LOCAL HISTORY: A terrible explosion at the powder mill which blew two men to pieces

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Historian

IT was around 1882 that John Barnes observed a flash of lightning while crossing Levens Bridge which was dangerously near gunpowder mills at Force Falls on the River Kent.

‘I saw a blinding flash and learned afterwards what mischief it had wrought. Its path was most eccentric. First it struck an ash tree 100 yards from the mill.

‘It ripped up the bark of the tree, ploughed a furrow across the road and burrowed under a high wall, cut across a potato patch to a line of railings, followed these for a distance, eventually deserting them and making a plunge for the river, igniting the powder mill on the way.

‘The ash tree still shows the scar though partly healed and partly hidden by a kindly spray of ivy that has grown over it.’

No one was hurt on that occasion, but later Mr Barnes recorded that on March 30, 1903, following ‘a terrible explosion at the powder mill two men were literally blown to pieces and four others seriously injured’.

But, this time, the cause was human error and not lightning power.

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