Tipton factory explosion remembered in poignant ceremony

The ceremony at Tipton Cemetery as 19 young girls were remembered after losing their lives 100 years ago.

Wooden crosses and rose wreaths lay silent as 19 young girls were remembered after losing their lives 100 years ago.

Officials, dignitaries and relatives from across the borough joined together to remember the 19 young girls who died, in what is known as, one of the darkest days in local history. The girls, aged between 13 and 16, died in the explosion at the L.K. Knowles metal works factory on 6th March 1922.

A special ceremony for the disaster was held at Tipton Cemetery. The terrible incident that bought the nation to a standstill was presided over and led by Pauline Hodgetts BEM (Friends of Tipton Cemetery). In poignant words Ms Hodgetts led the procession in remembering those lost and injured, and told of the history of the factory and the events that led to the deaths of so many.

Alongside Mrs Hodgetts was Councillor Richard Jones (Deputy Mayor for Sandwell), Reverend Denise Williams and Councillor Charn Singh Padda (Tipton Green Ward). Councillors and figure heads of Sandwell were joined by the family and loved ones of the 19 who died on the fateful day that made the nation stand still.

The girls were employed illegally by John Walter Knowles with the task of dismantling live ammunition for scrap metal. Around 50 other young girls had also been employed illegally at the time of the explosion, with many of them leaving injured, or if lucky, unharmed.

After a trial at Stafford Assizes, John Knowles was arrested for for his part in the tragedy, citing four previous convictions for offences under the Factory and Workshops act. Courts also noted Mr Knowles’ lack of the required licence to handle explosives. Knowles voluntarily paid £10,000 in compensation to the victim (around £640,000 today), and was sentenced by Mr Justice Shearman to serve five years in jail.

The girls killed as a result of the explosion were:

  • Laura Dalloway, 14, of 36, Upper Chapel Street, Tividale
  • Nellie Kay, 15, of 20, Great Bridge Street, West Bromwich
  • Mabel Weaver, 14, of 3, Victoria Terrace, Tipton
  • Annie Freeth, 15, of Farley Street, Great Bridge
  • Violet May Franklin, 15, of 17, Cleton Street, Tipton
  • Annie Elizabeth Florence Edwards, 15, of 77, A block, Munition Huts, Dudley
  • Annie Naylor, 14, of 162, Dudley Port
  • Priscilla Longmore, 13, of 337, Dudley Port
  • Lizzie Williams, 13, of Old Cross Street, Tipton
  • Edith Drew, 15, of Boat Row, Tipton
  • Edith Richards, 14, of 7, Factory Road, Tipton
  • Elsie Follows, 15, of 196, Dudley Port
  • Gladys May Bryant, 14, of 15, West Street, Dudley
  • Lily Griffiths, of Railway Street, Horsley Heath
  • Margaret Burns, 15, of Sheepwash Lane, West Bromwich
  • Hannah Hubbard, 16, of Dudley Port
  • Elizabeth Aston, 16
  • Lucy Edwards, 14
  • Ethel May Jukes, 15.

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