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British Industrial History

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George Jones (Salford)

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1832 'BURSTING OF A STEAM BOILER (FROM THE MANCHESTER COURIER.) About eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning the boiler of a small steam-engine recently erected for the purpose of turning a circular saw on the premises of Mr. George Jones, at Windsor Wharf, blew up with a tremendous explosion, and a boy named Richard Tucker was killed on the spot, and a young man named John Reynolds was so severely scalded that he died on Wednesday. Several other persons who were near the spot were more or less injured by the explosion, but none of them seriously. An investigation into the cause of this melancholy accident took place at the Angel Inn, in Salford, on Wednesday and Thursday, before Mr. W. S. Rutter, Coroner, when the following witnesses were examined :— William Reynolds, the father of the deceased, said that he was employed at Mr. Jones's as a sawyer, and that his son was about to undertake the situation of engineer to attend to the engine which had exploded. Witness was carrying a plank into the yard about eleven o'clock on Tuesday, when he heard a loud report, and on turning round he saw that the boiler had exploded. He immediately ran to look for his son and found the force of the explosion had blown him through two walls into a pit about ten yards from the boiler; when taken up he was not dead, but he died on Wednesday. He was most dreadfully scalded.

'Mr W. Torkington, builder, said that he had contracted with Mr. Jones for the erection of eight houses, and one condition of the contract was that Mr. Jones should furnish a steam-engine for sawing the timber used in the building. The engine was erected by Mr. Nathan Gough, and was not completed when the explosion took place, but was deficient in the pipes which conveyed away the waste steam. The boiler was placed outside the building, under a wooden shed. The engine was tried repeatedly, and the cylinders were once taken out to Mr. Gough's shop for some alterations to be made in them. On Saturday, Mr. Gough attached the saw to the engine for the first time, but, previous to his coming, it was ascertained that the water in the boiler was below the injection pipe, the consequence of which was that the steam rushed down the pipes, and burst all the joints. When John Staples, the man who was putting up the engine, saw this, he exclaimed, " We shall all be blown up," and he immediately proceeded to stop the joints with white lead and tow. The engine appeared to work well at that time. About eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning witness determined to set the engine to work; and, after it commenced working, Staples suggested that it would be better to reverse the straps, as they would work better. The engine was accordingly stopped for this purpose, and, Staples and a person named Redhead proceeded to unlace the strap on the fly-wheel, while witness unlaced the end attached to the circular saw. While they were doing this one of the valves began to blow off, and Staples cried out, Open the fire-place door." Witness sent John Reynolds to open the door, and in less than two minutes the boiler exploded. Witness was of opinion that the accident was owing to the badness of the boiler. The steam-guage was very imperfect, and rose only a quarter of an inch. He pointed this out to Mr. Jones and Staples on Tuesday morning, and Staples said it wanted packing. It ought to have been two inches high at that time. None of the persons about thought there was any danger, or they could easily have turned the steam off. The engine was seven-horse power, and had two oscillating cylinders. There was plenty of water in the boilers when the explosion took place. Mr. Jones confirmed the statement of Mr. Torkington as to the contract for the engine. He was in the boiler place about twenty minutes before the accident happened, and opened the door to examine the construction of the fire-place He then remarked that the fire was very hot, and the engine was not at work. He was about five hundred yards off when he heard the explosion, and on turning his head he saw the building flying into the air. He has since examined the metal of the boiler, and is of opinion that it was not that kind of metal which ought to be put into a boiler like that. While the boiler was fitting up he told Mr. Gough that he did not think the metal was good enough, but Mr. Gough replied that it was quite competent to run all risks. If the Boiler had had sufficient valves, and they had been in good working order, the accident might not have happened at present; but he did not think the angle irons were of sufficient strength ; they were only the eighth of an inch thick, and not so strong as the other parts of the boiler.

'Mr. Sykes, engine-builder, said he had examined the fragments of the boiler, and believed the accident to have been 1¾ inch clear area. The boiler was sufficient for a seven-horse engine, but the valve for such a boiler ought to be at least four inches in area. If the valves had worked properly he thought there would have been no danger. The arrangement of the valves was as bad as it could be ; they were so fixed that the engineer could not see what weight he had on the engine. The steam-guage was equally defective ; the only safe guage was a column of mercury. He believed that the boiler might have been made red hot without causiug it to burst, unless cold water had been injected into it. The Jury, in about five minutes, returned a verdict, "That the deceased was accidentally killed." '[1]


1841 Pigot & Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1841 lists 'George Jones, builder and saw mills, Windsor wharf, Salford'


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Sources of Information

  1. Morning Post, Wednesday 24th October 1832