15 February 1907: Reports of explosions and fires at the Arsenal ground

In February 1907 there was a Storage magazine explosion at the Chemical Research Buildings based on Plumstead Marches. The Kentish Independent stated on 15 February 1907:

“…what the explosion did wreak it’s vengeance on without stint, was the refreshment department behind Spion Kop. It is a dreadful wreck. There must have been a dreadful waste of that which you – some of you – turn to for consolation at half time, for I saw bottles, temperance and otherwise neckless and useless lying about, and beer engines put hopelessly out of gear…”

The Daily News reported that the explosion was so powerful that people were woken from their sleep as far afield as Braintree.  It appears that this bar was built 3 years earlier as part of the expansion of the Spion Kop as an article in the Woolwich Gazette on 19 August 1904 noted that the architect, Archibald Leitch, was utilising the back of the Abbey Wood End slope for refreshment bars.

On 30 Sept 1913 the Woolwich Gazette reported that the whole North stand Grandstand was gutted by fire which started at the refreshment bar, at the junction with the western end of the stand. It was apparently witnessed by more people than had seen the team play for much of the previous season!

Refreshment stands were obviously open to problems because the records show that on Good Friday 1898 the Tottenham refreshment stand collapsed in a game against Woolwich Arsenal. This was at their Northumberland Park ground. The reporter goes on to say that the cause was because the bar was:

““…as full as a sardine box, and after the game had been in progress about 20 minutes, a terrific roar… caused all eyes to turn in the direction of where the refreshment bar once stood. This had disappeared and the swaying crowd alone indicated that something serious had happened”.

The worst injury was that one “unfortunate” obtained a broken leg and 2 “fellows” had broken ribs.

This extract first appeared in an article in the Arsenal History Society blog.