Site of Leeds WWI munitions factory where 35 women died to be given heritage protection

The former First World War National Filling Factory in Barnbow, Leeds where 16,000 women were employed producing high-explosive shells has been granted heritage protection.

This protection recognises and commemorates the national importance of the factory and means that proposed development around the site can now be managed carefully.

Three separate explosions happened at the factory, the most serious on 5 December 1916.

Thirty five women were killed and many more seriously injured by a blast in one of the shell fusing rooms.

It was the first major loss of female civilian workers during the war and the worst disaster resulting in loss of life in Leeds’ history.

A further two were killed on 21 March 1917 and three men lost their lives in a blast on 31 March 1918.

Footing of Barnbow shifting room Credit: Historic England

Although the 1916 explosion was heard for miles around, the deaths of the women were not reported for fear of denting national morale and the recruitment of women.

Even after the war the explosions remained largely unacknowledged.

The women later became known as the ‘Barnbow lasses’ and have come to represent the Home Front contribution and the role women played in the war.