Victorian London - Crime - Terrorism - dynamite outrages



    The explosions in St. James's-square, combined with that at Scotland-yard, on Friday night, May 30, threw the West-End into a state of excitement such as probably has not been witnessed for many a year.
sounded the last explosion, which threw Scotland-yard into consternation. It took place shortly after half-past nine o'clock. Inspector Grainger was on duty inside the police station itself, and Inspector Robson of the Criminal Investigation Department, was in charge of the detective offices. Two police officers were stationed outside the police station, and two reserve men were with Inspector Robson in the detective office. Another policeman was on duty just outside the urinal on the north-east side of the building standing in the centre of the yard, the greater part of which is used as offices by the Criminal Investigation Department. This had been looked upon as a likely place to be fired upon if the Fenians should decide on attacking the chief police office, and special care was taken in watching it. It is certain that it was here the explosion originated, for the whole front of this portion of the building up to the second floor was found by Inspector Grainger and his men, when alarmed by the noise and the screams of people who had been hurt as they ran round to the scene of the catastrophe, to have been blown out.
near the spot was found to be severely injured, and had to be removed in a cab to Westminster Hospital. Just fronting this corner of the building stands a public-house with a wide frontage, known as
The whole of the frontage of that house was also wrecked. Two carriages had been standing waiting at this house. One of them had been completely destroyed, and the driver, who was standing by it, seriously injured. He was taken to the Charing-cross Hospital. The driver of the other vehicle, which also had a wheel wrenched off it, and fell side-ways on to the pavement, was, it was understood, seated on his box at the time, and blown right off it. He was also severely injured, and taken to Charing-cross Hospital, but his wounds, although serious, were not so bad as those of his fellow-coachman, he having apparently been less in the direction which the flying masonry took.
were thus described at the hospital:- Arthur Preddy, coachman of Arlington-road, Brixton, severe scalp-wound and concussion; W. Mingay, coachman, 3, St. James's-street, Notting-hill-gate, bad scalp wounds, fracture of the bones of the fore arm adn ribs badly crushed" Other persons attended to and sent home were W. Jones, 23, Peter-street, Westminster; Geo. Weatherbog, 41, Spring-gardens; and Hy. Groves, of Little Scotland-yard.
    Naturally all the principal officers connected with Scotland-yard were quickly on the scene, together with a strong force of police from the A and E divisions to keep back the excited crowds that tried to get through, either from Whitehall or from the Thames Embankment entrance. Mr. Howard Vincent (retiring Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department), Mr. Cutbush, Chief Superintendent Williamson, Superintendent Dunlap, and many other well-known chiefs of the police force were seen anxiously walking about from office to office and conferring as to the outrage. The excitement was increased by the arrival of the news of the other explosion; and this, again, was greatly intensified by the arrival of sixteen packets of dynamite that had been found about 10.30 placed with a connecting fuse under
in Trafalgar-square. The dynamite was placed in a corner of the yard and carefully guarded by a number of constables. No information could be gathered to by whom it had been found; but it was understood that a constable of the A division had his notice drawn to something burning, which, on examining closer, he found to be a fuse. A very few more minutes, and it is probable that the crowds of people who were flocking towards Whitehall would have been startled and many of them killed by the fall of the column, there being little doubt that the quantity of explosive material was sufficient to destroy the base of the monument.
    The Rising Sun Public-House is in the occupation of Mr. Duncan, has a frontage of some fifty feet and was fitted with large squares of plate glass. Every window in this structure was shattered to atoms by the concussion. In the bar, which occupies the whole of the front portion of the ground-floor, pots, glasses, jugs, plates, and bottles were hurled from their shelves to the floor; the mirrors lining the inner walls were cracked and broken up; the partitions of wood and glass in the outer bar were twisted and curled into most fantastic shapes; the gaseliers and brackets were snapped asunder, and their ornaments destroyed; such liquids as stood in open vessels were dashed on to the floor; the beer-engine was shifted from its position.
has been indisposed for some weeks, and at the time of the explosion he was in one of the front bedrooms with his wife. Mrs. Duncan was sitting near the window conversing with the invalid, when suddenly she was startled by a loud report, such as might have been caused by the discharge of a heavy piece of ordnance in the near vicinity. A second or two afterwards a still more terrific detonation took place, the glass through which Mrs. Duncan had been looking was shivered into fragments, the gas was extinguished, and the occupants of the apartment found themselves almost smothered in the debris caused by the fallign plaster and woodwork. Fortunately neither Mr. nor Mrs. Duncan sustained any injury beyond a few slight scratches, though the lady's nerves were naturally unstrung. In another bed-room two barmen were dressing. The scene here was very similar to that witnessed by the proprietor of the house, and here also no serious bodily injury resulted. Down stairs in the bar there were from fifteen to twenty persons.
was at the end nearest to the spot where the explosion was most seriously felt talking to two gentlemen who were standing in the reserved compartment. She was stunned by the report, and was cut about the neck by the flying glass and splinters, but escaped without worse injuries. Her interlocutors fared worse - one of them was hurt badly enough to justify his removal to the hospital and the other was also severely cut and bruised. At the other extremity of the bar Master E. Duncan, the son of the landlord, was leaning on the counter talking to a fireman from the adjoining station, and in the public portion of the bar there were a number of the regular customers of the house.
    The dynamitards made their attempt on the Junior Carlton Club at the rear of the building in St. James's-square. There was much activity going on in the club (the entrance to which is in Pall-mall) at the time, many of the members being at dinner; and the shock was such as to force the members from their seats and to capsize the tables and their contents in various directions. It is clear, beyond doubt, that dynamite was employed, and the explosive material must have been thrown down the area. The direction taken by the explosive force was through the kitchen in the basement, where the principal damage was occasioned. Many male and female servants were there at their ordinary work; and, although most of them escaped, several cases of personal injury occurred. A gentleman dining at the Army and Naval Club was startled by what appeared to him to be two pistol-shots, but, broken glass being forced into the room where he was sitting, soon convinced him otherwise.
    The square was soon in commotion; the horses attached to the cabs standing in the square became restive, and several ran away, and the scene behind Pall-mall was of an alarming character. Superintendent Palmer, attached to the district depot of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, distinctly heart the reports of the explosion in his office, Victora-street, and he was soon in readiness with an engine to start on the "call" reaching him. On his arrival at the Club the first excitement attending the explosion was over. There had been no fire, and the engines were not brought into action. Superintendent Palmer, however, made a minute survey of the place, which he pronounced safe as far as fire was concerned; and subsequently the officer named accompanied
who appeared to take great interest in the occurrence, over the building. There were no arrests made on the Friday night; but it is said that "a cabman saw a man, just before the first report was heard, apparently lighting a pipe in front of the club and then run away." It is remarkable that at the cabmen's shelter opposite the scene of the explosion not a window was broken; and the keeper of the shelter asserts that a cab was driven rapidly past the shelter at the time but he could not stop the driver. The kitchen displayed a great amount of wreckage; a portion of the pavement and an iron grating in front of the club were blown up; the glass was shattered in the upper part of the building, and on all sides of the square the windows evinced proof of the force of the explosion. The
set forth - back windows of the Junior Carlton Club blown in by explosion; doors and wine cellar in basement severely damaged; iron stairs to ditto destroyed; and severe damage to other parts of the place." Superintendent Dunlap was present with a large body of police, under whose protection the precise local of the explosion will remain untouched pending the official inspection of Colonel [missing, ed.]
were:- Emily Vargus, incised wound in shoulder; Emily Horsefield, contused arm; Eliza Wood, contusion of legs; Emma Mason, incised wound on shoulder; and Caroline Hosier, lacerated wound in face.
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    As usual, when outrages of this foul description and discoveries of dynamite have taken place, many false rumours were afloat of explosions at public buildings other than those mentioned. It was stated that the Wellington Barracks, St. James's Park, had been blown up, but there was no foundation for the rumour. It was also rumoured that an explosion had taken place at Paddington, but on investigation this also proved to be untrue.

Penny Illustrated Paper, June 7, 1884



Just before a "Circle" train travelling from Farringdon-street to Aldersgate-street had come to a standstill at the latter station at one nnnute past seven on Monday evening, a disastrous explosion occurred in a frst-class carriage in the middle of the train. Both the station officials and the passengers were for a moment seized with panic, as the doors and other portions of the wrecked carriage were hurled across the station. Several passengers were hurt, and those who saw no other means of escape leaped an to the rails and dashed across the lines to the furthest part of the platform. The terror was extreme for the brief period that it lasted, and a worse disaster was avenged by other trains not entering the station. The gas on the Metropolitan side of the station had been put out by the explosion, and, standing in the semi-darkness, the wrecked carriage, still attached in its original position to the train, looked a remarkable object. The roof and sides of the carriage had completely disappeared; but the body of the carriage was secure, though badly damaged. The aperture made in the centre of the compartment was V-shaped, the upper part being the widest. The flooring in the centre presented a huge hole, blackened and jagged at the edges. It was nearly round, and was about three yards in circumference. The ease of one of the ceiling lamps of one of the wrecked compartments was all that was left by the explosion, the force of which had hurled it upwards, but, still adhering to the gas-pipe which runs along the roof of the coaches, it had fallen over the off side of the next compartment. where it remained suspended at a level with the window strap. The glass in the train was wrecked, while the adjoining metals were strewn with woodwork and debris. The whole of the Metropolitan traffic had to he suspended, and this caused temporary delay on the other suburban lines.
    At first it was supposed that the gas chamber at the bottom of the coach had burst, but this theory has been disproved by experts.
    On the arrival of the injured persons at the hospital it was seen that there was at least one very serious case—that of a man named Pitts, aged 35, of 31, Wickham-road, Coleraine-park, Tottenham, who died shortly after in the institution. The following is a list of those who were injured :—William Hall, aged 22, of 3, Cambridge-street, Hyde-park ; Paul Geogi, 35, of 27, Shepherd's-bush-road; Sarah Ship, aged 50, C Block, Polygon-buildings, Clarendon- square, St. Pancras; William Daniel, 33, of 30, Abdale-road, Shepherd's-bush; Arthur Spawforth, 33, of 94, Fordwych-road, Brondesbnry; Theophilus Trustrum, 35, of 17, Albert-road, Forest-lane, Stratford; Mr. Nelson, of 12, Portland-terrace, St. John's-wood; Arthur Washtell, 14, of 29, Stanmore-street, Caledonian-road; Simon Israel, 22, of 22, Latimer-street, Stepney. The injured persons were received by the house-surgeon, and the first seven mentioned were admitted as in-patients. Police-constable 801 (City police force) John Sutton, who was at the station at the time of the explosion, in the ordinary course of his duties as a plain-clothes officer, also sustained injuries, his right leg and left thumb being cut. He was taken at first to St. Bartholomew's, where his injuries were dressed; and he was afterwards removed to the City Police hospital in Bishopsgate-street.
    A Press representative secured an interview with the station-master at Aldersgate-street station, who said:- "I was standing just here (by the bookstall on the central platform). Just as the train drew up I was sensible of a terrific explosion. My first impression was that something had come through the glass roof, for it . was the splintering of glass which I first understood. Then all was confusion. Passengers came out from the carriages screaming, and demanding to know what had happened." The reporter was asked to lookup above the station, and he there saw large fragments of woodwork, portions of the wrecked carriage, entangled amongst the iron girders of the glass roof full 50 feet overhead.
    The box of a ticket examiner had one pane of glass completely removed, while another was shattered. The examiner deseribes the sensation of the explosion thus: "It seemed as if I was lifted upwards several times and dropped violently on the ground.. I don't want, another sensation like it."
    Pitts, the victim of the explosion, was foreman with an Alderagate-street firm, and leaves a wife and three children. He appears to have been in an adjoining carriage when the explosion occurred. When taken up, only partly conscious, one of his legs was shattered, and his only question to the officials was, "Where am I? How did I get here?"


Colonel Majendie and Captain Thomson paid a visit to Aldersgate station on Tuesday, accompanied by representatives of the City police and the Criminal Investigation department, and officials of the Metropolitan Railway company, for the purpose of making an examination of the permanent way, platforms, and the roof of the station, which had been damaged. Subsequently the inspecting officers proceeded to Moorgate-street station to examine the carriages and debris of the wrecked train, which had been removed to a siding. The inspection lasted for over two hours, and the decision come to was opposed to the notion that gas was the destructive agency. So far as it was possible to learn nothing has been found which would confirm the theory that a bomb had been placed in the carriage before the train arrived at Aldersgate. It was officially stated that the explosion had spent the maximum of its force in a downward direction, than spreading longitudinally  and upwards. After the examination Inspector Melville and other officers of the Criminal Investigation department proceeded to make inquiries into the mysterious occurrence, as there is reasonable ground for supposing that an explosive had been placed in the carriage.
    Sir F. Abel, on behalf of the Metropolitan Railway company, examined the wrecked coach on Tuesday afternoon, and endorsed the theory of the company that an explosion was caused by a detonator of some kind, and was not attributable to gas.


    An inquest was opened on Friday, at St. Bartholomew's hospital, before Mr. Arthur Longhorn, upon the body of Henry Pitts. The coroner said that as regarded the procedure that day he was obliged by a clause in the Explosives Act to hold no inquiry unless there. was present an inspector or some other person to represent the Secretary of State, in order to watch the proceedings. Colonel Majendie had written to say that he was engaged that day at a committee of the House of Commons on the subject of petroleum, and therefore could not be present, and it had been arranged that he should have time to complete his inquiry into the circumstances of the explosion before the jury were called together again.—The jury then proceeded to view the body, and upon their return Mr. Mason said he appeared on behalf of the Metropolitan Railway company, and the directors desired through him to express their deep sympathy with those who were injured by the explosion, as well as with the widow and the relatives of the dead man. If there was anyone injured or any persons suffering because of the injury sustained by any one belonging to them, whose case had not been brought to the knowledge of the directors, be was instructed to state that the directors desired to be communicated with without delay, in order to render such assistance as was necessary under the circumstances, — James Pitts, of 114, Beaconsfield-road, Tottenham, carpenter, said the body shown to the jury was that of his brother, Harry Pitts. He was 35 years of age. He last saw him alive on Monday evening at 6.30. He was then in good health.--This *as all the evidence taken; and the inquiry was then adjourned until May 24.
    A fund is being. raised by the firm and its employés, and also by some friends, on behalf of the widow and children of the late Mr. Harry Pitts, ''Subscriptions will be received by Mr. W. J. Hall, the manager to Mr. F. H. Ayres, 111, Aldersgate-street, B.C.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, May 2, 1897