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Flower arranger who brought chimney crashing down

By Toby Neal | Bridgnorth | Features | Published:

Flower arranger, artist, and blower upper of factory chimneys.

All set to blow. Demolition expert Richard Fowler with Mrs Irene Allport.

On Wednesday, December 16, 1987, Irene Allport of Stourbridge had her big moment in Bridgnorth.

Crowds gathered to watch as she flicked the switch to blow up a town landmark – the factory chimney at the old Tatung site. It was 100ft high and weighed 120 tons.

There was a muffled crack and a puff of smoke before it came crashing to the ground in front of hundreds of spectators.

Mrs Allport, who was dubbed “gelignite grandma,” had won a competition run by Bridgnorth Rotary Club in aid of an appeal for a new scout headquarters in the town.

“I’ve never dreamed of doing anything like this. I’m a flower arranger and an artist,” she said on the day.

It was the 25th chimney destruction for demolition expert Ron Gamston, of Wombourne, who set the 3lbs of explosive charges.

“Everything went according to plan, except that the chimney landed two degrees off course,” he said.

Minutes before the blast, police sealed off the main Bridgnorth to Kidderminster road alongside the site, and nearby residents were evacuated from their homes.

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One was 81-year-old Lottie Tilsley, who had lived in Severn Street in the shadow of the chimney for 26 years.

“It’s a landmark and we’re going to miss it. I’m sorry to see it go. I suppose it’s progress,” she said.

But Wilf Roussell, of Hospital Street, welcomed the structure’s demise.

“I’m glad it’s gone. It’s been an eyesore for long enough,” he said.

“I’ve been here 18 years and at last the vista is opened up.

“I can actually see the other side of the town.”

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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