South Norwood

Brock’s in South Norwood

From 1864
Charles Thomas Brock supplied the huge spectacular displays at the Crystal Palace Park. They also manufactured flares for distress signals, and pyrotechnic devices for the military.

14th July  1867
Explosives of a more powerful kind. Alfred Nobel hired a train to carry guests from Charing Cross to chalk pits at Merstham to witness his second UK demonstration of his recently invented dynamite.
His aim was to convince his guests, railway officials and quarry owners, that dynamite is both very safe but when detonated, was a very powerful explosive. His train was routed through Croydon, but the dynamite went separately by road.

In or about 1728 a member of the Brock family set up a fireworks factory in London, which was for a while near Peckham (Nunhead), but moved to South Norwood in 1877.

It was not, like most factories, a single large building, the whole of which might be destroyed in seconds in the event of a major fire or explosion. Rather, the Brock’s establishment consisted of many small sheds scattered about over a large area, said to have been about 50 acres, purchased in 1873 (more than three times the size of South Norwood recreation ground).

If one shed caught fire or exploded, the idea was, that all the others would be reasonably safe. The sheds were all linked by horse-drawn tramways. Steam locomotives and their sparks are not a good idea near explosives.

According to an entry in KELLY POST OFFICE DIRECTORY 1878 [page 2482]…

CT Brock’s residence was:-
Brock Charles Thos, The Lodge, Birchanger Road, Woodside, Sth. Norwood, Surry. S.E.

The South  Norwood works was set up according to rules laid down in the Explosives Act of 1875, and suffered no major disasters, using the results from testing at the Nunhead manufactory by Charles Thomas Brock – C.T.Brock ‘Crystal Palace’ Fireworks & Co.

Brock’s was said to have been the largest fireworks factory in the world at the time, employing 200 men and women, and making 500 tonnes of fireworks every year.

Explosion at Messrs. C. T. Brock & Co.’s Firework Factory, South Norwood, on 13th March 1893. (Explosion, No. 16, 1893.) (Colonel Majendie, C.B.)

Explosion at Messrs. C. T. Brock & Co.’s Firework Factory,
South Norwood, on 19th August 1893. (Explosion, No. 63, 1893.) (Captain Thomson, R.A.)

There is nothing left of the works to see today. It was partly built over (Birchanger Road) and partly excavated for brick clay (Woodside brickworks).

brocks south norwood


1894 OS Map
London XV.SE (includes: Beckenham; Croydon St John the Baptist; Penge.)
Revised: 1894 to 1895, Published: 1894 to 1896

Shows CT Brock’s Crystal Palace Firework Manufactory – Birchanger Road, Woodside, South Norwood.


27th Jan 2017 @ 14:55

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