This week's story comes from the Newton area of Middlewich where, at one time, there was an iron and brass foundry, and the proprietor was Samuel Heath.

He worked with his two sons, William, the eldest, and Henry, the youngest.

The boiler on the premises had been bought second-hand 15 or 16 years earlier.

It was an old one when purchased, and there was no fireman for it employed; the engine was six horsepower.

On Wednesday, January 4, 1860, Samuel was in the yard with his sons, and they were preparing for casting; George Shawcroft, his grandson, aged 19, was also in the yard.

Samuel was getting up steam on the old boiler when it suddenly exploded, shattering the yard and everything in it.

The explosion was heard all around Middlewich, and close by was the Red Lion at the end of Wheelock Street (now apartments), in which Mr Woodward was the innkeeper.

There was a beerhouse connected to the inn, and this was a complete wreck.

The windows in the pub were literally smashed to atoms. The White Lion Inn fronted Wheelock Street with Mr Egerton as the innkeeper had the parlour windows shattered.

Across the road that led to Nantwich, one of the flying bricks knocked a pedestrian over, fortunately, without injury.

Northwich Guardian: The Red Lion at MiddlewichThe Red Lion at Middlewich (Image: Paul Hurley)

Mr Heath and his two sons were the only ones actually in the foundry at the time; they were buried in the explosion.

When they were extricated, Mr Heath was seriously injured, and his youngest son Henry was found to be dead. His oldest son William received burns.

Because of the death of Henry, the coroner, Mr W Latham, called an inquest for Saturday, January 7.

The first witness called was William Heath, who was injured but likely to recover.

He stated that he was the deceased's brother and Samuel Heath's son. He explained what the foundry yard consisted of.

Northwich Guardian: The Newton area of MiddlewichThe Newton area of Middlewich (Image: Paul Hurley)

He said that in the last two years, the plug hole of the boiler had been covered in a metal plate.

To empty the water, they had to use a ladle; There was a safety valve on the top of the boiler but no steam indicator.

The coroner asked him if he knew the pressure of the steam when the boiler exploded.

He admitted that he didn't know what steam pressure meant. He had tried the safety valve five minutes before the explosion and thought there was insufficient steam to work the engine.

The deceased was oiling the fan when the blast occurred. George Henry Shawcroft had been working on the boiler that day but was not near it when it blew up.

Northwich Guardian: Wheelock Street in modern timesWheelock Street in modern times (Image: Paul Hurley)

John Stubbs, a wheelwright, had told anyone interested that the boiler was unsafe.

In fact, the deceased had asked him in November last to get him a job in Manchester as he didn't feel safe working there.

He considered the boiler unsafe, and his father would not get it repaired.

George Haddock, of the firm Plant and Hancock, Elworth Iron Foundry, Elton, near Sandbach, had examined a piece of the boiler after the explosion and said that the boiler was unsafe after the plate had covered up the plug hole.

He declared that a piece of the boiler, as examined, was only as thick as a sixpence.

A fitter, William Hough, examined the inside of the boiler about six weeks before the accident and told Samuel Heath that it was getting very thin. He replied, "we must go on as we are for a while".

The jury deliberated for an hour and 40 minutes and came back with the verdict of manslaughter against Samuel Heath.

On March 31, 1860, Samuel Heath appeared at Chester Assize Court charged with manslaughter. The sentence was that he would be released on a surety of £100.

In 1861 Samuel Heath, his wife, son William, and grandson George Shawcroft are shown as living in Wheelock Street, Middlewich, and he is still shown as an iron founder employing 10 men.