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Centenary Commemoration of the Chilwell Shell Filling Factory Disaster

This year is the centenary of the catastrophic explosion at the Chilwell Shell Filling Factory on the evening of 1 July 1918 when 139 people died, including women factory workers, the so-called ‘canary girls’ whose skin had turned yellow from the effects of handling toxic material.  The mass grave of the remains is in St Mary’s churchyard.

To commemorate the explosion, there will be exhibitions and a number of events both in St Mary’s Church and at Chetwynd Barracks.  As part of the preparations for these events, the memorial and mass grave in the churchyard are being renovated and restored/upgraded.  The week will include talks about the history of the canary girls and the munitions factory as well as a performance of the play Swan Canaries which we hope will take place in the Barracks near the site of the explosion.

In a recently-prepared article to be in the Bygones section of the Nottingham Post, Julia Hart is quoted as saying: “The aim of the week-long commemoration is to raise consciousness of an event which is now passing out of living memory. Out of respect for those who gave their lives for this wartime effort,
it should not be allowed to fade away.”

On the actual anniversary of the explosion, Sunday 1 July,
there will be a special commemoration service in St Mary’s Church to which a number of dignitaries have been invited.  This will include within it a silence at the exact time of the explosion (7.10pm).

Save the dates: week beginning Sunday 24 June; and Sunday 1 July 2018,

Anyone who has any “tales told” stories about the Chilwell explosion or who wishes to contribute to the cost of the renovation/upgrading, can contact the Parish Office on 0115-925-9602 or by email at

picture of munitions


Further details of the explosion