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On the 15th January 1864a barque African trader vessel which, having loaded 11 tons of gunpowder was
preparing for sea, when a paraffin lamp was upset in the hold subsequently setting fire to the ship and causing
a horendous explosion.  No lives were lost, but there was damage caused to the surrounding areas and
houses destroyed on both sides of the river, especially in Birkenhead.  

It all started with a simple accident on board the ship as she lay at anchor in the river.  Fire broke out after a
steward upset and ignited a can of oil as he trimmed a paraffin lamp.  The fire spread quickly and a passing
ferry took off the crew.  Doubtless it quickly dawned on them what was about to happen – the Lottie Sleigh
was carrying 11 tons of gunpowder.


A contemporary account reads:

“The contents of the vessel blew up with a report which it is hardly possible to describe. The simultaneous explosion
of 500 pieces of heavy ordnance could not have produced so terrible and alarming a shock.

Its effects in every part of Liverpool were severely felt and created indescribable terror. At the same time the most
solid blocks of warehouses, offices and private dwellings were shaken to their base – doors locked and bolted were
thrown wide open – hundreds, yea even thousands of squares of glass were smashed.

Most of the gas lamps in Liverpool’s streets were put out by the massive rush of air. Considerable damage was also
caused on the Birkenhead side of the river. Chester was among the distant places where the explosion was heard.
The authorities telegraphed Liverpool to discover what had caused the sound.

The shattered wreck was later beached at New Ferry where it was broken up. Remarkably, the figurehead of the
Lottie Sleigh survived and is in the collections of the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The ship dated from 1852 and
the figurehead presumably shows the lady after whom the ship was named".
The Wreck of the Lottie Sleigh on New Ferry beach - Published in a London Newspaper 1864.