Charting a Catastrophe

Historical Canal Maps: NarrowBoat, Summer 2020

Richard Dean

Richard Dean examines the official report of the famous Regent’s Canal explosion of 1874

Early on 2nd October 1874, Major V.D. Majendie, Her Majesty's Inspector of Gunpowder Works, was alerted by messenger to a big explosion in Regent's Park, London, at five o'clock that morning. He was soon on site examining the causes and effect of the disaster, which, after extensive investigations and scientific tests, were set out in a detailed report to the Secretary of State. The accident happened at the Macclesfield Bridge over the Regent's Canal on the north side of the park, and it soon became clear that a passing narrowboat had exploded, destroying the bridge and damaging much surrounding property. It appeared that a train of five Grand Junction fly-boats, Jane, Dee, Tilbury, Limehouse, and Hawkesbury, had been loaded overnight and were being towed by the steam tug Ready soon after the start of their journey from City Road Basin to the Midlands. There was a brief blue flash on board Tilbury, which caused alarm and a call to stop the tug. Nothing seemed amiss and Ready was resta…

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