Explosion at Marshall Hall Mills, Elland [1854]

On Thursday, 16th November 1854, 4 men were killed and others were seriously injured in

a fearful boiler explosion

at William Balmforth's Marshall Hall Mill, Elland.

About 8:20 am, John Hepworth was firing up one boiler when the other exploded. Hepworth was buried in the ruins but escaped alive.

Four men who were having breakfast at the time, were blown up and killed.

The dead were:

The wounded were:

The mill itself was undamaged.

The Halifax Guardian [Saturday 18th November 1854] reported

Four Persons Killed and Others Seriously Injured.

On Thursday morning, an awful boiler explosion occurred at the works of Mr William Balmforth, woollen manufacturer, Elland, near Halifax, which spread consternation and alarm throughout the entire neighbourhood. Two boilers of a balloon shape commonly called Kettle boilers were placed, side by side and connected, one safety valve serving both. The boiler nearest the old mill was called the new one, although not deserving the name as it had been purchased some years ago from Messrs Waud of Bradford where, it will be remembered, a fatal boiler explosion occurred a few years ago.

It was usual for a steam whistle to give an alarm before the boiler started, and no sooner had this been done when the boiler exploded. It appears that it rose from its bed to an altitude as high again as the new mill.

The doors of many houses near the Elland church were burst open. With utmost bravery, and in defiance of all damage arising from the tottering state of the chimney, a number of men set to work rescuing sufferers. Mr Fox, the constable, and Mr Hammerton, Mr Hiley and Mr Maude, surgeons, were in attendance. The dead were Edwin Thewlis, a dyer aged 18 from Blackley, and his body was removed to the Spring Gardens Inn for the inquest.

Two brothers, John and James Hitchen aged 31 and 21, both cloth millers of Elland Lane, were dug out and placed under the care of Mr Hammerton, but both died later that afternoon.

John Hepworth, aged 23, of Elland Lane, was dreadfully scalded, and at one time it was thought his back was broken. Ater treatment he was conveyed home in a most horrible state of suffering. His piercing cries made many a heart quiver.

John Tiffany also of Elland Lane, was much bruised and we are happy to learn that Mr Hiley does not consider his wounds dangerous. Tiffany is the only married man among the sufferers.

After the sufferers had been got out it was discovered that Joseph Balmforth did not answer the roll call. He was later discovered near the seat of the boiler and a considerable portion of the chimney had fallen upon him and it was some time before his lifeless remains were discovered and removed to his parent's house in Elland Lane – the home he had left an hour or two ago in health and vigour.

Fortunately none of the 50 or 60 mill hands had entered the premises except Christopher Balmforth, a son of the late William Balmforth Jnr, who was unfortunately killed at Brighouse Railway station on 25th September 1853


© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 16:07 / 11th May 2021 / 6225

Page Ref: X500

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