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History & Film Group


History & Film Group:  History Notes



The Steam Mill Explosion of 1890


Monday 13 Jan 1890 seemed like a normal morning. In the cottage of Arthur & Alice Rosier 3 of their 6 children were being readied for the short walk to school. At the mill on the south of the green there was insufficient wind to operate the windmill so the miller, Harry Roper, & his journeyman, Frederick Kemp, fired up the steam boiler to use the steam mill.

At about 8 o’clock as 6 year old Edward Rosier was walking to school there was a terrible explosion & debris was thrown up to 200 yds. The miller & his 2 assistants were uninjured but young Edward was found unconscious in the road, having been struck by a brick which fractured his skull. Edward lingered on for over 3 weeks but eventually died on Wed 5 Feb.


Reading the reports of the inquest in the newspapers one cannot but feel that there was a very lax approach to safety:

Frederick Kemp, journeyman miller, said he was in the mill at a little before 8 am, when the explosion occurred. The machinery was stopped; the steam showed the gauge was 42 lbs. He considered there was no negligence or blame. Mr Harry Roper, owner and occupier of the mill, said he believed the evidence of the previous witness was correct. He thought there was more than 42 lbs of steam on, and that the gauge did not show it correctly, because it was partially blocked up. He was sure there was not 80 lbs of steam, and the boiler should have been quite safe up to that. The gauge was generally examined twice a year, and was alright 6 weeks to 2 months before the explosion. The boiler was very old and thin; it had never been inspected by Board of Trade Officials before the explosion although it had been since. Witness attributed the explosion to the boiler being old and rotten. The coroner having summed up, the Jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death”.


A Board of Trade Inquiry found that Harry Roper was negligent & he was ordered to pay £15 towards the cost of the investigation. Sadly this was not the end of the Rosiers’ troubles in 1890. Two year old Herbert died in March & Hugh died in April aged 7.


The steam mill was rebuilt & both it & the windmill were demolished in the mid-1920s.


Pete Davidson


Mill Explosion

The steam mill after the explosion


 THe Mills Wickham Skeith

 The steam mill and windmill 1914-1916



 A similar scene around the same time