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Call for residents to be included on memorial plaque to Silvertown explosion victims

PUBLISHED: 16:15 17 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:26 17 February 2017

Sheila Simpson stood next to the Silvertown plaque at the centenary memorial. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

Sheila Simpson stood next to the Silvertown plaque at the centenary memorial. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

Archant

The relative of a mother killed in an explosion in Silvertown is calling for a memorial plaque to include the names of residents who died in the blast.

The stone was created by the Brunner Mond company at the end of the First World War.The stone was created by the Brunner Mond company at the end of the First World War.

While the details of workers who died in the explosion at the Brunner Mond works are engraved on the stone other victims have been omitted.

Sheila Simpson, 59, whose great aunt Elizabeth Priscilla Preston was killed in the munitions factory explosion on January 19, 1917, is calling for all the victims to be remembered.

She said: “They seem to have been totally overlooked, almost as though the loss of their lives didn’t matter.”

“They were just part of the mass of poor working class people who were more or less dispensable, in the same way that the millions of ordinary soldiers who died in the trenches were dispensable.”

Sheila’s great aunt was killed in the 50-tonne TNT blast at 6 Mill Road along with her mother-in-law Hannah Preston and her two children, George, three, and 11-month-old Dorothy.

The family had stepped into the garden to watch a fire which had broken out at the munitions factory across the road in Crescent Wharf, when tons of trinitroluene went up in an earth-shattering explosion.

The explosion also injured 400 people and destroyed more than 60,000 homes

Shelia noticed the names were missing at a memorial event to mark the centenary of London’s biggest blast.

It was organised by Sir Hugo Brunner, the great-grandson of the chairman whose company owned the factory, and arranged with Royal Wharf developers Ballymore and Oxley, who are building new housing on the former factory site, in partnership with Newham Council.

Sir Hugo said he was “100 per cent” behind Sheila’s campaign.

“I think it would be a very natural and appropriate idea to have the names of these people or some reference to those who died appear on it,” he told the Recorder.

He explained that the memorial had only recently been made public. It was originally made along with four other private plaques following the Great War to honour Bruner Mond employees who had died in battle.

The 81-year-old added while he supported the decision, he did not know who currently owned the memorial and could make the final decision to get an inscription added.

A spokeswoman for Royal Wharf said the developer was working with Historic England and Newham Council to take this issue forward.


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