'Very dangerous indeed' - The day explosives were found under a laundry

North Walsham laundry.

North Walsham laundry, where explosives were found in 1957. - Credit: Archant

It is an explosive tale with an unlikely hero that has gone down in history.

North Walsham Steam Laundry was demolished 15 years ago to make way for a housing estate, but its days as a popular business almost came to an end even earlier, in 1957.

The laundry could have been blown sky high had a packet of explosives not been discovered by a stoker who worked there - prompting a high octane response from the bomb squad.

The package was discovered by a Mr Watts while he was moving coal in the laundry's boiler room.

He took the explosives to general manager Mr Callow who promptly dunked them in a bucket of cold water before taking them to North Walsham Police Station.

The explosives were found in a paper packet measuring three inches by two inches.

The incident was blamed on "careless" handling of explosives at the pits, with Mr Callow sending a protesting letter to coal suppliers requesting "appropriate action".

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It was thought that the package was not picked up as it was sent to the laundry covered in coal dust.

EDP headline on November 22 1957.

EDP headline on November 22 1957. - Credit: Archant

At the time police described the package as "very dangerous indeed", while Mr Callow said that an explosion would've caused serious damage, loss of life and had a serious impact on the town's economy.

He told this newspaper in 1957: "If the stoker had not noticed it and it had got into our boiler the whole blessed place would've been blown up.

"As our boiler is under pressure there would've been a double explosion, no end of damage and probably loss of life.

Inside North Walsham laundry during its years in operation.

Inside North Walsham laundry during its years in operation. - Credit: Archant

"We are one of the biggest employers of labour in North Walsham and it is easy to imagine what could've happened if there had been an explosion and we'd have been put out of business."

The laundry site which was left empty and overgrown following its demolition in 2006, has now been transformed into Heather Close and Lavender Way, a nod to former laundry operator Lavender Linen, with 43 new homes available.

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