Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Lotty Sleigh

Despite the pounding that took place on Merseyside during the Second World War the loudest explosion in the area is said to have taken place nearly a hundred years earlier.

On the evening of 16th January 1864 a ship called the Lotty Sleigh was waiting off the Woodside ferry pier for the tide to change so she could depart for Africa. At 5pm a steward knocked over an oil lamp and started a fire on board the vessel. The fire soon became out of control and the crew abandoned ship via the ferry boat, “Wasp”.

Crowds gathered on both sides of the River Mersey to watch as the ship burned. At 7.20 pm the fire reached the cargo which happened to include 11 tons of gunpowder. The ship simply disintegrated and people in Liverpool and Birkenhead rushed into the streets thinking their houses were collapsing.

Large numbers of iron bolts and timbers rained down on Birkenhead causing a deal of damage. This iron dead-eye bolt (about 15 inches long) was thrown over half a mile by the explosion and landed in St Mary’s Churchyard.


  1. Amazing. I'd quite like to have heard it. Reminds me of Ripple Rock in Seymour Narrows, British Columbia. It was a shipping hazard and blown up in 1958. The largest peacetime non-nuclear explosion. There are some fantastic images on the net of it's final moments.

  2. Good grief -- the explosion must have been tremendous. By the way, I remember the blowing up of Ripple Rock in 1958 -- It was televised and we all sat glued to our sets watching it go. They'd never be allowed to do it today though, even if it was a hazard to shipping -- the explosion would kill too many fish and the govt. would never countenance such a thing.
    Canadian Chickadee


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