WW1 diarist Edith Spencer recorded in her diary for 19 /20 January 1917:
Terrific explosion at Silverton.
She had recently arrived back from visiting family in Newcastle upon Tyne (‘luggage came’) to her new clerical job at 24 Bishopsgate in London, filing and learning shorthand for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. No doubt she had filled a post made free by the call up or conscription of young men for war work or the armed services.
The Silvertown explosion occurred in Silvertown in West Ham, Essex, (now Greater London) on Friday, 19 January 1917 at 6.52 pm.
The blast occurred at a munitions factory that was manufacturing explosives for Britain’s war effort.
Approximately 50 long tons (50 tonnes) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) exploded.
73 people were killed and 400 injured, as well as causing substantial damage to hundreds of houses across the local area.
Remembering the many men and women war worker casualties of the Silvertown TNT factory explosion.
The blast could be heard and felt up to a hundred miles away.
The animals at London Zoo a few miles away would clearly have heard it.
The panes of glass in the greenhouses at Kew Gardens would have rattled.
So even if Edith Spencer had travelled back from her new clerical job in London and reached the family home at Wesley Manse, Derby Road in Watford about 17 miles away, she could clearly have heard the Silvertown explosion.
You can read more about and by Edith Spencer, one of the diarists in my personal collection of wartime diaries on loan to the World War Zoo Gardens project, at this previous Zeppelin WWI air raid blogpost https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/
More about the explosion at:
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.