 / 7011

Page Ref: MMW1637

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