Staffordshire Sentinel and Commercial and General Advertiser,
Saturday, 24th Oct, 1863, p4.
LONGTON. Explosion of Gunpowder —
About seven o'clock on Thursday morning [22nd] an explosion of gunpowder took place at the Roe Buck beer house, adjoining the Market Place, (1) which is kept Henry Johnson, who is also a butty collier in the employ of Mr. Sparrow.
Mr. Johnson, it appears, was in the habit of keeping powder for blasting purposes in his house, taking out small quantities as he wanted it to use at the colliery. He kept this powder in a room on the second floor, a part of which, divided from the rest by a wooden partition, forms a bed room for two young children, both under nine years of age. (2) There were from four to five pounds of powder in a small barrel in this room on Thursday morning. By some means this powder exploded, doing considerable damage to the house itself, but fortunately little besides. The referred to, it was supposed, were at the time asleep in the adjoining room, but except the night clothes of one of them being singed they sustained no harm. The explosion blew out the windows of the room, shattered the ceiling, unhinged and threw down two doors, cracked the walls in several places, the wooden partition was blown down, several tiles were shaken from the roof, the wall in the lower part of the house damaged, and the whole building in fact, shaken to its foundations and unsettled. Above the room in which the explosion took place is a garret and a portion of the powder found its way through the ceiling of the room and the garret, and left openings in the roof. The house belongs to the North Staffordshire Railway Company. It is difficult to estimate the amount of the damage done, but it is no doubt considerable. The report was heard for a long distance around and. created some alarm until the real fact became known. No cause of the explosion can be assign unless the children mentioned set fire to it in play, not being aware of the danger they were creating.
- Actually, the "Old Roebuck Inn", was at 2 Wood Street, directly adjoining the iconic Longton railway bridge, which fortunately does not seem to have been damaged in the incident. Johnson came from Shropshire, but his wife, Mary Ann was local and his children were all born in Longton. He was a new tenant; the 1861 census has him at 137 Heathcote Road, as "coal miner", but beer selling and butty men often went together. The building seems to have survived and the NSR must have been tolerant landlords, as the family were still there in the 1871 census, with Johnson now just down as a beer seller, but with 5 coal miner lodgers, one with wife.
- These were Henry Jnr, then 8, and Rosetta, aged 5. At the time there was also a younger daughter, 1 year old Rosannah, and two more children, Richard and Harriett, arrived in the years after the incident.