Glossop Heritage Trust


The Turnlee Panhouse Disaster 1943
The panhouse at Turnlee (as shown by the photo on the right) was home to a number of spherical pans used to boil the chemicals used in manufacturing paper. The mixture had a sulphur base so, unsurprisingly, the pans were subject to corrosion. The pans were tiled internally but, on occasion, the chemicals would still seep through to the metal and create a blow-hole, especially around a bolt.

The pans were inspected every five or six weeks. Whilst the tiles in the pans had a life of up to to four years, the life of the cement used for pointing varied considerably. Re-tiling was the most frequent repair job.

When a blow-out occurred the response depended on the severity. Sometimes it would seal itself and other, relatively minor, problems could be cured (at least temporarily) by filling up the holes with cement, which was drawn in by creating a suction in the pan. Such action would allow the current process to be completed or even allow the pan to be used until the weekend when more formal maintenance could be undertaken. It was infrequent that a blow-out would be bad enough to require the process to be stopped at once. Depending on the severity of the defect the repair might have been done in house or a specialist firm might be called in.
Turnlee mills interior
Earlier in the year trouble had been experienced in Pan No 1 with blow-holes at a place near the manhole, where a bolt and backplate had previously been fitted. An area was cut down and cleared so that it could be properly examined. About half of the surround of the manhole (an area of about four square feet) was exposed, but there was no sign of corrosion and a second plate was fitted. That seemed to work because the only subsequent trouble had been a leakage of acid from a bolt.

During the night shift of 24th/25th June a small leakage from a bolt was noticed in No. 1 pan and pressure was blowing from a bolt hole. It ceased, apart from bubbling round the head of the bolt, but it wasn't considered serious enough to stop the process. 25th June was a Friday and it appeared that it was a fault which could be repaired at the weekend.

The pan was examined at about 10 past 7 in the morning and there were signs of liquor from a bolt head near the manhole, but at that time it was not blowing. Such faults were normally not sufficiently serious to prevent finishing the process as they used to make themselves up. It was considered that it would be safe enough to carry on until 8 a.m., when the process would have been finished. It was just after 8 a.m. when the pan exploded.

Examination of the wreckage following the explosion indicated that the corrosion had been more extensive than was apparent when the repair had been made earlier in the year.

The coroner entered a verdict of "Misadventure" on each of the victims: Clarence Ralph Newton (60), of Victoria street, Glossop; Moses Wrigley (30), of Charlestown, Glossop; Frank Johnson (60), of Kershaw street, Glossop; and Tom Fielding (65), of Chapel street, Glossop. Five other men were injured and treated in hospital..

The photos below show the aftermath of the explosion.

Panhouse explosion aftermath       Panhouse explosion aftermath
Panhouse explosion aftermath       Panhouse explosion aftermath
Panhouse explosion aftermath       Panhouse explosion aftermath
Panhouse explosion aftermath       Panhouse explosion aftermath
Panhouse explosion aftermath       Panhouse explosion aftermath

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Page last updated: 25 September 2017.
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