Vironita Works, Flushdyke


Vironita soft drinks factory, Flushdyke

This view could be seen from the from the front steps of Fern House WMC. In the 1920 and 1930s, the factory building on the left of the picture belonged to Riley's Fireworks, which was closed after a huge explosion in 1927. The 'Ossett Observer' had this report:

"A terrible explosion resulting in three deaths occurred shortly after seven o 'clock last (Friday) evening (19th August 1927) on the premises of Messrs. Riley and Sons, firework manufacturers of Wakefield Road, Ossett.

The explosion, the cause of which cannot at present be explained, took place in the chemical shed, one of the several detached buildings where the firm's work is carried on. Four persons were working at the time, these being Messrs. Arthur Victor Sheldon Riley (the proprietor); Fred Ward and F. Bottomley (employees), all married men and residing in Springstone Avenue and Mr. Harvey Sheldrake.

Mr. Riley was alive when picked up, but died before his removal. The two others were dead when found outside the building, which was completely shattered by the explosion. Mr. Harvey Sheldrake was in an adjoining shed and escaped personal injury, though he was obviously suffering from shock. The effects of the explosion were felt in various parts of the town and windows were smashed in the Fern House Working Men's Club, in Wakefield Road, opposite Messrs. Riley's works.

Ossett Fire Brigade and Ambulance were quickly on the scene after the alarm, one length of hose being sufficient to prevent the possibility of fire. We understand that the injuries were of a terrible nature and two of the bodies (those of Ward and Bottomley) being practically dismembered. Death was obviously instantaneous in their case. Mr. Riley, whose injuries appeared to be in the lower part of the body, lived 10 or 15 minutes after the occurrence.

The explosion was so terrific that people in all parts of the town immediately rushed into the streets to inquire the cause, and when the fire 'buzzer' was heard shortly afterwards, people wended their way, as if by intuition, in the direction of Riley's factory. Within a comparatively short space of time a huge crowd had gathered on the scene, regardless of the danger of close proximity to buildings of that nature and it was with some difficulty that they could be induced to stand clear. It was fortunate that there was no outburst of flames, but as a precautionary measure, the brigade saturated the remains of the wreckage. The building was practically razed to the ground, and the contents were scattered in all directions. The force of the explosion can be imagined from the fact that two of the bodies were found outside the area of the building, whilst windows were broken in a house in Tumbling Close, some 600 yards away.

The tragedy cast a gloom over the town, all the victims being well-known and highly esteemed. The deepest sympathy is felt with the families of the deceased men in their sad bereavement. Each of the victims leaves a widow and one child."

The Riley's firework factory later became the Vironita Works, making a 'health' drink that became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. It is thought that Dentons (Rag Merchants) of Ossett had a financial part share in the Vironita Works.

The Gospel Hall on the right was built in the 1950s, after premises at the bottom of Dale Street were vacated. Some thirty years later, the Gospel Hall moved to Dale Street, where it is located today.

At the gateway is Arthur Mitchell's pig and hen run. Arthur lived on the opposite side of the road, two doors down from Fern House WMC. Horses were regularly tethered in the field, which was owned by Spurr's who had premises in Dale Street and 'Sandy' Gothard, who a fruit and vegetables business.

The general area shown in the picture is now the main entrance to Milner Way and a motor trade premises.