Remembering victims of factory explosion

Wayne Levitt scatters soil from the Somme on a tribute.
Wayne Levitt scatters soil from the Somme on a tribute.

A ceremony was held to mark the 100th anniversary of a munitions factory disaster which killed 35 women and girls, one of whom was from Normanton.

Jennie Blackamore died after an explosion took place at the Barnbow factory in Crossgates, Leeds, on the evening of December 5, 1916.

Relatives of the victims gathered at the scene of the disaster to remember their loved ones on Monday.

Wayne Levitt’s great aunt Edith, from Castleford, died in the disaster which was largely unreported at the time because of a ‘press blackout’.

During the service at Manston Park, he said: “I think that it is brilliant that people have come out in solidarity with them.

“It was women doing men’s work – more than men’s work – and I don’t think they get enough recognition.”

Most of the workers were women drawn from a 20-mile radius. Victims from this district were Helena Beckett and Jane Few were from Pontefract; Mary Gibson, Polly Booth, Eliza Grant and Edith Levitt from Castleford; and Jennie Blackamore from Normanton.

There were two further explosions at the factory, the first in March 1917, which killed two girl workers and the second in May 1918, which killed three men.