Mayor joins relatives commemorating Silvertown Explosion centenary at Royal Wharf

20 January 2017 in Community neighbourhoods and Mayor and Regeneration
Relatives of those who died following a blast at a Silvertown munitions factory were joined by the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, and other guests at Royal Wharf last night (Thursday) to mark the centenary of one of the largest explosions the UK has ever known.
Sir Hugo Brunner, the great-grandson of the chairman of the company who owned the munitions factory
​Sir Hugo Brunner, the great-grandson of the chairman of the company who owned the munitions factory
​More than 70 people died, hundreds were injured and more than 60,000 homes were damaged when an explosion happened at the Silvertown factory at 6.52pm on 19 January 1917.
Last night, Sir Robin was joined by relatives of the victims, local councillors and other invited guests commemorated 100 years to the day since the event took place. Sir Hugo Brunner, the great-grandson of the chairman of the company who owned the munitions factory, also attended.
The factory in Silvertown was refining TNT to support the war effort when a fire broke out in the melt-pot room. The flames spread and ignited around 50 tonnes of explosives waiting to be transported.
The blast was so big it destroyed a large part of Silvertown. Part of the factory and several nearby streets were instantly destroyed and molten metal was showered over several miles. It started fires that could be seen from Kent and Surrey, with shockwaves felt in Essex. The blast was heard as far away as Norwich and Portsmouth.
At the time, the government tried to play down the disaster. This was partly because they did not want people to panic and also because they did not want the enemy to know about the development of weapons. A subsequent government enquiry concluded the explosion was the result of an accident not sabotage.
Now the Royal Docks area is undergoing a multibillion pound regeneration to bring new homes and businesses to the area. The site of the explosion is now a public park within the Royal Wharf development, containing a memorial to the event.
Last night speeches were made by Sir Robin, Sir Hugo and historian Dr Malcolm Graham. At 6.52pm a two minute silence was observed to remember those who lost their lives as a result of the blast.

Sir Robin Wales lays flowers at the memorial stone

People also laid flowers at the memorial stone on the Royal Wharf development, at the site of the former factory. The event was organised and hosted by the Royal Wharf developers Ballymore and Oxley, in partnership with Newham Council and Sir Hugo.
Sir Robin said: “The Silvertown of a century ago was a major industrial hub, a place of hard work and invention. But the area was much more than just a place of work, it was a community.
“Tragically that community was torn apart by one of the largest explosions ever seen in the UK. In all the accounts about the explosion you cannot help but be moved by the bravery and community spirit of the people of Silvertown from the firemen running towards the danger to the people supporting those made homeless by the blast.
“That community spirit is still vital as we stand on the cusp of a bright new future for Silvertown. The regeneration projects underway across the Royal Docks are giving the area a new lease of life that will benefit Newham and London as a whole. But we will never forget the tragic event that occurred here 100 years ago.”
Sir Hugo said: "The Brunners and Monds, whose family business operated the factory, are very pleased to be associated with this act of remembrance to honour those who suffered in the explosion and their families".