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Clayton Foundry Co (Manchester)

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of Hope Foundry, Crabtree Lane, Clayton, Manchester.

Seems to have been the same as the Clayton Foundry Co of Newton, near Hyde (about 4 miles east of Clayton).

1899 Clayton Engineering and Electrical Construction Co of Clayton were makers of Engines, dynamos and other equipment

1904 Advertisement: 'THIS DAY (TUESDAY). Clayton Foundry, Clayton, Manchester. —Sale, in one lot, the Buildings forming the electrical or mechanical engineering works and foundry, with the Site thereof, at the LOW UPSET PRICE £700. .... the CLAYTON FOUNDRY, situate near Crabtree-lane, Clayton aforesaid. and alongside the Great Central Railway Company's Canal, previously advertised.....'[1]



The 1905 15-inch O.S. map[2] shows an iron works on Crabtree Lane, on the south bank of the Ashton Canal, adjacent to Canal locks. This was probably Clayton Foundry. There are now industrial ruins on the site, evidently post-dating the foundry. On the opposite side of the canal was a chemical works and a small row of terraced houses and a pub (then called 'The Crabtree').


The foundry was the scene of a terrible accident in 1889, when 11 men died from burns from molten metal following an explosion during the production of a large iron casting. A number of transcribed newspaper reports follow, as they contain interesting historical, technical, and sociological aspects. Typographical errors have been left uncorrected.

Report, 2nd November 1889

'SHOCKING EXPLOSION AT MANCHESTER. A dreadful accident occurred on Monday afternoon at the Works of the Clayton Foundry (Limited), just outside the Manchester City boundary. At about a quarter to 4 o'clock 40 or 50 men who were engaged in the moulding shop on a large casting, poured into a mould 15 tons of molten metal from a cauldron which was suspended from a travelling crane. No sooner had they done so than they noticed the black sand of which the mould was composed rise and fall. The metal burst the mould with a loud explosion, and splashed all around in a terrific manner. Some of it flying upwards struck men on the platform of the crane, and one, named John O'Neill, fell or jumped into the seething metal 20ft. below, meeting with instantaneous death. The men who had stood beside him were badly burned.

'Meanwhile the roof of the shed took fire, and the city fire brigade was at once sent for. The uninjured workmen did their utmost immediately to extricate those who had been seriously hurt, and who numbered about l5. These were taken the Manchester Infirmary, three and a half mile away, and to tbe Ancoats Hospital. The fire brigade worked for an hour in the extinction of the burning shed, but only put out the fire when the roof had been consumed. The injuries of the men in hospital are in some cases very serious. It is supposed that the explosion was caused by the dampness of the sand in the mould, or by air having got between the metal and the mould.'[3]

Report of Inquest, 9th November 1889

CLAYTON EXPLOSION. THREE MORE DEATHS. THE FAMILIES OF THE DEAD AND INJURED. INQUESTS AND VERDICTS. Three more deaths have resulted from the terrible explosion last Monday week at the Hope Ironworks, Clayton. William Newton, aged 21, who lived at 161, Ashton Old Road, Openshaw, died on Saturday morning at the Manchester Infirmary from the effect of severe burns on the face, arms, and left knee. On ; Monday James Hindle, 49 years of age, died in the Royal Infirmary. On Wednesday Robert Sweatman, labourer, 19 years of age, who resided in Simpson-street, Bradford, died. Has injuries were very serious, and there never was much hope of his recovery. This is the ninth death. Two of the dead, who were bachelors, assisted to maintain their relatives, and the six married men who have succumbed to their injuries leave six widows and 19 orphans. Of the latter only about three are in a position to earn their own livelihood. The widows and about 16 orphans will, unless the charitable intervene, have no recourse but to seek relief from the Poor-law officers. The same remark also applies to the dependent relatives of the injured men. In almost every family the solitary wage-earner has been rendered helpless. It is a remarkable feature of the accident that all the men who were burnt, with one exception are of the labouring class. A moulder named Jaggers, who lives at Openshaw, was the only skilled workman who has suffered serious effects. His feet are badly burned, and he is being nursed at home. From his club he is entitled to sick pay amounting to 8s. per week. None of the other poor fellows have made any provision for periods of misfortune, and the grief into which their sufferings have plunged families who were dependent upon them is intensified by the presence of extreme poverty. A local relief fund was opened a few days ago for the purpose of affording temporary aid. The Committee met twice last week, at the residence of the chairman (the Rev. W. H. Burns), Clayton Hall, and on Saturday the sum of £5. 14s. was distributed to meet urgent needs. The Clayton Foundry Company, in addition to a donation of £50, have undertaken to defray the cost of the interments. But this local help, while absolutely indispensable, cannot possibly be s regarded as complete. Already eight of the injured have died. It is to be hoped that the Committee of which the Mayor of Manchester (Mr. Alderman Batty) acts as chairman will meet with a liberal a response to their appeal, and will be able to give permanent relief to the necessitous cases. At one large works in Bradford nearly £50 have been subscribed by the men. The position of the families of the killed and injured is detailed below:-

THE DEAD. William Newton (21), of Ashton Old Road. A single man living with his parents, whom he assisted to maintain.

William Biggs (59), 25, Spencer-street, Mitchell- street, Ancoats. Leaves a widow and one daughter. The only income is 6s. 6d. a week, earned by the daughter, who is 16 years of age. Biggs was insured, and his widow will receive about £6.

Henry James Mulhady (26), 24, Moody- Leaves a widow and three daughters, the eldest 10 and the youngest four.

Michael Cavanagh (47), 20, School-street, Cheadle Heath, Stockport. Leaves a widow and five sons and daughters, the eldest aged 20 and the youngest five.

James Jeffrey (41), 10, Wovenden-street, Bradford. IThis is perhaps the saddest case of all. He leaves a widow and nine children, the eldest, a girl, aged 13. She works half time, and earns 2s. 9d. a week. This represents the whole income of the family. One child is away from home.

James Hindle (49), 12, Mart-street, Ardwick. He leaves a wife, who is not in employment, but no family. It is pathetic to notice that Hindle, after being out of work for 23 weeks, engaged with the Clayton Foundry Company on the morning of the day on which the accident happened, and that he only began work about three hours before the explosion occurred. He was badly burned about the arms and face.

Robert Swetmore (wrongly described as Swetenham), aged 19, 52, Simpson-street, Mil-street, Bradford. He was a single man, living with his father, who is a grave digger, and had no one dependent on him.

THE INJURED. - Harry Webster (21), Ashton New Road, Clayton He is a single man, and no one is dependent on him. His arms and face are badly burned.

James Rooney (33), 48, Alfred-street, Droylsden. He has a wife and three little children. Though burned on the arms, face, and neck, his is one of the most hopeful cases.

Alfred Parry (36), 3, Violet-street, Openshaw. He has a wife and two sons and two daughters, the eldest aged 14. His injuries are on the arms and the right side of the face, and, if he should recover, it is feared that he will be dreadfully disfigured for life.

Alfred Hyde (35), 1, Collins's Yard, Newton Heath. He is married, and has four sons and one daughter, the eldest 16 and the youngest seven. Two of the children work, one bringing in 9s. a week and the other 10s. He is burnt on the forearms and thighs.

William Travis (25), 24, Parker-street, Bradford. A single man, with no relatives dependent upon him, badly burned about the lower part of the body.

John Coverley (40), 17, Hope-street, Bradford. He is married and has three children, the eldest aged eight, and the youngest three. His injuries are on the arms and face.

John Curley (29), Scotch Buildings, Holt Town, Beswick. He has an invalid wife an infant child. He is very badly burned on the face and arms.

S. W. Jaggers, moulder, of Openshaw, is the only skilled workman in the list of the injured. His feet are burned, and he is being nursed at home. From his club he gets sick pay amounting to 8s. per week.

'ADJOURNED INQUEST AT CLAYTON. Mr. F. Price, coroner for the district, on Wednesday resumed, at the Half-way House, Clayton, his inquiry respecting the death of John Neil, who was killed by the explosion which recently took place at the premises of the Clayton Foundry Company. Mr. C. J. Hall appeared for the company, and Mr. 0. S. Leak for the father of the deceased. Mr. B. Chorlton represented the relatives of another of the victims, named Cavannah. Mr. J. Jones, Government Inspector, was also present.

'The inquiry had been adjourned for the purpose of obtaining skilled testimony as to the cause of the accident, and on Wednesday the following report was presented by Mr. Henry Hodgson, of the firm of Messrs. Scott and Hodgson, Guide Bridge, and Mr. John Smedley, foreman moulder with Messrs. Hetherington and Co, who in conjunction made an examination of the premises:- For the purpose of making an examination, we had the sand dug out from the back of the cores forming the outside of the pulley, and the cores removed. Upon this being done, we could trace the flow of metal, and found that it had penetrated the sand covering the plates, and that the melted metal had come in contact with the plates. Immediately upon the metal reaching those plates an explosion would he the result. The fluid metal so far as we could make examination, appears to have come in contact with the plates all round the mould, and by so doing would fully account for the violence and character of the explosion. It is scarcely possible to imagine that the metal could strike down to the plates, except by pre-supposing that some movement or giving way of the mould had taken place, and, as corroborative evidence of this view, there are three fins of metal striking outwards, and which have evidently penetrated through the joints of the cores forming the out- side rim of the pulley. It has been given in evidence that the man in charge of a riser called "Up," but immediately after it was found that the mould was not full, and that the foreman was in the act of pouring in more metal when the explosion took place. If this is true it is proof that some giving way had taken place in the mould, and that the metal was finding an outlet. We are of opinion that the core forming the end of the semicircle on the side furthest away from the canal was the first to give way and was the cause of the commencement of the explosion. The I disturbance that would take place inside the mould would dislodge other cores, and displace the sand between the fluid metal and the plates, and the giving way of this core took place at the moment when the strain, due to the combined statical pressure and percussion action of the full mould came upon it. We are further of opinion that the material forming the backing to the ramming up was not sufficiently firm and solid to stand the strain and thus allowed the core to yield to the pressure. The foundry is on the bank of the canal. On the premises there was a narrow cartway between the boundary and the wall of the moulding shop. The distance between the water at the surface of the canal and the end wall of the moulding shop was about l8ft. The general surface of the moulding shop floor was 4ft. 2in. lower than the surface of the water in the canal, but the other land on the company's premises would be from 8ft. to l0ft. below the surface of the canal.

'After the reading of the report the jury visited the scene of the explosion. Upon their return into court Mr. Hodgson was further questioned by the coroner. He said that in the opinion of himself and Mr. Smedley, any possible dampness of the sand had not contributed to the explosion. It was a well-known fact that when molten metal came in contact with cold iron an explosion would follow. The outside wall, outside the ramming, was not sufficiently firm a to resist the pressure inside the mould. In his opinion the accident had arisen not from the construction of the core, nor from imperfect ramnming, but from the weak character of the backing. Replying to questions from the jury, Mr. Hodgson said that the fault lay in part of the bed of the foundry. If there had been no plates there would have been no explosion. The casting would have been a lost but there would have been no explosion. Considering the nature of the floor he thought the iron plates were necessary, but he considered that they were not plated low enough below the sand. By Mr. Hall: If any agitation of the metal had been perceptible before the explosion he would have expected it to show at the weakest point. The explosion, however, would take place very like an explosion of gunpowder, and it would be impossible to measure time. Replying to further interrogations, witness said that with the use of the plates he thought the floor suitable. He thought the cores were suitable for their purposes.

'Mr. Smedley recalled, said he differed from Mr. Hodgson in regard to the cores which formed the rim. These being made in segments, instead of in one piece would cause small fins to be left between the core, and it would not be possible for any moulder to get at it to fill up the interstices of the mould and make them secure. This, therefore, would give the metal a chance to get away through the openings. The weak backing would render the segments weaker. He did not know why it had been made in segments, except for cheapness. The outside of the mould should have been bricked up.

'This was all the evidence. The Coroner said he thought the circumstances of the explosion had been very clearly and scientifically explained to them. The Jury had to consider if they thought that anyone was criminally to blame. Was the man Vickers, who seemed to have been in charge of the operation, in any way criminally to blame for the accident? The jury were then left in private and consulted together for nearly an hour. Upon the reassembing of he court, the Coroner, at the request of. the jury, asked Mr. Hodgson some questions relating to the cranes at the foundry. Mr. Hodgson said that he casually noticed their construction. He disapproved of the method of working them-namely, from above. This method was a very common practice. If they were worked from below it would be much safer in case of metal flying. The jury then returned a verdict of "Accidental death," with the following rider: " The jury are of opinion that it is the imperative duty of the proprietors of the Clayton Foundry before proceeding with any large casting of the magnitude of the one causing this explosion to dig out the loose bed or foundation of the moulding shop and replace it with a foundation sufficiently solidified to prevent the recurrence of accident. Further, in the opinion of the jury, with a view to the greater safety of the work;- men, the cranes should be altered so that they can he worked from the floor." The proceedings then terminated.

'ADJOURNED INQUEST IN MANCHESTER. At the Manchester City Coroner's Court, on Thursday, Mr S. Smelt, deputy coroner, resumed his inquiry touching the deaths of the men who died at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and the Ancoats Hospital from the effects of the injuries they received in the recent explosion on the premises of the Clayton Foundry Company Limited. - Michael Vickers, foreman moulder at the foundry, repeated the evidence which he gave at the inquest held before the county coroner, Mr. F. Price. He gave it as his opinion that the explosion was first caused by moisture which must have come up through the sand. A foundry near water was not so safe as one removed from water. The floor was both weak and damp. He had not the faintest idea that there was any danger.- Chadwick, bookkeeper at the Clayton Foundry, was called, and said that he remembered a man leaving upon the Saturday before the Monday on which the accident happened. He had only been working a day or two. He gave no reason for leaving; but since the accident witness had heard that he left because he thought there was danger. His name was Frow. A man named Rosier gave up work during the week preceding the day of the accident, but witness did not know what his reason for leaving was. He heard nothing before the explosion of men leaving because of danger. He had only heard it since in the way of rumour. Mr. Smelt referred to an anonymous letter which had been received, and which was in the following terms: "One of our foremen left because he would not do a job- like that t'other day, because 'twas not safe, and he knowed it would bust and kill someone." Mr. Smelt said that this was all the letter stated, and there was nothing even to show with certainty that it referred to this particular accident. Mr. Chorlton said he thought there could be little doubt that it referred to the explosion. - The witness said that no foreman had left their place during the last month. - Witnesses were examined, and the jury, after a short consideration, returned a verdict of "Accidental death," adding a rider to the effect that they considered it an error of judgment on the part of the foreman Vickers to undertake the work in question on premises so unfitted for the purpose.' [4]

Letter from the Clayton Foundry Co., 1890

'THE CLAYTON FOUNDRY ACCIDENT. To the Editor of the Manchester Evening News. Sir,—As the Relief Committee formed for the assistance of the sufferers in this lamentable catastrophe will shortly finish its labours and hand over to a trust the balance in hand, to be applied to the permanent relief of the widows and orphans, we feel it our duty to express, through your columns, our sincere thanks and those of our employes for the deep sympathy displayed by the subscribers to the Accident Fund, whereby the immediate wants of the sufferers were promptly attended to, and substantial permanent aid has been assured to many widows and orphans. We feel deeply the sympathy shown by the working classes in the manner in which they assisted in helping forward the collection of funds. We think it our duty to mention that the Lancashire and Yorkshire Accident Insurance Company, Limited, under whom we held a policy covering risks under the Employers' Liability Act, 1880, have promptly and liberally discharged, without any legal difficulty, every claim made upon us in connection with the accident, though we were advised, on eminent legal advice, that such claims could not be established against us in a court of law. The sums agreed upon in each case have been duly paid over to the various parties entitled thereto, and this, together with the allowance which will doubtless be made by the trustees, should keep from want those who have suffered. We are, &c. The Clayton Foundry Co. 21st April, 1890.' [5]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertise, Tuesday 12th April 1904
  2. The Godfrey Edition map: Lancashire Sheet 104.12: Openshaw 1905 [1]
  3. Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, Saturday 2nd November 1889
  4. Manchester Times, Saturday 9th November 1889
  5. Manchester Evening News - Tuesday 22 April 1890