1867 – A bomb was planted at Clerkenwell gaol, in London, in an attempt to free Irish Fenian prisoners, notably Richard Burke.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

The Fenians simply wheeled a barrel of gunpowder up to the wall of the facility when they expected the inmates to be at exercise in the adjacent yard. The explosion blasted a 60-foot gap in the wall; the inward-collapsing rubble might easily have been the death rather than the salvation of the prospective beneficiaries, except that they weren’t actually in the yard at all — nobody was, and nobody escaped Clerkenwell. However, numerous working-class families lived in tenements opposite the gaol, and in fact Clerkenwell had a reputation for political radicalism and Fenian sympathy.

This ‘infernal machine’ tore through Clerkenwell homes, leaving 12 people dead, over 120 injured and numerous buildings clinging to collapse, while windows and chimneys shivered to pieces all up and down the block. Improvised struts shore up damaged buildings opposite the wall of Clerkenwell gaol reduced to rubble by the Fenian bombing.

Karl Marx, a strong…

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