The Hammond Lane Explosion, 1878

From the Freeman’s Journal, 29 April 1878:

“On Saturday afternoon Dublin was startled and horrified by one of the most appalling accidents which has ever taken place in this metropolis – an accident by which no less than fourteen fellow creatures have lost their lives, and by which a dreadful amount of suffering, sorrow, misery and bereavement has been caused.

The scene of this awful occurrence was Hammond-Lane, a narrow laneway situated in the poor and populous district in the immediate neighbourhood of the Four Courts.  In this lane is, or rather was, the foundry and ironworks of the Messrs Strong, millwrights and engineers.  About two o’clock on Saturday the boiler of the foundry exploded, shivering to atoms the building in which it stood, reducing to a heap of ruins the public house which stood next to the foundry, and scattering death and destruction in all directions.  

Strange to say, the explosion accompanying this dreadful occurrence was not a loud one – the neighbouring police courts were full of people at the time, and not one of them heard anything.  The results, however, of the catastrophe were frightful… No less than thirteen persons were either dead when taken out of the ruins or have since succumbed, and at least one person is known to be still beneath the mass, and of course no hope can be entertained for her – for the poor creature is a woman – of being bought out alive.”

A subsequent inquest jury found that the explosion was due to corrosion on the boiler, but baulked at finding Messrs Strong criminally negligent.

The name ‘Hammond Lane’ is a corruption of ‘Hangman’s Lane,’ and it was along this dark and gloomy route that convicted criminals were once brought to be hanged on the gibbet which stood beside the river at Stoneybatter. Zoom in on the above painting to see one such execution occurring in the far distance.

The ground on which the foundry once stood is now intended to be used for the new Family Law complex. Perhaps the inclusion in the new development of some small memorial to the victims of the Hammond Lane Disaster – and those others who travelled their last along this street – might assist in procuring better luck for the future?

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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