Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Glass tomb

You will remember this glass stopper from the last post. Here is the full story:

Brierley Hill, Glass Furnace Accident.

"There are they say, only two things in life that are inescapable, Death and Taxes. It would appear, from the latest reports, that the latter is no longer true, but the former takes a bit more dodging than we are capable of. Some times when we least expect it. Just how much of Albert Ryder andEnoch Oliver were actually buried, in 1893, is a matter of conjecture. They both worked at Messers Wright and Company, a Glass Bottle factory at The Delph, Brierley Hill. On the 20th November, together with Charles Henry Pearson, they were attending to the furnace, which had a capacity for nearly a100 tons of Molton Glass. It wasn't a new furnace, and neither was it as well maintained as it should have been. Leaks were pretty common in the glass industry, and the standard method of stopping one was to direct water at it, hoping the glass would cool down enough to seal the hole. This normally worked, so when, at about 1.15 pm, a leak was found, this what the three of them did. It was a " quick fix too many ", and one of the Firebricks, 3 feet long, 2 feet long, and a foot thick, dropped out of the base of the furnace, directly over where they were standing. Charles Henry Pearson must have had a veritable band of guardian angels standing with him that day, as he managed to escape the deluge of the 2,400 degree molton glass. The other two wern't so lucky, as the entire contents spread out across the workshop floor, engulfing them as it went. I would, as would others, hope that death overtook them in an instant, as it's hard to picture a more terrible end. ( I had enough trouble, when I was younger, trying to get my head around why a man would fling himself into a vat of  hot spelter, in the Galvanising shop of the factory I worked at.) The rather grisley task of recovering the " bodies ", using hammers, chisels and crowbars, began as soon as the pile of glass cooled down. Apart from some bones, belt buckles, and nails from their boots, there wasn't much to recover. and Albert Ryder was buried at South Street Baptist Church, and Enoch Oliver in Brierley Hill, both of their mortal remains still encased in the glass. James Wright, the factories owner, expressed his sympathies to both mens families, said they would be greatly missed. With the arrogance so noteworthy of the time. he then said he hoped the other of his workman, would do all they could, to make up for being 3 men short. Needless to say, for the slipshod way he ran the place, and a total disregard for anyones safety, he was never prosecuted. Just another couple of " Accidental Deaths ".

Thanks to Dennis Neale for this, first posted on the Black Country Muse blog.

1 comment:

  1. AS a former Brierley Hill glassworker, this struck home. Admittedly, the firm I worked for (Stevens and Williams Ltd, Royal Brierley Crystal) was a full-lead crystal fine vessel glasshouse and our pots are likely to have been smaller than theirs but every week the teasers would break open the furnace walls and remove a white hot (empty-ish) pot and replace it with a full one. Sweat would flow from them like a stream. And the potential for accidents, manhandling white hot objects, is self-evident.