National Recording Project

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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Silvertown Explosion Memorial

Summary

Type War Memorial

     Stone war memorial incorporating, on one side, a memorial to those who died in the Silvertown disaster.
     Commemorates Silvertown Explosion 19 January 1917. 'During the First World War, under government pressure, Brunner Mond & Co's factory at Silvertown went over to the production of TNT, using a vacuum process invented by F.A. Freeth, chief scientist of the company. "It worked", wrote Freeth many years later, "but was manifestly very dangerous. At the end of every month we used to write to Silvertown to say that their plant would go up sooner or later, but were told that it was worth the risk". On 19 January 1917, the factory did blow up, causing 450 casualties, including 69 deaths in the neighbourhood, and widespread damage to buildings'.(1) 'Under the extreme pressure for the supply of explosives to the Western Front in 1915, Brunner Mond's alkali plant on Crescent Wharf, West Silvertown, was adapted for the purification of TNT. The method was volatile and the site, in the midst of a closely built-up industrial and residential neighbourhood, most unsuitable. On the evening of Friday, January 19th 1917 a fire started in the melt-pot room at the top of the building where crude TNT was emptied - five tons at a time - through a hopper for melting and dissolving in alcohol. Within ten minutes the fire reached the main stock of TNT and the explosion of over fifty tons killed 73 people and injured over 400 more or less seriously. Damage amounted to between two and three million pounds' worth. The . . . memorial was erected by Messrs Brunner Mond and can be seen within the entrance to the modern Spurling transport depot'.(1)
    

Inscriptions

On east face of memorial, incised letters: TO THE GLORIOUS MEMORY OF THE MEN FROM THESE WORKS WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR 1914 - 1919 / [list of seven names follows] On west face of memorial, incised letters: AND TO THE MEMORY / OF THOSE WHO WHILST / SERVING THEIR COUNTRY / BY MAKING T.N.T. / PERISHED IN THE / EXPLOSION IN THESE / WORKS. JANUARY 19TH / 1917 / [list of 18 names follows] On south face of memorial, incised letters: ALSO TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHO FELL IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939 - 1945 / [list of seven names follows]

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Not known, None Not Known

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Whole work Limestone 150cm high approx

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
NE071 UEL
General condition Good
Surface condition
Structural condition
Vandalism
Road North Woolwich Road
Precise location By entrance gateway to TDG Pinnacle (former site of Brunner Mond & Co) Crescent Wharf
A-Z ref 85 Kc 46
OS ref TQ408801
Date of design None
Year of unveiling c.1920
Unveiling details None
Commissioned by Brunner Mond and Co
Duty of care None
Listing status II
At risk? No known risk

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