Valentine's Fireworks

Caricature of Colonel Vivian Dering Majendie CB (1826-1898, HM Inspector of Explosives. Caption reads "Explosives"; Wikipedia-Vivian Dering Majendie



In March 1872, in a very humble row of houses in Hackney, John Valentine was found by Chief Inspector George Clarke to be manufacturing fireworks in conditions that were substantially lower than the minimal safety expectations of the period. Valentine was convicted on several charges including manufacturing fireworks within 50 yards of a dwelling house (in an outbuilding 12 yards from his house), failing to have a suitable store for the safe storage of gunpowder (the lid of the cask was not properly fastened down) and filling cases with gunpowder within 20 yards of other shops.  Even his solicitor said that his client was “almost ignorant of the law”.  The Bow Street magistrate must have been feeling lenient that day, fining Valentine only £20 rather than the maximum £50.1 This was insufficient for Valentine to learn his lesson and the Home Office reported an explosion later that year “at Mr Valentine’s fireworks premises”, though its scale seems not to have been sufficiently newsworthy or unusual to have been picked up by the press. In this, and other 'explosive' cases, Clarke was in regular contact with the newly-appointed Government's Chief inspector of Explosives, Major (later Colonel) Majendie.2

Notes: 1. The Times and Daily News 27 March 1872; 2. The National Archives, TNA:PRO HO 65/29 Letter from Henry Winterbotham to Colonel Henderson, 11 October 1872; Wikipedia- Vivian Dering Majendie.

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