Herbert Lowkes is my second cousin, twice removed and he died as a result of an industrial accident. It is interesting to note that Herbert’s father (William Henry Loukes) preferred the ‘Lowkes’ variation of his surname which consequently has been passed on to all subsequent generations. Below are three newspaper articles regarding Herbert and his unpleasant demise (special thanks to Steve Lowkes for these and the photos).
Described by those who were in the vicinity as an explosion that seemed to shake the universe, an accident resulting in the death of one man and serious injuries to two others at the works of Bromborough of Messrs. Brotherton and Co., Ltd., the Mersey Chemical Company on Wednesday.
The injured men were:-
John Williams, of 35, Wood-street, Port Sunlight,
Herbert C.. Lowkes, of 32, Rock-lane-West, Rock Ferry, and
Henry Poole, of 2, Bartlett-street, Wavertree, Liverpool.
All received terrible burns about the face and body. Williams dying from his injuries early on Thursday morning, while the other two men are in the Port Sunlight Hospital in a serious condition.
The accident occurred about 11.30 a.m., in a large room where trays of powdered dye are placed in oven-like containers to dry.
Williams was engaged in one section of the room, his duties including the insertion and withdrawal of the trays, of which there are a number in each “oven.” Lowkes and Poole were, it is understood, engaged at work on a scaffold above, the latter having just returned after fetching a spanner when the tragedy occurred.
Williams had withdrawn all but three of the trays when he noticed, in the one he had just pulled out, a small flame. He shouted, but it was too late, and a terrific explosion occurred. He was flung back for several yards, while Lowkes was, presumably, hurled from the scaffolding to the ground. Poole was thrown down, but jumped up and ran outside, where he collapsed.
Owing to the confined space the dye mixture exploded with extreme violence, and the “oven,” which was made of cast iron a quarter of an inch thick, was smashed to pieces and the back blown out. Pieces of the aluminium trays were also scattered in all directions, wile the windows and skylights of the workroom, which afterwards presented a chaotic scene, were shattered. So great was the force of the explosion that one man standing some distance away had an oilean blown out of his hand.
The “oven,” or frame concerned was one of numerous similar ones in the room and measured about six feet by six feet, while the trays, which are arranged in tiers, are about 2ft. 6Ins. By 2ft. As the dye mixture concerned is, we understand, of a non-ignitable nature, an element of mystery surrounds the cause of the occurrence.
Other men in the room immediately ran to the assistance of the victims of the accident, who, it was seen, were very badly injured. The Port Sunlight Ambulance was telephoned for and the men were conveyed with all speed to the hospital.
It was stated at the hospital yesterday, that if anything, Lowkes and Poole showed a slight improvement, but their condition is still very serious.
The inquest on Williams was opened at the New Ferry Police Station yesterday by the West Cheshire Coroner (Mr. J. C. Bate), who sat with a jury. Superintendent Ennion represented the police, and Mr. E. Lloyd appeared on behalf of Messrs. Brotherton’s.
The Coroner said that Williams was employed at Brotherton’s works, at Bromborough, as a process worker. The explosion occurred on Wednesday, and he and the two other men were seriously burnt. Williams was the most badly burnt, and he died as the result of his injuries, while Lowkes and Poole were both in hospital in a serious condition. He only attended to take evidence of identification and adjourn the inquest until Friday next at 10 a.m. It was necessary, he added, in such cases to give notice to the Chief Factories Inspectors at the Home Office, and that had been done.
William Williams, of 35, Wood-street, Port Sunlight, a chemical labourer, employed by Messrs. Lever Bros., Ltd., identified the body as that of his son, who, he said, was twenty three years of age last birthday. Witness saw him in the hospital after the accident and his son was able to speak to him.
The Coroner: Did he make any statement as to what happened?
The Coroner: Perhaps we had not better take this statement now. We will have your evidence at the adjourned inquiry.
ABOUT TO BE MARRIED.
The news of the tragedy and the subsequent death of Mr. Williams caused a painful sensation in the Bromborough and Port Sunlight district. Williams was a popular young man and had many friends in the village. He was formerly a member of the Port Sunlight Boys Brigade, and was a a popular member of the Old Boys’ Association. He was of a quiet and unassuming disposition, but extremely well liked by all with whom he came in contact and widespread sympathy is extended to his parents in their tragic bereavement. He was in the employ of Lever Bros. For some years before joining Brotherton’s staff two years ago. One of his favourite hobbies was bell ringing and he was a ringer at Christ Church, Port Sunlight, for a period. He was born and educated in Port Sunlight, where his father has been employed for many years.
Poignancy is added to the tragedy by the fact that he was engaged to a young lady on the staff of Lever Bros. Catering department, and preparations were already being made for the wedding, which would probably have taken place about Christmas.
CHEMICAL WORKS EXPLOSION.
PORT SUNLIGHT MAN’S DEATH IN HOSPITAL.
Herbert C. Lowkes, aged thirty-three, of 32, Rock-lane West, Rock Ferry, one of the three men injured in the explosion at Messrs. Brothertons’, the Mersey Chemical Works, Bromborough, on November 7th, died in the hospital, Port Sunlight, on Saturday afternoon. He leaves a widow and two children. He is the second victim of the tragedy, the first, John Williams, aged twenty-three, a single man, of Wood-street, Port Sunlight, dying in the hospital on the day of the explosion. The third man, Henry Poole, Bartlett-street, Wavertree, Liverpool, is improving in Port Sunlight hospital.
Accidental Death was the verdict at the Rock Ferry inquest, yesterday, on Herbert Collinson Lowkes, the second victim of the mystery explosion at Brotherton’s Dyeworks, Bromborough, on November 7.
John Williams, Port Sunlight, died the day after the accident, and Harry Poole, Wavertree, is still in hospital.