Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Canal Cuttings (9)

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been doing some research from old newspapers and magazines. Covering the last 200 years or so of life on the inland waterways. With particular interest in the major issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 

Huge Explosion at Regents Park

The Spectator 10th October 1874

All London was at the window in its night-dress at five o'clock on the morning of yesterday week, when over five tons of gun powder exploded at North-gate Bridge, Regent's Park, in the Tilbury. A barge which was just making its way on the Canal from the outer circle of Regent's Park to the line of the Regent's Park Road, and which had some petroleum on board, as well as the gunpowder. The shock was felt all over London, and as was alleged, was even heard as far as to a distance of twenty-five miles. North-gate Bridge was, of course, completely blown up, and the Canal dammed by the ruins; in the neighbouring houses of Regent's Park, the window frames were blown in and the furniture much damaged. A few walls were blown down, and a great number of houses rocked as if in earthquake. 

One lady in a house close to the explosion rushed out in her night-dress, caught hold of a gentle- man in equal alarm, and asked in profound terror, "Is it come at last?" referring, it is believed, to the Day of Judgement, a question which the gentleman had no means of answering. In the Zoological Gardens there was much mischief done to the glass, and it is feared that many tender birds and monkeys may have caught cold. 

In some of the poorer streets, industrious but needy people who hold on repairing leases, will be almost ruined if their landlords hold them to their bargain and the public give them no help. Windows were freely broken all down Albany Street, and one or two as far away as Hampstead Heath. Amongst the sufferers was the great artist, Alma Tadema, who was himself absent from home, but whose beautiful fresco ceiling and some of whose pictures were destroyed. Very little life was lost,—only three direct victims of the explosion being mentioned. On the whole, the damage may be probably estimated within $200,000, great as was the area over which it extended.

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