THE inhabitants of a vast district of London have had during the past week an opportunity of studying the phenomena of explosions on a large scale, and of noticing how closely they approach those of earthquakes in the sequence of long-rolling waves of the solid earth, loud noises, and finally long continued tremulous motion and more subdued sounds. If we could have announced last week that 100 barrels of gunpowder would explode in London, locality not defined, on a given day, the inhabitants would probably have been alarmed, many would certainly have visited their country friends; but our Government have for years been warned that such an occurrence might happen seeing that there is no legislative enactment to ensure care, and yet they have let such a state of things continue! We have it on the authority of the Times that the Tilbury might have had 500 barrels en board instead of 100, and it is clear that these might have exploded in a locality where the consequent destruction of life and property would be fearful to contemplate. It appears that, bad as are the regulations for the transport of gunpowder on board ship, there is little or no provision for the prevention of accidents at places where powder is received and delivered in large quantities. In reporting on this branch of the subject in 1865, Major-General Boxer instanced the case of Isleworth. He says:-“The powder wharf at Isleworth affords a good illustration. This wharf is situated in the town of Isleworth, on the banks of the Thames; on an average as much as 600 barrels per week is shipped there, the wharf is surrounded by houses, and the sacrifice of life would be fearful in the event of an explosion.” Major Majendie, in a report to Government two years ago, wrote:-“I am quite sure that if the public were at all aware of the extent to which gunpowder is handled in large quantities, without any special regulations, in the middle of the metropolis and of large cities, they would be seriously alarmed, and would demand the adoption of measures for removing so patent a danger.” Truly we are a practical people, and much superior to the Germans, who only allow the transit of large quantities of gunpowder through populous districts under military escort.

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    Notes . Nature 10, 470–472 (1874) doi:10.1038/010470a0

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