Terror in the Underground – 30 October 1883

Posted on October 29th, 2013 by The British Newspaper Archive

The BNA is very lucky to have the writer, historian and genealogist, Angela Buckley, as a guest blogger.

Previously, Angela has written fascinating articles about the ‘real’ Sherlock Holmes, Detective Jerome Caminada, and the miracle cures of Reverend Silverton.

Her third article for the BNA blog is about the terrorist explosion at Praed Street station (now Paddington) on the London Underground, which took place on 30 October 1883.

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The devastating events of 7/7 are still all too fresh in our memory, but the first ever act of terror in the London Underground took place 130 years ago today. At 8 pm on Tuesday 30 October 1883, a massive explosion ripped through the tunnel at Praed Street station (now Paddington), leaving more than 40 people injured and causing considerable damage to the network. The bomb was dropped from the first class carriage of a Metropolitan Line train on its way to Edgware Road, wrecking the three third-class carriages at the rear.

historical newspaper report on the fenian underground bomb in 1883

The Graphic – Saturday 03 November 1883

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000057/18831103/038/0031

historical newspaper report on the fenian underground bomb in 1883

The Graphic – Saturday 03 November 1883

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000057/18831103/038/0031

 

The following morning, the London Standard, published a detailed account of this terrifying incident:

historical newspaper report on the fenian underground bomb in 1883

London Standard – Wednesday 31 October 1883

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000183/18831031/037/0005

 

A drawing in the Pall Mall Gazette shows the exact location of the device.

historical newspaper report on the fenian underground bomb in 1883

Pall Mall Gazette – Wednesday 31 Oct 1883

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000098/18831031/011/0008

A few minutes later a second bomb went off, after being thrown from the back of a District Line train travelling between Charing Cross and Westminster Bridge stations. Luckily this time the damage was limited and there were no casualties. These blasts were the latest in a number of attacks perpetrated by the Fenians.

Initiated by Irish-American leader, Jeremiah O’ Donovan Rossa, the dynamite conspiracy began in January 1881 with an explosion at Salford Barracks, near Manchester. The Fenians supported a campaign of strikes on public buildings throughout the mainland to force the British government into sanctioning Irish home rule. Different factions of the organisation, mostly dissidents from America, orchestrated the attacks throughout the early 1880s.

Prior to the bombing in the Underground, there had been explosions in Mansion House, the home of the Mayor of London, as well as in the cities of Liverpool and Glasgow. Earlier in 1883, a bomb had failed to detonate at the offices of The Times, but explosives had blown out the windows in a block of government buildings near Downing Street. The police were on high alert and the Fenian siege of London was well underway.

Throughout the campaign there were at least 20 attempted bombings, mainly in London. After the incidents at Praed Street and Westminster Bridge stations, there were further strikes in 1884, including the destruction of the offices of the newly established Special Irish Branch at Scotland Yard and an explosion at London Bridge, which killed three men. During the final spate of bombings, the London Underground was targeted once again with a blast at Gower Street station (now Euston Square). A diversionary device was also placed in the crypt of the House of Commons, but was spotted by a police constable who suffered broken ribs when it exploded in his hands. A second blast caused extensive damage to Westminster Hall.

The Fenian dynamite conspiracy ended in 1885, and it would be over a century before another terrorist organisation would strike at the heart of British democracy through the London Underground.

Angela Buckley


Further information about Angela Buckley and her writing

Angela Buckley is working on a book entitled, The Real Sherlock Holmes, which will be published in March 2014 by Pen and Sword Books.

Angela also runs a blog about Victorian crime, and you can follow her on Twitter at @amebuckley.

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