This is a linked post. This first part uses the report of engineer John Waugh for the insurers of the Mills’ boilers to put together a time-line, illustrations and other key data about the Newlands Mill Disaster in 1882. It includes Waugh’s diagram of the line of fall of the chimney in relation to the Ripleys Mills complex, the Mills serviced from the chimney and Newlands Mill. As well as ‘A Haley & Co’ and Moulsons the builders, the architect William Andrews make an appearance. The 20 year timeline lists the ‘Short Cuts to Catastrophe’ made through the chimney’s changing specifications and design, the building, repairs and re-repairs to the chimney and the fatal disregard for workers safety when it fell in 1882.
A second linked post uses details of the plan of the Ripleys Mills complex, from John Waugh’s report, to look at ownership of the various Mills and the central chimney and to move on other strands in the rediscovering Ripleyville story.
Short Cuts to Catastrophe
A quick return
Having intended to set the Newlands Mill Disaster to one side after the Two Anniversaries post, I find myself returning to it, almost within a month. At least part of the reason is because some detailed illustrations from 1883 have come to light and because one of those illustrations shows the various firms occupying ‘Ripleys Mills’ at the time of the chimney’s fall. The illustration shows where Messrs Ripleys (Patent) Melange Mill (so important to the upcoming Ripleyville 150th anniversary) was and the location of ‘Haleys Mill’ within the complex of buildings that made up Ripleys Mills.
In addition the new sources of information make it possible to create a time-line from an as yet uncertain date, probably in the Spring of 1862, when the foundations were started, to 28th December 1882 when the chimney fell. There is also new factual information about the chimney itself. These include;, its changing specifications, the design, the redesign, the ‘cutting’ to straightening it, a re-redesign, repair, on-going maintenance. There is then the final removal of stone on Christmas Eve 1882 in another, this time fatal and catastrophic, attempt at repair.
The information in the previous post came by way of Alan O’Day Scott (2002) and Willie Reynolds (Jan 1883) amongst others Victorian sources. This time the main contemporary Victorian source is the ‘chartered’ engineer John Waugh. He was an ‘expert’ witness at the Inquest into the Disaster and then compiled a report for the Boiler and Steam Users Insurers into the causes of it, a little later in the year (March 1883). His approach then is a little more forensic than those in other contemporary reports. The more recent source is Laurence Tetley who wrote an article ‘Appalling Catastrophe in Bradford’ for the Yorkshire Journal (Spring 1997), based on Waugh’s report and other sources. Using the newer information, the facts are better able to speak for themselves. They are still not as comprehensive, unambiguous, or authoritative as the subject requires. Original Inquest records or reports have not been consulted. It should, however, make possible a better judgement on the Inquest jury’s decision (as outlined in the Two Anniversaries post).
In a second linked part to this post the plan of the Ripleys Mills complex will be looked at in more detail, particularly the location of the chimney and Newlands Mill and Messrs Ripleys (Patent) Melange . So some kind of answer can be made to the questions I posed about ownership and responsibility during the Two anniversaries post and some detail can be added to other parts of the rediscovering Ripleyville story.
The People, Chimney and site, the Plot
In the Two Arriversaries post, I’d suggested the Newlands Mill Disaster might provide suitable material, for a film or play or dramatic re-enactment. So perhaps I should start by introducing ‘the People’ (dramatis personae), the 255ft high Newlands Mill chimney and its site and ‘the Plot’ (the Short Cuts to Catastrophe).
The Ripleyville residents. There were direct links between the industrial model village of Ripley Ville and those who died in the Disaster. I had speculated previously on the impact of the Disaster on the ‘schools’ at Ripley Ville. The ages of those killed in the Disaster, 11 of whom were under 13, might suggest an impact on children who were part-timers but there is no direct evidence in terms of those who died to link them with the Ripleyville schools. This is not to say previous or indirect links may not exist, nor that children from the school were not amongst those injured.
Three people who lived in Ripley Ville in December 1882 were killed by the fall of the chimney. Two were teenagers and probably brothers; George Bouldy (15) and the younger Joseph Ellis Bouldy (14), both of 77 Ripley Terrace. The third young person to die was Lavinia Cooper (19) of Sloane Street.
source Willie Reynolds (Jan 1883) ‘A Terrible Calamity’
The architects The architects for the Newlands Mill chimney were Messrs Andrews and Delauney. Andrews and Delauney were a forerunner to the better know practice of Andrew Son and Pepper, who were architects for much of the industrial model village of Ripley Ville. Andrews Senior was William Andrews (1804-1870).
The clients In name, the clients, would have been Messrs Ripley; that is Edward Ripley & Son. In practice the client was Henry William Ripley (for some reason his forenames are reversed in Lawrence Tetley’s article). Henry appears to have assumed control of the various commercial activities of the firm by the mid-to-late 1850s, buying out his father’s stock.
The builders John Moulson & Son
‘Chartered’ Engineer John Waugh
A proposal for membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was made for a John Waugh of Tyrrel St, Bradford, dated 22nd January 1877.
source IMECHe archive
A John Waugh, ‘civil engineer and one of a family of builders’, was a founder subscriber in 1878 to the Winter Garden Company involved in the development of the Winter Gardens in Morecambe and involved later in the partnership of Waugh and Isitt of Leeds in the design and building of an office and warehouse in Tyrrel Street Bradford.
Chimney doctors and repairers (various and unnamed)
Witness to straightening of chimney John Dobson
Witnesses to fall of masonry during period immediately prior to fall of chimney : unnamed
Witnesses to fall of chimney Eye-witness 1 unnamed , Eye-witness 2 unnamed, Eye-witness 3 : ‘a workman’
Survivor a lad, surname of Hudson
The initial specification and design was for a chimney 210ft (70 yards, 63 metres) in height. Set on a square base of 24ft x 24ft (7m by 7 m ), above it was to be octagonal in shape with a batter (inward slop) taking it to a square top 17ft 6 in x 17ft 6 in (5.25 metres x 5.25 metres). Moulsons contract for the work was for £942 5s 10.
As is shown in the diagram towards the end of this post, when developed, the chimney and its coal-fired boiler house serviced 15 boilers across the whole of the Ripley Mills complex and even across one of the roads to a neighbouring Mill.
The site for the chimney was over, or in part over, disused coal or iron workings. Laurence Tetley describes the site as ‘an old mineshaft’, Alan O’Day Scott as ‘a pit-shaft’. John Waugh described the site at the Inquest as ‘an old coal pit surrounded by old workings …’
In my view neither Lawrence Tetley nor Alan O’Day Scott are right in describing it as a ‘green field site’. It is clearly a brown field site. I’m also uncertain as to whether the site for the chimney was newly purchased in 1860 and the chimney’s site in relation to the pre-existing ‘Bowling New Dye House’ shown in the OS County Series Map of 1849.
(My hunch is that Ripleys Mills was a redevelopment and southward expansion of the pre-existing site but this needs to be checked.)
The Plot : Short Cuts to Catastrophe
It could be argued that persisting with the inappropriate site was the first short-cut to catastrophe. All of our judgements are of course coloured by that wonderful thing hind-sight. What is clear is that an associated decision compounded the inadvisability of persisting with the site. It also shows where our present Planning and Building Regulations, belt and braces, regime comes from, as do the subsequent events in the time-line.
Early 1862 : First short cut A proposal for solid brickwork foundations was not accepted. A fill of concrete, stone and oak wedges was used.
Early 1862 : First redesign ”The chimney had hardly started to grow’, when a decision was made to increase the chimney’s height by 81 ft (27 yds) to 291 ft and to change the outer brickwork to include ornamental panels with eyes set into them to each of the 8 sides of the chimney.
O’Day Scott suggests that a 300 ft (91.4 metre) chimney was planned.
It is at some point during this early process that William Moulson is reported to have tried to warn H W Ripley about potential dangers but ”Mr Ripley only smiled and said “You must do it my way”.’
Laurence Tetley writes that ‘professional advice’ was given that the sculptured panels ‘were likely to prove a source of weakness’.
June 7th & 8th 1862 : Settlement & Second short-cuts
By the evening of 7th June the chimney was 71 ft (27 yds ) high & plumb.
On morning of 8th June the chimney had moved out of plumb and in the words of the foreman builder, ‘bulged out on one side and was hollow on the other’.
An expert in straightening chimney’s was summoned from Manchester. The chimney was found to be sound but to have settled.
The remedy followed was to slice into the chimney at a height of about 50 ft on the opposite side to the lean and remove a course of stones. When this did not work a second cut, 2ft above the first, was made, which caused the chimney or at least it’s upper portion to move and it
‘rocked back into the vertical.’ (witness John Dobson).
June 1862 : Second redesign Subsequent to the above decisions and remdial work, the height of the chimney was reduced to a total of 255 ft but a decorated cornice weighing 50 tons was added.
1866 : Sign of stress in chimney In 1866 a large fissure appeared on the side opposite and at the same height to where the cuts had been made and were repaired.
1873 : More signs of stress More cracks appeared and were repaired
Oct 1881 The condition of the chimney is giving renewed ’cause for concern’.
November 9th 1882 : The interregnum Sir Henry Wm Ripley dies suddenly while at his intended new home Bedstone Court in Shropshire.
Dec 1882 A decision is made to undertake repairs to the chimney during the Christmas period.
Christmas Eve 24th December 1882 : Repairs begin Scaffolding is erected. Stonemasons remove a 30ft damaged portion of outer stone from a ‘massive bulge’ on the south-east face of the chimney. They cannot remove pinched stonework in the opposite face. Repair work and work in the surrounding Mills stops.
25th, 26th & 27th December 1882 : Worsening weather
Reports of’ freezing temperatures and gales’.
Stone work is reported as falling and the scaffolding also became dislodged.
The Fateful Day
28th December 1882 : Missed opportunities
Minutes before 6 o’clock : Workers arrive for the 6 o’clock shift at Haleys’s Mill and went in to start work. Those arriving late would be fined by the ‘pennyman’, or shut out until the next shift came on.
Some time between 6 o’clock and 8 o’clock :
Builders return to continue repairs and have to re-erect and refix scaffolding. Unobserved within Haley’s Mill, ‘tons of stonework crashed into the yard’. Elsewhere unnamed witnesses see the masonry come down but thinks it is part of the repair work.
8 o’clock December 28th 1882 : Breakfast Break
While others leave, 100 workers stay inside Haleys Mill to eat breakfast. A young survivor, of the surname ‘Hudson’ is reported as saying
Just after we stopped for breakfast we heard a crack from the chimney. There were six or seven other lads with me but we couldn’t see nothing new.’
A few minutes after 8 o’clock, December 28th 1882 : the chimney ‘bursts’ then topples sideways
For a few seconds [the chimney] began crushing down in the lower portion by the weight of the upper portion. Then reeling a little as if uncertain which way to fall, the upper portion fell in a south-easterly direction on to the Mill.
‘It seemed to fall in a solid column for some little time then it broke off at the bottom and fell upon the mill in two pieces.’
Eyewitness 3 : a workman
‘A right waft came and it started rocking at the top. I said “Look out lads!”, then it bulged out in the middle and began coming down and the top part went right across the mill and cut it in two.’
Ripleys Mills complex : Line of Fall of Chimney across Newlands Mill (Report of John Waugh, March 1883)
Dusk 28th December 1882
Electric arc lights with a ‘dynamo machine’ and brought from Ripleys Mill so the search for survivors, the dead or dying can continue after dark.
Midnight 28th December 1882
It is judged that about twenty per cent of the debris had been cleared by this time and in Willie Reynold account;
… the number of battered and bruised corpses that lay awaiting identification in the extemporised mortuary was 23, they lay grim and ghastly in the flickering light of some oil lamps, the only light in the place … each body being covered with a piece of rough sacking on which was a board bearing the name of the dead in chalk letters. (Some bodies we can assume will have been already removed to homes, or by undertakers.)
The death toll would eventually rise to 54, with more than 50 other people seriously injured.
Bradford Trades Council was involved in a Newlands Mill Disaster Fund to support and provide legal representation of families of the victims. A Bradford Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund was also set up for their benefit.
A linked post, in preparation, uses details of the plan of the Ripleys Mills complex above to look at ownership of the various Mills and the central chimney, at owners and builders responsibilities alongside the inquest verdict and responses to it, and to move on other strands in the rediscovering Ripleyville story.
Last updated 2013/02/27